Monday 23 October 2017

[REVIEW] RPGPundit Presents #1-3

RPGPundit Presents #1-3 (2017)
by RPGPundit
Published by Precis Intermedia

The best part
A recently launched series of mini-supplements, each focused on a single gaming-relevant subject, sold as PDFs. While three issues have been published so far, they are fairly tricky to review due to their brevity: the longest has 19 pages of content, one has ten, while the shortest has a mere six (and they are clearly meant for digest-sized printing, with generous font sizes). The result is less like a zine and more like buying a series of zine articles one piece at a time. Issue #1 (Dungeon Chef) covers a topic lovingly explored in Nethack, and more recently in a manga, eating monsters and general flora/fauna you find in a dungeon. Issue #2 (The Goetia) presents brief but useful demon summoning rules and a list of 72 demons taken from the Ars Goetia. Issue #3 (High-Tech Weapons) presents general old-school statistics for modern and futuristic firearms. There is some art here and there, and the cover is very cool, showing a ghostly outline of a pipe-smoking RPGpundit in his Hunter S. Thompson getup.

What makes a zine work is the variety of its content and the personal touch the different articles bring. What makes a supplement work is the in-depth treatment of a subject matter (or an even bigger, broader collection of cool stuff). Unfortunately, this series delivers neither in its current form. All three subjects are treated on the surface level, without offering added value to the game. The most original issue is Dungeon Chef, but unlike Nethack (where corpses may give you neat special abilities like telepathy, or cause food poisoning, random teleporting, or polymorphisation – and you can turn them into tins with a tinning kit), the consequences of scarfing down subterranean bushmeat are mostly handled via uninteresting random tables. There is no interesting pattern to learn, beyond elementary ideas like “eating mummies cause mummy rot”; you would be better off just reading a Nethack wiki. The most useful of the three is The Goetia. The demon-summoning rules are one of many, but they are sensible and flavourful, and if you want a list of high-ranking demons to go with them, Pundit’s familiarity with occult traditions makes this a safe bet (or you can just consult Wikipedia and/or your favourite occult tome). High-Tech Weapons is too short and basic to bring anything to the table; the weapons it describes, and the things it has to say are elementary (e.g. a shotgun can be loaded with either two bullets or buckshot; ion weapons affect robots but have no effect on humans; grenades may miss their target and explode elsewhere). This was pretty cool in the days of Arduin, but today, most of us need more to be wowed.

Altogether, it is hard to see what this series wants to bring to the table. It would work better as a series of blog posts, or perhaps in a collection, but even then, it doesn’t rise above the level of shovelware.

No playtesters were credited in these supplements.

Currently smoking: random tables

Rating: ** / *****


  1. Did Pundit release anything noteworthy or interesting at all?

    1. I don't feel qualified to comment (I haven't read much of his stuff - we have different interests), but he ran the best RPG forum of the late 2000s and early 2010s, and had a great instinct for calling out gaming-related bullshit. That counts.

    2. I don't think Arrows of Indra is as bad as certain people claim, to be honest. Some might not like the presentation of cultural things, but I personally found it to be a decent game overall. Its only problem is the lack of support. Plus, it's overshadowed by more recent procedural stuff (like Yoon-Suin and Spears of the Dawn, even if the source material is different).

      I haven't read through his Dark Albion stuff yet.

    3. Oh, I know about his blog (which had a few cool DCC RPG reports amidst all his ramblings), and his forums (I never participated, only read a few threads), but I was thinking about the products mentioned by Ynas. Arrows of Indra feels like a poor man's Tékumel without all the sci-fi elements and focusing only on India, while Dark Albion is a sandbox setting as exciting as a history book. While there must be a lot of research and lexical knowledge behind both, I didn't find much creativity.

  2. This review confirms my assumptions about what these things were like, thanks.

  3. Note: because I am an idiot, and because "wilderlands" rings a pavlovian bell, I bought a later installment (#15: Gazetteer of the Middle-Northern Wilderlands).

    Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice... can't get fooled again.