Review: Reach of the Roach God



tl:dr; a creepy cult and lots of great sites fill this (final) underground expansion for A Thousand Thousand Islands, arriving with bitter news.

This was the juggernaut kickstarter from the Thousand Thousand Islands crew - getting 10x on its target and gifting us this beautiful hardback book to go sit with the Stygian Library and the Veins of the Earth as classics of the OSR. This blog is a long-standing fan of the Thousand Thousand Islands so having this arrive and then not two days later watching Zedeck and Munkao go daggers drawn and declare A Thousand Thousand Islands dead really took the shine off it.

Hardback arrived

First impression is that this is a beautiful artefact even before you crack the cover. The design work is fantastic from the creepy roach legs to the ribbons to the custom Thousand Thousand Islands typeface. Our overarching theme is the struggle against the Roach God Odoyoq - starting with signs of his cultists, then the spread of his influence through underground communities.

So what do you get inside? I lift directly from the handy 'what is in this book' section at the front - an intro then there are three parts. In these we get:
6 pages of Introduction
160 pages in the first section with a set of three adventures
70 pages in the second gazetteer section covering three sites
50 pages in the third general underworld generator
A final page of notes.

So what is in here chunk by chunk?

The introduction with the previously mentioned description of what is in the book but also some notes on how this should function with any RPG. We get a page guidance of how to interpret the stat-blocks of characters - these are "presented in a rigid schema" of three words and two sentences with some qualitative guidance on how to interpret what is written to place these things on whatever power-scale your system has.

We get a word to give Power, ranging from commoner to god. We get a word to give the Health, either hearty or not. Next are three skills they are expert in, a word for how they attack and a list of all defenses they have. I would need to think through how Power maps but the rest of them are straight-forward and I like the list of defenses being all the things you need to overcome in a sundering-of-shields fashion.

The adventures are three ways the players could end up in the caverns beneath the earth - Quiet Lake (32 pages), Spider Mountain Temple (64 pages) and the City of Peace (64 pages). Each is a site that then leads down. Quiet lake is a more open location - starting from a village with problems to a set of sites around Quiet Lake it has an element of point-crawling too it and lots of interesting hooks. Spider Mountain Temple is a single large site, more complex in that the pieces are interacting and there is a time-table on which things run for the day-to-day activities and also a chaos-clock type escalating scale as more roach-related events happen. City of Peace is a necropolis, funerals entering and maintenance staff dwelling within - along with others. We get a block of interesting tools to run this dungeon - some paths laid in but features are randomised. This is a tale of infiltration.

The gazetteers cover three locations underground - Bu-Ni-Ang-Ka (24 pages), Blind Elephant (22 pages) and the God Odoyoq (26 pages). Bu-Ni-Ang-Ka are a people of the underground, tied to the City of Peace where they bury their dead. The first site going deeper into the depths, with a mystery to unravel. Blind Elephant is a cavern community of stalagmite people, trying to adapt to the effects of the Odoyoqs depredations. Those who choose to get involved could try and back-track the causes and deal with them. The final part, God Odoyoq, is what you find when you venture deeper, into the roach domains - roaches about their business, their monarchs and finally their god itself.

The cavern creators include Other Peoples of the Dark, 24 pages of bestiary and A World in the Dark, 25 pages on creating a cavern system. As noted in the text, the influence of Veins of the Earth can be detected in the very old-school 'drop objects' method of creating the cavern space for the adventure. This section is a workflow for placing the specific locations - "head of your noblest-looking large figure" connects to Spider Mountain Temple for example. All the other named locations are placed then remaining limbs/torsos are populated through the tables in this section. I like the combination of set-pieces and generators - usually we get one or the other, neither quiet satisfactory but here we get a useful combination.

Wrap up - the sites are great, the usual flair for art and writing that we expect from A Thousand Thousand Islands is here in spades. The subject material is ick - as to be expected with infiltrating roaches - but it makes a good theme of encroaching horror. I like how it is not the 'unstoppable, unknowable horror' of eldritch Cthulu stuff but still a creeping cult that if left alone will ruin everything. There are a few 'threading' rough spots - reading it as written one should only use one of Quiet Lake, City of Peace or Spider Mountain Temple and then head into the underworld. I think some guidance on these being nodes on a bigger conspiracy to use all of them to really hammer home how threatening to the surface world this roach-cult problem is would let you use all this good content to its fullest.

Standalone, this is very good stuff, tons of useable content. This is the underworld guide for A Thousand Thousand Islands, I am sure with a little creativity the other zines could be connected up too. Right now, at time of writing, I am saddened we get this book in place of another half-dozen or more zines like the rest of A Thousand Thousand Islands. Whatever happened back stage, this being the capstone legacy item of ATTI is a shame. It is good but not 'sacrifice all the future of A Thousand Thousand Islands' good. If ATTI rises from the ashes in the future, I will be unhesitating in saying Reach of the Roach God is a solid addition.

For another review see Playful Void.

Continue reading...
Today, I stumbled upon someone selling off this book: "Reach of the roach god".

And this review became a big motivator to purchase it for my library, at just over 20 quid too.

Then I found out both the writer and artist went all hostile against each other, and this is the first and last RPG book in "A thousand thousand islands".
Yup, and a rare bird you snagged - we're not going to see the like again any time soon which is a crying shame. Enjoy the find!