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Gaming Review: Tales from the Game Tavern #1

by Joe Iconic, Reporter

N1

Tales from the Game Tavern #1 is the perfect Halloween treat for role-playing gamers!  Tales from the Game Tavern #1 is 28 pages of awesome.   This new zine by The Grand DM is written “game system agnostic”, and its material could be used to supplement a large variety of role-playing games, including any Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder campaigns.

Tales from the Game Tavern #1 is the zine that fills the hole in my heart left by the absence of Dragon magazine.  I remember receiving my issues of Dragon magazine in the mail, and adapting my D&D campaign to include dragon psychosis, magical swords, half-ogres, half-zombie gheldans, and random tables of every day magic items.  Like many Dungeon Masters, I always enjoyed making my own “home-brew” world for the player characters to adventure in.  As a player, what captured my imagination the most was the unexplored areas of the map, like the woods around the Keep on the Borderlands, or the nation map that hinted towards kingdoms ruled by elves or undead dragons in Isle of the Dread.  If any of these examples has resonance to you, pick up Tales from the Game Tavern #1 now.

The art cover is hang-on-the-wall worthy, and I may have to go back and order a print version just for the cover.  Thanks to Ike Horton for not only the great art, but for the personal introduction to the Grand DM!   Check out Ike on Facebook here.

“Flesh Golem Redux” is the first article.   It is a fresh take on the sewed-together golems, drawing inspiration from the original Frankenstein Monster, and taking it a new direction.   I plan to include a female flesh golem in my own homebrew Mage’s End, as a minion with deadly envy.

“Haunted Armor” introduces four armor pieces that put an interesting spin on cursed items. Each gives the wearer advantages with cursed armor that do not create any game imbalance. The drawbacks for each item provide for brilliant role-playing opportunities as well. “Tavern Ghosts” adds a four ghosts to add to any tavern. I liked the story-telling, the personal flavor (and potential adventure hooks) these ghosts could give to a campaign. I know the intent was to add them to any tavern, but I would have liked to see names for each tavern as well, mainly because the Grand DM has that certain knack of naming that ignites the imagination.  I read these to my 9 year old daughter, as Moon Key and I love a good ghost story.

My personal favorite is “Grody the Ghoul,” a low level adventure vignette.   This quick, fun adventure is a worthy successor of legendary greats like Rick Reid’s Fluffyquest, and all-ages adventures than “Old Man Katan and the Mushroom Band” from Dungeon Magazine #41.  If you would like to play D&D with your young ones, and want a kid-friendly game, “Grody the Ghoul” is the one.  I play-tested this with Moon Key.   I told her a little about the adventure, and for the first time ever, she pulled out the dice, character sheet for her 2nd level halfling ranger, and INSISTED we play NOW. So I put Gnarly Hill outside her base of operations, tweaked the already wonderful background to target her favorite orphanage, and away we went.

She loved the scarecrow that insulted people and shrewdly appropriated it to serve as an alarm outside the cavern entrance.   She squished the bugs she met, but otherwise role-played her way through every other encounter, including into the good graces of Grody.  For her efforts, she rescued the Halloween candy took home an incredible pet.   There was also this great moment with best ever random table on worms (“Don’t eat the green ones!”) that serves as a great Rat Queens reference. There are so many great adventure hooks, so many places to explore that elevate this adventure from good to great.   For example, the haunted rabbit foot will be coming up again in our adventures! Buy this zine for this adventure alone, and someone please make a messageboard somewhere just to share your experiences!

The next article is “Alien Abduction” which is a fun cross-genre addition to any Halloween game.   The Grand DM takes several great horror tropes, and shows how easy it would be to integrate them into any campaign, without ever explaining them. There’s just this weird thing, and people disappear and return…

“Malignant Scourge” further demonstrates why I would never refuse an offer for a seat at the Grand DM’s gaming table. The innovative use of disease and zombies would make a great twist for new players or for seasoned veterans who think they know anything the Monster Manual could throw at them. “Game Tavern Ghoulash” looks like such a great recipe that I almost regretted cooking ramen noodles for our game night.   Playing “Grody the Ghoul” while discussing worm farming while eating ramen was twisted, I admit, but still great fun.

Tales from the Game Tavern #1 is perfect for Halloween fun.   What distinguishes this zine and most any other would-be heir to Dragon and Dungeon magazines is that I found everything in this zine would fit into my homebrew campaign.  For those that admire the printed page and good cover art, but a print copy from his blog.  If you can’t wait for the mail, go to RPGNow and buy the PDF copy immediately.  For $2.99, it’s the same price as the cheaper comic books, and well worth the price of admission.  Then go and check out the 2015 Geekie Awards Nominee Grand DM’s gaming room, which is awe-inspiring on its own.

Grand DM, we may not be worthy, but we eagerly anticipate your next issue.

Rating: ★★★★★

ComicsOnline gives Tales from the Game Tavern #1 5 Grody Ghouls out of 5 Grody Ghouls.

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About Joe Iconic

Joe Iconic has been a comic book fan since spinner racks were still in local grocery stores and a roleplayer since The Keep on the Borderlands. He thinks it's awesome to spread the love of Wonderful Geek Things, especially with his daughter.

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