Posted on September 24, 2004 by Flames
Published by Flying Mice LLC
Let’s walk through the book, and examine the contents as we go. After a brief introductory story which is continued in series throughout the rest of the book, Blood Games launches immediately into their version of the secret history of the world. Here we find that a universal savior of sorts (known alternately as Norandon, Prometheus, etc.) has given humanity the ability to fight back the “Creatures of Night”, such as werewolves, vampires, demons, etc. Think “Warlock: The Armageddon” with its hidden society of witches. All in all, the introduction lays out a limited groundwork for the nature of games, including basics of how magic is used and constrained. Where the introduction falls short, however, is that the authors seem to have forgotten that we’ve never played this game before. Consider the following entry, from just six pages into Blood Games:
“The silver cord has a constitution equal to 10 times the sojourner’s endurance. A demon who severs the silver cord of a sojourner can catch hold of the end of the cord 10% of the time and be pulled into the lifeless physical body of the sojourner, reanimating it without opposition. This type of demonic possession cannot be reversed by exorcism, as there is no soul there to make a Test of Faith.”
While most people familiar with RPGs will be able to make at least an educated guess as to what this means, it is relatively useless to the new gamer. Here is a free piece of advice: separate game mechanics from introductory descriptions and background history. Core source books need to detail everything from history to mechanics to game play and inspirations, and these should ideally be split up so they (1) can be easily referenced, and (2) follow a natural flow of description, from general ideas to specific implementation. After a brief bit of detail explaining the types of group members that can be played (which slowly turns into an explanation of game types – once again, split up sections please!), we conclude the introduction.
Next we come to character generation. Once again, it would seem the authors assume we have played this game before. Consider this statement:
“If Physical Deterioration is appropriate, take care of that just as you would while generating the character. Remember your character is having adventures all the time, even while you are generating him. You may not always act adventures out. There is no difference between a year which has been generated and one which has been acted out.”
From this, are we to assume that age is the determination of level? What is “Physical Deterioration” and how should we know if it is appropriate or not? Or, for new players to RPGs, what is a “GM”, which is also not described? As we find out shortly, the leveling system is based upon profession and promotion levels… and character generation includes simulating schooling. Herein is the first truly novel idea, as it provides a reason for the “freebie points” common in other games. The character can be sculpted by the experiences you choose, and the reason for that boon in strength can be explained. This also should serve as an aide in creating the character’s history (something that many new players have trouble with). At 19 pages, the list of schools and professions could stand to be shortened down into a condensed table format, but the general idea is good.
The rest of this book is created in a manner very similar to d20 systems. The standard equipment, weapons, skills descriptions, action systems, status descriptions, settings, character sheets, and enemies are found, each described in adequate detail to allow for their integration with the game.
The character sheets should definitely be mentioned, however. Blood Games has taken a very basic design and sculpted it to accommodate beginning players, including year-by-year histories of professions and schooling, background information, and simple equipment sheets. While not the most aesthetic, the sheets do provide a nice framework for the kind of information that will allow the character to evolve beyond the simple “Cambion with two katana and a 24 strength!” into a fully-formed individual. In fact, it would be nice to see official sheets of this nature created for the more popular games, although many GMs (such as the author of this review) already do this.
Well, time for the “in short.” In short, is this game designed well and ready for a group of serious players? Not yet. While the systems are very straightforward, and some time has been spent on the background idea, it lacks the detailed background and epic feel of many of its competitors. The authors need to spend more time revising the order they have placed their information, and work on fleshing out a world that they seem to have merely penciled in and then left, and the table designs and layout also need revising. While the innovative schooling system and professional level system do add to the mutability of the game, they cannot stand on their own. More work needs to be done before this system will woo away the major gamers of today.
Reviewer: Brian Mork