Zine Review: D8 Monthly - Issue 0
|D8 Monthly Issue 0 Cover Art
By Dean Spencer
Marketplace : YumDM.com
Engine: Edition Agnostic Dungeons & Dragons
Russ from YumDM and I banter occasionally on Twitter, and I have been keeping an eye on this project of his since it first crossed my feed. Now that it is finally out, I thought I would spread the word by giving it the full W2tDT treatment.
D8 Monthly is intended to be a free monthly 'Zine with locations, tools, tables, NPCs and content for use with any edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It definitely has that cool O5R vibe of making cool Old-School content available for 5e players.
The pilot "0" issue is not entirely an army-of-one project, but a lot of Russ' style and a good chunk of his campaign comes through. And that is a good thing: he keeps it straight to the point, and uses evocative language that makes the most out of fluff.
Most of the articles in Issue 0 are interconnected; they flesh out the town of Dolfar, which serves as a low-level "home base" town.
There is lots worth stealing here.
What I Loved
I have a love/hate relationship with Alchemy in Dungeons & Dragons. I love the idea of a crazed, bomb-slinging, potion-chugging, self-mutating Alchemist rather like the one in Pathfinder 1e. But I hate how Alchemy actually plays in D&D. Almost every edition talks about Alchemist's. In early Editions they enhanced spell research and magic item creation. In recent editions it is a skill without meaning, except if you're brewing potions. D&D3e was the only edition to really give Alchemy any love... only the items that you could create were often overpriced and never improved. (Your selection improved a bit with the Complete Series and PHBII)
The first, and largest article in D8 Monthly - Issue 0 is the kind of Alchemy I love and try to create for my own game: it is a list of a selection of alchemically enriched oils that, when burned in a lantern, do such things as make your lantern burn longer, make it more explosive if thrown, repel insects, or throw off blacklight that improves the range of Darkvision.
In my own home campaign at the moment two of my player characters like to dabble in Alchemy; one has even spent her special unique character ability on having a few unique formulae she can use to blind, confuse, and poison her foes. These are exactly the kind of thing I am looking for! It add depth to Alchemy, gives the PCs something cool to spend their loot on, offers practical solutions to problems like dangerous bugs, and adds more content to a setting without needing to rely on magic as the explanation.
They are also tied into the local setting and NPC presented later in the book, to add an extra flourish.
Tiny Details w/ Big Potential
Russ adds a lot of little details that can serve as clues or hooks in future adventures: the most unusual oils are made with oil and scales of a rare fish caught near dolfar, there is a new captain of the Outriders who is eager to prove herself, there is a site where two wizards died in a mighty duel nearby. Most of these are just part of a sentence but pack a lot of potential for future adventures.
D8 Monthly has several articles that, by their title tell you a lot about how the magazine will work going forward, as well as a feature article D8 Monthly includes:
- Corner Table: A random table.
- Dramatis Personae: An NPC, such as a villain.
- Location, Location, Location!: A map and detailed location.
This suggests that each D8 Monthly is going to give us a rich set of edition-Agnostic adventure ideas.
The MAP Method
The article "Shorthand Your NPCs" gives a method og quickly noting down the most relevant information for bringing an NPC to the table in a simple, compressed, and mostly edition-Agnostic format that is ideal for swift note-making.
Stripped Down Presentation
Using the MAP method described above, plus compact writing allows quite a few NPCs to be included in the Dolfan location description. Combined with tight, meaningful details to enrich the description of Dolfan 's features makes this a great example of writing with the limitations of the' Zine format.
Lost Potential in Random Table
The random table included in the 'Zine is the creation of Tales of the Manticore, and as random encounter tables go, it is quite good. It includes not just monster encounters, but other obstacles, events, and mysteries a group of low-level characters might run into in the mountainous region such as Dolfan.
The content of the table puts it a cut Above the usual random encounter tables you see pepperex through most Dungeons & Dragons supplements. However, there would have been a simple way to Move It from a B+ to an A. That would be to tie it in to the rest of the articles. The oils, the NPC, the town location, even the NPC notation method all all work together to build a single location. The random encounter table could have helped build that up.
This could be achieved by replacing one or two of the encounters with on's specific to the region. A member of the outriders, for example. Or some of the strange mutations like thoest hat have been sighted near the wizards' duel site recently. Or perhaps a couple of fishermen arguing over the catch of an exceptionally large ash fish.
Just one or two unique encounters specific to the location would have made the entire magazine feel fully unified. As it is, I hope we will see more from Tales of the Manti core, and I will be checking out their own material with great interest. It is definitely a high-quality table as is.
Tell Us About You
This 'Zine would have been a great opportunity to tell us a little bit about Russ, and his blog. And I would have liked to have known exactly what the mission statement of the' Zinewas, as well. Both could have been achieved in less than half a column with just a little bit of the finangling.
If you're going to create something as good as this magazine, you might as well take an opportunity to promote yourself. There is no guarantee that every copy that gets into people's hands will have come directly from the YumDM blog.
Call to Arms
At the end of the issue there is a call for feedback. However, there's not a call for submissions. There is such a requezg on the website where the magazine is downloaded, but it would be very easy for someone to simply hit the download button and navigate away. A call for submissions in an idea of what is likely to get published would be a good thing to include in the back of the, Zine.
Tease Out Factions
Dolfan is defended by a crew of outriders that recently has come under new leadership. It has a religious order in the location. There's also implications that there may be an entire pack of wererats hidinohfg and at least someone is enough grudges and hidden machinations to justify the presence of a professional assassin in a small town.
Play featuring at least one of these factions as an article not only would create another column that I'm certain would be a big draw, but also provide one more opportunity to strongly enrich the material in the magazine.
D8 Monthly - Issue 0 is a solid first offering from YumDM. It has some unique material, a useful tool, and an interesting location with a particularly compelling villain all put forward in a compact format that is a pleasure to read. There is plenty to steal here for a hacker DM like me. I look forward to seeing how this is 'Zine evolves, and (hopefully) brings attention to YumDM's quality work.