Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Friday, May 28, 2004

Interesting Novel - Tanith Lee's Venus Preserved...

Odd little novel.

Apparently part IV of a series, although not directly connected. Set in an alternate universe, where Venice was apparently called "Venus"

It's set in the future, in a new Venice, or maybe the old one, that is on the bottom of the sea. It's in a giant bubble. Kinda neat idea.

OGL Horror, very rough first draft

At long last, I finally got OGL Horror.

I was interested in this because I am looking for a modern d20 horror game that wasn't based on Call of Cthulhu. I like CoC, but the Cthulhu Mythos have jumped the shark, even more than that phrase has, plus I wanted something more broad in focus. Something that could be used to simulate things like Bureau 13, Friday the 13th: The Series, Poltergeist: The Legacy, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and even things like the various Hammer movies.

d20 Modern itself has been something of a turnoff to me, because at first I didn't like the class system used in it (though I now like it, seeing various alternatives that have worked poorly), but also because it feels too much like D&D in modern times. Urban Arcana, with it's gnoll pimps and D&D style magic system didn't help.

So, I was hoping OGL Horror would be at the worst, d20 Modern tweaked a bit for horror (similar to how OGL Cybernet was d20 Modern tweaked for Cyberpunk), with the silly fantasy gnoll pimp stuff removed.

To a certain extent, that is the case.

Much like how d20 Modern has an Occupation and then Base Class (or Hero Type), this has a Occupation and Base Class. Occupation is exactly the same as in d20 Modern, but instead of the 6 Hero Types (Strong Hero, Fast Hero, etc, each keyed to one attribute), there are only 4 classes: "Combatant", "Scholar", "Investigator", and "Ordinary People".

To a certain extent, this combination is a bit less flexible than d20 Modern, but it does pretty much fit the genre.

For instance, Kolchak (of Night Stalker fame) was a reporter, so he would be an Investigator. Mickey and Ryan of Friday the 13th: The Series would be Ordinary People, while Jack would be a Scholar. I actually never have watched Poltergeist the Legacy with the sound on (usually I just put it on because later seasons have this really cute blonde), but I get the impression they are mostly scholars or ordinary people.

It's not perfect, since the vast majority of people are simply shoved into a category called "Ordinary People". But at least they are accounted for, unlike d20 Modern itself. The only real quibble I have, is I think there should have been two sorts of investigator. Ones like police, FBI and such, who also have weapons training and access to vast databases of information, and reporters and amateur investigators, who mostly have to learn stuff by talking to people or use things like the internet.

There's actually not a huge difference between 3 of the classes. The combatant has a +1 to his base attack bonus every level, while everyone else gets the worst progression (+1 every other level). Instead of special abilities per level, like in d20 Modern or other games, characters just get feats.

So in d20 terms, this is actually somewhere between how Call of Cthulhu d20 and d20 Modern handles classes. As mentioned, it does seems to work pretty well, and you can simulate police type investigators by simply having characters alternate between "Investigator" and "Combatant".

Skills pretty much work exactly the same as in normal d20, and this pretty much reprints the d20 Modern skill list word for word.

Magic, Psychic Powers, and Faith

Appearance wise, this is probably the ugliest of the 3 OGL books I own (which are the first three OGL books, period). The cover is really dark - I never realized that was supposed to be a cheerleader on the cover of it until I actually held it in my hands. From the smallish pictures I've seen on their website, I thought it was a Scottish guy with a kilt and a mustache! Usually there is a slight line where the mouth region hits the cheeks, but it's perhaps overly pronounced in this picture, which to me, looked like a mustache when it was very tiny. Full size it doesn't look so bad. That's really funny.

The interior art is generally good, but is also generally pretty dark. So color is rarely taken advantage of. There are a couple of nice landscapes by the artist whose work I liked so much in OGL Ancients (comparing the two books, it might be Peter Bergeron, as he's the only one listed in both)

So, is this worth buying? Well, that really depends. The rules for characters are a bit better for horror than d20 Modern, being somewhat less cinematic and more realistic. The equipment, wealth rules, and some monsters are pretty much the same as d20 Modern (some tweaks and a few additions).

But the section on campaigns and running horror games is very good, and I really like the organization rules.

If you don't have d20 Modern, and want something to run horror games with, then this is a decent choice. It's not quite the definitive OGL/d20 Horror game I would have liked, but pretty close, and the compatibility with d20 Modern is pretty high, so you could presumably use things like the Menance Manual and the gun books without any conversion at all. It also should work well with RPGObjects excellent looking "Blood & Relics" occult/conspiracy campaign book and some of their other d20 Modern stuff.

I really would have liked more monsters, and I'm not sure I like how classes only go up to 10th level (though this is tied to how classes work in d20 Modern). To a certain extent, the type face is a lot larger than the one used in OGL Ancients, so I imagine that actually could have been a lot more room for more monsters and such.