One of the things that I’ve discovered about myself over the years is that while I don’t necessarily use them very often, I really enjoy the comfort and peace of mind that comes from having a toolbox full of “tools” that I can use at a moment’s notice. Whether those are actual tools or books, or software resources, or anything else is irrelevant. It is that security that matters to me. That is one of the things that I enjoy about collecting a role-playing library: The ability to draw upon a wide variety of source material to build an experience for my players.
That brings me to the review today. Several weeks ago, we introduced you to Low Fantasy Gaming by Stephen Grodzicki of Pickpocket Press, an Old School Revival (OSR) fantasy game. Today, we’re going to look at the Companion book to that volume. We also received this as part of backing the LowLife 2090 Kickstarter. The Low Fantasy Gaming Companion is, as the title suggests, a companion book to the Low Fantasy Gaming core rules. It covers additional options, methodologies, optional rules, and other add-on goodness to help the GM tailor a game more to the needs of their table.
Manufacturing and Production Quality
We ordered a Print on Demand copy from DriveThruRPG in addition to the PDF copy we received as part of the Kickstarter. The 165 page hardbound book is of good quality. The printing is on heavy weight paper, in color, and the print does not appear to bleed. The paper is non-glossy, but does not seem to be of poor quality either. The artwork, cover and some of the interior, was commissioned from Andreas Rocha and many others and is beautiful and evocative. A good portion of the art is stock art (custom commissioned art is expensive, trust us), but like the core rulebook, it fits the theme of the book well. The only issue I had was what looked like a single spot of weak binding for one page bundle. It will, hopefully, hold up over time.
Low Fantasy Gaming Companion, like the core rulebook, is based on the d20 system using Wizards of the Coast’s d20 Open Gaming License (OGL v. 1.0a). The book starts out by diving immediately into content. There is 30 pages of additional options for Downtime Activity for players who wish to dive deep into what happens to the characters between adventures or groups that want to double down on sandbox worldbuilding. Honestly? This is fantastic. It’s practical suggestions for players who may struggle with the question, “My character needs to heal before they go take on that next bad guy. What do they do?” These are rules-lite, quick to deal with options such as artificing, carousing, local events, magical research, pit fighting, and even thieving. The sections are small which keeps the game in the spirit of, less rules, more rulings, but gives the GM enough to actually hang a ruling on.
The next section is another one of the overlooked pieces of a fantasy campaign: Domains. No, not Clerical Domains, land ownership. This section is eighteen pages detailing the dynamics of ruling a land and its people for those players that wish to do something like that. After that, you will find an optional character class: the Psion, another 5 pages of Unique Features (similar to D&D Feats) that your characters can take at various levels to further customize your build. Following this, there are a couple of pages of alternate rules, such as using actual experience points for advancement rather than doing session advances. (Not something I prefer, but to each their own).
Following that is a revision of the Dark and Dangerous Magic table from the core rules. Called “Perilous Magic”, this is, as Stephen describes, “for those settings better suited to less ‘dark’ – but no less dangerous – magical mishaps.” There is a table for Minor Charms that a GM can use, and then there is a section on Major Items (heavy-duty magical items) that refer to the Midlands Low Magic Sandbox Setting but can be easily reskinned for other fantasy worlds. He gives 38 pages of magical items and what they do, a really phenomenal addition to the book and some great quest MacGuffins. Finally, there are 43 new pages of monsters to add to the 37 in the Core rulebook. With short but effective stat blocks and descriptions, there is a ton of useful options for a GM to drop in to surprise their players.
Honestly, I don’t really have any criticisms of this book except perhaps: “More”. The first thing that comes to mind would be an expansion of some random generation tables that we found in the core book. For instance, there is a Dungeon Room Generator in the core book. Perhaps one could take and expand this idea to something like the Jade Colossus Ruin Generator from Numenera or products like AEG’s Ultimate Toolbox. There is no need to limit it to dungeons either. One could imagine doing something like that for a wilderness exploration as well. I suppose my point is that anything one can do to help a GM react to their players on the fly is, to me, useful content. The ideas do not need to be fully fleshed-out, but enough to hook on to and run with would be valuable.
At this point, Joann and I have played two sessions of Low Fantasy Gaming, with John Pollack (Mr. Mean Speaks!) running it and a couple of other players. It plays fast and hard at lower levels and seems to even out a little as we level up. The additional options in Low Fantasy Gaming Companion are interesting and add quite a bit of variation in flavor to the game, offering a multitude of different experiences to a GMs repertoire. Want to check out Low Fantasy Gaming for yourself? Pickpocket Press has released the original edition of the PDF absolutely FREE on their website. You can download it HERE. You can get the books Print on Demand or the other PDF’s on DriveThruRPG Pickpocket Press has a ton of free resources available on their website. We at Angel’s Citadel highly recommend them and their products. Stephen is a great guy and puts out excellent product that is absolutely worth the time it takes to look at. Happy gaming!
- Josh Walles