Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ASSH: It's Like A Tribe Called Quest

... You have to say the whole thing.

Say it with me now: "Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea."

I love the way that rolls off the tongue. Apparently, not everyone does.

This past GaryCon, I was able to purchase one of +Jeff Talanian's last boxes that he brought with him to the con, a purchase that I'd been putting off for quite awhile. You see, $50 is not a small chunk of change, and $50 plus shipping and handling is even more. Even when North Wind put the ASSH box on sale a few months back, I did the math and realized that the discount didn't even cover the cost of shipping. "A con purchase," I told myself, "or maybe Noble Knight if they put it on sale or something." And so, when Jeff told me he only had four more boxes with him, I had to bite. I picked up the box as well as the limited edition Rats in The Walls adventure (based as it is on my favorite Lovecraft story).

There are plenty of reviews of ASSH out there, so I'm not about to go through what ASSH is and why you should care about it. It's damn awesome. That's all I have to say on the matter. So, rather than talk about the actual contents of the game (have I mentioned that I think that it's badass yet?), here's some stuff that I've noticed about the production values of the game.


  • The box was made to last. It's sturdy, thick, and will likely stand up to any punishment I can throw at it. I like that. I want a box that I can break open 20 years from now and say "Let's rock, imaginary future children!"
  • The dice included are precision Diamond Dice. Remember Diamond Dice? I barely remember them, and then it's from ads in Dragon Magazine. I don't think I ever saw them in person and for that, my dice ownership has forever suffered. These are nice dice! Sure, they need to be inked, but isn't that why Sharpie makes those cool paint markers? (That and to get +Doug Kovacs to draw cool shit in your DCC books.) Since buying this box, I've gone and tracked down all the Diamond Dice I can, within reason. 
  • I get why Jeff opted for the spiral-bound books. Primarily, that they'll open flat on your table. Sure, they're probably cheaper, but I'll bet it was the "flat-open" thing that made it a thing. The only problem I've had is that, sometimes, the small amount of paper on the spine side of the spiral holes can fold under, and I get worried that if I didn't notice it, I might rip the page right there, since the spiral holes make the page more or less perforated. 
  • I really need a second Players' Manual. Yeah, just another one. I want to play this game a LOT, and a second book would be badass at the gaming table. 
  • I thought that the map would be bigger. I'm not sure why I thought this, but I did. It's a great map, though. I wasn't disappointed or anything, I just for some reason thought it would be bigger than it is. The map is 24-mile hexes, which is cool for me because it lends itself to the 6-mile hex on a smaller scale, which is my preferred size. (I use 24-mile, 6-mile and 1-mile hexes.)
  • I like the odd sizes of the manuals and modules. This isn't a big thing, but it's neat. The old fashioned letter-sized manuals and modules and stuff are okay, but these really feel unique. You're not about to lose them among your other stuff.
  • The module maps could be a bit larger for my tastes. Maybe I'm just used to DCC's maps, but I like my maps big and chunky with lots of detail. The maps in the Rats In The Walls really need to be a touch larger for me to enjoy them. 
So, this past Wednesday, I ran Rats in the Walls for ASSH. We made characters in-session, which didn't go as quickly as I had assumed it would, but you can always count on +PJ Muszkiewicz & +Ray Case to drag their heels making characters, so I shouldn't have been surprised. +Jason Hobbs was the first person to flesh out a character, and he ended up with an Atlantean Warlock (of the necromantic variety), so a sort of "undersea Elric." Phil rolled an Esquimaux (which is pronounce "ES-kim-oh," not "es-ki-MAWKS" the way Hobbs tried to) Shaman who venerates Kthulhu. Ray ended up with a (male) Amazonian Pyromancer. The team had an impressive array of arcane magic at its disposal, but largely failed to use it to their best advantage and instead took hit after hit, ultimately having to retreat from the Rats. You know, the ones in the Walls. All in all, it was a great session, though, and the guys decided that we needed to play again.