The Phylactery #1

Publisher: Planet X Games (@PlanetXGamesCo)

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If Mörk Borg takes its inspiration from black metal, Planet X game’s OSR zine The Phylactery #1 (TP1) is 100% thrash metal to its core. As I type this I realize that comparison is probably only useful to a handful of you but…it’s too perfect. Sorry. Tell you what, go read Mörk Borg and then listen to Dimmu Borgir or Emperor. See how they’re pretty much the same? Now go grab the first issue of The Phylactery and listen to Anthrax or Slayer. See? I told you so.

TP1 is a 48-page fantasy TTRPG zine and so wonderfully full of creativity I’m not even sure where to begin. It’s a repository of innumerable items, NPCs, and adventures, each of which are partnered with rich flavor text and beautiful black and white illustrations. I mean, just look at The Chaos Throne on page four. LOOK AT IT!

 I challenge you to look at that beautiful art and read the accompanying page of gems and their effects and not plop this thing into your next dungeon. You can’t. Don’t resist.

While the zine is cohesive in theme – dark, weird, and decadently fun – each section of the zine is a standalone work that doesn’t necessarily connect to anything else in terms of content. For example, the NPCs in the “1D10 SOBs, Roadhouse Hoodlums, Bored Adventurers and Mean Ole Bastards You Might Meet in a Tavern” table aren’t necessarily going to show up in the “Corpse Garden of the Myconid King” adventure…though if they did, they’d be right at home. This is one of the zine’s great strengths. Everything is unique and yet fits the overarching themes of the zine perfectly.

I found myself reading this with a notebook and pen next to me because every page inspired some new thing I NEEDED to put in my campaign. You can be damn sure my players will be encountering “The Remains of Shalraxrohaaz, the 2-Headed Space Wurm” at some point in their travels. A massive purple worm that hatched from a meteorite whose corpse is now the location of a nest of giant wasps? Just put it in my veins.

I’ve long been a fan of Levi Combs and all the insanely glorious things he publishes through Planet X Games. Ever since I purchased his adventure “An Occurrence at Howling Crater” and it came with a barf bag, I was sold.

 All of his works are a testament to his love of grindhouse but, despite how strange and sinister his creations are, they’re never bleak. It’d be so easy to read things like “Mag-Nachtur, the Screaming Tower” and expect a relentless slog through gloomsville, but Levi adroitly avoids this pitfall. Sure, things in TP1 are often dark and twisted, they’re also frenetically fun. That’s what separates this zine from so many other OSR products that wallow in the dreariness of their settings. The Phylactery #1 has s too much energy – to much constant change and incredibly detail – to let any pessimism worm its way in.

DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this book, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Oh, and want to know another thing this zine has over Mörk Borg? It’s actually readable! Boom. Roasted.

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