I'm still playing catch-up on my quest to review every issue of D12 Monthly. I chose D12 Monthly because Russ over at Yum/DM started blogging about the same time as I did, and I want to be a booster, a guy who helps other people in the indie RPG scene find their best audience.
I'm always looking for more awesome TTRPG content and more content creators to do the same for.
Issue #6 of D12 Monthly is focused on giving you more options with the Undead, and it definitely adds some cool ones. The only regular column we see reappearing in this issue is Weapon Spotlight.
I am going to break my mold a bit and start with a growth point, because it is a big one to note
Usually D12 Monthly is dedicated to offering edition-agnostic material: it takes a mix of ideas that might have been missed from older editions of Dungeons & Dragons, especially AD&D2e and D&D3.5, and makes them into simple, discrete rule modules that are easier to import into whichever edition you may feel like playing.
That is much less true of this issue of D12 Monthly. In some places it seems to be down to editing, but in others the magazine articles make reference to conditions, stats, and rules that do not exist in TSR era Dungeons & Dragons. For example, monsters do not have strength scores, in TSR D&D, and if they did, a strength score of 24, where it is even possible, would not translate to a +7 bonus. Nor do feats translate into older editions of Dungeons & Dragons unless they are connected to a kit, or there is some special means of acquiring knowledge to perform the feat. Nor are critical hits a thing in many editions.
Overall, if you are using an older edition of Dungeons & Dragons, or a retroclone of them, some of the rules in this volume are going to require a lot more work to import into your campaign if you choose to do so.
The upside being that there are a lot of ideas in here that are absolutely worth going through the efforts to import.
What I Loved
The first article in this issue of D12 Monthly offers a new way to create vampires. It gives a large list of both powers and weaknesses a vampire might possess, and then offers several examples of how to combine them to create variant vampires. There are quite a few examples offered, some from different cultures' folklores, and some from modern pop culture. You have draugen and sirens and alps vampires mingled with "Brujeria" vampires.
This is a great way to quickly make new forms of undead. My only complaint about this article is that I would have liked to have seen the lists of powers and weaknesses first before the examples, but that is a very minor weakness if you are a patient reader.
The Undead-Enhancing Herbs
One of the articles that made me fall in love with this magazine was in the very first issue. A collection of alternative oils a person could burn in a lantern to gain additional effects, not through magic, but through chemical properties. This is something I hope to see continue in future issues as well. Perhaps with fantastical metal alloys, or unusual fabrics.
In this case, we have herbal concoctions that can be made by necromancers or their alchemist minions that can make Undead faster, give them lethal claw attacks, or make them smarter. That last one combines with another cool article in the magazine, which takes the animal training rules from Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition and applies them to the undead.
All of the best articles in this magazine work together. The herbs, the undead training, the abilities for necromancers, the unholy texts... they all work together to create a whole lot of cool options for dealing with the undead. Only the vampire and library articles really stands alone.
Random Undead Generator
I love random generators, but I rarely use them for big things in my campaign. This one, however, is too cool not to try. There's a generator for creating Undead with one to eight hit dice. Allow you to create new Undead whose lore will definitely not be in the players wheelhouse.
Leveling up Your Necromancer
I have mixed feelings about this article. It focuses on feets and special abilities in necromancer can learn, along with creating a more system-agnostic version of the spell summon undead. These are options that would make a necromancer really effective, I have always felt that necromancers are painfully under a served in most editions of dnt. And in many, a cleric makes a better necromancer than a magic user.
As is, these abilities are presented as feats, and there's no real suggestion as to how a character who is not playing in an edition where feats exist would be able to acquire them. I feel that that would have been the best possible addition to this article.
The Library Table
This issue of D12 Monthly has a fairly cool article on libraries and how to create them. It doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the addition, and might have been saved for a later one where it could have taken up another page, because it could have used a tiny bit more work in my opinion
The article itself is good, and I would not remove it. But, it is really only usable as is for third edition and beyond. It makes reference to DCs and relative difficulty classes on its table, rather than giving you numbers to try to reach. Which, avoids the complex issue of the wildly varying stat bonuses from edition to edition, It does so by excluding the earlier editions. That table would have worked far better if numbers were just provided, and recommendation about bonuses or penalties based on edit added
The Undead Traits Article
This is another article that suffered from the same problem in a slightly different way. It was a great article for rolling for variations or specific traits on low-powered undead. And some of the ideas in it, like having Undead that are compelled to pick pockets, are fantastic. But a huge number of the abilities included are simply not usable because they refer to things like a creatures actual statistics, or assume the GM can extrapolate things like a skill ranking or mechanic without much guidance.
I Need More from the Other Worlds
An article that stood out as feeling very incomplete is the article on the spirit world. It gives you some ideas about a parallel plane called the Spirit World that rests just parallel to ours, and places where the two planes collide is where hauntings occur. And it offers one mechanic for what hauntings are like. But the whole article feels incomplete, I feel like there should be more options for haunting, or at least superficial facts. The article needed to be at least 50% longer than it was.
Likewise, we have a cool demi-plane, Umbra, described but we have nothing like a random encounter table that we could use to have a sense of what is in umbra. I would have liked to have seen it be given the full Location! Location! Location! treatment of the demiplane,
This issue of D12 Monthly suffers from too many cool ideas crammed into too small s space. Many of the best articles needed to be longer to give us more to work with. A little more space given to each article could have allowed it to be edition agnostic, or at least to have a conversion system to be put in place for each. It could have let us have a better idea of what hauntings were like, and given us a chunk of umbra to explore.
If I were in an assistant editor position on D12 Monthly, I would have suggested that the library article being held over for a later issue so that these other articles could have the room to grow they needed.
I also feel that the issue needed a little more time being examined from a rule standpoint so that the mission to create edition-agnostic content could have been better kept. As is, the content in here is really worth using, but some of it is going to take a little work to make useful in something like Lamentations of The Flame Princess or Cairn.
I'm looking forward to the next one!