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Mr-Kr-Gr (2017)

A Thousand Thousand Islands is a series of zines detailing a fantastical version of southeast Asia, particularly the islands of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. In the real world, these islands share in many social, cultural and folkloric traditions while each region or even each island retains their own distinctions. So too with A Thousand Thousand Islands. There are eight zines as of this writing (supplemented by two zines of artwork and a volume of essays and fiction examining supernatural creatures from Malaysian folklore), each unique but part of a greater whole.

Each volume details places of interest, notable people and goods worth seeking out. Mr-Kr-Gr (2017) here is a kingdom ruled by crocodiles where travelers may not spend the night. There are random tables — this has one for type of demon idols and one for identifying traits of crocodiles. If it weren’t for the tables, honestly, you’d hardly realize the zines are for RPGs at all. They read more like wistful travel journals rather than sourcebooks. In fact, this is one of the most beguiling features of the series: it is powerfully written and full of poetry. That’s something I don’t think I can say about any other RPG book — their prose is too often preoccupied with being either weird or useful. Here Siew weaves songs that often feel personal in addition to being useful to an RPG.  All the while, artist Munkao gives the poetry weight and gravity through detailed landscapes and emotive portraits. You can get as lost in his illustrations as easily as you can in Siew’s words. Between the two of them, the result is a world that is beguiling. No matter how many volumes come out, I’m left feeling like I’ve only caught a glimpse and that there is so, so much more to see.

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