The image shows the PDF cover, showcasing an elf looking woman and a tiefling looking lady, both dressed in fine clothing, grabbing a half orc that appears to be hurt and unconscious

In a similar manner to my articles in which I breakdown the articles from Arcadia that I used to write for Tribality, I now present you a series of breakdowns for the Unbound collection. Leon Barillaro has been kind enough to provide me with a copy of the issue for me to check out and review.

In many ways, Unbound is very similar to Arcadia and the Uncaged collections. Leon even mentions it in a Letter from the Editor at the very beginning! However, this collection has another purpose. With the disaster caused by the D&D OGL, many people started to check out other games, and the people in charge of Unbound wanted to make other games known. As Leon says “This zine is […] a collection of articles supporting the systems and genres we enjoy, many of which have nothing to do with heroic medieval fantasy

The PDF itself is not indexed, nor provides alt text for the images. Additionally, the text cannot be selected, as if every page was a whole image. However, the layout is gorgeous to look at, the images selected are amazing, colorful, and thematic. Additionally, each individual article not only includes the author, but also who did the illustrations, the editors, and even playtesters for the adventures. I really liked seeing all the people involved being well displayed in each article, and having a whole Contributors section for each of them (except for the Playtesters). The contributors, I must also stand out, for being extremely diverse, both as BIMPOC, and part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Delicious Breadcrumbs

~ Article ~

Author: Cat Evans
Artists: Elaine Ho
Editors: Dana Floberg and Steffie Devaan

In this article, Cat unwraps what a whodunnit is made out of, and how one can possibly create one for their table that makes sense and doesn’t end up being frustrating. Without actually telling what the article actually suggests, I find the tips given to not only align with what I believe a great mystery must have to be a success but also goes beyond and creates a whole structure using the rule of three for everything, making it extremely easy to remember. I am at the moment running a campaign that is a big mystery for the players and their characters to solve, and I know I will be taking many things from here with me!

The image shows the article's cover, showcasing an elf looking woman and a tiefling looking lady, both dressed in fine clothing, grabbing a half orc that appears to be hurt and unconscious

Sweater Weather

~ Brindlewood Bay Mystery~

Author: Margaret Mae
Artists: Nala J. Wu
Editors: Brock Bergum and Steffie Devaan

A rural fiber festival appears in town, and a murder was commited. It is up for the great Mystery Mavens to solve the case! Just by reading a bit of the premise I was already having a ton of fun. Players get to describe which special handcrafter item they brought to the festival and can even do a minigame of creating an NPS (non playable sheep) that can be involved somehow with the case. The organizer of the event doesn’t want everyone to be scared there was a murder, so they ask the Mavens to solve it fast and without causing a ruckus. I just love how Brindlewood Bay’s mysteries are short and give you plenty of clues and content to create a whole murder mystery. With 9 detailed suspects, 6 important locations, and 20 whole clues, you have more than enough to have a whole session of fun with the Mavens! On top of that, there are 6 Void Clues to tie the mystery to the bigger narrative, each of them extremely creepy, such as “The eye of all locals briefly appear to be goat eyes (sideway pupils)”

Rowan Moore, an NPC you can find in the adventure, is fully depicted with some art and a full description on who they are

Fading Into Fog

~ System Neutral Adventure ~

Author: Alex Neiderberger
Artists: David Markiwsky
Editors: Kai Linder and Leon Barillaro

This system neutral adventure provides a setting that could perfectly work in either a realistic or fantastic setting as long as they allow for weird occult, and ghostly activities to occur. The PCs arrive to this village to find a man is being accused of murder. The village constable is trying to protect him, and asks the player to investigate for her. Some weird happenings are occurring as a ghost of a villager is appearing in town, and the lighthouse appears to be haunted. Explore the village to find clues that may help the accused, proving his possible innocence. As you do, hauntings will constantly be occurring. This causes the crowd from town to be terrified and riot, looking to kill the accused in order to put the ghost to rest. The fear from the villagers uses a special mechanic that can grow or decrease depending on the clues the PCs present to them. If the players waste too much time, or don’t provide enough clues to prove the accused’s innocents, the PCs will have to face the crowd, or the accused dies. There are several possible endings for this case, making it excellent for a GM to run it with multiple groups to see what they do different and what ends up happening by the end!

One extra thing I wanted to point out is that the adventure does a great job at helping the GM understand what they have to do with the clues. There are several clues in the adventure. A table shows how if you connect clues A and B you will find out X, and if you combine clues A and C you will find out Y. This table is an amazing addition that I would love seeing in many other investigation games.

Cover art for the adventure Fading into Fog, which shows a lighthouse sending a beam of light into the horizon, atop a rocky shore

Chasing Yellow

~ Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying System Adventure ~

Author: Arnout Brokking
Artists: Kata Kemi
Editors: Ashton Duncan and Leon Barillaro

Chasing Yellow is a fantastic mystery that I can’t wait to run. It is created to be a duet adventure (1 GM, 1 player), but there is not much stopping you from running it with more players. Without spoiling, the case involves you, the reporter of a newspaper, investigating the case of Phillippe Villeneuve, a cyclist who was supposed to run the Tour the France, but mysteriously died beforehand. The case occurs in the present day, but has fantastical elements to it, in a similar manner to a story from DC’s Constantine. I’m surprised by how much this adventure feels like a real case. It is incredibly humane, and there is tons of people that can help you or make your life extremely difficult. With handouts, a Dramatis Personae filled with NPCs, locations, and even possible people you can contact if you want some extra (not needed but might help the case) information, the adventure has everything for what I assume must be 2-3 sessions of a duet intriguing and suspenseful mystery. It helps that at the very beginning it comes with a Content Warning section describing possible triggers.

Newpaper clipping showcasing the deseased. The main title says "Hercules is no more". A big image of Philippe Villeneuve is in it, accompanied by a lot of news about it

Final thoughts

As someone who has been trying to play other games apart from the usual medieval fantasy genre, I have nothing but praises for the team behind Unbound for creating this. I look forward to reading the other issues and talking about them. The three adventures in here seem like extremely fun to run, and just as great to solve! What’s more, the introductory article on how to create a whodunnit mystery was just what I needed for my current campaign, so I will be studying it closely.

What do you like most about running mysteries in TTRPGs? Do you have a favorite system to run mysteries? And which is your favorite mystery movie, book, etc? Tell me all about it in the comments below!


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