Bookkeeping Notes: I get commissions for purchases made through some links in this post. It is Chrismas in July Sale - you can get each issue cheaper than ever! The first issue of Wormskin was a fabulous read. Let’s look at issue 2 to 5. (Issue 6 is out but I’m waiting for the physical book to arrive.)

Issue 2

The artwork is a mixed bag. There are some really cool pieces of original art. And the public domain art is just meh. I have no opinion on the d30 table about tavern food. Might be useful to add some flavor (pun intended) to your game. I find the article about Psychedelics more interesting. How to sell it, how to manufacture it. The first issue was a bit sparse on actual setting information. This time you have 7 hex descriptions of The High Wold. The village of Lankshorn could be a starting point for the characters. There is enough trouble with the goat-men to offer players opportunities for adventure. You’ll also get a portrait of Lord Malbleat, a cruel goat lord. He could make a good adversary. Issue 2 concludes with new monsters. I like how you’ll also get 1d6 tables for encounters. One of my favorite monsters is the Witch-Owls.

Tall, milky-white owls with violet eyes and uncannily rotating heads, these beings go abroad at dusk to hunt. Rather than the flesh of rodents and lesser birds, witch-owls feed on the psychic bodies of the sentients upon which they prey. The sighting of a witch-owl in flight—even in the distance—is regarded by woodland folk as an ill omen of great portent.

I appreciate the eerie tone of the setting. It’s a cruel, twisted world. It reminds me of the original fairy tales. They are dark and grim instead of lovey-dovey like the Disney versions. This is a fitting continuation of Issue 1. Just buying the first two issues gives you enough fresh material which you could incorporate into an existing campaign.

Issue 3

Here we learn about the history of Dolmenwood. It is interesting to see how the languages evolved and share traits. It gives me a deeper sense of the setting and makes it more credible and well-rounded. The Witching Ring is one of the unique features of Dolmenwood. What happens when you destroy the ancient stones? What happens when the Cold Prince, a fey lord, is allowed to return? The hex locations with elk-goddesses, badger magi with adorable sweaters, and a Mouse-shrine emphasize the fantastical. You’ll also get part 1 of a dungeon-crawl: The Ruined Abbey of St. Clewd. I would have liked to see the whole adventure in one book. In this issue, it’s about the aboveground church. I care for the cool artistic map. Another plus is the Ghostly Monk Creator. It amuses me that some of the monks strike with useless attacks, e.g. “ranting and raving”. Again, the issue concludes with new monsters. Great entries. For example, the Gloam:

Gloams are undead entities formed from the corpses of a multitude of crows, ravens, or magpies. […]

The artwork is beautiful.

Issue 4

Excellent artwork and maps. But the font size got smaller and thus this issue is harder to read. We get a treatment about a half mule cruel demigod. Plus, a rumor table and a mini-dungeon/location. There are also some hooks for the players and some trivia. This could make a nice gaming session. The authors certainly provide you with enough material to kick off. I welcome the article about the fickleness of fey magic items. There are 12 complications, e.g. the item stops working when it is exposed to birdsong. The authors included a section about Lesser Stones of Dolmenwood with a d30 table to roll on. Yay, tables! The stones have alluring features, e.g.:

Fine, Drunic script surrounding High Elvish runes (the latter of much greater antiquity). The runes possess the power to 1. warp time, such that the full moon will occur this night; 2. summon a flock of ghost crows (see Wormskin issue three) to do the invoker’s bidding; 3. bring about extreme, unseasonal weather in a mile radius for 24 hours. The power of the runes has been tapped such that only one versed in Drunic ritual may command it.

The rest of the issue concerns itself with the second part of the Ruined Abbey of St. Clewd. The authors did a splendid job with the adventure’s layout. Every location gets a mini-map, so you don’t have to flip around in the book/PDF.

Issue 5

This is about the Drune, a cabal of evil sorcerers. They are seekers and hoarders of arcane knowledge.
The article gives you everything you need. History, powers, lifestyle, relationship with other factions, etc. I appreciate the info about hex-crawling in Dolmenwood. It offers some procedures and tables for weather, encounters, random events, etc. The hex locations in this issue are colorful: creepy spells gone wrong, strange monsters, psychic stones that radiate madness, a time-warping monolith. There is another mini-location/monster: the Hag of the Marsh. Comes with a spooky dwelling, hag haggling, adventure hooks, rumors and magic items. It perfectly fits the zine’s theme. The writers finish this issue with more monsters. There are the amphibious Boggin, animated thorny wood creatures called Brambin, etc. I love Dolmenwood’s monsters. They are unique and macabre. I can see myself using them in another setting if I want to add some disturbing creatures.

This zine is a favorite read of mine. The product is styled in a minimalist new OSR-style way with color and font highlights. Most of the artwork is excellent. Running this setting is a bit cumbersome, though. The source material is spread over six booklets. Wormskin Issue 1 Wormskin Issue 2 Wormskin Issue 3 Wormskin Issue 4 Wormskin Issue 5 Wormskin Issue 6

P.S. The Dolmenwood map is a free download. P.P.S. Ben Milton (Questingbeast) made a youtube review of the first three issues here.

#reviews #OSR #zines