It’s the end of the year, for real this time, and I figured it might be good to write down what I liked best this year (and what I am looking forward to for next year) as a record of how I feel right now. Next year around this time I’ll get to see if the things I liked this year still hold onto some of my imagination or get used at the table, and if the things I looked forward to managed to live up to my hopes. Hopefully you all find this a useful short-form metric for what I liked best this past year, in case you want to pick something up but don’t know what.
A few caveats: I might sneak a 2017 book in here, call the cops; there’s a ridiculous number of books I didn’t read and games I didn’t play and so things you think deserve to be on “best of” lists won’t be found here because I didn’t experience them; this list is absolutely not in any specific order, and is not a countdown of my review scores or anything like that; this won’t all be OSR-specific.
Okay then! Here’s what I especially liked in 2018:
- Frostbitten and Mutilated by Zak Smith for Lamentations of the Flame Princess – I reviewed this over here. It is an excellent toolbox for a harsh, malevolent tundra. If your game has a brutal snowscape full of barbarians and violence, or you liked Vornheim, you will find value in this book.
- Ultraviolet Grasslands by Luka Rejec for Hydra Cooperative / WTF Studio – This is what a huge portion of the inside of my imagination looks like, because, like Luka, much of my formative trips into fantasy were influenced heavily by Heavy Metal Magazine and B-movies and the myriad of science fiction paperbacks from prior decades at discount bookstores and rotoscoped Bakshi films and psychedelic music about telekinesis from Blue Oyster Cult. It’s awesome, imaginative, and unique. It’s absolutely it’s own thing.
- Witchburner by Luka Rejec for Hydra Cooperative / WTF Studio – I reviewed this too, just a few days ago, here on the blog. It’s one of the best social sandboxes I’ve ever played with and the time management and attitude management systems are simple but extremely effective. It can completely change how your players behave, and might also dramatically alter their view of their characters and their world if you plug this into an existing campaign.
- Harlem Unbound by Chris Spivey for Darker Hue – I didn’t review this on the blog, because ostensibly this is about D&D and old school stuff, but I probably should have made an exception. This was an awesome book. I talked about it on Twitter quite a bit back in June and July. It’s one of the best-written books in years and the way it evokes its setting and mixes fact with fiction is stellar. This is engrossing and deserves every accolade it earned.
- Mothership by Sean McCoy for Tuesday Knight Games – Another one I haven’t gotten around to reviewing, but this one is because I haven’t gotten to play it yet. I like to play stuff before I talk too much about it; but from a layout and graphic design standpoint alone, this book is radical. I like the aesthetic, I like the setting, I like the whole concept.
- The Dark of Hot Springs Island / Hot Springs Island Field Guide by Jacob Hurst for Swordfish Islands – Incredible book. Based on hanging out with Jacob, I know for a fact that he’s only going to get better and better and better at making books, too. We hopefully should have an amazing body of work from this guy in the coming years. The man is driven, inventive, curious, and incredibly sharp and passionate. He has a great outlook and his debut work with his team is tremendous. The pair of Hot Springs Islands books are fabulous and I will eventually get around to finishing up/playing further into our campaign. My real review of this is coming, I promise – I have to transcribe a meandering, fruitful audio interview first.
- Operation Unfathomable by Jason Sholtis for Hydra Cooperative – Oh look, more Hydra Coop on the list. Sholtis makes some of the most wonderfully vivid artwork and has a terrific imagination that has the same sort of appreciation for the strange and the slightly-out-of-place as Jeff Rients. That humorous but deadly approach made this book a huge hit for myself and my group. I reviewed it earlier this year over here.
Things I want to see in 2019:
- More Zedeck Siew RPG stuff. I really need to grab the set of Thousand Thousand Island zines already; I’ve been meaning to all year long and just never managed to do so between having the attention of a goldfish, a big backlog, and various bills always chipping away at the fun budget because being responsible is what adults apparently do. Huge bummer. I am way overdue on getting these in my hands. I love his writing. His blog posts have to be some of the things I look forward to most on the whole internet. Zedeck has had a successful year including a second print run of his book with the very talented Sharon Chin and co. I’d love for him to have an even bigger 2019 and put more of his mark on the industry.
- More FM Geist. Fiona has worked on a ridiculously broad range of written projects from academia to game books over this past year, and ; in 2019 I’d love to add more of her voice to my collection. She writes with an incisive and intelligent voice on every subject I’ve seen her discuss, and she has the sort of horrible, unseemly sensibilities that I love in authors. She’s got a bunch of projects on the back burner and I want to see them finished and on my table.
- More Mabel Harper. She’s made a ton of music this past year. Her blog is one of the ones I most enjoyed in the DIY/OSR space before getting involved myself. It’s one of the direct-linked blogs in my sidebar for a reason. I want more of her unique style out there to consume. I want people who have only played adventures edited by Chris Perkins to get their hands on the stuff she writes.
- Speaking of Mabel, she is part of the team working on Zak Smith’s Demon City, which is waaaay up at the top of what I want for 2019. I backed the hell out of that Kickstarter. I am very excited to play it and to really soak in the book, which will be absolutely stunning based on the Kickstarter update previews we keep getting. I am a fan of 80s horror schlock and also real, actual horror movies and novels, and the VHS aesthetic Zak seemed to push with the Kickstarter got me hooked instantly. Very excited. That’s due in June or July of 2019 or somewhere around there as I recall.
- I want Wizards of the Coast to finally fucking give us Spelljammer. Or Mystara. Or Greyhawk. Or Dark Sun. Or something new and exciting and not a rehashed Forgotten Realms or a force-fed Magic: the Gathering IP leverage scheme. Come on, yall. On the real though, I expect Spelljammer to come out in 2019. I don’t think WotC wants to genuinely infuriate their player base by teasing it as much as they have and then not delivering on it. If they don’t deliver Spelljammer I’ll be shocked and dismayed.
- Luka Rejec has a handful of projects already going for 2019, including deluxe versions of Witchburner and UVG. I want to get in on the ground floor of those! Over on his Patreon Discord server I revealed my innermost desires: one day I hope to hold a slipcase of Luka solo projects in my hands, with stark black matte covers with spot gloss framed-in artwork on the front and titles on the spines. Laugh all you want: the upcoming Rejec Kickstarters won’t be exactly that, but I’ll badger that beautiful man until he provides the slipcase box set of my dreams. Besides that, besides the Kickstarters, we’ll also get Red Sky Dead City finished sometime next year, plus the secret project that follows which he has been eluding to on his Patreon Discord and it has him incredibly excited which makes me very excited too; he’s also got some books in the works that he is working on as the designer for, so we should have a very Luka-heavy 2019. Which suits me extremely well.
- Odious Uplands from Jason Sholtis via Hydra Cooperative is due out in 2019, supposedly. The sequel to Operation Unfathomable, it will give us the world above the underworld. I can’t wait to get my hands on this – knowing Jason’s work, it will be an absolute riot to play through. I think there’s possibly a box set or something of both adventures together; if that rumor is true then I’d probably cop it.
- The DCC Annual is due sometime around July of 2019. I’ll probably be playing Demon City sometime around then if all goes well, but I’ll have to take some time to mess around with this as well. A little bit, I expect to end up thinking this is just so-so, but I want it nonetheless.
- I believe Gavin over at Necrotic Gnome is giving us a Dolmenwood Campaign Book of some sort, collecting the Wormskin bits and adding more to it to offer up a complete setting sourcebook. I’d be very interested in getting my hands on this, as Dolmenwood is a super cool setting and the Wormskin zines (which I’ll get around to reviewing)
So that’s what I liked a lot this year, and that’s what I am most hopeful for in 2019. What have I forgotten? Let me know what you think I should be keeping an eye out for, pretty please – my knowledge of all the goings-on and newsworthy developments is very limited indeed, so I’d love the help. Get at me in the comments or over on Twitter @dungeonspossums and let me know.
Until we speak again: stay safe tonight, have a happy New Year’s Eve however you celebrate it, and here’s hoping for peace, prosperity, health, and happiness for all my friends out there in RPG land.
Auguri per un felice 2019! ?