Review - Vaults of Vaarn - Zine rpg

Image taken from the game’s site:
Over at I did a first impressions review of new science-fantasy Vaults of Vaarn.

**The cover! Just starting there, this project already begins to do its job. Upon seeing the cover to Vaults of Vaarn, I instantly got vibes of bands like Wire, The Sound, and even some Brian Jonestown Massacre. Ok, this will do, psyche-post-punk. Now let us open the booklet. The grid theme graphic resumes, with a short Foreword of what is in hand. Science-fantasy: excellent. Setting, rules, 5 different ancestries for characters: neat! Equipment tables, 100 mutations, 20 cybernetic implants, location generators, and 28 monsters: fuck yea, this looks fun!

L. Hunt (author at large) tells us to think Dune , Hyperion , New Sun . I can get with those references. Desert, mutants, robots, talking animals, fungus-men. Dying sun. A Great Collapse. (I’m also getting strong Viriconium vibes). It sounds like a cool setting with a lot of opportunity to pull from both your favorite standard fantasy resources and science fiction compendiums in order to build out a wild mash-up world. Maybe listening to some loud Explosions in the Sky would really work while playing this!

Characters and rules: basically Knave, (thanks again Ben Milton for such cool contributions). For characters you get six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intellect, Psyche, and Ego. The ability bonus and defense numbers are built into this roll. Then pull an Ancestry to figure out who your character will be. 1d8 for HP. I love this as a solitaire player because survivability when playing alone is helpful for momentum sake, what with all the worldbuilding, oracle asking, and character management, rolling up a bunch of new flimsy PCs gets tedious. (Max HP 8 it is).

Magic is known as Mystic Gifts. You start with one, can never have more than your Psyche bonus. I like this limiting feature. You choose a starting Gift, and it will likely define your Psychic ability. Your bonus is derived from the initial creation phase, the bonus number being the lowest of the 3d6. This means some characters may only have one gift, others more, but considering they cost HP to use, these resources are simultaneously precious and vicious.

Ancestry will be the defining moment in your PC’s birth. Choose between True-Kin, Cacogen, Synth, Newbeast, and Mycomorph. These come with a special ability and a series of spark tables. Again, I find these a great addition. Each Ancestry has different selection, but the personal trait material is really flavorful, and can generate some good starting points for narrative.

This is a fun and strange world L. Hunt has created. I know this from all the tables in the book. You can get flashbangs, glowstones, welding torches and fungicide bombs. For gifts you can use: psychoactive fungus, dream quest, meditation, eclipse birth – in order to perform: telepathy, astral projection, invisibility, and levitation. There’s a great d100 table of exotica; d20 cybernetics, d20 books, cool location generators, ruins, drugs, petty gods and strange dome generators for exploration! And I mentioned earlier, an extensive bestiary, of which each creature has a nice short paragraph of notes. And wait…there are transports, an encounter table, and a corpse looting table.

And all this nicely illustrated with simple but evocative line drawings. Of course, there is much in this book already found elsewhere, I’m sure. But I really like the simple package, a semi-minimalism that succeeds in springing my mind to creative action. That is why we play these games, right? To be sprung, flung, inspired, stimulated all while having some good social fun (or solitaire fun for some). And that’s an important feature of this game too. It has a lot to offer the solitaire player. Narrative, locations, weird artifacts, lots of monsters. Load an oracle cartridge – press play.

It’s cool, generous, creative, packed, affordable. And yea, it has one of the best covers I have yet seen out there. I printed this pdf up and folded, but, am hopeful to be in line for a print copy when available.

I will be sitting down tonight to roll up a party and see what mutated weirdness takes place. Cheers October, cheers Vaarn!

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Nice review! This seems like a cool project, being a big fan of Knave myself. Nice photography skills too haha, are those Game Science dice? Does the zine contain an example adventure or something of that nature?

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Not sure on the dice, will need to ask the creator. The photo is from their page. No adventure included, but the generators give quite a few ideas to get going