Posted on January 20, 2009 by Flames
12 to Midnight’s Skinwalker (TWL-0021) is a modern horror campaign using the fictitious town of Pinebox, Texas as its setting. I reviewed the “Savaged” version of the rules, but a D20 version of the same campaign exists. The PDF, which is sixty-plus pages, comes in a regular and printer-friendly format (I suppose that makes it 120-plus pages). As with most of 12 to Midnight’s products, the attention to detail is the first aspect that pulls in the reader. They love their haunted town so much that fans can visit their website (www.12tomidnight.com) and print out their own map of the city. This attention to detail is why the scenario never puts in the “you can adjust this campaign to fit your own setting” speech. They went ahead a built the town you would need to create for the campaign.
While on the topic of cartography, the game’s maps (there are six of them) and artwork compliment the writing and make wonderful game aids. Jessica Van Hulle’s grisly cover art depicts the scenario’s villain shrugging off the skin from one of his kills. The maps by Craig Largent are helpful game aids, especially when using the Savaged Worlds system. Game Masters can print out extra copies of the maps (the way to go) or simply scrawl out copies using the maps as blueprints (good in a pinch). Either way, the maps enrich the game.
The interior artwork mostly captures key moments from the adventure. Exceptions to this are the sidebars, which have cartoonish “guides” answers from the detailed (Texas Gun Laws) to the more abstract (love interests in the adventure). These sidebars are informative little beasts which are to be respected! The artwork throughout the book leaves a little to be desired, although some pieces capture exciting adventure moments really well. For example, page seven offers three crows on a limb. Yep. While on page ten, there is a fabulous depiction of the incident that brings the players into the game. The artwork just went back and forth for me, causing it to be mostly forgettable.
The layout of Skinwalker is wonderful, even when the game can sometimes backtrack. I recently reviewed another game where the outline could be fluid at times. I wish Skinwalker had followed only one idea from that book, which was to put the NPC stats within the adventure where they were prudent. By the time I read the book, I had to recheck a few of the NPCs in order to refresh myself on them because, well, there are several (nearly thirty) statted-characters in this adventure. If they had been dotted throughout the book, this minor hiccup could have been avoided.
I’ll break the writing down into two components, which are meat and seasonings.
The meat of the game deals with the players’ involvement in a week-long revenge scheme by the Skinwalker. This is a sensible multi-faceted plot that is broken into three parts. The first section depicts things that will happen, the second deals with things that could happen, and the final section is reserved solely for the climax. The adventure reads much like an episode of Supernatural as the players should be Novice or Seasoned (and most likely powerless). The game is loaded with NPCs and a killer who can look like any of them. Saying much more about the core plot wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors. I found it immensely pleasing my first read through.
Game hints litter the book, offering its seasonings. I found most of these hints either funny or informative. Page eight details the Skinwalker’s agenda should the players not get in his way. The author also offers nice “endings” for groups that ignore key plot moments. Is this railroading? Maybe a little, but suggesting instant death to the cowardly chaps who ignore a scared, crying girl in the woods somehow sits just fine with me. At the least, a ten minute game that ends with an unexpected meteor shower bombarding each player frees up the night.
RPGs sometimes get tied up with their advice, choosing to rehash old advice with a new paint job. This adventure doesn’t break any new ground when it comes to enhancing the game; however, the specifics of what Blakemore suggests does indeed do this. An example of this comes when the author explains how to best set the scene for this particular adventure (pine incense, antlers, and a bonfire are ideal). I think by specifying things to such length the author not only shows game masters how to make this adventure work well, but also how to make other adventures work equally well.
Skinwalker is an excellent one or two night adventure for players who are interested in trying something from Savage Worlds. It permits quick immersion into an intriguing story.
Also, the adventure is a good read, one I could mine far beyond the confines of the scenario. For less than ten bucks, I’d consider it a safe bet for an enjoyable pick-up game. This leads me to give it four out of five dice.
Review by Todd Cash
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