The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia
Old-School Essentials is THE modern dominant force in the OSR gaming scene, with a growing number of third-party products continually being released. Knight Owl Publishing continues to release new material under the OSE license. In its second edition, The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia is the first book of the Meatlandia trilogy followed by, Worm Witch: The Life and Death of Belinda Blood and The Scourge of the Scorn Lords: Meatlandia Book III.
The book that started it all brings new classes, Meat magic, monsters, and a dazzling array of random tables to the post-apocalyptic city of Meatlandia. Written for use with Old-School Essentials—The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia, 2nd edition, is the cornerstone of the trilogy—requiring only the OSE Core Rules or other compatible OSR systems.
Note: Knight Owl Publishing provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.
Meatlandia is the name given to the geographical landmass (Kingdom of Meatlandia) and its largest city. Everything in The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia applies to both the kingdom and city of Meatlandia. But it is the city itself which the book focuses heavily on. Meatlandia is a tumultuous, post-apocalyptical landmass under which Great Worms bore their way close enough to the surface to influence geological change. Chaos storms devastate much of the world. Over the years, the displaced survivors have flocked to the few remaining cities and border towns. Population centers still hold law and order in high regard, while others see throngs of worshippers gathering in Chaos Churches. The City of Meatlandia is a teeming cesspool that thrives as much upon death as it does life—ruled by the Meat Lord, a corrupt, iron-fisted tyrant.
Readers will be interested to know the book comprises two parts. Half of the book is dedicated to player-facing information, while the second half is specifically for the Referee.
This section includes seven new classes specific to the setting, a short overview of magic in Meatlandia and the forms it takes, and a grimoire of spells to expand the options available to spellcasters.
The seven new classes include three distinctly different Bard classes (Chaos DJ, Nexus Bard, Raconteur), Death’s Hand Assassin, Kaldane, Meat Mage, and Rust Knight. Like the weirdness of the setting itself, these new classes embody that same post-apocalyptic weirdness.
The Chaos DJ is impulsive and bitter, using a real-world music playlist as a form of magic. Where ever the Nexus Bard goes, so do weird happenings. They can harness and store Chaos to later attempt to summon Chaos Storms. On the other hand, the Raconteur is fast to make friends and win others over; they have an uncanny knack to form posses. Death’s Hand Assassins are trained killers belonging to the Death’s Hand, a shadow organization of assassins and spies; the assassins are their most dangerous operatives. The Kaldane is singularly weak, large-sexless humanoid heads with a symbiotic relationship with their headless Rykor mounts, making them formidable with mind control, spell casting, and physical presence. The Meat Mage is a specialist caster deriving power from Worm honeydew. They can cast 0-level cantrips at will, memorize spells as normal, and are masters of ritual spell casting. Finally, the Rust Knights are brave, honorable, and capable warriors who follow a strict chivalric code and serve the Rust Lord. They protect their allies.
Magic in Meatlandia is intrinsic to the daily lives of the citizenry who rely on Flesh Golems and Meatimals around the house to do domestic chores; Meatimals of all sizes are used to protect people, places, and things. As a result, Arcane Magic magic casters are ultra-rare in Meatlandia; they only get there through a Chaos Storm or other magical means. In place of Arcane Magic is Chaos Magic, which is as strange and sometimes as unpredictable as the Chaos Storms from which the magic flows.
Chaos Magic is used in the flesh factories in Meatlandia. Places where corpses are melted down to create Meatmen—transmuted aristocrats or soldiers in the Meat Lord’s army. Around this accepted practice is a black market in body parts that Meat Mages use to create other creations such as Flesh Golems for the rich and Meatimals for everyday citizens and businesses. Magic is more than just transmuted creations. It’s about harnessing the chaos and working it into a usable form and function, revolving around the idea of using one’s physical body parts to cause harm to others or to protect an ally’s physical body in some way. Meat Mages are restricted to the spells included in the Grimoire.
The Referee’s section is a literal what’s what and who’s who of Meatlandia—the city. Comprised of several chapters and copious amounts of random tables, it’s everything the Referee needs to bring Meatlandia alive.
Beginning with several d20 and d50 tables covering rumors, diseases, random city encounters, and random refugees is loaded with some bizarre stuff, which, to be fair, is in line with this book. The entries are meant to be used as-is, providing everything needed, including ultra concise stat blocks. At the end of the book is a random table for creating notable non-player characters for the Raconteur’s posse.
Chaos Storms vary in size, intensity, and duration, but with obvious indicators of when they will strike. For example, when a storm hits a forest, those within the area will hear bird calls change to tortured screams. Nexus Bards thrive on these storms, leading teams into them to loot abandoned towns and cities: a risky affair but a lucrative one. Chaos Storms affect all magic users within the area of effect and those on its periphery. The effects vary from caster to caster and are determined by a random table. A d100 table provides Referees with the general effects of the storm, which change and morph regularly, such is the nature of a Chaos Storm.
The Meat Markets are regionally located throughout Mealandia (Kingdom) and are a chaotic collection of stalls and vendors buying and selling all types of goods. Markets vary in size depending on where they are located. Regardless of their size, characters can acquire most standard goods while also finding Meatlandia-centric items (e.g., lizard limbs, meat shield, and Meatimals); presented on their own price list.
A number of factions and prominent individuals are given full writeups that include juicy bits of backstory information. This information sheds light on who these people and organizations are and provides Referees with the necessary details to bring them to life. A full stat block accompanies each prominent individual and faction leader.
There are several small and sometimes not-so-small chapters rounding out the book. A single page is dedicated to some select locations found under the city. A few setting-specific magic items are described in detail with the information one requires to use them. There is a modest-sized bestiary that presents Referees with all sorts of grotesque and strange setting-specific creatures to weave into their campaigns. The bestiary follows the same format used in the OSE Core Book, making them easy to use and reference on the fly. Five “story seeds” are given, giving Referees either a ready-made prompt to further flesh out (no pun intended) or to use as the impetus for creating their own. Finally, the last few pages contain a small number of black and white hand-drawn maps, including a map of the Kingdom of Meatlandia, the city, and others.
The digest-sized book is beautifully put together, but outwardly it is not as visually stunning as the other two books in the series. Like those books, the heavy-duty cover boards, paste-down endpapers, and chunky spine ensure it will stand the test of time and repeated use. The covers are full-color, with the front cover image
is best described as cheesy. The interior art is of better quality and visually more appealing. The paper is a nice medium weight, but it has the same semi-gloss finish used in Worm Witch: The Life and Death of Belinda Blood. Unfortunately, semi-gloss paper tends to cause glare, make reading a challenge under certain lighting conditions. The book is illustrated throughout with expressive and dark artwork, both in theme and style, that nicely captures the feel of the subject matter. Some of the art is more memorable than others, but all of it is quality artwork. The layout is neat, clean, and easy on the eyes.
The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia is the book that launched the trilogy; it’s the foundation on which everything is built. It’s a great collection of Meatlandia weirdness that answers some questions I had after reading and reviewing the other two books. However, as the foundation, I feel it lacks some crucial details, and the arrangement of the material could have been a little better.
In terms of missing information, it would have been nice to see a little more information on the Kingdom of Meatlandia – no real overview is included. It wasn’t until I got to the maps that I figured out it’s actually called the Kingdom of Meatlandia. That speaks to the arrangement of some of the information. The city itself should have been fleshed out more to give players and Referees more details. For example, aside from the included unlabeled map, a general city layout would have been great.
Although I don’t feel this is the best book in the trilogy, you can see the evolution of the writing style, layout, and overall presentation in the newer books. That said, it is still well written with loads of gameable content. If you own any of the other books in the trilogy, you’ll want to grab The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia. If not to round out your collection but perhaps fill in the blanks. This book is a must-have if you are new to Meatlandia; it’ll leave you wanting more.
Other books in the series we’ve reviewed:
Surviving is No Easy Feat – The Scourge of the Scorn Lords
May I Introduce the Worm Witch?
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