Posted on June 12, 2008 by Flames
Blood!: The Roleplaying Game of Modern Horror
Postmortem Studios (James Desborough)
Original Concept: Norley Tucker
Original Game Design: Norley Tucker, Paul Campion and Steve Osborn
Second Edition Writing and Layout: James ‘Grim’ Desborough
Second Edition Artwork: Gavin Hargest, Darkzel, Bradley K McDevitt, James ‘Grim’ Desborough and Paul Campion.
162 page PDF.
This second edition of Blood! updates an original game from 1990, although quite why the author wishes to do this rather than create a completely new game which just rips off (adapts) some of the original concepts is not clear. As author Desborough points out, this makes the game a little unusual in the current environment in that games now tend to be rules-light and high-concept, while Blood! is a comparatively rules-heavy game. There are, for example, something like 400 weapons which can be used, including a fishing rod and a knitting needle. There are also extensive critical hit tables describing what might happen to the human body when it is variously bitten, stabbed, crashed into by a moving vehicle, shot, electrocuted and so forth. These are generally quite graphic in nature and this underlines the principal approach to the game, which is that of the gorefest. This is a game in which the horror takes place in the centre of the stage and the audience, so to speak, will find the blood and gore splattered across their faces as they watch. Characters do not, on the whole, live long and players should prepare to die, horribly if at all possible, rendered to meat by zombies, psychopaths or the angels of pain, which look like Hellraiser ‘adaptations.’
The game contains a full set of the usual things in an RPG: an explanation of how to play, some notes on setting the right tone, character creation, skill checks and mechanics, combat rules, vile creatures from beyond the grave and the aforementioned critical hit tables. Character creation features nine attributes and these are rolled for with percentile dice. Some attributes have maxima and minima and others do not – players throw dice and then fit the score into an attribute of their choice (there is no re-rolling). This combines character design with some randomness in a way which will suit some but not all. However, given that characters are unlikely to last more than a few hours of game play, it probably is not worth getting too worked up about it. In addition to the nine attributes, there are various derived attributes including blood points, energy points and the like. Once these are calculated, players then spend points on skills and can choose a career which includes a package of different skills. This approach is always problematic since few people (well, me anyway) ever agree with the range of skills or whether the game mechanic should be modeled with a skill check as opposed to a role-playing effort. There are some nice touches here – this is a British game and so there are extensive rules for drinking alcohol without falling over and playing pub games like table football and shove halfpenny (well, pool anyway). The ‘parent’ career has as its primary skill ‘calm,’ which can be used to pacify not just ankle-biters but vile creatures from beyond the grave, with varying degrees of success. On the other hand, ‘driving (unusual)’ lumps together all non-standard vehicles, whether they are JCBs or helicopters or, presumably, mi-go brain cases mounted on parascending equipment.
The basic mechanic of the game is to roll under the relevant attribute with percentile dice on a roll modified by the presence of skill and hindered by untoward circumstances and enemy action. There are opportunities for critical successes and botches and the GM has some guidance as to how to deal with these. However, as is often the case, an inexperienced GM and party of players would flounder when faced with many of the less usual situations. On the other hand, do people ever play in a group with no or very little experience, without anyone present who understands RPG flows and processes? I suspect not and sometimes wonder whether this would make any difference to the way people write RPG material. Experienced players do not really need the introductory material and inexperienced players do not really get the hang of the game that way, do they? Surely the PRG experience has been portrayed often enough in popular culture – from the time of ET at least. Then again, on the third hand, with PDF technology there is no need to skimp on pages.
The section on creatures is perhaps the best, since it offers in addition to the basic concept and the relevant statistics some notes on how to use the foul things and some adventure seeds, which are useful although not perfect. The problem with the adventure seed as presented here is that they can act as a set-up for a combat but have little to say about developing a scenario or what to do once the combat is over. So, a vampire has taken over a night club – great, we go in and kill it. OK, now what? Another vampire is doing something else … Possibly I am too picky.
In terms of production, this is one of the better written game systems I have come across for a while and I even did not object to the pictures, some of which were as amusing as the jokes in the text. The page layout is reasonably clear and a large enough font is used that there is no need to magnify the page on the screen, which always makes files more difficult to read. It also means the layout people can have their fun with fiddly bits on the page behind the text which can be safely ignored. The author notes that the company intends to support the product with the usual range of stuff that companies always promise (and usually end up with lists of guns and combat-centred scenarios).
This is a nice, well-packaged product which should provide sufficient rules for players to be smeared graphically across the pavement by zombies wielding cricket bats and pointed sticks. No doubt an expansion will cover deadly assault with pieces of fruit as well. It is certainly worth having a look.
Anyway, make it moist!
Review by John Walsh
Look for Blood! eBooks at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.