Tag: review

Where I talk about a thing I like and want to recommend to other individuals to check out and potentially purpose. Reviews are my opinions screaming about a thing I have.

Last Oath (Review)

Go into the ruins, the long mouth in the short sands. This world has been touched by apocalypses, many, and now you and your home are in need. Why else would you enter the giant mouth? Why else would you drink the blood within its organs, except to find something of use… You are not alone in these though, as the fountain of blood pours from the ceiling, in the shadows fleshy beings lurk and crawl about.

That is how I felt playing Last Oath. Well, not exactly, if we were to insert a laugh track during the serious reading of blood and blood and fleshy then we would have a more accurate description of my experience.

In a similar vein to old school inspired fantasy games, Last Oath feels both comedic and dire. Just as how being slapped across the pavement during a fight in Dark Souls can feel. It is a serious thing, but once your character becomes paste on the dirt it feels like a sitcom laugh track is playing in the side of my brain that isn’t taking things too seriously.


What is Last Oath though? Last Oath is a single-player gamebook written and illustrated by Lucas Rolim. It comes with a custom rule set for playing through the ruins that are detailed through the books entries, which strung together make up the ruins that will be explored.

The total package sits at 64 pages of 5.16 x 7.17 inch pages with black and white graphics/layout.

Art Direction / Layout

The game opens with its cover, a shambling mound of nobs and robotic appearing parts, and a sword-carrying character stands outside it. The art is spindly, like a sketchbook drawing made without lifting the pen. A field sketch almost.

The title is flat and made of large characters that stand in deep contrast ‘Last Oath’. The ‘L’ drops and wraps partially around the ‘O’.

This cover represents a lot of what will be seen within. Headings with big first letters and words that fit into their lines as section titles. The art is of a similar quality throughout, heavy black lines drawn to represent different creations and locations experienced throughout the game. The white space of the cover and large text is consistent throughout. With this large text comes short paragraphs, nothing lasting too long without a rest or break.

This works for the text aesthetically given the way it is meant to be used. A gamebook like this is an interactive adventure that is meant to be read, if it was crammed into two columns with no breaks it would become too difficult for me to read potentially, or too intimidating as it becomes easy to stumble into being cluttered. This game though, luckily, is not cluttered.

Which can be said also for the art. It is useful, and enhances gameplay. At times it is evocative (as it should be!), but throughout the text entirely it is representative.

By representative, I mean that the art illustrates something that is expressed in the game’s text. This allows for words to be skipped entirely in text entries and descriptions in order to make an entry short, to take up less space and not draw on and on (as some gamebooks do).

The art adds a vibe, and is descriptive, filling in the blanks that are left by the brevity of the games text. That vibe is that this place is big, strange, and in some way living.

An example of the representative art that can be found in the game’s book.

The Gameplay

Last Oath as a gamebook is a book that can be ‘played’. Where a reader creates a character, then reads the book. Following the directions for play from one entry to the next (with the next being decided by the reader).

In Last Oath, a player will create a character by rolling three dice, then extrapolating from those rolls their characters stat, hit points (HP), damage, background, omen, and starting item. With the item, background, and omen, each coming with a table based on the player’s character class selection.

Using this character, you fight the monsters you come across as obstacles during your explorations. Using a simple stat+d20 dice roll, versus a target number of 10+enemy’s stat. The rules for battling are easy to wrap your brain around, with multiple optional rules for adding complexity and choice into resolving battles.

This complexity can be nice, as it allows for more ways to survive what is essentially a weird fantasy dungeon. I played with all of the optional rules that I could, and it was needed for me. The game book tells the reader how difficult it is, but in experience this is a difficult dungeon to get through. Both because of the encounters involved, but also how easy it is to take a wrong turn, or do a wrong move and perish.

Lucas Rolim, the game’s designer, seems to be interested in classic fantasy role-playing games (given other titles they have worked on, including their game Mini B/X, a distillation artfully presented of the Basic Expert ruleset of Dungeons & Dragons, but made into their own). The deadliness fits based on this knowledge, but also the quickness of play and strange decisions presented. There will be strange decisions, as there is limited space in the book, and too many decisions would become overwhelming, increasing the length of each entry, but also ballooning the game out in size.

This is a short game, the rules show this, and the length of the adventure shows this. But, as we are limited in our decisions, that’s what makes the strange choices stand out!

For instance, I may never think to chew on the rocks on the wall. But, if there is an entry for choosing that decision at a fork in the road… You can bet I will try it! If for no other reason to see what happens. Some of the fun of this type of game is just wanting to see what is written for these choices.

This is part of the replay-ability of the game though! Just as a good horror game is scarier when after you perish. You stop playing, set it aside, and play again when the mood strikes you. When you are able to be immersed again, and aren’t rushing through the motions to get back to progressing. That bit is more of a piece of advice from myself, as it is what I will be doing in order to get the best possible play experience from Last Oath.

It is not the only way to go though, as the book does encourage players to play character after character to get through the adventure. Keeping the knowledge and experiences in their head of what has come before, in order to ensure success. Which is good and allows for a player to get to new entries as fast as possible. Which are the meat of this project, the stuff that fills up your gamer belly.

The Entries

This game has within it 76 entries. Each is short in length, about a medium paragraph at most and rarely more than 1.5 paragraphs long. Keeping things short and sweet, in a large readable font, ensuring that reading entries over and over again is not a taxing or draining affair. Focusing on quick punches of flavor, followed by gameplay and choices. Given the rules for the game being short, going for brief entries of text, Lucas Rolim makes the game breezy to pick up and play getting into something new and strange each time without strain.

And the entries are strange. They are full of blood, but also collapsed halls. It feels old and living at times, like a corpse is living when it has bugs in it. Like how as a corpse ages, it falls into itself.

I played through two characters during my time with the game and it felt fun to play. Deadly, but fun. My characters were given space to shout out their thoughts right before they get crushed or chewed apart. That way the end of a character isn’t just a game over screen, but a moment for role-playing.

I would have my Conjurer and his fiendish companion crawl around, searching for hints and clues of where to go in order to survive and come out with anything of value. My exploration into what seemed like more dangerous spaces was rewarded and I was genuinely surprised when I came upon a sword (the entry came with an illustration of the blade, showing me its strangeness).

Drawing my own map as I played definitely helped me feel more like I was exploring a space for the first time. There are maps in the gamebook a player can use, but I think I would recommend drawing it yourself as you play. The text of the entries supports this play though, it defines where entrances and exits are, and gives lengths for hallways to allow the new territory to be envisioned properly.

I appreciate this! That even with brief entry texts that the text does not require the player to use a map, using the map as a tool as an abbreviation for dimensions is a choice that could have been made in order to save space by the designer. But for me, requiring me to use a map in order to play would have lessened the feeling of exploration. It would have fundamentally affected my options for roleplaying, and this game keeps that in mind I think.


Last Oath is a small gamebook that provides a weird fantasy ruin to explore underground as a single-player game. It does not rely on journaling for gameplay, but instead acts as a gameable book.

It would likely only take a few hours to play through all of the descriptions and paths that can be taken. Using a fist full of characters, each created after the last has perished. The likelihood of going through this adventure with your first character without dying is low. So, to play in one sitting to a successful ending will require rolling up character after character and retreading past trails.

I however, will be spreading out my multiple hours playing over the course of the next month, so that I can savor the experience without rushing. I will still have character after character die, but I will be able to enjoy the flavorful and brisk world that Lucas Rolim has created to the best of my ability.

Last Oath can be purchased on itch.io for $15.00 USD here (https://lucasrolim.itch.io/last-oath). If this game sounds interesting to you, and you are looking for a fun solo game check out Last Oath.

Lucas Rolim can be found on Twitter here: https://mobile.twitter.com/lucasttrpg

Mini BX can be found here: https://lucasrolim.itch.io/minibx

This has been Thomas Novosel reviewing a good game. Goodnight!

Into the Odd Remastered (Review)

Detes on the game: Released 2022, Text by Chris McDowall, Graphics/Art by Johan Nohr, Hardcover 144 pages, published by Free League Publishing

This is a remastered and reorganized version of the rules lite tabletop role-playing game Into the Odd. I am a fan of the original booklet, which was a lot of game in a small package of 50 pages. It was also one of the first OSR games that I played on Google+ when I was getting into games online. For me, as someone who liked the original game, I wasn’t expecting any big changes, just a premium version of the same rules. With edits. In a fancy printed book.

This review will speed through the book and just be comments from someone who already owned the original booklet of the game.

It seems like a fancy update. The rules take up more pages, but there is a lot of collage art (which I like! But is not for everyone I think, as it edges on abstract in its representations of ideas at times) and tons of white space. The book leaves plenty of space for a reader to write notes in the margin if they wish. The bonus of the expanded page count seems to be more air on the page, and also a larger text font which made the book easier to read in low light in comparison to the cramped tiny font of the booklet.

The second big half of the book is a revised version of the adventure location from the original booklet, The Iron Coral. Which has been expanded from a small hexcrawl and one floor dungeon to a three floor dungeon (total of 60 rooms) and a 24 hex crawl with 4 mini dungeons, and a town called Hopesend. With the expanded page count, it meant that the introductory adventure was able to be more fully fleshed out to the point that a short campaign could be run using just the adventure in the book.

The last section of the book, like the original booklet, is a series of roll tables for game masters / referee’s to use to fill in the blanks of the world and answer questions. The neat addition here is 3 alternate character type rules for mutants from the underground, simple folk (peasants and non-city folk), and unhumans (people from a cosmic cursed city). There is also an alternate character packages (equipment grid) table too. This seemed like a decent add, as the original booklet has been out for a good while, and as this game seems to be a definitive version of the rules, two tables will give a game group plenty of character packages to use before having to sub in ones of their own creation.

Reading the game

As someone who owns more games than he will likely ever play, part of the appeal of game books for me ends up being how fun it can be to just curl up and read a game rule book. To imagine situations that could come up at the game table if I did get to play the game. Or to see what I could steal from this game, tables, magic items, details etc, to use in the game that I am currently playing at the table.

For sitting down and reading, it took two sittings to read through this book. The rules were interesting to read, and kept me engaged. It was quick and I could envision how I would run the game at the table.

The Iron Coral, the 3 floor dungeon in the game, was kind of okay to read, but was definitely the least exciting part of the book. As it reminds me of reading my own game prep notes, short and best for whoever is going to run the game session off of the notes. Not necessarily great reading material with its minimal bullet point text. The hex crawl and town of Hopesend got me more excited to play the introductory material than the dungeon did as it felt like it was easier to piece together mentally how things are connected. Its writing format definitely fits for quick reference when running the dungeon, so it scores points for that. Just not for reading for me.

The tables in the back section I just skimmed. Reading roll tables isn’t always the most thrilling experience, but the tables would be fun to use at the table and had some good entries. The “I eat the stuff” table is always fun with entries like “Bready. You need never eat or drink again!”

Final Thoughts

I think as someone who owned the original booklet, this book makes a good upgrade to that edition. It has a bigger adventure setting with a bigger dungeon. The rules have more space and bigger text so it’s easier to read in mood lighting than the original booklet was for me. For reading, don’t expect tons of lore, this is a rules lite game that has its world and flavor apparent in tables not splurges of text. The list of magic items tells you what magic is like and how it is used. This isn’t a negative statement, just a statement.

Anyways, recommend it for people who want a rules lite game and haven’t found the one that works for them yet. Recommend it as a good upgrade to the original booklet. But if you have already moved on from this game, this new edition might not be for you.

Castlevania: The Adventure

First gameboy Castlevania, where you jump, move forward, and use whip. The soundtrack is good, it definitely kept me going even when I felt like the game was trying to get me killed with pixel-perfect feeling platforming. I don’t have a manual, or any idea what the plot was but I had fun killing Dracula (even more fun after watching a half-hour ‘Timeline of Castlevania’ YouTube video).

The pros: best gameboy music I have heard yet, it doesn’t take long to play using save states (which helps avoid one of my cons gripes), and it felt not intimidating to boot it up as a starting place for playing as many Castlevania games as I can this Fall. Oh, and Madman aka Mud Man is my favorite creature in the game as it will drip from the ceiling then form a lumbering gooey wanderer.

The cons: platforming was very difficult & save states saved my butt for the stage with rising spikes, this game is hard to look at unless you set an emulator to ‘GameBoy Green’ so do that and lower screen brightness for your eyes sake, finally, their are a few things which kill the player in one hit (I am not a fan of this but save states help with dealing with this frustration).

I recommend this game to people who like Castlevania games or want a short game to play (using a handheld emulator of some kind felt great for this). And for everyone else, you can just look up the soundtrack and its GameBoy beeps and chirps online. If I come back for this game, I will be trying it with only save states for the beginning of a stage to up the difficulty for myself.


Score: would recommend to some if asked about it

The Trespasser (Review)

After I published my last review, that same night a game designer named Evan shot me a message saying how much they enjoyed my review and wanted to see if I would be interested in reviewing their game ‘The Trespasser‘. I said yes! So here we are! The same rules about how I do reviews apply here as they did on the last.

I really enjoyed this solo game of escaping the woods, and becoming un-lost, and since it was semi a journaling game I will also be including my actual play for those that are interested in what an artifact of play could look like (an artifact being any maps, writing, or used character sheets that emerge from playing a game).

NOTE: The Actual Play will be a second post because it would make this one too long to have it also attached to the end of the post. I will update the end of this post with a link to it once I have it typed out and posted. Thank you!

Link to Actual Play post!

I am lost, the woods….

The Trespasser is a solo game with light journaling elements. You play as The Trespasser, someone who has gone just woken up from a camping trip, the fire is dead and a heavy fog wisps between the trees. The trail back home is gone. The Trespasser is only going to stumble deeper and deeper into the strange and ominous forest before they may find their way out.

The player will have to navigate the forest, rolling for encounters after each time they move across a blank grid map to fill in the squares with details. But beware, nightfall can drop at any moment and the darkness that comes with it is all encompassing and will swallow any poor soul that finds itself where it should not be…

The game took me around 40 minutes to play, and I am waiting to finish writing this review before I play it again. The main moods that you should get from this 17 page PDF is a game of: being alone, wandering, sudden descending darkness, and strange quiet.

The quiet only interrupted by the trespassers heavy breathing, the snaps of rusty bear traps, and… the delicious taste of mushroom rings…

The Scary PDF

When I say the scary PDF, it is a black and white PDF with mood setting art and important prose that explains with short lines what to expect from play as a player, but also as a character.

For example, when I first rolled an encounter, I stumbled upon nightfall immediately and it just AHHH! It felt like I was going to be so unfortunate as to not make it out as soon as I left my campsite. I got this feeling because the prose set the stakes of what Nightfall should feel like and the severity of it approaching. With lines such as “You have a limited number of matches to help you see in the dark… Before the night swallows you whole.” This set up that the only thing that would save me are my matches, and I was unfortunate enough to only have rolled to start with 2. That means that even if I made it through this time, I was still many grid squares away from escape and I was on the edge of my seat hoping that darkness didn’t come for the rest of the trek.

Nightfall engulfs the Trespasser.
It whispers temptations into your mind.
It knows you. It knows what you seek.

The Trespasser (page.13)

If it wasn’t for how the game set up the stakes and tone before starting play, the randomness of encountering nightfall may have took me out of the experience. But the quotes throughout the book, the way it is written sets it up so that you are pulled in further. It felt like I was limited in power, and that added tension.

Playing the Game

To play the game all I had to do was read the rules and then create a character. The font is large and well spaced, so don’t think of these 17 pages as a barrier to play but a gentle ramp that eases you into the warm mud.

Making a character to play as was as simple as a couple dice rolls and writing out a name for my trespasser. The rules for creating a character are around 6 short sentences which both explain what the stats each mean (Vitae, Stamina, Injure, and Matches) and gives the instructions for determining them. You need to make sure you don’t run out of Vitae while escaping the woods. Having a low Stamina will increase the number of encounters that you come up against as it reduces your movement speed and decreases the chances of you being able to flee from any dangers. The game ends with you reaching 0 Vitae, Escaping the Forest by getting all of the way across the map grid, or when the nightfall takes you.

Without spoiling too much of what play is by describing the prompts for writing, or the specific details of what you encounter, I want to give the highlights of my experience playing the game. But let it be known that the prompts for writing happen not too often, so this isn’t a heavy journaling game. It has just enough to keep you writing but not so much that you feel like you are behind on an assignment that keeps you from continuing playing the game-y bits of The Trespasser.

The Highlights

The Trespasser is a light weight experience that held me for the entirety of play. But I have made that clear already in this post, so let me recap the main reasons I would recommend this game as well as what it has taught me as a game designer by reading and playing it. THIS IS WHAT I LIKE!

  1. Spacing out the result lists for encounters, roll results, and writing prompts had me turning pages after rolling the dice leaving me wondering what the result that I got was. Having only a few prompts for writing/journaling, and all of them being at the minimum demanding a word or three in response left it up to me (the player) how much journaling I was comfortable with. It didn’t brow beat me for changing between writing a long paragraph or writing a couple words. This is good design! It means the game can form around my ability to play it. It meant that I felt like the gears didn’t grind even once but flowed effortlessly.
  2. As someone who likes the game-y parts of journaling games and even little microgames, I think the trespasser shows the importance of balance between mechanics. There was just enough that I had to do that I felt like I was in control and knew what I had to do to keep playing. I didn’t once feel like I had to have an overview of play, or a numbered to-do list that I needed to reference in order to find out what to do next. With the document being short and the conceit of the game being focused on leaving the forest it was important for my immersion that flipping through the book enhanced my engagement instead of being apart of becoming re-engaged. It enhanced my engagement because I was only flipping pages when I knew something special or different was happenning. An example (not related to this game) is it is more fun for me to look for the spells result/effects table to figure out what my spell did, than to look for the list of steps for casting the spell itself. One is rewarding to find, the other feels more like a failure on my part for not remembering what to do.
  3. The prompts are good and tinge weird, then as you cascade towards Nightfall become even stranger. Like reality-bending stranger. I appreciate this! I struggle for the balance of having light weirdness, because I always go immediately towards the weirdest metal cover imagery I can think of. But if it is all metal cover art, then does it feel like it is metal cover art when you get there? If everything is? The Trespasser does what I struggle to do, it has it being slightly weird while you walk and then becomes increasingly weirder when nightfall comes. It slaps me across the face and it actually stings because it doesn’t happen every time I roll the dice.

The game itself is pretty and moody inside, but these are my three biggest takeaways about how this game succeeds in design. Congratulations to the people who made this, you have influenced me and how I think about the importance of specific page-turning in a game.

If I could ask for more…

I only have a few things that I would want to see if this game was either expanded upon, or revised to make a new edition of it. None of them are necessary, but they could enhance second and fifth playthroughs.

  1. With how the game plays, I made as straight of a shot to the exit of the map as I could. Having potentially something that I could want or desire to find before leaving the woods could make it so that I do more of a spiral or wander around the grid.
  2. I wasn’t certain of how many mushrooms I could eat when I stumbled upon a circle of them in a tile? It felt like I could only take one, but I am unsure if this is true or not. It may be in the rules and I missed it though, so disregard this comment if I am wrong when you play the game.

As a quick note, because I was having some mixed feelings about including things that I would like to see if a game is revisited or re-released. The points that I make are not deal breakers, or detractions from the experience, they are just something that feels like it would be neat to see. These are not me trying to change the game, but just spouting out things “that would also be cool”. Kind of like whenever Vader comes up in a Star Wars movie, having him do more things is always cool. Is it necessary, no! Would it make me sad if it didn’t change? NO! ITS ALREADY GOOD! Would I turn down more cool Vader force stuff though? No!

I hope that makes sense, I felt like I needed to add this with how I felt writing this section.

The Verdict

If you are looking for a short game to play by yourself that is horror-themed then I would strongly recommend checking out The Trespasser. It doesn’t take long to read, and it doesn’t take long to play.

The rules for playing the game and the actual digital PDF of the game work together to deliver an experience that I will remember. It is probably because of my unlucky first dice roll, but that is definitely not the only reason. The game can be purchased on itch.io for $5.00, so if you like what I have said here, or you are looking for a solo excursion that has creepy folk horror forest vibes then please buy this game and check it out.

I want to see them continue to make stuff, and as a designer myself, I know that the best way to encourage this is by buying their stuff.


Link to my post of my actual play playthrough: http://thomas-novosel.com/2021/01/26/the-trespasser-actual-play/

Shortsword (Review)

I don’t normally write reviews for games, but I think this is as close as it will get on here. In a game review I want to describe what I find most interesting and clever, as well as describe what I would use the game for. When I say that I would use a game for X or play it because of X, that is because it fits that nook and cranny for me. There won’t be a number rating, or stars, or be about me talking about what I don’t like. If there is something entirely objectionable, it won’t be made into a blog post. If it is just the type of content that I would warn about, then I will include a content warning section in my post.

I will try to use this methodology going forward for TTRPG (tabletop role-playing game) reviews. Now onto the game…

What is Shortsword?

Shortsword is a rules light rpg system written by Giuliano Roverato that is “inspired by grim TTRPGs of old.” I don’t know what this means or what this is referencing, but it is what is described on the product page. It currently is for sale for $1.00 (the recommended price is $4.99). I think that this game should be sold at the recommended price, but that is because I really like it and would want more. The game is 12 pages (it was exported as spreads, so that is actually 7 pages of PDF), and it really is rules-light as it only took me a few minutes to read and then make a character. I think that you could run most pre-written scenarios for fantasy games easily with no conversion necessary due to the way the rules are written (I will explain more in the highlights section).


In this game you play as adventurer’s looking “to do odd jobs in hope of gaining some Ceramic.” It is really easy to roll up a random character (3 dice rolls) and each character rolled is very evocative due to the game designer’s efficient use of language.

For example, here is the character I made:

Origin: Ogre (spiky + big)
Vocation: Disgraced Noble (spellbook, and bottle of champagne)
Skills: Cat Whispering

The picture of my ogre is drawn by me, the rules PDF has no illustrations within except for the cover art.

Each of those three stats has a d6 table with entries of similar quality. What makes it efficient is that without using many words, I feel like I have a very unique and interesting character from then outset without having to write anything more than this to know how to play my character. Like, I can be interesting because I am a spiky ogre, I was a noble so I am aloof a bit and used magic for some reason. Finally, for some reason, I am really good at hearing and understanding what cats have to say. What does this mean? I don’t know, but it is a bunch of hooks and knobs and levers that I can pull while playing the game without knowledge of the world.

Which, since the worlds setting is in between the tables and lists in the rules, this is a good thing.


When I say that the setting for this game is between the lists, I mean what the lists infer about the world is enough for me to get a good idea of what it is like to live in the world of Shortsword. Since the game is a rules light throwback to grim setting TTRPGs, I know that this is a dark place with big hats and heavy coats.

I know from the origins list that Ogres, Automata (robots?), and Fishpersons exist in this world. And that being an adventurer in this place means you are without ceramic (money) and could be a Mime, Rat-catcher, or a Tuna Fisherman.

What the game doesn’t have is a setting brief, or a paragraph about the world. But it doesn’t need it, that is what character creations lists and the games rules are for.

I like everything that is here, and I think adding a setting paragraph or a section describing a nebulous city or world is unnecessary with what is already here. Could it be useful for running a game? Probably! Especially if the lists are as tight and well-coordinated as what is already inside. But, I think I could just come up with a grim world of my own fine enough without it.


That is the skinny of the game. You may be asking me (Thomas) “what are the game rules??” and I would say. The game is super short and I don’t want to post the whole game that someone worked on and put up for sale in a blog post. My job here, or what I am doing, is describing what I like. Which takes me to the game mechanic-y bits that I like:

  1. The game uses d6 for resolving actions (Tests). Rolling an additional d6 for how well suited your character is to the task. What makes this RAD, is that the same rolls are made in combat as when just doing something. Yeah that is a tight core mechanic, but what makes it genius to me is that the lowest die rolled when acting is how much damage the player’s character takes if they fail.
  2. Because damage is not tied to creatures, and abilities are fiction first (mechanics are flavor, so a dragon breathing fire demands the player roll to avoid, damage is tied to failure etc) this means that all I need to do when converting antagonists/monsters is pick how many wounds they can take before dying. Which the game has a guide for (it’s between 3 and 9). This is why Shortsword would work really well for playing most adventure scenarios written for other systems.
  3. Normally, something that can take a little bit of word count and paper space to describe is initiative and turn order and etc etc. The other golden standout for me is this one line of text in the Combat section: “When it’s important to know who goes first, whoever has the least Armor begins.” That is excellent no-nonsense decision making that I appreciate in rules-light games.
  4. All of the lists in the game. They are all excellent.

Those are the things I would carry forward and learn from this game. I want to write lists as good as these that just fit together like a puzzle. I also envy the cleverness in the damage rules, it just makes this game easier to pick up and run with a prewritten scenario.

If I had more…

This was going to come no matter what. Whenever I look at a game, I always think of what I would want more of. What would I want to see added to flesh out the rules a little more. Based on what I read, I actually only have two things that I would want to see from a revision of what is there (and both are purely selfish desires).

  1. I want a d6 list of Spells for the game. As is it was the only thing that I wanted more of as every other list was tight and succinct. I could grab a spell list from another game or just make up magic as I go, but I kind of wish there was a list of spells as short and evocative as there was for skills, origins, and vocations.
  2. The PDF for the game is in spreads, which means that I can’t print the game as a booklet. If I had a version of the game which has 1 page per PDF page instead of spreads for layout then I could booklet print this game.

That is all I would change or ask for. Both aren’t big things, and with how short the games text is, if I really wanted to I could just come up with my own d6 table of spells and just cut the print outs and scan the pages to assemble a booklet version.


I said before that I don’t want to give stars or thumbs or ratings. If I am reviewing something it is because I find it interesting and worth checking out. That said…

I think this rules light system is EXCELLENT and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick to pick up system for playing fantasy rpgs. It is especially good for if you have a system-less or system neutral scenario that you want to run, but that you don’t want to create stat blocks for.

Go check it out here and see how good it is for yourself: https://roll4tarrasque.itch.io/shortsword. If you can, pay the recommended price because it is 100% worth it for the rules that you get.

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Tags: review 

Since having started drawing early last year I have accumulated quite the collection of tools to use for illustrating, painting, drawing fantasy maps, and castles. Here is where I give a rundown and also links to everything I use and where you could get it from (and where I recommend getting it from).

As a note, I prefer to purchase the majority of my art supplies from either jetpens.com or dickblick.com.

My Travel Pouch

I have a small pen pouch white I use for travelling and also just on the go drawing, I fill it with everything I need to draw and get along day to day and on the go. Specifically it is a small pouch which fits in the front of my laptop bag. Inside it are the following:

  • Rapidograph 0.25, 0.35, 0.5
  • Micron 005, 01
  • 3 General’s Pencils
  • 1 Pilot Precise V5 Black Ballpoint Pen
  • Pilot Pocket Brush Pen
  • 2 Pentel Fude Brush Pens
  • 1 Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen
  • 1 Zebra Disposable Brush Pen
  • 1 Non-Photo Blue Pencil
  • 1 Pencil Sharpener
  • 1 White Eraser
  • 1 Uni-Ball Signo White Ink Pen
  • 1 Zebra Mechanical Pencil
  • 1 Red Bic Pen
  • 1 Black Bic Pen
  • 1 Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip Pen (Black)
  • 1 Big Ultra Round Stic Grip Pen (Blue)
  • 2 Tombow Dual Brush Pens (N75 and N95)

The total cost to replicate this bag set would be: ~$175

If you use Microns solely instead of Rapidographs: ~$80


Pilot Precise V5 0.5mm Extra Fine Ballpoint Pen: these can be bought at walmart, they are precise and pretty great at quick sketches and I often use them when speed is important, as with my technical pens I cannot move super quick and sketchy without the possibility of bending or wearing down the nib. You can also get them in a multicolor pack. While I enjoy using them for quick sketches and find them great for writing (the ink is super black which is something I generally don’t get with a bic pen), I do prefer my brush pens for mapping. Links: Single Black V5 ($1.90), multicolor set ($11.00)

Pigma Micron 01, 005, 02, 03, 08: at this point if you have looked across the internet or seen people mapping I can assume you have seen these technical pens. They have a felt tip which I have found wears down pretty fast for me (I have too much pressure in my drawing hand), this means that you get different levels of precise-ness over the course of use. They are disposable and probably the best bet for entry level technical pens with archival quality ink. They were the first technical pens I got and I have a drawer full of them (primarily the 005 as that is a 0.2mm tip and great for precise detail work). I got the set of 16 of various sizes for about $20 and would recommend it in a heartbeat as a good sampler of size. They also have different colors too (although I have not got around to trying them). They’re great for hatching too! Links: Various Size 16 set of Microns ($24.00)

Uni-ball Signo UM-153: I use this white ink primarily for adding white highlights ontop of finished ink drawings. It is also good for minor corrections of cleaning up rough edges, however I find the ink to be goopy so I prefer to fix bad edges in photoshop. But I can’t recommend this pen enough as a white highlight tool, I have two and since I use them for highlighting I don’t go through them quick at all. Links: Single Pen ($2.50)

Rotring Rapidograph Technical Pens (.25, .35, .5): These are cartridge based technical pens with a metal tip which means it does not wear down over use! They do require you to be slow and not apply to much pressure though (as bending a metal tip can result in permanent damage which would require buying a replacement pen or a replacement nib). The cartridges are about as expensive as a single micron pen but the actual pens themselves can run up to a pretty penny sometimes $35 a pen. They are a high quality pen that I’d recommend if it seems like you burn through microns quick. I use these now instead of the microns because I find the lines to be consistently precise and the ink actually feels the slightest of a tiny shade darker. I use these for all of my city illustrations. They also make refillable ones which don’t use cartridges, however they do require more cleaning as far as I know, whereas the ones that use cartridges I have to clean only after I go through say 3 or 4 or if I left a cap off (always keep the cap on tightly even while switching between pens as the ink can dry very quickly on the tip). Links: Various Sizes (~$35 a pen)


U.S.A. General’s Cedar Pointe #333-2HB: These are my favorite pencils for everything from sketching to just basic pencil drawings and shading I cannot recommend them enough. They are literally the only basic pencils I will use that are not mechanical or colored. They feel great in your hand due to the wood, the eraser isn’t complete shit and the quality control is high (also they aren’t crazy expensive and I haven’t had lead break while using one, and none of the pencils I have ever bought have ever had cracks or splits). I have a drawer of these and they also don’t make squeaky scratchy noises when I use them which makes them perfect. I use these for sketching and also underlayer lines when I know I will be getting rid of an original ink drawing. Links: 12 Pack of No.2 ($5.30)

Zebra M0391 0.5mm Lead Mechanical Pencil: These are the mechanical pencils I use for details in pencil sketches prior to inking an illustration. I get them at walmart, they are cheap, and easy to replace. But they also function to the ability I need them too. The only downside is the eraser and that after about 6 months the grip that holds the lead can get worn down enough where you need to swap to a new one. But they are pretty cheap, the metal body and compact form make it nice to hold and easy to throw into a small pen pouch. Links: 2 Pack ($4)

Staedtler Non-Photo Blue Pencil: The non-photo blue pencil is great if you are worried about lifting ink due to erasing pencil marks prior to scanning as the type of blue lead makes it easy to edit out the blue lines in photoshop or gimp prior to final delivery of digital illustration files. When erasing over black ink with regular pencils you sometimes get lift, which means a certain amount of ink just comes off the paper which can cause a faded look, with the non photo blue pencils you don’t need to erase. However, if you do erase non-photo blue after inking, I have found that any ink that is ontop of the blue pencil lines comes completely off so I would not recommend this if you plan on selling the original paper (I find the blue lines make it less frameable). I’ll also mention that I have difficulty getting precise lines due to the the colored pencil lead. Links: Single Pencil ($2)

Prismacolor Colored Premier Colored Pencils: While I don’t use colored pencils often, I do find them useful for adding in lights shades or crisping up edges of watercolor painting. Specifically I have a 24 color tin set and also the 150 color complete box set. I’d recommend using the 24 color set as it has a good amount of variety and is a good gateway to finding out if you’d like to purchase a larger color set. My only complaints with these pencils is quality control, I have a few pencils in my 150 color set with crooked lead (meaning sharpening is goddamn impossible) and cracked wooden casings which mean the pencils can break easy. Luckily I got the 150 color set on sale and you can purchase individual pencils for replacing ones you have used. The quality issue isn’t bad enough that I’d not recommend them, but it is enough that it was worth mentioning. Links: 24 color set ($12), 150 color set ($80)

Brush Pens

Pentel Fude Touch Bursh Sign Pen: These pocket pens are disposable and have a felt tip with enough give that I consider them my thick brush pen (they have a thicker start and finish than all of my other disposables). They are literally tiny brush pens which you could easily carry in your pocket, they also have a variety of colors available. I like to use these for some of my newer item illustrations for the big broad lines as well as for making lines that would have shadows darker by going over them a second time. I also use these for dungeon walls and stones, but not for slight details such as cracks and “doodads”. Links: Available Colors ($2.50 ea.)

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen: This disposable brush pen has a lot of resistance and a small felt tip, it essentially is the micron 005 of brush pens, great for details such as cracks in stone and drawing little plates onto tables, drawing plant life etc. I can’t recommend these highly enough, because sometimes you want some varying weight in super thin lines which technical pens just don’t offer. Can’t recommend these enough for dungeon doodling and drawing details such as shoelaces on equipment illustrations due to the heavy amount of resistance and the thinness of the entire line width spectrum for these pens. Links: Single Pen ($3)

Zebra Disposable Brush Pen – Fine: This is a disposable brush pen I got on a whim to try it out and actually I am quite pleased with it based on the times I have used it, it doesn’t have as rounded a felt nib but a more brush like felt nib (long and slender but still has a good illustrating width). It has by far out of all of the disposable brush pens I have the widest range of width, in that it can go from the smallest of the fudenosuke width to the widest of the pentel fude touch width in the same stroke. The resistance is at a comfortable amount so you won’t accidentally get super wide or super thin lines, however I do have trouble keeping a super thin line super thin. I’d recommend these if you want a more brush like brush pen that is still a felt nib. Links: Single Pen ($2.50)

Kuretake No.8 Fountain Brush Pen: I bought this brush pen after watching a youtube video (this one exactly), it creates some pretty sharp lines and I actually have drawn a few things using it, but besides an orc face, I generally use it as a ink filler or brush sketcher. I don’t use it enough that I could recommend it as necessary, but I think I would recommend it as a small ink filler because of the synthetic bristles means you can walk right up against your technical pen lines then do big strokes to fill in with black. I should use it more, but it hasn’t been in the front of my carry all toolkit lately. Out of all my pens it does have the longest body if that would be a selling point for the sythetic part of it, also when used quickly you can get a sort of dry brush effect which is pleasant and gritty, whereas the pentel pocket brush pen has a higher flow rate. Links: Pen and Two Cartridges ($12)

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen: This is the common recommendation for brush pens, its a small body making it super portable, it uses cartridges which means you do have to buy extras in anticipation of it running dry. It has a fast flow rate meaning you always have heavy black and consistent coverage. I don’t use it a lot, but I do like having it in my travel pouch for quick gesture drawings. Links: Pen and Two Cartridges ($13.50)


Tombow Dual Brush Pen Art Markers: They are great, end of sentence. If you want to add depth prcisely to your maps without muddying it up to much with tons of black lines, these water based colored markers are great (add some nice shadows to those dungeon hallways yo!). I purchased the Grayscale 10-pack and have my eyes on getting the 96 color set when it economically convenient for me to do so. But, the ten pack of grayscale is pretty awesome although you do have to worry about bleed when used alongside the brush pens (the technical pens I listed do not bleed when next to the water maters but the brush pens definitely do to a violet wash which I actually made use of in the John Silence zine illustrations). I also recommend these for hatching outside of the dungeon walls if you want tight hatches that don’t distract too much from the dungeons layout. Links: Grayscale 10-pack ($15), 96 color megapack ($140)

Crayola Super Tips Washable Markers: They were on sale at walmart for $10 so I grabbed a 100 pack of crayola thin tip markers. They are great for just doodling with bright colors and I don’t feel bad if they get wrecked because they were pretty darn inexpensive. I wouldn’t recommend them for professional drawing, but if you want to have fun with colors at the game table or on your own its worth it if they are on sale. Links: Amazon Link ($30 there, but probably cheaper in Wal-Mart)

Paints and Brushes

Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box from Sakura: This is my favorite watercolor set that I have, its small enough to throw into the front pocket of a backpack and even has a waterbrush that goes inside the plastic field box. Links: 30 Color Field Box ($25)

Pentel Aquash Water Brush Set (3 pack): Water brushes are awesome for watercolors! They have the water in them and make clean up as easy as just squeezing the brush to flush out the color. Great for travel watercolor drawings and just low prep watercolor painting. I use these every time I paint with watercolors. Links: 3 Pack ($19)

Mudder Water Brush Set: A relatively inexpensive water brush set that also has flat synthetic brushes in the set, I actually have an india ink wash in the smallest tip one for india ink wash type drawings. When used with a water brush of just water alongside it, it makes india ink washes fun and quick to do on the go. This is probably the better starter set of water brushes in the money side of things. Links: 6 Pack ($10)

Simply Watercolor Tubes: This was my first set of watercolors which I bought from wal-mart, their fun to use but I definitely prefer the koi for color vibrance, variety, and portability. Links: 24 set of tubes ($20)

Simply Acrylic Tubes: A set similar to the simply watercolor but for acrylics, again another 24 set of tubes which I got from wal-mart.

Watercolor and Acrylic Brushes: at the moment I has a drawer full of brushes which I got from wal-mart. So cheap brushes which I don’t feel bad about burning through. I would like to try out higher quality ones at some point, but not at the moment because of my current ability level with acrylic and watercolor.

Hair Dyer: This isn’t exactly a paint or anything, but I find it incredibly useful for when I’m doing both watercolor and acrylic painting to speed up the drying process so I can just work on the same piece for hours across multiple paint layers without the huge amounts of time generally needed to wait for things to dry.

Paper and Sketchbooks and Canvases

Pentalic Traveler Pocket Journal Sketch 6″ x 4″ (160 pages): This is a good pocket sketchbook for technical pen drawings, also tons of pages which is nice for a pocket sketchbook. I often do little doodles in the ones I have or draw little maps in them with notes. The pages accept ink pretty well and while there is a little bleedthrough, it isn’t enough to make it unusable. Definitely not for painting in though. Links: Sketchbook ($8)

Canson XL Paper: These are sketchbooks I get at wal-mart (no art supply store nearby sadly) and I tend to like them for watercolor and mixed media stuff. I specifically get the watercolor pads and the various sized mixed media spiral sketchbooks. I wouldn’t recommend using the micron pens on the mixed media paper though as I feel like it just burns through those felt nibs with how much tooth the paper has. Links: Watercolor Pad ($7), Mixed Media Pads ($6.50)

Cardstock: This is the paper I use for just about all of my ink illustrations! Its cheap, it comes in giant packs, and it works well for the technical pens and brush pens I use. The big thing is I can buy alot for a little and it is available at wal-mart which means when I run out its only 5 minutes to get more. I even have a binder full of sheets which I use as a inking sketchbook. I actually plan on getting a nice wire binding machine at some point so I can just make my own sketchbooks out of this paper so its portable and cheap. Links: 150 Pack ($5)

Canvas: Essentially I get what I can find for canvas board and prestretched canvas from wal-mart or random shops. If its on sale it works for me! Gesso generally fixes any problems I have with a canvases tooth.

Software and Equipment

Epson Perfection V600 Photo (Scanner): This is the best scanner I could find online and I love it dearly. I scan everything using it at 1200 dpi .tif before opening it in Photoshop for editing. Links: Amazon ($200)

Adobe Photoshop: Some people love Gimp, but I prefer photoshop since I also use indesign for all my layout needs.

Wacom 13HD Cintiq: This is the wacom I use for when I want to paint draw or edit digitally in photoshop. It’s super nice. Links: Wacom Store ($800)

Kyle Webster’s Photoshop Brushes: These brushes are the bee’s knees and are great if you use photoshop to paint or draw. Links: Webstore ($varies)