Yngarr, Issue #1 (2016)
by Ben Djarum with Raj Chandraputra
The DIY is strong with this one. There are lots of personal projects in Zineland, and you will inevitably wade through a lot of them which are either not very good, or just plain not for you. That’s how it goes with deeply personal projects, and the hunt is all part of the journey. Then, in some obscure corner of the net, you find that zine, and it is just the way it was meant to be.
|Yngarr #1: interior cover|
Yngarr is a messy thing that’s actually a setting book – half planetary romance, half high fantasy (high as in “acid, maybe peyote”) and half outsider art, illustrated with jarring imagery ranging from psychedelic sketches to pieces from the classic pulps. As a world guide, Yngarr doesn’t really try to make you understand; it tries to give you an impression. There is nothing systematic about the contents: a page about ancient history and terrible space gods is followed by nine custom spells, followed by a description of the several bizarre moons orbiting Yngarr, followed by an adventure outline in a bottomless rift, and so on. Nevertheless, if you wanted to run a campaign on Yngarr, you could start right after finishing reading – there is enough in the 32 pages to get the idea.
This is an “idea” product that’s not too concerned with the actual mechanical implementation of your game. It is all fast and loose, but the flavour is right there. In the second article, you get nine spells from “a collection of plagioclase tablets that describe the magical workings of an ancient wizard”, six intact and three identified only by name. The Song of the Space Whale will help “summon one of the ancient space whales to the caller’s bidding”. With the Symbiocathartic Dream Weapon, “The magic user can kill or inflict by sending foul things into the dreams of another.” (sic) In the third article, we learn that Arix, The Warrior Moon is “A dark world of stone monoliths and the labyrinthine tombs of ancient dead warrior kings.”
There is much more of this album cover-inspired stuff with its otherworldly elven kingdoms and ancient astronauts; and while there is actually not much text between the covers (Yngarr was originally sold in a digest-sized edition, with a fairly generous font size and a bunch of full-page art), it serves its purpose well and doesn’t waste words. This is perhaps most apparent in the adventure outline, which presents a very sparse summary in lieu of a fully realised room-by-room description. In the description of a planetary rift that’s a bit like the Mariana Trench with layers upon layers of ancient civilisations, entire lost cities or dungeons are summed up in two or three lines.
Like most good fanzines, Yngarr is a gem in the rough – very rough. This is the raw stuff of fantasy, seemingly random at first, but with a method to its madness. It doesn’t really tell you anything about how to implement its ideas within the context of your own system or game, and at best, it is a very vague jumping off point. But if you do jump off, it will be one hell of a leap. And this is the kind of thing fanzines were invented for.
Rating: **** / *****