Thursday, 16 April 2015

Yoon-Suin - The Purple Land By David McGrogan

Author: David McGrogan
Price: $20.66 (Lulu Print on Demand)
Format: Print
Page count: 327
System: Noism Games (OSR/OGL)

Year: 2015

After reading +Venger Satanis' interview with author +David McGrogan and reading his rather thorough review of Yoon-Suin this book sparked my interest. I'm a sucker for vibrant covers, and eclectic settings. This book is suggestive of those things and more.

The Good
This book is comprehensive. There is no denying the nigh-startling effort that would have been required to write, compile and lay out a book of this magnitude. That it was completed by virtually a one-man operation I am truly humbled by the enormity of the task. Having written my own materials and knowing the weeks, that turn into months, that turn into years when these types of projects are concerned, I can only applaud McGrogan in his efforts. Unusually, Yoon-Suin is printed and presented in Landscape format. As I understand,the rationale for this was the copious amounts of tables within the book looked better with a wider page. It makes sense, and adds a point of difference. The text is a very readable font size - I'd hazard a guess of around 12 point- with the interior being completely black & white. The illustrations are whimsical (I'm beginning to hate using that word due to its overuse amongst Instagram and Pinterest users thinking their weedy wild flowers gathered from an abandoned lot and put inside a mass-produced vase, or the summer's dress they bought from Amazon, and thereafter took a photo of while on a picnic using a fishing rod as a prop, in some attempt to be 'artsy', constitutes whimsy. I'm sorry, but please...stop or you'll permanently ruin the word for everyone literate)...wait...where was I? Oh yes. The artwork is whimsical in a weird, fantastic, unusual kind of way. It's cool, while at times verging on creepy. It's very mood-invoking. It fits perfectly.

Here's an example:




I enjoy the presentation of the the illustration maps which look like this:



Contrastingly, I was not enthralled with the various hex maps that appear thus:


Beginning with an introduction from the perspective of philosopher and poet Laxmi Ghuptra Dahl, a visitor to the Yellow City - the biggest city within Yoon-Suin - the book describes the world and setting for the reader. The writing is from a third person perspective, but the author (Laxmi) refers to himself as 'the humble author'. From this fictional introduction the true author - McGrogan - introduces the inspiration and purpose of the book, citing his inspiration gained from various TSR settings 'of old'. It is not far-fetched to say this work is more ambitious than even those worlds presented, both in scope and practicality. While many settings read as travelogues, Yoon-Suin begs participation. Myriad tables remove any excuse on the part of the lethargic DM avoiding practical use of this setting; there are literally no excuses! New monsters, and new takes on old monsters within Yoon-Suin are immensely compatible with any pre-2000 edition of D&D, and all (?) of the recent retro-clones and evolved systems drawing on classic D&D as their forebear. The 'fluff' or even the bulk is pretty systemless, rendering compatibility with 3rd, 4th and 5th editions of D&D too. Speaking of which, surprisingly a copy of the OGL has been copied into the back of this book, though the book contains such a level of departure from anything now associated with 'official' D&D that I was rather perplexed. Perhaps it's simply a legal inclusion to cover one's proverbial ass. Anyway, I digress again. 

There appear to be four dominant adventuring races within Yoon-Suin. At the upper echelons of the Yellow City society the Slug-man holds dominance, seekers of knowledge and occult disciplines. Humans are socially ranked beneath these creatures. Below the humans are the pathetic Crab-men, unable to speak, though rather fearsome in combat. There are dwarfs too. The Crab-men is detailed as a distinct class, very reminiscent of the OD&D or D&D Basic format. A big monster section follows with delightful inclusions like the Yak-man, Preta or Mountain Witch. All of these I will attempt to include in my games. The author has taken the liberty of describing potential points of interest within hex sites across Yoon-Suin, assisting the DM in including this material in their existing (or standalone) campaigns. These are interesting and considered. Besides the core components of the book thus far described, there are dozens, I mean DOZENS of random tables. Random tables within RPG products can be hit-or-miss, but the detailing of adventure hooks, NPC generation ideas, organisations and location features either made me smile, think to myself 'NICE!', or involuntarily make my way to my cupboard to retrieve some dice. I had to shake myself: 'What are you doing Corey?' Generally speaking the tables are easy to use, though there are a few tables that require a d30. I'm confident I could make my own d30 using existing dice, but on a practical level, this may be an issue for some. I'm a pick-what-I-want kind of a guy when it comes to tables, so there's nothing stopping you doing that either. Again, I was blown away with the amount of work and creativity that went into the creation of the content. There are some serious ideas within this. More importantly I began imagining my current campaign in this location, thinking to myself 'how the hell am I going to get the players here?'

The Bad
Despite my overall satisfaction with this product I do have some niggles that sufficiently bothered me. The layout, although technically okay, was rather uninspired and drab, especially considering the vibrancy of the setting. The paper feels a little cheap, and is very representative of Lulu paperback quality. I would have gladly paid more money for a higher production value. The tables don't look bad in black and white, but they would have looked a great deal better had they been printed in colour, on higher grade paper, and with some graphic design. I did not like the hex maps much either, appearing to have been made in Hexographer. The greyscale again, did not do favours to the mapping presentation, forfeiting clarity for lowered cost. I would have preferred something hand drawn to match the overall aesthetic of the other artwork. The cover promises a vibrance that is visually lacking overall. The cover is 100% awesome, and perhaps that's why I feel slightly disappointed by the interior. 

I would LOVE to see another edition of this. +James Raggi if you're on the lookout for another setting or book I think this work would fit the Lamentations of the Flame Princess aesthetic brilliantly. I would gladly shell out more money for such a product.

As far as content is concerned, I can scarcely quibble.

Let me remind the reader that the price is very reasonable as it is print-on-demand via Lulu. It was definitely on the inexpensive end as far as price tag and shipping costs go. 

Final Thoughts
David McGrogan offers the reader a wealth of content with his Yoon-Suin - The Purple Land. It is inexpensive, not at all commensurate with the painstaking hours he must have poured into this work readying it for its published state. The work is bold and ambitious. If  you are looking for a setting unorthodox, albeit approachable, I would highly recommend this. The tables and adventure hooks, interesting NPC ideas and location features are in themselves enough to warrant purchase. You could insert the crab-man class in any existing OD&D, Basic D&D, Labyrinth Lord, or Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign with no trouble, and minimal conversion. For the 5th edition nuts, a campaign set here would fit perfectly. 

As mentioned above I would have preferred a higher production value, but there is nothing preventing a revision of this volume. I enjoy the interior artwork (besides the hex maps) and the cover illustration is gorgeous. I need more time to digest this again in its entirety, but there is enough herein to impress even the most frugal of consumers. 

For more information check out the author's blog.