Posted on June 8, 2009 by spikexan
Ed’s Midnight Tales (TWL0032) gives fans of Savage Worlds and Pine Box, Texas another forty-two pages of information ultra-helpful for both. As the title suggests, this is a brief collection of scenarios (mostly one-shots). The stories do not need to be interwoven, but could easily be fused together in a long-running campaign. The book is broken up into an introduction and five chapters, each progressive chapter offering a more detailed storyline for players.
Finishing out the book is a special edition of the Pinebox News, complete with strange articles and story seeds. The PDF comes in two versions, a typical version and a printer-friendly version.
While 12 to Midnight tends to focus on supernatural horror in modern settings, this collection doesn’t always include supernatural threats. Forest creatures and gang-bangers fill out of the ranks of things to fear. Since most players playing urban fantasy tend to look for the paranormal in everything, a run of the mill thief can be more surprising than a coven of witches.
There is no artwork in this game unless you count the full page art for the ad on the last page. The cover is a black and white photograph, which depicts the forgotten remains of an old building. All that remains is an open doorway leading to nothing. All in all, a good mood. The lack of artwork isn’t suggesting that there isn’t anything visually pleasing with the book. No, the book contains a map along with a slew of familiar icons (12 to Midnight games tend to have sidebars explained by specific members of their group). Beyond that, there isn’t any artwork.
The layout of the book keeps consistent with what one expects from 12 to Midnight. It’s a basic, clean read without distractions. I would have liked to see some borders or something to liven up the essentially pure text, but that’s a matter of taste. Most people probably are thankful that the “full” version of the PDF can be printed out with minimal hassle should they not want the frill-free version included. The printer-friendly version of the game is a notebook file that looks like the upload file the author sent in for layout. I’d have to say it’s the “friendliest” of the printer-friendly versions out there.
The introduction is a one-page explanation of where Wetterman’s inspirations for this collection comes from. It’s a case of childhood experiences and other familiar aspects to the author’s life. In short, he’s following the tenant of writing what he knows and making it enjoyable to boot. While the adventures are sometimes light, when the author does focus on details (such as how a demon may reroute hot wires to light switches) it shows a deep well of knowledge.
Chapter One (Big Thicket Adventures) details a dense forest in Texas along with a slew of plot hooks to get players into said forest. Most of these are just paragraph blurbs; however, three are fleshed out a little bit more with write-ups for revenants, Chupacabra, werewolves, and other creatures. Don’t expect a tremendous amount of detail about the forest; nevertheless, the text covers enough to get going. Three basic openers make for a night’s play or excellent addition to a longer campaign.
Chapter Two (Beer, Chicks, an Ouija Board, Pretzils, and a Demon) sounds like an elaborate name to an upcoming mid-season replacement on ABC. The wordy title leads into the role-playing heavy adventure in Ed’s collection of tales. There is a party at the heart of this game, which changes flavor once the Ouija Board is brought out. Fans of Hellraiser or the Nightmare on Elm Street movies will most likely get a kick out of this adventure once it gets into high swing. Although the author compensates for the meta-gaming problem with this scenario, anyone who has watched a horror movie ever is going to find it hard to suspend their player knowledge versus their character’s knowledge (hence the fact this is a role-playing heavy story). If the group is capable of suspending their own beliefs for awhile, this can turn out the be the most interesting game in the book.
Chapter Three (Soul Gazer) is more creature write-up than an actual adventure. I’ll call it a creature with seeds for support. The Soul Gazer makes for a damn interesting NPC or, well, Player-Character given the correct circumstances. Being the short nature of this chapter (four pages), I’ll leave my personal favorite within the book alone for the sake of future readers.
Chapter Four (Holiday Horror) lets Game Masters mix a little holiday spirit with their horror. This chapter offers another example of mundane horrors mixed with the supernatural, which I really enjoyed. Three scene-starters fill out this chapter with very distinctive stories.
Chapter Five (Goblin Friend) calls itself a “mini-adventure for four Seasoned-level players.” It can be altered for the needs of a particular game. This game deals with a goblin, an unexpected storm front, and MIB. For a troupe jaded on killing their way through problems, this lighthearted adventure is designed with protecting the monster in question. It’s an excellent change in pace.
The game wraps up with the Pinebox News. This is the factional news of Pine Box, Texas, coupled with story seeds and notes at the end of key articles. I love these newspapers in that they demonstrate the love of details 12 to Midnight’s writers strive towards. It’s one of their hallmarks and, to me, one of the better traits for a game to possess. They don’t bog readers down with needless junk, just enough to make it feel practical and realistic.
If I had to issue one-word reviews, my word for this book would be variations. This is not typical 12 to Midnight horror; furthermore, the contents of the book has precious little to do with each other (yet they would fit in a long-running campaign). My scores for this game are:
Artwork: Four out of Five Dice (Keep in mind that this is graded on one cover piece, I’m
not grading the ad).
Layout: Three out of Five Dice (too minimal for the “full” version.)
Writing: Four out of Five Dice (a bit minimal as well, but varied enough to keep me
Overall: Four out of Five Dice (good collection of stories for spur-of-the-moment games)
Review by Todd Cash