Saturday, November 4, 2017

Reviews: Hubris - A World of Visceral Adventure

Image result for hubris dcc

Hubris - A World of Visceral Adventure

Concept design and writing by Mike Evans.

With art, design and layout work by Mike Evans, Alex Mayo, David Lewis Johnson, Jez Gordon, Jeremy Duncan, Angie Groves, Doug Kovacs, David Lewis Johnson, Jason Sholtis, Wayne Snyder.

Available in PDF for $14.99. In Softcover for $34.99 and in Hardcover for $49.99. 350 pages.
Hubris is a weird fantasy setting that uses the awesome Dungeon Crawl Classics rules! In this book you will find 10 territories filled with tables and charts to generate interesting locations and encounters, new occupations, 4 new classes, 5 new playable races, 3 new spells, 4 new patrons, including 3 patrons spells for each, 11 new and terrible gods, 14 tables and charts for a GM to use to aid them in their game or create interesting/fun situations, two new adventures to kick off a campaign, and 51 new enemies (including enemies that are unique thanks to random generation). Hubris is hackable! Each territory can be used as the GM wills! Need a desert, swamp, or frozen tundra for your game? Use what's in Hubris!
Reviewers note: This review is late. Ridiculously late. Mike sent me a PDF for review and I apologize to both him and my remaining readers.

Jesus, fuck!

Mike Evans was kind enough to send me a free copy of the Hubris PDF for review. I haven't done a review in years. But, returning to the blog is always in the back of my mind and I jumped at the chance to take a look-see at what I was fully expecting to be more than worth everyone's while.

Jesus, fuck!

DIY RPG ProductionsHubris is a setting for the DCC RPG. I'm far from an expert with that system. I've never ran it, though I've read the rules and various other materials for the game. So, I'm not going to be examining this too closely from a rules system perspective. Since much of Hubris is system free and is by and large usable with any Dungeons & Dragons type game, I think we'll be ok.

One of the arguments you often see in old school circles, is that D&D is post-apocalyptic. Throughout the early material you see nods to this idea. Myths and artifacts hearken back to a dimly remembered past. Gods walked the earth, the mortal races were on the brink of something grand and transcendent and the mysterious, all powerful ancients were masters of the world. Then, something happened and things got all fucked up!

Under this paradigm, the traditional campaign takes place long after the great disaster, when humans and other races have began to move civilization forward once again. In a precarious, hold onto your asses kind of way.

There's always the chance that things will take a turn for the worst. There's Dark Lord's a scheming, hordes of misshapen things, invading armies from Hell, meteor's slamming into whatever bright, last hope type of civilization humanity has been working on so assiduously for the betterment of all life. All very typical of what's often referred to as a "Vanilla," D&D setting.

OSR designers have often striven to break from those "Vanilla" ideas, taking their setting inspiration from horror, science fiction, swords & sorcery, atomic-age post apocalyptic media, pre-historic times and a host of other, less often traveled streams of fiction and myth.

Hubris draws from many of those streams, to take the usual D&D Post-Apocalypse and turn it up to 11. Here, things have very much taken a turn towards the dark end of the spectrum and instead of the milieu's peoples slowly climbing back towards the heights from which they have fallen, we have a real nasty world, over-brimming with despair, violence and cruelty.

After the usual Introductions, the book opens with a Setting Summary. Upon looking at the map and its notations, many horrid, nasty, hellish-sounding places are marked. A small number of locales look kind of promising. But, overall there appears to be very little possibility of hope, or succor.

We then get into the rulebook section with Chapter 1: Character Creation, which includes a list of Occupations for Hubris. Many will be familiar, in some variant or another, others not so much. I don't think I've seen a Pus Diviner in any supplement before.  I can work with that!

Four new classes are given: Alchemist, Blood Witch, Druid, and Shadowdancer. Five new races, are also presented for play: Avarian, Ekrask, Half Demon, Murder Machine, and Mutant.

I think all of these are well done. In particular, I like the Alchemist. Aside from being the bomb throwing, potion slinging fellow one might expect, he also has a Jeckyl/Hyde thing going on, which I think is just splendid!

The Murder Machine is a product of techno-sorcery and whatever poor bastard had to endure the process of their re-creation.

The Mutant is gloriously fucked up! Three tables with almost two-hundred total entries, will morph, distort and empower your PC. You're probably going to end up very, very gross.

From there we get some sections on Optional Rules and Chapter 2: Equipment. There's rules for class based damage and a few other things. The equipment section is pretty much what one might expect, except for the alchemical items and the Prostitution table.

Bringing us to Chapter 3: Territories of Hubris. These ten territories each are given a short intro. Then, a Lay of the Land d100 table, sort of a "what the hell is going on here," thing. An Encounters d100 table, sort of a "what the hell do I run into here," thing. The tables are filled with interesting and disturbing things and people to interact with. There's tons of adventure to be rolled up. There's also a few pages detailing some prominent locales of the region, with rumors and more adventure hooks.

The Random Table as setting expository tool is one of my favorite OSR design concepts. Mike does an admirable job of using his tables for this purpose, providing just enough additional prose to round things out and really bring these horrid locales to life. And yeah, the locales are horrid. Phantasmagorical. Visceral.

With names like The Weeping Forest of Forgotten Memories, the Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow, The Frozen Wastes, these aren't places to build a summer home and retire.

This brings us to Chapter 4: The Wizard's Spellbooks, New Spells and Patrons of Hubris.  As is fitting for DCC, Spellbooks get all weird, with their own random table generator. This is good. This is really good and I don't recall seeing anyone do a table like this before. Cover, Appearance, Personality, Quirks and Special are listed as entries and there are five for each alignment.

Three New spells, such as Summon from the Void and four new patrons with all of the usual DCC accouterments, Invoke Patron and Taint tables, and Patron Spells, are present. DCC can always use some new patrons. The Charred Maiden, The Floating Island of Terror, The Spider Goddess and The Twisted One are herein detailed for your perusal and use. I don't want to get into details, because like in every review I don't want to give away the show. I can tell you these are well done, appropriately creepy, weird, and exuding Swords & Sorcery goodness.

Bringing us to Chapter 5: The Strange and Terrible Gods of Hubris.
Clerics get a new power, the ability to invoke their gods name. With deities like God of the Terrible Whisper, or The Heathen Below and ten other, rather ominous gods, good luck with that!

Chapter 6: GM Tools and Tables, provides all kinds of cool stuff like a Grave Digging Table, City District Table and several other useful tools for the GM. There are 14 generators and tables here, covering 36 pages.

I think my favorite one is What are these Strange and Terrible Ruins? It has 14 parts, with entries for Rituals, Strange and Terrible Artifacts, Strange NPC's, and several others. If I told you there were entries like
The Crystallized Rancid Heart of a Scorned Lover, or All those who enter the ruins feel their hair, teeth, and nails fall out (no save). To remove this curse, they must be blessed by a priest under the full moon while standing in tubs of eels and sucking on newt eyeballs
it might give you a little taste of what life is like in Hubris, but I would have to exceed Fair Use, I think, to really impart the flavor of the whole thing.

Chapter 7: Magic Items, provides a generator as well as some already prepared magic items and artifacts.

Chapter 8: Monsters of Hubris showcases new monsters, as well as versions of old favorites. Including a wonderful Fallen Angel generator.

Chapter 9: Adventures. A 0 level funnel and a 1st level adventure are provided. No spoilers!

Finally, we get an Appendix N, the Index and OGL.

The art is good with fitting depictions of the goings on in Hubris. A list of the artists involved is given at the beginning of this review.

In Summary,

Hubris is an assault on on your gaming sensibilities. Raw and indeed, visceral, there's little respite from the Hell on Earth that the setting offers. Refereeing a group of players here would be a blast.

The book is worth buying for the tables and various tidbits alone. It's ripe for cannibalization and cherry picking things to use in your own campaigns. There's so many useful, evocative things that you could turn to it again and again. How much Hubris you want to bring into your milieu is your call. You can also just go all the way and run the setting whole cloth.

I don't feel that I've come even close to doing this thing justice. Hubris needs to be read and experienced. There's just so much going on and so much to work with here, but it's also very much accessible and easy to digest. There's cool shit on every page and the amount of thought and work that went into providing this much impressively weird fantasy is worthy of high praise.