31 December 2019

Review - Castle Xyntillan by Gabor "Melan" Lux (Part 1)

Castle Xyntillan by Gabor Lux - E.M.D.T. release #60 - Cover art by Peter Mullen
Castle Xyntillan by Gabor Lux
(E.M.D.T. release #60) - Cover art by Peter Mullen

Castle Xyntillan by Gabor "Melan" Lux - Part 1

Castle Xyntillan is Gabor Lux's tenth English-language publication since he launched Echoes from Fomalhaut in March 2018, and is also the sixtieth---yes 60th!---title released from E.M.D.T., the First Hungarian d20 Society since 2003 (and 18 of the pre-2018 E.M.D.T. titles are available in English, too).  Unlike the many gems that appear in Gabor's regular zine, Castle Xyntillan is a self-contained adventure that falls into several simultaneous categories of interest:
  • Castle Xyntillan is a large campaign dungeon in scope, although not a traditional mega-dungeon in design or presentation
  • Castle Xyntillan is an homage to the classic Judges Guild haunted mansion adventure, Tegel Manor
  • Castle Xyntillan is also an homage to Clark Ashton Smith's Averoigne pulp fictions, and perhaps by way of inspirational osmosis, Tom Moldvay's X2 Castle Amber

None of these individual influences speak to Castle Xyntillan's perhaps-primary intent, in that it also serves as the first English-language release and publication for the upcoming Helvéczia RPG.  From the penultimate page:
[The Helvéczia RPG is a] lightweight, light-hearted historical fantasy game for playing scoundrels and low-lives in an alternate-reality magical Switzerland (and beyond) ca. 1698, [that] gives you everything you need for fast-paced picaresque adventures featuring stagecoaches, robbers, daring escapes and dark deviltry.  Using a greatly streamlined, six-level ("E6") version of the renowned d20 System, Helvéczia has been thoroughly reworked and customized to capture the spirit of swashbuckling movies, adventure novels, penny dreadfuls and colourful historical legends.  Match your wits against the lackeys of robber barons and faerie realms; waste your winnings in merchant towns ruled by avarice and eccentric custom; and choose between virtue and sin in a world where Heaven and Hell contend for the souls of mortal men. 

Gabor concludes this preview with:  "A love letter to dodgy pamphlets, stamp-sized mini-states, and the oddball side of European history, Helvéczia is (hopefully) coming 2020 in a hardcover edition (including plentiful support material and GM advice), along with maps, a regional hex-crawl supplement describing four mountain cantons, and a selection of adventure scenarios" (page 131).
That's a lot of ground to cover, so let's get to it! 

Castle Xyntillan - The Specs and Details

Castle Xyntillan is a 132 page hardcover book and separate map packet you can buy from Gabor's store for $40 USD plus shipping from Hungary; it contains:
  • Introductory matter including two pages of playtesting notes for the PCs still alive, and a far longer list of those slain within its confines =)
  • 18 lettered sections that detail 298 encounters spanning the castle ruins, grounds, and dungeon environs
  • three two-page spreads of maps:  the main castle level and its immediate grounds, the upper stories of four sections of the castle, and the dungeon level and indoor wilderness; the main maps are also reproduced in smaller sections within the encounter keys for quick reference, and as posters in the map packet (more below)
  • six tables of setting content and new rules:  The Rumour Mill with 36 entries, Morale and Men rules, 100 Companion Quirks, 100 Random Curios, and the Table of Terror with its 12 amusingly random panic/flight survival outcomes
You can read more about Castle Xyntillan in Gabor's two publishing announcements (two different links there), as well as more about its publishing history (with further information if you're curious to read more about its origins in his campaign).

Castle Xyntillan - The Artwork and Maps

Gabor worked with three OSR artists to illustrate Castle Xyntillan:  Peter Mullen (color cover and B&W interiors), Stefan Poag (B&W interiors), and Denis McCarthy (B&W interiors), who recently showcased his pieces at https://gwythaintny.wordpress.com/2019/12/21/castle-xintillan/.  The work of all three artists complements the look and feel of the adventure, and breathe life into its varied NPCs and environs (with some help from the dead Victorians, too!). 

Castle Xyntillan's maps were rendered by Rob Conley of Bat in the Attic Games.  His mapping style is clean and the map packet's four 12" x 16.5" poster maps are an indispensable addition to the book; they are printed on the same cream-colored, heavy paper stock that Gabor has used for his Echoes from Fomalhaut map inserts.  The four maps are:
  • A single-sided DM map of Castle Xyntillan's ground floor and environs
  • A double-sided DM map of the upper stories for Castle Xyntillan, as well as the dungeon level and wilderness side-level on the reverse side
  • A singled-sided player map of Castle Xyntillan's ground floor and environs
  • A double-sided player map of the upper floors and dungeon/wilderness side-level
Replacement player maps are also freely downloadable, along with two other files via the first announcement link above. 

To be concluded in part two!


Merry Needfest, Happy Christmas, Joyous Yule, and Happy 2020!

Merry 2020

For those who celebrate holidays at this time of year, I hope you've all had a relaxing break from work filled with good times with friends and family, creative recharging, and fun shenanigans in general, and that 2020 brings your dreams to fruition! :D

We gave my 8-month-old niece some large dice for Christmas, which she took to right away!:

My niece, The Notorious RKG

 Whither grodog?

It's been a busy month+ since Thanksgiving, filled with travel and travail, fun family time and busy holiday gatherings, as well as getting over a cold one of our sons gave me (which lasted for a few weeks).  Work was exacerbated by bad planning (by other groups within Ruckus) and the bad timing of some security vulnerabilities being announced that kept me busy up through and including Christmas Eve, with some follow-up the two days following too, but things have thankfully slowed down since then.  

We've all also remained healthy between the holidays, and the boys have enjoyed a fun break thus far.  We took all of our local extended family to see The Rise of Skywalker on Saturday as our Christmas gifts (we switched over to "experiences" vs. gifts several years ago, usually doing fun Broadway shows like Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Finding Neverland, etc.). 

So, other than whining, what have I been up to?:

  • I wrote a 3000 word article on creating and defining factions for campaign play in Greyhawk, for the new Oerth Journal #31, which should debut later today---a fine Needfest issue that wraps up the Folks, Feuds, and Factions themes for 2019:
    OJ#31 Preview

  • Played several games of Dominion with my father-in-law, which is always fun---he played it online for quite a year or two, so he's a very-skilled opponent!
  • I've been reading, quite a bit of late:
    • Castle Xyntillan by Gabor Lux; I've written a two-part review:  part 1, part 2
    • A Private War by Tim Eccles---a campaign/gazetteer for Warhammer Fantasy RPG 1st edition
    • Berlin - The Wicked City for Call of Cthulhu
    • _How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative_ by Allen Raymond
    • Jeff Noon's _Automated Alice_
    •  Emily St. John Mandel's _Station Eleven_
    • I also received several new books as Christmas gift books, too (details below)
  • Watched several shows and movies too:
    • Atomic Blonde; new to me, and very enjoyable!
    • The new Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker.  This prompted Henry (our youngest son) to want to rewatch the rest of the films in order, so he and I watched The Phantom Menace soon thereafter, and we've all started watching The Mandalorian together over dinner (we're four episodes in thus far), which is interesting:  I knew almost nothing about the culture/background of the Mandalorians in the Expanded Universe of Star Wars before seeing the show, so it's cool learning about them as the show progresses
    • I shared Highlander for the first time with our son Henry a couple of nights ago---he loved it! :D    We may start in on the TV series sometime, but the rest of the films are off the table---with the announced reboot (two links there!) perhaps excepted if/when it's released, IF it's not terrible like all of the others
    • Henry and I also rewatched Ready Player One, which precipitated an interesting discussion about books vs. movies and books-from-movies and movies-from-books, and which were better---generally, but not always, whichever was created first, with some like Ready Player One being equally good but very different takes on the same story

Christmas Loot

Heather, the boys, and the extended family gave me a few gaming-related books, but mostly fiction this year:

  • _Hot Lead: How to Paint a Better Miniature_ - a 3 DVD set that's been on my wishlist for several years; I'm planning some painting time over the holidays too, so it's well-timed =)
  • The recent _King in Yellow_ edition published by Arc Dream/Pagan Publishing, with gorgeous artwork throughout and annotations by Ken Hite
  • _The Dracula Dossier_ for the Night's Black Agents RPG, also written by Ken Hite
  • _The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny_ by Daisy Dunn
  • _Daughter of Apostacy_ by Damian Murphy, from my sister Alison
  • _The Shaping of Middle Earth_ (History of Middle Earth volume 4) by JRRT and CT; this was one of two holes in my HoME series
  • _The Definitive Frazetta Reference_ from my brother Brian

Rounded out with some new tunes too: _Heartbeat City_ by The Cars (now playing), and Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix's _Live at the Terminal Cafe_.