One day after the postal worker brought me the twin happiness of Barrowmaze and the d30 DM Companion, I returned home to find that our personal postal worker (or would that be "mail distribution facilitator"?) had left another present for me.
Yup. I had an envelope with the scary moth. Inside was the lovely mug of Hugo staring up at me. The envelope had a laugh-inducing personal message from the Author himself, Tim Shorts. Unfortunately, my laughter meant explaining the message to my wife.
You see...I like 'zines. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to my long-time readers. Yeah. Really. I like 'em. I get excited about a good product too. So when the two sources of excitement combine in one? Well, loss of reason isn't out of the question. I was so eager for The Manor #2, I went and purchased my copy mere minutes after the PayPal button went live over on GM Games. Within minutes I had a confirmation e-mail from Tim thanking me for my purchase, but advising me (what I had apparently forgotten) that I had purchased a subscription when I bought issue #1.
Yep. That's what I did. And I told Tim that he was free to not let me live it down. And now my wife won't let me live it down either. At any rate, it was a nice personal touch that I certainly wouldn't have gotten from someone like Wizards of the Boast. (Full disclosure: To be honest, I HAVE actually received something similar from Paizo's customer service on one occasion, but I digress.)
So, what did I get for my $3.50? 24 pages of gaming goodness. First, The Manor #2 has a nice, striking yellow (is that Canary?) cover. It looks great on the shelf next to the red cover of Issue #1.
The title page has a few humorous touches--a great disclaimer, for one, that my attorney-side appreciated. These are the kind of things that I love about 'zines. The personal touches, the inside jokes, the foibles.
The introduction contains, in part, a nice piece of software pimpery. I actually wanted to go out and buy a copy of Office Publisher myself, even though I hate Office products. Then a nice personal note from Tim about the contents and the history of Issue #2.
Now for the meat: 14 pages devoted to [u]Hugo's Healing Potions Shop[/u]. Honestly, I feel like it should be "Shoppe".... But Hugo's feels real. We have mechanic generic bios of Hugo and his staff. We have a nice map with a detailed key. Tim also gives us a random customer table for the Shop as well as adventure hooks. Great fluff that really makes the place come alive. I particularly love the little touches Tim adds to his descriptions; they add atmosphere and realism. I mean, "During business hours, the door is held open by a rock." I love it. I have a player that WOULD ask how the door is being held open, and would probably take the rock and use it for nefarious ends.
The next 8 pages are devoted to Smugglers Inn and the surrounding environs. Jason Sholtis contributes to the cause with a table of "things you might find under the cot at Smugglers Inn." Great stuff.
The inside back cover gives us a rampaging orc (pig-faced, of course) and a Poetry Slam by the Rusty Battle Axe. Any poem that can work in 'cockroaches' and 'destruction' pretty much gives the poet my nod for Poet Laureate.
More than anything else, I think I may like and appreciate about Tim's work is that it is SO mechanic- or game-generic. One could easily use the Potion Shop and the Smuggler's Inn in a Labyrinth Lord, DCC, Pathfinder, 4th Edition game, not to mention
Call of Cthulhu, d20 Modern, or whatever your flavor-of-the-month may be.
Finally, the back cover. Here we have something that, to me, epitomizes so much of what I have found in the RPG blogosphere. Tim has included an advertisement for The Horrendous Heap of Sixteen Cities by Dylan Hartwell over at Digital Orc. The advertisement was, according to Dylan, completely unsolicited and unexpected. Maybe because it's so rare in my professional life, but I really enjoy the comraderie and brotherhood that RPG gamers share in the online world. I've been touched in the past month by some outreach from some fellow bloggers and gamers; that's a topic for another, well-overdue post. Suffice it to say, it's a nice refreshing change from real life for me, to know that there are good, honest, and caring people that just want us all to get along, have fun, and promote a good, fun hobby. It makes it even better to see these same people band together and try to help the fellow gamers in real life situations, concerns, hiccups, tragedies, etc.
So...back to the Manor #2. If you couldn't already tell, I would recommend it to anyone who games. Period. Anyone can use this material; if you can't, you're really not trying. Excellent work, Tim.
Wait...I take it back. There IS a major problem with The Manor #2. I just discovered it. It's nearly insurmountable.
The problem is this: now I have to WAIT impatiently for The Manor #3. This makes me... unhappy.
Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.