The Excellent Prismatic Spray (Issue 3)
by Nicholas HM Caldwell ©:2002
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
Issue 3 of The Excellent
Prismatic Spray is the third in Pelgrane Press' series of
adventure supplements for the Dying Earth RPG,
cunningly disguised as innocuous periodicals, even to the extent of having
two pages of amusing in-character "readers' letters" at the
beginning. As this product is intended for GM's use on unsuspecting
players, this review will look at each of the major articles without
revealing too many of the surprises.
In "Rules To Mock Your
Vain Ambitions", principal designer Robin Laws reflects on how
the Dying Earth saga differs from standard traditional
fantasy, contrasting Vance's personal vision with the mass entertainment
provided through the innumerable trilogies of Tolkien's successors and
emulators. Laws' insightful article then considers how the design choices
of the Dying Earth RPG ensure that it avoids
the power fantasies and wish fulfillment of other role-playing games to
remain true to Vance's setting.
Paul Rhoads explains the raison d'Ítre
of "The Vance Integral Edition", a brave attempt to
elevate Jack Vance into the highest ranks of literature by publishing a
complete set of his works that conform to the author's wishes.
This is followed by the first of
this issue's major scenarios, "The Gold and Amber Cabal"
by MD Jackson. In the Dying Earth, an archmagician
can summon chugs and hence compel the nearly omnipotent sandestins
into indentured service; magicians cannot. Making this leap from
Turjan-level to Rhialto-level is a momentous step and worthy of
intricate game-play. Jackson's scenario is an entertaining story
arc wherein potent characters may strive in magic, daring, and good
manners to achieve entrance to a cabal whose leader promises to
instruct successful candidates in the necessary rituals. GMs may
easily fit other scenarios of their own devising into this framework.
In this issue, Grashpotel's Arcana
(written by Peter Freeman) looks at the region of "Tanvilkat and
the Valley of Graven Tombs". Compressing several aeons of the
area's history into a few pages of Vancian diction, Grashpotel explains
how the burial places of Tanvilkat came to produce vines of unsurpassed
quality. The worthy sage also illuminates the current society and
settlements of the region. The second half of the article then explores
how to use this learned treatise in the game with suggested adventure
hooks, GM-level information on sites of interest, and a host of NPCs with
essential game statistics, plus a set of appropriate and amusing taglines.
Suitable for GMs who prefer to add their own twists and tweaks to an
Representation" (by James Maliszewski,
Lynne Hardy, Ian Thomson) provides three quite distinct plot ideas based
on a picture by Dave Bezzina. All are interesting - the difficulty is
choosing which one to use!
"The Glass World"
(Lynne Hardy) is a Turjan-level (or at a pinch high-powered
Cugel-level ) mystery which mixes weird magic, bygone
customs, and selfish desires in a completely standalone adventure, replete
with maps, NPC statistics, and taglines -just add PCs. This is a truly
excellent scenario with a deft and subtle plot - the issue is worth buying
just for this article.
Lynne Hardy and Ian Thomson
present three "Cozener's Expedients", plot hooks for
unexpected confidence games and delicious scrapes with which to entrap
In other RPGs, PCs frequently
become involved in epic campaigns. In the Dying Earth,
adventurous rogues in their peripatetic wanderings suffer diverse and
often temporary entanglements with varied folk and monsters. Steve
Dempsey's "The Laughing Magician" is instruction by
example on how to run an adventure series in the Dying Earth.
In this first part, PCs become enmeshed in a river race, a trial, the
Dying Earth's equivalent of a "Big Brother"-style soap opera,
and encounters with a colossal pelgrane. If they survive all that, they
might even be hired by the Laughing Magician himself ... and be able to
treat such an event as just another idiosyncratic interlude rather than a
hackneyed beginning to an adventure.
"Lizard" explores more
exotic locations in "The Regions of the Sousanene Coast".
Part travelogue, part set of plot hooks, this is a useful selection of
unusual places and attendant customs to bewilder and bemuse PCs.
Jim Webster completes this issue
with a description of a very odd bath indeed.
Sprinkled with in-character
advertisements for goods and services for sale or sought on the Dying
Earth, handsomely illustrated by fine cover and interior artwork,
and with respectful emulation of the Vancian prose style and humor, Issue
3 is a masterful addition to the series and well worth the terces.
Instruct your factor to purchase a copy before the sun goes out!
Editor's Note: The Excellent
Prismatic Spray is published by Pelgrane Press. They can be contacted via
their website at www.dyingearth.com.