Friday, August 27, 2010

Tommy's Take on the API Demon Packs

I am reviewing these next three products together because of both the length of the titles and the subject matter involved.  The titles in question are the API Demon Packs 1 & 2, as well as the free Crooners supplement.

The Demon Packs micro supplements designed to add new demons to the mix, be they PCs or NPCs.  Each Demon Pack retails for $2.99 and includes a three demonic races.  Crooners is free and includes a single race.  No art is used in any of the entries, just pure text.

First, let's tackle The Demon Pack 1:

The first race present are the Naga, a race of devoutly religious vaguely humanoid snake men.  They lived perfect, idyllic lives of peace and labor until two vain Naga Queens, also sisters, pushed their followers into a war over who was the more beautiful.  This war raged until long after the Naga had forgotten the roots of the war, and continued even longer.  A handful of Naga on a special mission found themselves on earth, a Buddhist monastery specifically...where they had their warlike ways shocked back, and they reconnected with their spiritual roots.  Worshipped as divine beings but themselves enamored with religion, Naga went out into the world becoming consumed with learning about the various faiths and began taking an active role in the conflicts involving their chosen faiths.

The Naga get two Passions, the first being Faith and the second being player defined.  They also get a little combat prowess due to striking like a snake, regardless of actual training.  They absolutely abhor technology, however.  This means no cyborg Naga but it also means no e-mail Naga or cell phone Naga either.  This can cause a problem with travel as well, I would imagine.  Also, Naga largely fear magic and their reaction to another Naga learning magic is usually...violent.

The Jaguar Warriors are closer to the Wolf People or especially the Wendigos, in that they are animalistic demons who are very much from this dimension.  Like Wendigos, they are made and not born, selected by other Jaguar Warriors to join their bloody crusade. Many Jaguar Warriors prefer to feast on the flesh of humans, earning them no friends at API and any newly turned Jaguar Warrior that does not embrace their new life is brutally turned on and killed.

Jaguar Warriors are also known as Werejaguars because they can shift back and forth between human form, jaguar form and (sometimes) half-jaguar form.  They are also addicted to flesh, preferring human meat, and can use the Path of Blood like the Taylari.  They also have a hidden, hazardous weakness that I won't reveal here for any potential players that may be reading.

The last race in the first pack are the Hopkins, who may well be the source for all the crazy talk of “Grays”.  Hopkins lived real basic, solitary lives in their own dimension, feeding off of the star there until things we wonky and they started zapping through dimensions, with some crashing here on Earth. 

Mechanically, their big deal is that once a day or so, they have to release pent up energy as an EMP burst or they develop a major glow.  That burst can zap anything around them, including shorting out a cyborg's implants, making them bad candidates for teaming with cyborgs.  They are small, featureless humanoids, looking a lot like the aliens people have come to call “Grays”.

Demon Pack 2 first gives us Dunbars, which are giant rock monsters.  They hail from another dimension, but have spent a great deal of time in our own, and are responsible for Stonehenge in the API reality.  The only thing they devour is other stone, and they cannot stomach synthetic building materials like concrete.  Upon death, they revert to inert stone, appearing to be random, abandoned statues.

Not only can Dunbar shapeshift into other stone forms, but they can also possess other stone constructs.  However, they have no fine manipulation skills and they have a voracious appetite though, unlike some other races, they eat stone and not flesh or the like.  Three days without hitting their allotment of stone and they starve to death, turning into giant, dead statues.

Grandels add to the list of aquatic races in API, fitting in nicely with the options provided in the Lochs book.  They are basically giant, humanoid Angler fish, hailing from a dying planet in another dimension.  They haven't made any attempt to adapt with human society like Lochs have, only recently encountering Lochs and having their eyes opened to a much wider world.  They have a built in story hook, as a statue of one of their Gods has gone missing and could be used to suck them away, back to their home dimension.

Though they are often struck by Earth as they explore it, they aren't often cowed...and they look pretty ferocious themselves with giant teeth and an eerie glow (being like angler fish and all).

The final race in the 2nd Demon Pack are the Olivers, a whole race of impish rapscallions, taking their name from the Charles Dickens character Oliver Twist.  Pretty much sneaks and thieves, they still get work with API because of being so sneaky and fearless.

Olivers have razor sharp hairs on their bodies, and so tend to wear larger than normal clothes, adding to the “street urchin” look and helping the Demon in the Trenchcoat rule.  They also have the interesting ability to mentally “steal” items, so long as there is no solid obstruction between them and the item.  However, they can rarely resist a dare...even one that's not directed at them.

The final race (and product) is a free download released by Third Eye Games called Crooners...and it is an adaptation, essentially, of Lorne from the TV Show Angel, released after actor Andy Hallett's death.  Now, Angel is one of my favorite shows ever, and Andy Hallett's death was an utter tragedy brought on by medical issues beyond his control and not self destructive lifestyle choices, which makes it all the worse...so do I approve of the “Crooners”?  Darn straight.

Whereas Lorne was an exception among his people, Crooners are written as being the standard for their race and, unlike many other races, they didn't travel to Earth...API found them.  API fought to liberate them from the giants that held them as thralls, and the Crooners that came to Earth have rather fallen in love with its music.

Crooners are not fighters, and are a useful alternative to Oracles, as they have some sense of the future without all of the crazy bad luck effects that the Oracles tend to have.  Mechanically, they are based very much on Lorne, being able to read auras by listening to people sing, but only being able to advise the subjects of the reading in general terms.

Are they worth the cash?  Well...not if you hate API, obviously...but if you do, I think you're crazy.  Entitled to your opinion, yes...but crazy.  Crooners are awesome and free, while the only real strike against the Demon Packs is the lack of art, and that was due in large part to budgetary concerns.  However, you can get the Demon Packs together in a $5 bundle.  My thoughts on the races themselves?  Werejaguars are going to be MUCH better antagonists than PCs...and Olivers might just invoke the hatred people had toward Kender back in the heyday of Dragonlance.  I really dig the implementation of the Crooners, and the Naga and Dunbar are rather cool.  There is nothing bad here...if you like API, my recommendation is to pick up the Demon Packs.