Exarch is a game of medieval scifi where the inhabitants of a small continent discover they are living in an ecology dome adrift in a shifting sea of mysterious abandoned rooms and empty corridors of some unknowably vast metropolis they call the Steel City. Expeditions go off in search of useful salvage or information before the city arranges and the prospect of returning home fades as the locations move ever further away from home. It's an interesting twist on the idea of dungeon crawling, there and back adventures and magic as science. It's also philosophically interesting in terms of the way that the perceived and actual realities are played with. The Exarch of the zine title is a kind of cybernetic weirdo that stalks the Steel City looking for prey. There doesn't seem to be any other significance to it. It's not even a strong motif in the rest of the setting. The zine contains rules for creating random areas within the city and uses a mechanism of


 An OSR-style take on Bushido with a Legend of the Five Rings vibe on top. Aesthetically it's Akira Kurosawa and similar film makers takes on Tokugawa-era Japan. It deliberately states that it is not attempting to achieve a historical recreation of the period and instead wants a broader more inclusive version of a notoriously chauvinistic society. The game is distributed as three zines: Characters, Chroniclers and Adventure. The Characters book explains the basic rules but mostly offers a lot of tables to quickly create a character. The mechanics use a d100 versus stats that are based on the elements (Fire, Air, Water, Earth) which map onto various aspects of the world. It is explicitly derived by the Sledgehammer/Brighthammer games and therefore mechanically is almost identical. The Chroniclers booklet explains how to run sessions of Kanabo in the default mode which is that the wandering characters encounter a settlement that has a problem and they get caught up

Beakwood Bay

  Beakwood Bay   is a game where anthropomorphic ducks go on adventures to find and acquire treasure and like feathered dwarves end up getting gold sick and either having to renounce their greedy ways or die as disliked misers. It is a game rendition of the Duck Tales comics and television show, neither of which I'm familiar with and which perhaps you shouldn't have to be to decide whether this is an interesting game to play. The tone is definitely comedy with edgings of tragedy. The themes are friendship, camaraderie and a critique of consumerist society. The element of satire is slightly obscure in the rules. It all feels very earnest. Mechanically it is  PbtA  with Advantage and Disadvantage with "critical" success on a 12+. The game is mechanically quite simple and straight-forward due to the use of Advantage and Disadvantage, most of the rules result in Advantage and Disadvantage. The game has a relatively small number of shared Moves. Specialised moves in the fo


Sanctum is a supplement or perhaps alternative campaign setting that focuses on settlements (or Havens in the cant) in the City Beneath. The idea is that the Haven and it's community form the fulcrum of the campaign play with the longer term fate of the Haven being the key dramatic resolution. The setup echoes Belly of the Beast quite a lot, in particular in how the gameplay loop works for Havens, this felt identical to Belly of the Beast's "Delves" to me. There's also a presence of Blades in the Dark in terms of investing in a community for both storytelling and mechanical benefits. The Beats system all borrows positively from the work of people like Vincent Baker . In sure this slim volume assembles a variety of good mechanics to create a campaign frame centred around a community in a bizarre environment with a twist. It builds on the existing Heart rules for Haunts, Domains and Stress to make the integration pretty seamless and logical. Hav

Dungeon Soul

Dungeon Soul is a beautifully clear-sighted set of rules for conventional fantasy dungeon crawling and is also a satisfying complete package unlike many mini-rule systems. The core mechanic is a dice step hierarchy that will be familiar to those who know Black Hack. What is important though is that the mechanic is invoked not to see if an action is successful but instead to see if a narrative risk is avoided. Advantage and Disadvantage rules apply according to whether the Referee thinks a task is hard or easier. The basic die is d6 but this is stepped up by attributes and skills, attributes can also apply a penalty as can injuries. The dice roll is then compared to a fixed table of results. Six or more is success with higher rolls being "better" (which is a little ambiguous). A 1 or 2 is a Disaster with the risk being realised and the character potentially being injured or killed. Any other result is a Setback, a kind of partial success (although it doesn&#


Bastards is a booklet game (A6 in the physical version) with the author's take on what they call "Dragon Games". It is based on d20 rolls under 3d6 stats (Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom) and over an opponent's Hit Dice rating or Armour Class in combat. Advantage and Disadvantage, is used; examples include weapons conveying Advantage and Disadvantage on Reaction rolls due to reputation. The game uses relatively low hit points (your character might be able to take two hits it seems in combat) but also a pretty generous temporary refresh and all health is restored by a rest period. It feels relatively deadly in the reading but probably a bit more satisfying than games based on "Into the Odd". The interesting ideas Classes Your starting hit points determine your class. Roll 1 HP and you're a wizard, roll 6 HP and your a barbarian. Each class has some special abilities but the thief and assassin could do with a few more options to help differe


  Sledgehammer is a one-page PocketMod style zine that is inspired (a lot) by Warhammer. It does a surprisingly good job of distilling down the source material, even including rules for momentum in its combat rules. Mechanically you're rolling under a statistic on d100 with positive bonuses for your career, equipment and circumstances. You have four statistics (Weapon Skill, Initiative, Toughness and Fellowship) that you roll on 6d6. Careers give you a bonus 5 to one stat of your choice and three things that you know about as a result of your career (later referred to as Expertises). Checks are Risks and generally you are trying to roll under the relevant statistic. Expertises and relevant equipment both give a bonus of 10 to the number you are trying to roll under. In combat skill rolls are the same (which might lead to genuine Warhammer 1 wiffy-ness) but elegantly the tens digit of a successful attack is your damage in Wounds of which an adventurer has six.