Well overdue, I am at last going to review some of the Zine Quest 2019 books that I’ve acquired and really enjoyed. Some were PDF only; others, like Temple of the Blood Moth, were print copies. Some are still in progress today and yet to be delivered. I wanted to review these as they arrived, but since I was away, I have some catching up to do. Since these are to be short reviews, I can hopefully catch up quickly enough and get a few reviews out there on some of these. Anyway, on with the show!
1. Art Jacob Butcher wrote and illustrated his own book, and provides cartography as well! No small order. The cover art is incredibly evocative, printed as it is on deep red cardstock. The interior decorations are not sparse, but not plentiful either. Jacob strikes a good balance here between drab pages and an unnecessarily inflated page count. The art pieces we do see mostly come later in the book, at least for larger standout pieces, and they accompany items and monsters. Most of the art is of a consistent style and I found the monster illustrations especially interesting. What is here in good quantity is maps. There are plenty of clear maps presented in easily-read and easily-reproduced fashion. Overall, I have a good appreciation for this artwork and its presentation; I feel like Jacob really has a handle on style and presentation that I hope sees the light of day in a lot more projects.
2. Content Jacob wrote a tight little dungeon here. The science-fantasy romp is characteristically deadly, taking place in the titular temple of a cult dedicated to death and destruction disguised as a benevolent religious sect and it is up to the player characters to succeed in stalling their plans to bring about the end of the world by ushering in the age of the last Blood Moth. Jacob bills it as “brutal, disturbing, and strange” and aims it at low-to-mid level OSR parties.
The keyed locations are straightforward, terse, and imaginative. As the dungeon progresses from public-facing temple to the lower levels of pure Bad Juju, the keyed locations become progressively weirder and more science-fantasy. The horror steadily ramps up as well, and you can check a lot of different spooky boxes off as you work your way through. There’s definitely some thinking to be done by the players to solve a few points and little is spelled out by the book due to the scant pagecount and Butcher’s need to be picky about what made the cut.
With all due love and respect to Skerples, I must mention that the book has minor editing errors most of the way through, most of which will not really confuse or annoy you very much as you pass them by. It’s mostly little things, such as instructions saying to roll 1d12 but the chart and other notes saying 2d6; some rooms referenced by number and name but the key later showing the same number and a similar, but different, name; some items and monsters referenced with a page number and others not; things of this nature are present throughout. It’s not the end of the world, but it bears mentioning if we’re trying to be objective. [UPDATE 05 Feb 2020: Per comments below, Skerples clarified that he did not do copy-editing on this work, but rather provided structural and conceptual support.]
3. Overall I feel like this adventure is really enjoyable, straight-forward, and has a better grip on horror than a lot of dungeons out there in fancier clothes than a zine release, truthfully. Dungeon Masters will not miss noticing the influence of things like Alien and Akira. There are some neat tricks and secrets tucked away in the items and such that the players may never learn unless the DM judiciously adds some learning experiences somewhere along the lines, but nonetheless they are charming items.
I give The Temple of the Blood Moth seven rampaging mutant possum-hybrid trash angels out of ten. It is a great example of a zine – straightforward and familiar typewriter-style layout, passionate art, and some really tight game elements. The dungeon is fun and usable; the treasure and monsters are imaginative and thematically on point. The book could use a little more of Butcher’s moody and interesting art, probably, just to push it over the top, and truthfully the minor editing points could use a second glance if this is ever reprinted. In all, worth every penny of the Kickstarter, extremely table-friendly with just a quick read-through, and very atmospheric. Good show!
As always, if you agree, disagree, or just want to talk about cool mutation tables, you can hit me up over on Twitter where I post too often as @dungeonspossums.