Monday, October 17, 2016

Review: Bloodshadows Third Edition from Precis Intermedia.



I've been a fan of Bloodshadows since West End Games released it as a MasterBook setting. I even picked up the version for the D6 System. I was very excited when Brett Bernstein of Precis Intermedia gave me the chance to review the PDF of the Third Edition he has published.

Bloodshadows is set on the world of Marl where a war is going down between Law and Chaos, known as the Godwar. Basically take film noir detective stories and add in magic and monsters, with a healthy dose of Moorcock. The Maltese Falcon co-starring Mandrake the Magician and Dracula, calling itself Fantasy Noir.

This edition of Bloodshadows, it's third, is powered by the GenreDivision Third Edition rules.

Your Abilities are Fitness, Awareness, Creativity, Reasoning, and Influence. Abilities are rated from 0 to 6 or greater, with anything over 5 being beyond normal humans. At Character Creation, distribute 12 points amongst your Abilities, with none being lower than 1 or higher than 5.

Pursuits are your character's skills. Most are things anyone can attempt, but some are classified as Academic pursuit and require training. Pursuits are rated from -1 to +4. While Pursuits generally work with a particular Ability, they can be used with any of them. The different theories of Magic are Academic Pursuits. At Character Creation distribute 14 points among Pursuits with no rating higher than +3. I should note that you can choose Cantrips as a pursuit, as magic is very prevalent on Marl, and if you do you gain a number of them equal to your Reasoning Ability rating.

Gimmicks are very similar to advantages and disadvantages or merits in flaws in other games. They may have a Positive or Negative rating. There categories fro Gimmick are Ability, Cultural, and Special. The various powers of Marl's non-human races are built with Special Gimmicks. While the majority come from your Role and your Race, you may choose Cultural Gimmicks, but they must be balanced to 0.

Because of the Godwar, characters have must choose an Alignment with Order, Chaos, have broken an Oath with Order or Chaos, or are Neutral. Note that this decisions place you in a Faction, rather than guide your actions. Neutral recommend 

Marl is home to many Races, called Unnaturals, other than Humans. There are crossbreeds or magical hybrids such as Catarams (four-armed near humans), Elkists (ghoul/demon crossbreed that eat human organs and can make parts of their body intangible), Gris (magically created, squat, tough beings who eat garbage), Hugors (Human and Ogre crossbreeds), Humbus (the offspring of a Human and a Succubi/Incubi, Skethspawn (Crossbreeding of Humans and Sketh, thy are short, hair, and stink), and Skitter-Rats (Hairy humanoids with large eyes, long faces, and hairless tails). Demons such as Succubi or Incubi (they feed on emotion). Shapeshifter such as Face-Shifter (near-humans who can change their face), Grani (stone beings who can change their shape), and Werewolves. Undead, including, Ghouls (some are monstrous, but some can pass for humans), Orris (near-Humans with clay-like skin), Taxims (demon who posses Human corpses), and Vampires.

Each Race detailed features it's Alignment (which can vary), Gimmicks (with a random element), and it's average weight in pounds.

Roles are a character's job, and each provides a list of required and ecommended pursuits and two Gimmicks must be chose from list provided. A Role provides certain items at no cost. The Roles are Crook, Merchant, Newscribe, Private Detective, Sentinel, Socialite, Spellslinger, Streetsinger, Thug, and Average Joe.

Incompetences my be bought to, up to two, to increase the rating of a Pursuit.

From a Character Creation POV, GenreDivision 3E reminds me in some ways of a cleaner, better presented MasterBook.

There 9 Magic Pursuits used to cast Spells, Chronomancy, Elementalism, Necromancy, Photomancy, Somniomancy, Sorcery, Technomancy, Vitomancy, and Wizardry. They each allow a character cast a specific style of magic. There are 5 Pursuits used to create new spells, Alteration, Apportation, Conjuration, Divination, and Invocation. They are only necessary if a character wishes to create new spells. A character can memorize Spells from Casting Pursuit equal to it's Rating. This can be bypassed by buying expensive grimoires.

The base mechanic of GenreDivision 3E is Ability + Pursuite + 2d6  where a player wants to roll equal to or higher than the task's Difficulty (generally 8 to 18). Overkill is the amount you succeed by on a task. Negative Overkill can be important to some tasks and is how much you failed by. Rolling two 6's is a Triumph and grants an automatic success and you add an additional d6 to the roll to enhance your success. Double 1's are Potential Calamities, with a  Calamity occurring only when your Difficulty is 14 to 18. A Calamity is described by the Game Master or Director and can include the character gaining Tension.

In opposed task, the character with the great Overkill wins, in the event of a tie then the character with the higher Pursuit wins.

If you get 5 or more Overkill, depending on the task, you can use Exploits to galvanize your success based on the type of task and the rating of your Pursuit.

Health includes Fatigue and Injury (physical) and Tension and Mania (mental). Boxes are filled up as your take the appropriate type of damage. Padding (from Armor and additionally derived from Fitness) protecting from Fatigue, Armor (additionally derived from Fitness) protecting from Injury, Will protecting from Tension (derived from your Reasoning), and Ego protecting from Mania (derived from your Awareness).

A mark is an individual box of damage. A line is a whole row of damage completely filled. A grade describes the severity of damage you have suffered. Each of the types of Damage have five Grades.

Damage is calculated by the Overkill of an attack (physical or social) modified by any weapon (which also dictates the if the damage if Fatigue, Injury, Tension, or Mania.

When you take damage, the amount of protection above 5 is subtracted from the damage received. E.G. If a character is hit with 8 points of Fatigue and their Padding + Fitness is 6, then they take 2 marks of damage. Then a d6 is rolled for each mark and for each die that is higher than the protection (a max of 5) becomes a point of injury. E.G. I roll 2d6 and get a 6 and a 5, so I take 1 point of Fatigue.

When attempting task, the highest Grade of injury negatively effects a character's rolls. Grade 1 is no penalty, Grade 2 is +1 Difficulty, Grade 3 is +2 Difficulty, Grade 4 is +3 Difficulty, and Grade 5 means the character cannot act.

While one can create their own spells, this edition has quite a few for each Magical Pursuit. Each spell describes it's Difficulty to cast, Casting time, Range, Duration, and Feedback. Feedback occurs when a character fails to succeed at casting it. You start with the Spell's Feedback, add 1 point for every 2 points of Negative overkill, and add 2 if doubles were rolled, other modifiers such as your relationship to the Pursuit based on Gimmicks, your Alignment, and the number of casters involved apply as well. Take that number and add it to a d6 roll. Results include Tension, Fatigue or a roll on other tables that cause anything from vomiting to a wrong target to a physical change in the caster to a portal opening up.

Magic Theories allow a character to create their own spells, in their lab, not on the fly. The process seems less odious than than the MasterWork version. Tables help you calculate values from desired Effects, Range, Duration, and Casting time. Optional Elements such as area effect, charges, components (including gestures and incantations) are factored in. A Spell's Feedback help lower it's Difficutly. The first time you cast a new spell, it's harder, but when you succeed you can learn it for two experience.  It's a pretty neat feature.

The book is rounded out with advice for the Director, a bestiary of Unnaturals and creatures, the City of Selastos as a setting and two adventures.

I'll admit to having to study the section on damage a bit, but otherwise I'm very happy with this edition of Bloodshadows. I'm happy it's in print and I know Brett's a fine publisher. His company, Precis Intermedia has been publishing and distributing PDF and Print on Demand games for well over a decade. They have a great track record and I've enjoyed everything that I've purchased from them.

This edition lives up to my nostalgia and is a worthy edition to my library. I can't recommend it enough and you can buy it here.
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