What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekend R&R: A Red & Pleasant Land

There are many things that can make a gaming book, supplement, or adventure stand out for a gamer.  For me, it always comes down to diverse utility beyond the scope of what may have been originally intended or simply the ease of being able to mine material for personal use.  Zak Smith's "A Red & Pleasant Land" is such a book.  There has already been a lot written about this book which is why I decided to weigh in a bit with my own thoughts -- if only to present another opportunity for a book that manages to offer so much.

Besides, I also love the wonderful world that Lewis Carroll has created and the various interpretations that pop culture and various creative minds have given to us over the years.  The more twisted and imaginative they were, the better.  One only needs to look at American McGee's "Alice" and "Alice: The Madness Returns" to get an idea of what I'm talking about.  Of course, Lewis Carroll's influence was seen before "A Red & Pleasant Land" as far as pen and pager RPGs were concerned as well.  Gary Gygax penned two adventures heavily inspired by Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" for AD&D based on material he used in his own campaign.  Fans of the modules, "EX1 - Dungeonland" and "EX2 - The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" accept these as 'funhouses' and something never intended to be taken too serious.  They are lighthearted in tone and generally fun.  The Alice videogames I mentioned earlier, are darker and more twisted.  The tone of "A Red & Pleasant Land"?  Dark and purposely disjointed.  Don't get me wrong, it is a brilliant and beautiful piece of work and, in the right hands, will make for a fantastic adventure or even a great campaign.  Everything you need is here -- croquet mallet included!

However, it isn't a standard adventure by any means.  It's best to consider this a sourcebook although some may prefer to describe this as a setting book.  It certainly has many characteristics of a setting book.  Basically combine your Alice in Wonderland and Looking Glass material along with a coupe of warring factions made up of vampires with a twist and dark fantasy and you'll get a glimmer of an idea of what the book is presenting to its reader.  It has a couple of larger dungeons -- Cachtice, The Card Castle and Poenari, The Looking Glass Palace, and a very comprehensive bestiary for this land called Voivodja.  But along with this material, you have SOOOO much more starting with a brilliantly conceived 'Alice' class.  I simply *love* the 'Exasperation' ability of the class and plan to exploit it in other areas.  Which brings me to my next point, the book has a lot of optional rules and tables which makes this a great resource to use in many other ways to enrich your campaigns.  While there is plenty of material in this work that fleshes out 'A Red & Pleasant Land' to give it that special, unique feel providing an enriched and memorable campaign, there are equal amounts of it that can be used almost anywhere.  This book truly is a great tool kit for creative GM's to use and, most likely, adore.  The various random tables I mentioned earlier seem to have more of a flow to them than just a book collecting a bunch of random tables for a variety of topics.  These tables can really be used to craft an interesting adventure just using the resources available from this very book.  Frankly, it's hard not to like this book.

On top of it all, the look and presentation is very much superior to a lot of what is available on the market today.  It is truly a beautiful book with interesting art and engaging layout.  I read somewhere (but I can't remember where) that, if you didn't use ANYTHING from this book, it could still be a good looking coffee table book.  Or, in my mind, a very interesting conversation starter and curiosity.

Simply put, Zak Smith and James Edward Raggi (of Lamentations of the Flame Princess) make a great team, and this is a truly a great product.  I regret nothing with this acquisition.  For those that want a print version of the book... you can check or perhaps request it from your FLGS or order it straight from LotFP over HERE.  On the other hand, it that is too rich for your blood (it is a bit pricey but it is a premium book in every sense of the word), you can opt for just the PDF over HERE.

Happy Gaming!

M