‘The Black Manse’ TTRPG Feels Like A High Five From The Abyss

Welcome to the table,

Sometimes I look around and get a little emotionally overwhelmed by how many TTRPGs are in the market right now. It’s overwhelming in a good way. In a way that feels like the little kid me would be quietly proud of the majority of the gaming community for what they have done and where we have gotten things compared to the book-burning panic that was around in his day and age.

The Black Manse by Micah Anderson is the kind of project that makes me (and little kid me) very happy.


After cutting my teeth on homebrew content for years before I knew that gaming books were actually things, one of my first romps at a table with an established set of rules and mechanics was the classic Ravenloft: Realm of Terror AD&D setting and that fusion of horror and fantasy really set a tone for me that to this day I can find comfort in.

The Black Manse feels like returning to that dice-dented backroom table of my youth. This 44 page Zine sized (that’s 8.5 x 5.5 in inches for those wondering) hardcovered book is system agnostic* with the intent that you apply something classic and crunchy to the narrative to make it a full game but I could honestly see something like Symbaroum or Pathfinder 1 or 2 slotting into the setting with not a lot of trouble.

The work is minimalistic as hell. It relies on a handful of images and some really fun maps that look like a teenager listening to Zeppelin’s Over the Hills and Far Away drew them in a gridded notebook and that is a selling point in my book.

I mean that. If you came up to me and said… “Hey, Anton, this TTRPG book vibes like a teenager was listening to Zeppelin’s Over the Hills and Far Away when they made it,” I would give you money and thank you for making me aware such a thing exists.


The plot of this thing is really fun. I could go into a detailed description but honestly, the intro of this book sells it so well.

“Long ago, the Gungish Papacy decided to war with Hell. In their hubris, they were rebuffed, thousands of zealot paladins routed from the infernal planes to be reviled for their smoking wounds and sin-mutated limbs once they returned to the surface. Some weren’t lucky enough to leave. One of them clawed his way back to the land of the living, armor soot-black and fused to his not-quite-mortal flesh. The Arch-Vicar ‘rewarded’ him, relegating him to a tract of cold woods and stark hills in the far reaches of the Empire, to rule over this rambling mess of rooms and halls for evermore.”

My excitement is cranked to eleven. This book has a ton of really fun rooms with memorable encounters that are going to really delight both players and storytellers alike. The Rose Garden with its “Drink Deeply, In Humility” plaque-stone is a personal favorite that has a brilliantly constructed set of variables that will lead to some amazing role-playing moments that can extend far beyond the garden itself.

As a games director, writer, and game designer I have not run a whole lot other than my own homebrew content for over a decade or more. So when I tell you that there is a big part of me that is toying with the idea of running The Black Manse on nights my whole party can’t get to the table for the weekly game, I need you to understand how much I adore this little book.

Micah Anderson’s work is new to my radar and I’ve not heard a lot about Spear Witch before, but I can tell you with certainty that they have my attention now and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Until next time, this book has a checklist in the back to write in the name of characters who died and how they died… it’s just charming in the most brutal of ways.

*System Agnostic – System Agnostic means “Not System-Specific” so the content is not tied to any specific game system’s rules. Content without mechanics. A story and setting without the math and rules.

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