Listing pros and cons of 13 favorite games

Another step towards ZineQuest 4

14-11-2021 - 7 minutes, 43 seconds -
inspiration review

acd The amazing cover of Acid Death Fantasy

As I said in my previous post I decided to make something a bit more ambitious than my current content for ZineQuest 4. So I figured, why not start by looking at the giants who came before me?

I've taken a look at 13 of my favorite books and listed some of their pros and cons, primarily from a birds eye view. I've looked mostly at how nice and usable the books look when it comes to art and layout so that I might draw inspiration and combine some of those elements for my own book.

Disclaimer: While some criticism might sound harsh, these are all books from my collection that I love and adore. If I could write a book that was half as good as any of these I would consider it a huge success. These authors deserve all your money. Go give it to them!

There are of course tons of other books I like too, but these happen to be close enough to what I'm aiming for in this particular case. Also note that the following list is written for myself, but I figured people might find it interesting.

These are the books I'm listing:

Now. Without further ado, in no particular order:

Acid Death Fantasy

Pros:

  • Amazing vibrant cover
  • Beautiful map
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Interesting backgrounds
  • Pretty tables
  • Simple and nice enemy stat blocks with mien
  • Personal random tables for enemies

Cons:

  • Too short setting info (just 1 page intro and 2 pages at the back)
  • No adventure (even a one-spread adventure would have been enough)

Corpsewake Cove

Pros:

  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • GM intro explaining the adventure
  • PC intro to setup a session
  • PC backgrounds
  • Unique events for each day (countdown)
  • Clear and awesome harbor map with summaries of the ships
  • Distinct captains and crews for each ship
  • Simple and clear town map
  • Locations text is evocative and paints a detailed mental image
  • Fun monsters with GREAT illustrations
  • d100 pirate booty table!

Cons:

  • The location paragraph layout is uninspiring and makes you want to skip the page
  • The dungeons feel very 5e. Long descriptions and scripted events
  • Not clear how you get to the dungeons at a glance
  • Pirate tables are quite generic (like my Curse of the Emerald Sea)

Fever Swamp

Pros:

  • Great colorful cover
  • Pretty map
  • Pretty tables
  • Quick reference map and tables at first page (love this)
  • Great theme
  • One-liner summary of village population
  • Vertical dungeon
  • Mini pictures of each dungeon room by their descriptions
  • Mini hexes next to each hex description
  • Uses bolding and SMALL CAPS to distinguish between items and NPCs
  • AMAZING painting of a ghost olm
  • Very inspiring all over

Cons:

  • The hexmap only has some keys (why not turn it into a pointcrawl?) <-- There are random encounters for empty hexes
  • Dungeon is a bit confusing (each room has long paragraph)

Fronds of Benevolence

Pros:

  • Pastel-colored interior page backgrounds
  • AMAZING colorful map of different spheres (LOVE it)
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Clear mission (save the existence of the friend/ruler)
  • Pointcrawl with travel time on lines between the points
  • Unique and creative concept
  • Advice for GMs
  • Timetracker
  • AMAZING color interior art
  • Evocative and weird!
  • Pointcrawl locations have page numbers on them
  • Fun tables at the back

Cons:

  • The cover is not as nice compared to other Troika! covers (subjective)
  • Not organized in spreads
  • Pages cut off halfway
  • The interior art looks better than the cover art

Holy Mountain Shaker

Pros:

  • Amazing cover (but would have prefered a full art cover with no borders)
  • Fantastic pointcrawl map (with travel times) <-- Looks a lot like Fronds of Benevolence but cleaner amd less artsy
  • Amazing color interior art
  • Event timeline (countdown)
  • Each location is a spread

Cons:

  • The challenge table is confusing and it's not clear at a glance what happens
  • First pages after the map require reference to other pages in the book, but there are no page references
  • Mechanics are too verbose and complex - Too many extra rules for exploration
  • Statblocks are too big (more than half the text is mechanics instead of flavor)
  • Too much text and too specific descriptions. A lot of it is just mechanical stuff

Mausritter

Pros:

  • Amazing vibrant cover
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Spread-based layout
  • Lots of info on each spread
  • Short and efficient statblocks
  • Random tables for every enemy
  • Fantasic interior art
  • Simple and efficient one spread hexmap
  • Great tools on how to make your own adventure sites
  • A TON of amazingly useful tables (really like the adventure seeds)
  • Great rules reference on the last page (includes best practices)
  • Efficient and clean layout

Cons:

  • Sometimes a bit of information overload (probably better after second reading)

Honey in the Rafters

Pros:

  • Amazing black and white artwork
  • Short, concise, and efficient statblocks with image for each enemy
  • Curse random table is actually cards. Looks great and can be printed and given to players
  • Flavorful and unique spells
  • Short but sweet adventure hooks
  • Fun and thematic map
  • Printable treasures and spells

Cons:

  • The random encounters are boring
  • Map locations could be a bit more interesting (the fantastic picture helps though)

The Lighthouse at the Edge of the Universe

Pros:

  • Great clean cover
  • Lovely soft font with blue text
  • Drips with theme right from the start
  • Poetic intro text
  • Clear duties of the lighthouse keeper
  • Calm and relaxing tone
  • The art enhances the experience
  • Awesome DIY paper lighthouse blueprint

Cons:

  • Not really a tabletop RPG

Planar Compass #1

Pros:

  • Amazing vibrant cover
  • Amazing interior art
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Clear instructions on how to run the book
  • New races are explained in concise text blocks
  • Beautiful map of the island
  • Highlighting of interesting things using arrow blocks

Cons:

  • A bit of page flipping back and forth (but that's acceptable since it contains so many different locations/quests)
  • Stat blocks contain a little too much mechanics for my taste
  • Some parts are a bit too text heavy (the "Tossed Around" quest comes to mind)
  • The layout is good but for some reason it doesn't "pop"

Rogueland

Pros:

  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Great layout for the pre-packed explorers
  • Interesting font choices
  • Great interior art
  • Great short and concise monster stat blocks (unfortunately some are incomplete, like the vampire)
  • Great character sheet

Cons:

  • Some of the tables are a bit unorthodox. Hard to adjust to the style for reading at a glance
  • Information could be made more easily digestible (feels like you have to read the full page to get what you want)
  • Layout is fairly inconsistent
  • The pages could be organized in a clearer way. Not quite sure why some pages appear when they do
  • Unclear goal (is this a rulebook or a setting or a toolkit? feels like it does OK at all but does not excel at either)
  • The quick reference is too cramped. Also not sure if all of it is needed

Ultraviolet Grasslands

Pros:

  • Amazing vibrant cover
  • Amazing interior art (like really amazing)
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • The text is bursting with flavor. Incredibly inspiring read
  • Each location is truly unique and has a lot going for it
  • All the location maps are works of art
  • THE BIG MAP is amazing
  • A ton if interesting random tables

Cons:

  • The SEACAT system is too complex and inelegant for my taste (it's still work in progress as far as I know)
  • The different subsystems are too complex and verbose with a lot of unnecessary math involved
  • Confusing at times (the layout is a bit disorganized)
  • Some maps miss proper numbered keys making them difficult to use (can't be run at a glance)

Very Pretty Paleozoic Pals - Permian Nations

Pros:

  • Amazing vibrant and cute cover
  • Interesting and colorful handpainted map
  • Clear and bookmarked ToC
  • Unique and fun concept
  • Pretty tables
  • Fun and cute backgrounds
  • Fun and quirky interior art (some of it is absolutely fantastic)
  • Pastel colored interior pages
  • Interesting and colorful location art

Cons:

  • The map on the first page has no page numbers or other keys
  • A bit too much space left on many pages (why not fill them with art or shorten the text to turn it into one page?)
  • Not spread-based layout
  • Backgrounds are too text-heavy and feel more cramped than other Troika! background sections
  • Locations are hard to reference with the map
  • Very little location info for a 104 page book (only 6 pages)
  • Included adventure is verbose and confusing
  • Book organization is confusing (why do certain sections appear when they do?)
  • While the theme is nice and cute, some of it is a bit too much (do you really need 8 tables for cute names?)

Where the Wheat Grows Tall

Pros:

  • Beautiful cover
  • Excellent font choices that fit the theme really well
  • Great interior art
  • Fantastic atmosphere and theme
  • Great tips for running the adventure
  • Unique page layout using lines and borders
  • Amazing and clear map
  • Easy to read locations

Cons:

  • The language is a bit awkward (this is something I have issues with too, as a non-native English speaker)