Planar Compass #1
Planar Compass Issue One, published in Autumn 2020, is singularly focused on providing readers with new content for the Old-School Essentials roleplaying game. Issue One features the small but detailed setting of Dreamhaven, an island in the middle of a vast astral sea that offers a safe haven to travelers. Accompanying the setting are four new classes showing the diversity of this new setting. Four short adventures highlight the uniqueness of Dreamhaven’s history and the cast of characters that call it home.
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The Astral Sea connects the vast multiverse of planes to one another. Ships large and small sail under a black sky of endless stars and across dark waters of physic energy. Despite its tranquil outward appearance, the Astral Sea is a hazardous place. Psychic storms can leave sailors emotionally wrecked, and pirates are a constant threat. Amongst this vastness is a safe haven known as Dreamhaven.
Dreamhaven is a port island where much of the interplanar trade of the multiverse passes through. It also offers a safe harbor from the storms and refuge from pirates. The island, the port, the Slipstream Bar, and all trade are owned or overseen by Palio, a fearsome pirate in his heyday turned entrepreneur. Dreamhaven’s inhabitants come from various planes and are not found in Old-School Essentials books. They represent an interesting cast of characters that one might expect to find on an island owned by a former pirate.
Despite the island’s small size and odd shape, like that of a hand, it is well described and packed with lots of character, flavor, and secrets. Each location of significance is described along with any locals found there, rumors, secrets, and adventures hooks. Each NPC is presented in a callout box at the location they own or most frequent.
The four accompanying adventures are stand-alone but can easily be connected together to create a larger story arc. Each adventure highlights some unique aspect of Dreamhaven itself, prominently featuring one or more NPCs, or hinting at the island’s deeper secrets.
Pantry Raid – The Slipstream Bar, owned by Palio himself, is understocked at present. Palio invites the characters to investigate why his supplies are dwindling at his nearby warehouse. During their investigation, they will uncover the source of trouble and, in doing so, become acquainted with several of the island’s prominent NPCs. They may also find themselves in some precarious or possibly humorous situations.
Beach Psiombies – Characters accompany Palio on a short fishing trip around the island to stock his kitchen for dinner. What could possibly go wrong on a simple fishing trip?
All That Glitters – Leonid, an old wizard, covets a particular piece of jewelry, but unfortunately, that piece of jewelry is in the hands of a rival. If the characters can retrieve the object, they stand to earn a tidy sum of coins. A half-ogre pirate named Otis the Opulent is the current owner, and his ship is moored at the docks. Do they have the skills to bring home the prize?
Deepwarren – Is both an adventure and an adventure location beneath the surface of Dreamhaven. Several plot hooks entice players into the Deepwarren; some connected directly to previous scenarios, others are independent of them. The Deepwarren is a collection of caves and tunnels that will challenge a low-level party. Depending on their course of action and what hook was used, the adventure’s ending could be monumental or lackluster. You’re going to have to play to find out!
Issue One includes four new classes for players to choose from—Aldhelsi, Astral Sailor, Onauk, and Psion. Each is distinctly different, and laid out in a two-page spread just like the classes in the Old-School Essentials books.
Aldhelsi – Aldhelsi are short, pale, and slender fay demihumans. Naturally imbued with psychic powers, they can hold their own despite their small size. Being a planar denizen, they are well equipped for traveling the astral seas and other planes.
Astral Sailor – These high seas adventurers are modeled after classic swashbucklers and well suited for life and combat aboard seafaring vessels. Their “Astral Sailor Skills” not only encompasses traditional sailor skills adapted for the Astral Sea but also some that are specifically suited for traveling the dark vastness.
Onauk – The Onauk are large, orcish-looking brutes oftentimes with horns protruding from their foreheads. Loosely modeled after both orcs and barbarians, they are often seen as alien and difficult to communicate with. Their berserker rage doesn’t make social situations any better. Not as well equipped for the high seas as Astral Sailors, the Onauk can hold their own and possess limited sailor skills.
Psion – The Psions are masters of the mind who can bend their will to manifest amazing powers. Psionic powers are the mainstay of this class, and their abilities in more traditional combat roles are limited.
To support the new class abilities of both the Aldhelsi and the Psion are new rules regarding Psionics. This new set of comprehensive rules covers the intricacies of using psychic powers and maintaining them for offensive and defensive purposes. Rules are also presented for psionic combat between two or more psionic capable combatants. Lastly, there is a robust list of “powers” available to players. These powers represent both attack mode and defense mode powers.
Issue One is available in print, digital, or as a combination. The layout is smartly done and in a similar style to that found in Old-School Essentials. The issue is loaded with nice artwork that helps to make the setting and NPCs come alive. The full-color cover gives readers two different views of Dreamhaven.
The digital package includes three extras not found if purchasing only the physical version. The extras include a Player’s Booklet with the four new classes, psionic rules and powers, a player-facing map of the Deepwarren, and a character sheet stylistically themed for Planar Compass. I would also like to point out that Issue One and the Player’s Booklet have hyperlinked Tables of Contents; Issue One also has additional embedded hyperlinks facilitating easier navigation.
The Astral Sea, more specifically, Dreamhaven, is an exciting new location in which to set games and is new territory for Old-School Essentials. As a result, players will want to delve into Dreamhaven’s secrets to learn more about it and how it might fit into their Gamemaster’s larger campaign. Furthermore, it now opens the door for additional planar exploration.
The four adventures are finely crafted, playing up the uniqueness of Dreamhaven and those that inhabit the island. Each adventure is short and can be accomplished in one session with ease. Although the Deepwarren is the largest of the four, it could possibly take slightly longer. The authors have done a fine job preparing these to be interconnected or used on their own. I believe players will enjoy them best when they are all tied together.
Planar Compass Issue One is a well-designed, well-developed, and put-together zine that supports Old-School Essentials and other similar OSR games. The quality of the writing and its creativity are what really stand out to me. I believe readers will walk away with the same impression.
The forward-thinking digital package is a must-have! If you’re going to purchase this issue, get the print/PDF combo, you and your players won’t be disappointed.
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