Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Review: Kefitzah Haderech
Magical portals are a mainstay of fantasy, from the bizarre and ancient standing-stones of fairy-kind to the ubiquitous magic doors of Elminster-type wizards. Lost Pages - the imprint of Paolo Greco - has published a 32-page treatise on magical portals of all sorts entitled Kefitzah Haderech: The Incanabulum of the Uncanny Gates And Portals. Kefitzah Haderech is available at the Lost Pages store (print and pdf) and also at d20pfsrd (pdf only); Paolo was kind enough to provide me a pdf copy for review purposes.
"Kefitzah Haderech" refers to the "shortening of the ways" - the ability of miraculous figures (to include certain rabbis) to step instantly to a distant place. If this supplement had been entitled "The Book of Portals", you might be right to expect some boredom within. Luckily, the flavor of the title carries through to the content. Although the book begins and ends with commentary (types of portals, using them in your game, inspirations), the meat of the work is a series of nice random tables to assist and inspire in the generation of portals, keys to those portals, and their destinations. There is also a short section on constructing magical portals - a bit on cost, but primarily a table full of methods of portal construction (which may or may not work in your campaign world). Each of these is flavorful and serves as an adventure seed for those PCs seeking to build their own portals, or to assist the GM in understanding the machinations of a powerful sorceror looking to establish a portal network. Just reading over the list gives me ideas - especially for botched attempts at creating a portal. Next in the toolkit is the "Portatron", a system of randomly generating a magical portal by means of rolling a handful of disparate dice (a d10, a d20, etc) and then reading the results as mapped to the various tables. This set will be useful for adventure-writing as well as on-the-fly portal creation (hey, sometimes that comes up).
Then we get to the Big Daddy of Portal Tables: a d666 table (roll three six-siders) of portal destinations. This thing is worth the (very low) price of the supplement by itself, as it generates all manner of actually interesting destinations, each one featuring hooks for immediate use by the improv-happy GM. Any one of these could easily jumpstart a flavorful series of sessions in the new location - it's everything from elemental destinations to other worlds and time-jumps. Keep in mind you don't need a portal to need a weird destination - there are always botched teleportations, planar travel mishaps, etc. I would love to end a session with a jump, where even I don't know where the portal leads, and make the players roll the d666 (so it's their fault) and then describe what they see in the new place as a cliffhanger. Presumably I'd have a week to work off of that image for the next session... But I think if you were of a mind to do a "malfunctioning TARDIS" type campaign, you could just use this table and have several years' worth of awesome sessions.
Kefitzah Haderech contains very little in the way of system-dependent mechanics (other than references to 'turns' and vague estimates of power levels of denizens) and could easily be used with any game that has a call for magic portals or out-of-control crossdimensional antics (to include Call of Cthulhu, Doctor Who, and even Star Trek pastiche games). Given the price point ($2.50 in just pdf, $4.99 for print + pdf), this is a supplement well worth picking up for the avid GM - you'll find use for its inspiring tables across several different games, and may find yourself wanting to run a portal-hopping campaign once you've flipped through it.