Saturday, 11 July 2015

Lusus Naturae, Narcosa, & NSFW - Impressions

Whilst I was recently recovering in the hospital (see previous post), one day my Missus brought to me an unexpected hardback that I had received in the mail; t'was Lusus Naturae, a gruesome old-school bestiary written by the appallingly astute +Rafael Chandler and illustrated by the terrifyingly talented +Gennifer Bone, which I had backed an age ago on kickstarter.

Given the awful sweat-drenched, fever-induced nightmares I was having at the time, I thought it perhaps wise that I opted not to add such text to my current infirmary reading pile.


But now that I've been home all safe and comfortable with the majority of my illnesses behind me, in my air conditioned man-cave, a beer in hand, with heavy metal rumbling over my speakers, I cracked the covers of this horrible handbook.

Yes. I fully stand by my decision to prolong subjecting myself to the 133 pages of horrors within without proper ambiance, else I'm sure I'd be unable to appreciate them to their fullest extent.

The themes herein are most definitely geared towards dark/weird fantasy worlds and the minimalist mechanics presented work best with OSR games (particularly Laminations of the Flame Princess on both counts), but the content of Lusus Naturae can easily be adapted to a variety of RPGs; in particular I see much of the concepts in this bestiary working quite well in Numenera.

A Gelatinous Hypercube. Friggin' Genius.
My advice for a simple mechanics conversion to the Cypher System is make the level of the creature equal to it's listed hit dice, as the vast majority of never go above 10 HD anyway (and the few that do are more suited to plot-tied campaigns than single encounters). The rest of the pertinent creature details and modifications can easily be discerned by reading the entry and the GM deciding the rest of the relevant info.

Aside from an excellent and varied creature catalogue, the book also contains a useful appendix of anagrammed spells (like Plane Shift to a Fish Planet), a seriously decent random monster generator, a random disease creator with a bunch of historical examples, and a list of objects found in a monster's lair.

All in all, well worth the money I spent ($35) and the time I waited (over a year). The PDF of this work can be found [here] and is currently on sale for just $10.




It's also worth noting that several of the entries in Lusus Naturae make reference to a free collaborative work by the OSR community, also edited and compiled by Chandler, known as Narcosa. This 100+ page PDF is free; fans of it may also purchase a softcover version [here].

I haven't had the time to read through the whole collection but I get the impression if you want even more gonzo, acid-and-mushrooms-in-wonderland material for your games, Narcosa is bound to contain your preferred poison.





I also realized that I never had a chance to give another one of Chandler's works (again for LotFP and other retro-clones) a good read through and review; the adventure No Salvation For Witches (or NSFW as it's appropriately known). Now that the indiegogo campaign has funded, one can purchase either a PDF and/or a hardcover print copy [here] or [here].

No Salvation For Witches, in my opinion, seems like an okay adventure. Sure, it has some superb evocative art and some clever parts (I enjoyed all the historical references), but the whole thing kinda seems like a tiny sandbox that only has one interesting thing at each location vaguely tied around a timed event.

Perhaps that's more than plenty for the PC's to do given they're limited to the in-game 24-hour time-frame and mayhap that's meant to keep them from getting too distracted from the global-altering ritual that's occurring, but it feels to me all the listed encounters and locales could do with a bit more description/flavor; the same goes with fleshing out certain NPCs' motivations/reasons why they're present. Saying rampant magic caused it kinda seems like a cop-out when it's used to explain away the majority of the weird goings-on.


That said, NSFW might be best suited for a convention game or a single session where time is limited anyway and one doesn't have to worry about the PC's missing the most interesting parts of the adventure because they're bogged down with something unrelated when the proverbial clock strikes zero.

I liken it to being trapped in a haunted house till sunrise and given free reign; some groups might chase/capture/fight the monster in the rubber mask, some might spend all night trying to unlock the broom-closet because they think there's something vital in there (there isn't). But this perhaps can be argued with any time-sensitive adventure.

An interesting quasi-adventure, but I have little desire to ever run it. Though the Tract of Teratology in the latter part of the book provides more random-generated material (this time summoning ritual flavoured) for use in other games, No Salvation For Witches left me mildly disappointed when I finished it.

I guess I was just expecting more; though it is worth noting that the indiegogo campaign for NSFW was "Pay What You Want", so for certain individuals might've got a really good deal for the amount they contributed. Me, I think I got my value, despite being a bit disappointed by the seemingly limited content.

I think the post-campaign hardcover price of 22€ seems a little steep for the content provided; the PDF seems a better deal. But then again you could get the larger, perhaps more useful Lusus Naturae PDF for the same price...

Just sayin'.