Those who do not speak fluent Blithering Echo-Chamber Idiot-ese may be wondering exactly what am I raving about now. Why, the Vornheim: the Complete City Kit by Zak S[-mith/-abbath].
Remember HOL? Remember the mad layout, the bizarrely evocative art and characterful writing with all those demented ideas poking out at odd angles?
Now cross all that you loved about HOL* with the aesthetic sense that gave us stuff like the Skrath, Road of Knives (sample pic: The Clairvoyant Naga Queen Is Shocked by the Incompetence of Her Subordinates) and Illustrations for Every Page of Gravity's Rainbow.
(Chris nods and grins like Alan Tudyk threatening to fong someone in Knights Tale.)
* Advisory: If you did not love HOL then you have no soul!
Visual Sample: The Contents Page
I chose the contents page so as to give 1) an impression of the layout and 2) a sense of the content, but without giving away on the theftoweb substantial chunks of material that Zak S[-mith/-abbath] created with honest toil.
64 pages, 6" x 8.4"
B+W art throughout. Colour cover and map. No graph paper or hex-grid in sight.
PDF contains download link to additional digital content.
As you can see from the pic above Vornheim is laid out in a two-column format with tight margins and heavy black page borders. You definitely get your money's worth in ink. Each page has the page number and title in the outside margin in big blocky no-farting-about white lettering you can read from across the room. Sub-sections within pages are denoted by para breaks and boldface headers.Table entries alternate white and grey backgrounds.
A random selection of Vornish oddments
All cakes must be tasted by the oldest person in the room first, or else they will taste like fish. Except fishcakes, which will taste like rye.
-- p10, Superstitions of Vornheim
This small toad is so disturbing to look at that its victims go blind. It cannot speak but can sing with the voice of a young girl.
-- p21, Immortal Zoo of Ping Feng
(para 3 of 3)
Continued examination of the rug after that will result in a rupture in space/time with catastrophically bizarre consequences, causing thorough and permanent alterations to the character and campaign. (GM should decide what these are, since s/he will likely have to deal with them for many sessions to come.)
-- p28, Library of Zorlac
SP: Surviving in Vornheim. Rule #1, 3, 32 & 59: Do not get drunk, tipsy, trip on drugs, or alter your perception in any way. You could be assaulted at any time by anything.
Also, avoid speaking to anyone if you do find yourself drunk, tipsy, tripping on drugs or altering your perception in any way.
-- p33, Player Commentaries
13: Trial by pie: The defendant and prosecutor have 24 hours to prepare as many pies (1 foot diameter) as possible. The accuser then consumes any one of his/her pies as quickly as possible. The defendant must then consume any one of his/her own pies as fast or faster. The accuser then must eat any one of the defendant’s pies as fast as that or faster, and then vice versa and then the sequence starts over until one party or the other is unable to finish a pie in time (and therefore loses) or runs out of pies (and therefore loses). The winner is entitled to any and all remaining pies.
-- p59, Legal Situations
Truth or Challenge: As the child’s game “truth or dare” – only the honesty of the “truths” is enforced by carefully observing color changes in a hybrid orchid that eats lies.
-- p62, Notes on Unusual Games
The book is chock full of fun and evocative stuff like this.
Hmm. Is it only me who sees a passing resemblance to classic 2000AD layout in Vornheim: the Complete City Kit?
No. Wait. I've seen this look before. Blocky edging; dense text; weird artwork; seemingly nonsensical (but actually useful) table entries: he's only gone and created a loving homage to the look-and-feel of the Realm of Chaos books and original WH40K: Rogue Trader. Conscious allusion? Very probably. Artists are a perfidious and cunning breed of pop-culture referent magpies, and Zak is known to be a fan of old GW stuff.
Shades of HOL, 2000AD, RoC and RT all in one book? That's just filth that is!
"So Mr Sabbath, when exactly did you work out the formula for weaponised Brit-gamer catnip?"
On first reading I like this book. It's exactly what it says on the tin: a thunk-provoking tool kit that'll probably be great fun to unleash on the players. I'm especially looking forward to playing with all the clever features Zak has included in the hard copy. Heck, he even gave it all-black borders to hide Cheeto stains. The man thinks of everything!
I LOLed. I chuckled the Evil DM laugh. I went "bastard! I wish I'd thought of that".
Zak (and James Raggi) did good. You should give them your money.
PS: This is not an April Fool's gag. I don't 'do' April Fools.
Cartoon - Philip M. "Jolly Jack" Jackson
Image of Vornheim index page - Zak S and James E. Raggi IV