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Friday Review: Secrets #1

This post is a little later than what I normally post, but the past couple of days were super busy for me. This is a quick review of a short product that was sent to me; it's old (written in 2104), but I think it is pretty interesting and, at the price point, worth a look for anyone looking to expand their OSR game (especially if you're playing something based on OSE or similar.).

Secrets Issue #1 is by Nathan Irving and written for Swords and Wizardry. The subtitle of this issue is "Omens and Artifacts" and, based on the table of contents, that is what it brings to the table: spells and magical items, mostly, with a handful of monsters and a new class option sprinkled in. It clocks in at 24 pages, including the cover, OGL, table of contents, etc.

The art is all from stock or public domain sources, including some classics by Arthur Rackham and others. The book introduces: 24 spells, 24 magic items, three monsters, two adventure seeds, the Shaman (a variant druid) and shaman spell list, and an introduction to Shadowend, Nathan's setting.

The spells are all clerical in nature, which I really like, as it provides more options for clerics and also allows the Referee to use these spells as domain or patron specific, to give each deity a bit of unique flavor. Some of them -- such as augury and command -- are seen elsewhere in supplements, but the bulk seem to be unique. Nathan breaks the spells down into those available to clerics (level range of 1-5, and the bulk of the 24), druids (levels 1-5 and about half the spells), and magic-users (levels 1 and 3, and only two spells), with some spells (such as oath) available to all classes.

The spells are a good mix of divinatory, defensive, and helpful, with a few offensive spells mixed in. Interestingly, druids get access to the chant-type spells, which, as Nathan says, is designed to fulfill the shamanic aspect of the class.

Next up are the magic items, and there are a few joke items in the mix, as befits old-school play. Armor of AC reversal changes the mechanics of the one suit of armor from whatever is being used (ascending or descending) to the other, with no other function, and the unlucky rabbit's foot is a cursed rabbit's foot that brings bad luck, although the owner does not believe so.

Overall, the magical items are pretty great, and include a few unique items (weapons mostly). My favorite of the items are the rod of the great beast, which functions as a +3 mace but allows the wielder to command dinosaurs, the chalkeion rod (which turns the wielder's skin into bronze and allows them to summon chalkeion hoplites -- I'm a sucker for the bronze men from the Monstrosities book), and the codex of dungeons, an infinite book that transports the party to increasingly more difficult dungeons.

The monsters are the alektrequus, an ill-tempered horse with the heads, wings, and forelegs of a rooster, the alkonost, a human-headed bird, and the vouivre, naga-like creatures that possess magical gemstones. The first two are accompanied by a plot hook based around them.

Finally, a page is dedicated to the shaman, which is a druidic sub-type that has a unique spell list (given on the subsequent page) as well as some unique abilities, such as gaining ghost talk at 2nd level, which enables them to communicate with elementals, fey, and undead creatures that are intelligent enough to speak, and the totem form, which allows the shaman to shapechange into a limited number of animals, regaining a percentage of lost hp with each transformation.

This is a short little document, based on the author's blog, and, while it was written nearly a decade ago has plenty to offer the Referee looking to spice things up. I would take the spell list and divide the spells amongst different deities to customize the clerical spell list (especially with the short spell-list in OSE and B/X), and the magic-items are worth the minimal cost of the book alone.

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