A Southern Gothic RPG Zine #1
If you follow my reviews, you will know that I am a fan of zines and magazines. They are a great resource for gamemasters and players alike. David Schirduan, a local game designer/publisher I freelance for from time to time, has produced a new zine focusing on the southeastern United States coastal region; a place I just happen to live and love. All of the things I like coming together in the form of a zine, sign me up! As you can imagine I was optimistic when the review copy arrived so, let us see if it lives up to my expectations.
“Lowcountry Crawl is a collection of tables, house rules, monsters, and other resources acting together as a toolbox for generating a deep coastal South-inspired atmosphere for your game.” Issue 1 is a proof of concept and to expose gamers to the 19th century Southern U.S.—an underrepresented time period in gaming. Furthermore, it aims to highlight the legends and peoples of this historic period and region.
What is Lowcountry Crawl all about? Simply put, it’s an OSR zine with a Southern Gothic flavor and flair. The inaugural issue focuses on barrier islands and provides the reader with a splendid and rather detailed barrier island generator. The generator provides details such as the overarching environment which includes descriptions for those not familiar with these types of coastal environments. It goes on to give additional details like size, an adjective, and a noun for establishing its name.
The barrier island generator is followed by an “island crawl” adventure for characters of levels 1 and 2. The adventure outlines four barrier islands to allow players to really get a feel for the vibe the author is trying to convey. Each of the four islands is nicely detailed with several key locations. Time is measured throughout the scenario, in easy to understand 4-hour increments. This means that a trail takes one increment to traverse. There are two really rich random encounter tables; each contains a plethora of coastal and island creatures to contend with and as an added detail, each has an omen associated with it. The omen provides a way to foreshadow what is to come.
Lowcountry Crawl is rounded out by three more articles, the first of which is a short section detailing six new creatures that are specific to the adventure but can be ported into future scenarios as well. The second is an article that focuses on an NPC called the Low Tide Merchant. The merchant is a little bit of an enigma and eccentric character who wanders the region. If players are lucky enough to encounter them, they might be able to score some interesting items they are reported to have. The last article covers five new magic items. The items have never graced the pages of any RPG before. I suspect they all have roots in Lowcountry history.
The astute reader will have noticed that I referenced OSR, but never identified any specific flavor of OSR; that was on purpose. The material presented in Lowcountry Crawl is really system agnostic but does have an OSR vibe. Simply put, you can use this material with virtually any roleplaying game system with minimal tweaking.
Lowcountry Crawl: A Southern Gothic RPG Zine has a beautiful color illustrated heavyweight cardstock cover that features a historic map from the days of yore. A portion of the map used for the cover is entitled “A Map of the British Empire in America” by Henry Popple. The front cover is simple and elegant; the back cover highlights the contents of the issue—something not normally seen with zines. The layout is well done and all available space is smartly used. For example, the table of contents and credits are on the inside of the front cover and the last article wraps up on the inside of the back cover. The entire layout is clean, clear, and easy to read. The majority of the artwork is historical images and drawings paired with a few commissioned pieces, together they embody the fantasy theme of the zine.
Did this meet my expectations? Heck yeah, it did! I live in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and have visited many of the countless barriers islands we have along the coast. I can easily re-envision these islands with a fantasy twist and as a place to set fantasy adventures. John Gregory and the rest of the team have put together a solid zine that really does raise the bar on quality, presentation, and usable content from cover to cover.
Have you ever wish that whenever you purchased an item, a portion of it would go to a charity that was really making a difference for people? Lowcountry Crawl does exactly that; 20% of revenues from each purchase are donated to the Penn Center. The Penn Center works to preserve, educate, and celebrate the culture and history of the Lowcountry and its inhabitants. Not only are you buying a fantastic product, but you’re also supporting the preservation of our local and regional cultural treasures.
Lowcountry Crawl will be a staple in my GM-toolbox. Even if I never run the adventure(s), I will always have all the other tables, charts, and details that I can mine and port over to any game system that I want to give the southern gothic vibe. I look forward to seeing Technical Grimoire taking this very successful “proof of concept” and carrying it forward in the months to come.
Footnote (19 Jan 2019) – Today, a little over a week before this review will be live on Rolling Boxcars, I was made aware that Technical Grimoire, the publisher, will end this product line with this lone issue. Interested readers can read the publisher’s thoughts here (scroll to the bottom of the article). Please know that while I am disappointed, I fully support their decision and hope that someone with the “right” credentials can take up the mantle in the future and bring Lowcountry Crawl to life with more issues.
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