Friday, January 6, 2017

Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure Review (part 1)

(This is part 1 of two, part 2 will be released on Monday, January 9, 2017.)

The introduction to Mike Evans’ Hubris is a vivid, almost technicolor cover that reminds me of the covers of old, used paperback sci-fi and sword and sorcery novels I saw in my childhood, covered in dust, wiped with an 80s brush. This is a good thing.

Gorgeous cover!
Inside the pages I find similar evidence of the weird nostalgia of gritty dark adventure, like the monsters of Beastmaster and from those stories I shouldn’t have read in the back of the bookstore. These days I typically stick to lighter materials in my gameplay, but fuck knows that in the back of my mind those things still creep. What makes Hubris appealing? The visceral nature of it, for sure.

Hubris uses Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) as its main mechanical structure, so I had to wiggle my brain a little since I’m not super familiar with the system. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple and nothing interfered with my ability to examine the game’s setting and structure. There are lots of random tables, which I looove.

The art of the book is black and white or grayscale, and not only is it great to look at it but it’s well suited to the content of the text and theme of the book. I enjoyed just scrolling through looking at the images - the artists (Alex Mayo, David Lewis Johnson, Jeremy Duncan, Angie Groves, Doug Kovacs, Jason Sholtis, and Wayne Snyder) did an excellent job capturing the “feel” of Hubris from my reading. There are a few spots where I (as an editor and proofreader) might have changed a few things textually, and some layout hiccups, but they’re minor and don’t disrupt reading, I don’t think. Overall the book is really well put together and easy to read!

The setting summary and flavor text of Hubris includes a lot of “appealing” concepts (by which I mean, oh, god, no, please! (wait, yes!)). A few bits from the setting summary itself:

“Legend states that Hubris was created from the fetid corpse of a long-dead god.”

“The Black Queen rules the citizens of the Floating Island of Terror from her throne of bones and dreams terrible machinations for Hubris.” (*swoon*)

“There are no easily recognizable heroes in the world.”

“Your epic tale will be forgotten in days as the dangerous world continues on without you…”

Yep. Yep.
Lovely world map!

The maps in Hubris are really nice! They have the kind of tight feeling that I enjoy in this Tolkien-esque kind of map, but it’s clearly readable. They also immediately draw in my interest with the small icons of the locations. You know, places like “Ruins of the Deranged Elephant Emperor” and “Lake of the Flayed” and “Bleeding Mountain that Pierced the Sky.” The kind of places you really wanna go, but kind of wish you’d never heard of.

In character creation, Hubris includes no elves, dwarves, or halflings. I was kind of surprised by that as I’m so used to them being standard in a lot of settings, but it was cool to see. There is a list of occupations with weapons and goods, and I admit I laughed when I read that the chimney sweep child has a broom (as a club) as their weapon. There’s also gems like the heathen carrying a bucket of dung, a nosey neighbor with a rake (as a club) and a rooster, and a rabid raven fanatic. (There’s also later a “disgusting torturer’s kit.”)

(Note: I am fully aware that Hubris contains some terms and subjects that are or may be problematic (g*psy, prostitute), so please don’t think I’m ignoring them. This is my note that they do exist and I’m aware of them.)

There are also additional races with specific occupations available: Avarians, Ekrasks, Half Demons, Murder Machines, and Mutants. The phrase “Murder Machine” as a race does amuse me, especially considering one of the available occupations is “Tinkerer.” These are also doubled as classes, along with the additional human-only occupations of Alchemist, Blood Witch, Druid, and Shadowdancer, as add-ons to the base DCC classes. I am not commenting on everything - just stuff that sticks out.

Blood Witch
I admit I nearly shit myself while reading the Blood Witch class because of the Blood Walk ability:

“A blood witch can play a dangerous game and jump through a living creature that is the same size or larger than herself, traveling through their blood and can emerge from another living creature on the same plane of existence.”

Like. Fuck. Yes. This is totally my kind of ability, and it’s so gross. To be honest, I said to John (husband) that it is one of the coolest abilities I’ve ever seen. A+. (Oh, and the Familiar ability is really cool and gross, too. You’ll have to see the book to find out why!)

One of the interesting things about the Druid class that I liked a lot was the Animal Shape manifestations, corruptions, and misfires. They include things like worms burrowing out of the druid’s skin and reshaping the druid to the new form, the druid’s head turning permanently into the chosen animal, and a tree growing out of the top of the druid’s head, respectively. Nice.

I will note my one big complaint is the general nonconsensual nature of the Half Demon race. This is such a stupid stickler for me, I know it pisses people off, but I’ll always dislike it (and I’ve written articles about the use of this in half-orc backgrounds). However, I know a lot of people dig it and it doesn’t bug everyone, and I get that it’s evil demons, and not just women getting raped (but rape is legit bad for anyone, regardless of gender, so). But, consider this my registered gripe. Aside from that, the race is pretty cool.

Murder Machines are just… like, dude. I can’t even register how cool and fucked up they are. They’re basically humans melded into armor and made into… murder machines. They also have something called a “Swiss-Army Hand.”

So the Mutant has this thing… It’s a cosmetic mutation, and I’m just gonna… share it:

“Your teeth fall out and in their place grows: 1) fingernails; 2) worms; 3) open sores; 4) small gasping mouths; 5) small writhing tentacles; 6) tiny, infant-like fingers.”

You’re welcome (from Mike, probably).

The Mutant powers are so disgusting I am still just kind of grossed out but they’re so inventive and brilliant I’m amazed. I laughed and gagged. Amazing. (Stomach maggots. Worm infested skin. Plague skin. Acidic belch. Ooze-like body. Ant colony. Boneless.)

As we move along through the gear and services things, it’s pretty standard and useful (including a great Quick Start Gear option!), but I have to make a vote that we stop with the “prostitution” tables in games… or at least not make them about how likely you are to get an STD. It’s just kind of a bummer and negative. I love having sex workers in games! But I like them to be done respectfully. This is not exclusively judging Hubris either, this shit is everywhere, but it’s in my read while I’m here, so pointing it out. Other people might like it! Not my jam.

Next up we hit the Territories section. I love that Mike specifically talks about how the Void of Hubris (kind of the post-life plane) has a lot of room to explore whatever the Judge (the GM) wants to explore. Pretty cool! I like that, and I also like that in the basic “Lay of the Land” options it’s a chart (d100) that works with a d100 chart of encounters and descriptions of locations.

The Territories section is a really good read and has a ton of material that could support a really significant campaign without ever risking boredom or repetition. I’m just going to cherry pick some of my favorite bits of the flavor text for the settings and items from their d100 lists here for you all!

“Devastating sandstorms, raging gigantic beasts, harsh environments, and a psychotic empire is all that stands in the way between an adventurer and unimagined riches from a long forgotten age.” (The Blighted Sands)

“Grove of weeping willows, used by a sect of extremist druids as their outpost. They are preparing for war against the heathens that destroy nature.” (d100 table, Bogwood Swamp)

Note: There is a list of what the mushrooms of the Bogwood Swamp do that is suuuper cool, but I think it would ruin a player experience to learn about all of them in advance!

“The petrified remains and shell of the gargantuan turtle, Slathereth the Destroyer, rises out of the Bogwood like a jagged mountain.” (Locations, Slathereth, Bogwood Swamp)

“The constant gathering and release of energy has caused the veil of reality to become weak in the forest and it is not uncommon for those in it to have strange visions, become warped or monstrous, or even be transported to another area of Hubris, or teleported to another reality entirely.” (Locations, Wrath, the Crystal Forest, Canyons of the Howling Red Rock)

“Vineyard with grapes that have the faces of humans, young or old. The grapes scream when they are squeezed.” (d100 table, Great Plains of Unbidden Sorrow)


The Roving Nibbleton
“Strange mechanical ruins that stagger the imagination, gigantic reptiles and insects, altars of blood, druidic cults, moss-covered zombies, ancient stone temples of complex design, and plants that feed off living creatures’ life-force await all who are brave or foolish enough to enter the Unsettled Expanse.” (The Unsettled Expanse)

“A Tyrannosaurus Rex with a head-mounted laser cannon rumbles through the forest.” (d100 Encounters table, The Unsettled Expanse)


On Monday, January 9, 2017, the review will be continued! Keep an eye out. :)

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