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Upper Heleng (2019)

Upper Heleng (2019) is a primal, seemingly sentient forest. Time and the Forest had children together. They are largely unpleasant — leeches that steal things besides blood, living gibbon-shaped beehives, a moth-faced man who can appear like the dead. They’re disturbing without being unpleasant, facets of an ecology that feels balanced even as most of it remains obscure.

There is a novel insert for traversing the forest, a large fold out with boxed text detailing different features. Toss dice, where they land charts the path. If the total of the dice is even, the way through is a waterway. If the total is divisible by three, there is a camp in one location. There are also profiles of characters the players might meet. Most are relatively normal. One is an itinerant swordfish lugged around by his friend, one of the strongest men alive — this is a key indicator of how weird some of the future NPCs are going to be.

I mentioned the poetic feel of the text. This zine has one of my favorite intrusions of modern language — cut down a tree at the edge of Upper Heleng and the “forest shuts like a refrigerator door.”

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