Every halloween I treat myself to a horror-themed RPG purchase.
This year was no different except I didn't limit myself to one.
So here are my Halloween RPG gifts to myself and what I thought of them.
Mutants & Masterminds Threat Report #43: Dracula
Drac is one of my favorite villains of all time and he is especially fun in a Supers game. I really liked what they did here and the plot hooks are good ways to pull Dracula into your games quickly.
Savage Worlds Horror Companion
I am not a huge Savage Worlds fan, but you can't say I don't give the game a fair shake. I also keep getting books for it in hopes that I begin to feel some of that same love that others do for this game. I thought this one might do it. But no.
Now don't get me wrong, this is a fine book.
There is a lot of meat here (145 pages). There are new Hindrances and Edges for heroes (though a lot of the horror standards are in the main core book) There are even ways to make monsters into friends (to quote the late, great Joey Ramone) or rather to make monsters into Player Characters. I particularly like their Dhampyr and might yoink it for Unisystem. There are new weapons, not as extensive as the listings in some other games, but still fine, though if you wanted to do "Savage Ghostbusters" or even "Savage Blade the Vampire Hunter" then everything you need is here. There is an obligatory section on sanity. It is better than most, but I still don't like it (AGAIN that is more about me as a former QMHP than as a gamer). There is a good section about Rituals and one about Magick (with a k) that does much in strengthening what I have always perceived as SW's greatest weakness, it's magic system. Lots and lots of great monsters too, much more than I expected. So this is a huge plus. The book falls down a bit at the Game Mastering Section. But in it's defense what it does cover is perfectly suited to a Savage Worlds game. So SW Gamemasters can start here and then move out to other sources to get more info. All in all this was a good purchase.
Believe it or not, I Am not a huge fan of Zombie games. I love All Flesh Must Be Eaten, but as an addition to my WitchCraft/Ghosts of Albion games. Rotworld will be similar.
Produced by Daniel Proctor of Labyrinth Lord and GORE fame, Rotworld capitalizes on the 5 billion dollar a year business of Zombies (As of October 2011). RW uses the old Time Master system that Proctor bought from Pacesetter. He did not however buy Chill, so he can't say it is compatible with Chill 1st Edition. But with some work it is and that is why I picked it up. I love Chill and plan to see what sort of goodness Rotworld could add to a Chill game. OR the other way around. Either way this small game (65 pages) packs a punch and shows that "Old School Gaming" is more than just making the next retro-clone of Holmes Basic or AD&D 1st ed. I hope Rotworld is successful so Goblinoid Games does a generic horror game with this system. There are not a lot of monsters in this book, outside of zombies, but there is plenty of text on character creation, combat and skills. There is a good Game Master section (Corpse Master) about how to setup and run a game.
Rotworld is a fine game. It won't unseat AFMBE as the premiere Zombie survival game out there, but it is a lot of fun and great for an evening's distraction or even gathering up a bunch of friends with fond memories of gaming in the early 80s.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
The Necromancer is the first in a set of alternate classes for the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG. Adventures Dark and Deep is an interesting "what if" experiment in gaming. The what if here is "what if Gary Gygax had not left TSR and headed the development of the AD&D 2nd Edition rules. Based on interviews, publications of the man himself at the time, and a healthy dose of conjecture, we get a game that is familiar yet new at the same time.
The Necromancer is one of the more popular "alternate classes" developed for any fantasy RPG. Almost always an alternate class and never a core one, the necromancer is the ultimate foe in many games or the ultimate PC in others. But as long as horror and undead are popular in game, then the necromancer is right there with them.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer packs a lot of punch in a small book. At only 24 pages, we get a new class, a "new" race and 75 new spells. No small feat really. The material is for the Adventures Dark and Deep game, but it certainly can be used with any retro-clone, near-clone or any other game that emulate AD&D 1st ed or Basic D&D. The art is mixed, but very evocative of the era. Some new pieces and some public domain works (and it looks like the editor did his research too).
If you like Necromancers and play an older edition of the game, whether an honest older edition or a newer clone, then this is a good choice.
Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other. In the end I think I just need to review the product as is. Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D. Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales. This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book. These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example. There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom. Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level. Interesting. I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one. It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid. She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons. Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars. A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book. Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here. There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).
Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book. In the end this is a very good evil witch class. It does make me wonder how the author might do a good witch.