Friday, April 10, 2015

Fourthcore Alphabet: Dark & Deadly Dungeon Design From Altars To The Zodiac


So +Lulu.com Self-Publishing is doing another sale. Something like 30% off till April 12th with the code APRIL30.

I just received some goods from the last sale they had. Thought I'd ping a review of Fourthcore Alphabet real quick so people who were interested or sitting on the fence have an idea of what the product is.

Weighing in at 66 black and white pages, Fourthcore Alphabet is an almost system free group of tables using the A to Z method to list the tables.Before it gets to those tables, it goes into a little detail about the default assumptions of a Fourthcore setting. For the players used to 4th edition and high survivability rates, well, you're screwed. The whole idea is bringing old school lethality and randomness and weirdness to 4th edition.

Written by Sersa Victory with art by d20 Monkey scribe +Brian Patterson , the book has a bit too much white space for my taste. While as I've grown older I fully appreciate a book that isn't afraid to let the reader's eyes rest, there are numerous half pages of blank text. It either needs more art, better table design, or more tables. Maybe mini-tables to go with the regular tables. For example, under O is For Overlords, on that half page, how about some random attributes of henchmen for that Overlord?

In terms of dialing it up a notch, Fourthcore takes things like the default setting in 4e, a Points of Light setting, and makes it points of light, plus oh yeah, it's really really really bad out there. There are numerous other little attitude tweaks that go a long way in establishing this isn't meant for 4th edition standard players.

In terms of the random tables, we have the following:

A is for Altars.
B is for Beasts
C is for Corpses
D is for Dungeons
E is for Echoes
F is for Fountains
G is for Gods
H is for Hellscapes
I is for Idols
J is for Jingoism
K is for Keepsakes
L is for Lairs
M is for Mysteries
N is for the Netherworld
O is for Overlords
P is for Puzzles
Q is for Quests
R is for Rewards
S is for Secrets
T is for Traps
U is for Undead
V is for Violence
W is for Weird
X Marks the Spot
Y is for YOu're Doomed
Z is for Zodiac

The tables are there to add some random fun to the game.

For example, let's take F is for Fountains.It's a d20 roll with headers of Fluids, Adornments, and Properties. You roll once on the fluids column, twice on the adornments column, and once on the properties column.

You could get a fountain flowing with liquid mithril where the fountain is etched with demonic runes that glow brightly when the crusaders draw near and a corpse lies near this fountain and those who make a blood offering to the fountain may cast a single ritual the GM determines beforehand. The crusader is considered to be trained in the ritual's key skill for the purpose of this effect. This boon functions only once.

Simple right? The tables are mostly about description and not game mechanics. This allows the book to be useful for almost any edition of the game. On the few cases when it does call for game mechanics, those are 4th edition. Again though, minimum amount of game rules here.

There's also the 'Chaos Deck', which requires you to have a Deck of Many Things. It notes that there were two, one from Dungeon 177 and another from Madness at Gardmore Abbey. At the end of each extended rest, you pull a card. This helps motivate players to maybe not make too much camping.

So over there, Fourthcore Alphabet in PDF is 99 cents. What's the one guy always saying? "Come on." Seriously guys, for 99 cents you cannot go wrong.

In print, with the discount I'd say it's worth it. It's nice to have a physical copy. The layout and design strikes a nerve with me because of all the white space and I'm sure this is actually like a 48 page product, but it's not a bad product. It's just laid out bad. (Cue Jessica Rabbit)