Monday, May 28, 2012

Tommy's Take on Dark Harvest: Resistance

Last week I reviewed Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein, an interesting alternate history set in the closed-borders country of Promethea, better known to you and I as Romania. Now, I've been given the opportunity to review the Resistance supplement in advance of its release.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The cover lists a retail price of $29.99, but you can buy the PDF at RPGNow for $16.99. The core was about 216 pages in PDF, this one is about 177. The art in this line is typically gorgeous, and the cover of Resistance, showing a Frankenstein-ish creature being shot in the back as it carries a woman to safety (at least, that's how I saw it), is no exception.

The book opens with a couple of foreword type pieces before launching into a comic which didn't really hold up the quality of the fiction or art in the first book.

The first major section of the book is an essay covering the Resistance, where we find out that they occasionally spread propaganda that may be exaggerated in order to draw extra ire against the government. Personally, I think this is at least somewhat forgiveable, given the horrific abuses present in the government. This chapter goes into detail on their methods as well, including how they generally strive to strike targets in ways that aren't immediate threats to innocents, and how sometimes two secret cells occasionally clash without realizing they are techically on the same side. It's not an easy life, with "retirement" usually involving meeting an accident and Resistance members often working with a depressing lack of equipment. Some helpful advice is given on running the Resistance, noting that they often times have to get their hands very dirty and that they are very much up against the wall.

Next up are the Promethean authorities. Here we get it reiterated that Victor Frankenstein's country is partially the result of people abusing the advances he brought them and not entirely the end result of his goals. Road to Hell, good intentions, all that. In fact, it establishes that Frankenstein has become more and more consumed with his work, leaving the actual running of Promethea in the hands of others, which has contributed to the more vile excesses of the nation. We also get a sidebar that perfectly exemplifies the paranoia of Frankenstein, revealing that he completed the first anti-aircraft weapons while zepplins and airplanes were on the drawing boards in order to ensure that the Promethean borders remained protected. We also learn that the idea put forth in the core rules that the military are nothing more than mindless footsoldiers of Frankenstein is an exaggeration. While some augmentation has been used to control some soldiers, most are lockstep with him due to his treatment and promotion of the military. Some tips are provided on playing as military instead of Resistance.

The next chapter talks about the more subtle forms of resistance going on, like the pamphlet spelling out the moral case against Frankenstein, which nearly drew him into an open debate with his detractors. There is also the group known as The Will of Frankenstein, complete zealots who hang on his every word...and act on them with brutal efficiency.

A slew of map layouts for military bases are also provided.

Like with the first book, this one also includes three pieces of short fiction, including a very important story detailing the first encounter between Frankenstein and the Creature since the Resistance began.

All the setting stuff out of the way, we move onto rules material, starting with an overhaul of the money system, placing everything in the currency of Promethean leis. A broader selection of weapons are also provided, ranging from melee weapons to a variety of firearms, from derringers to machine guns. Even a list of vehicles, from canoes to cars.

New rules include combining effort on actions, various weapon effects (like using suppressive fire), and new augmentations like Small Hands (for finer manipulation) and quadruped adaptation, allowing you to run on all fours! A step by step example of character creation is also provided.

More NPCs are also provided, with a mix of generic stat blocks (presented in the same manner as the core, with plot hooks for each) as well as fully fleshed out NPCs with names, personalities and art.

An introductory adventure is provided, using five characters kidnapped from a circus, augmented, and set loose to be hunted. Unlike a lot of intro adventures assuming a certain amount of characters, instructions are provided up front for scaling the adventure down if you have less than five. Outside of the introductory scene and the end scene, the rest of the adventure can be played in any order, the hunters are some unique...and horrifying...adversaries. Especially The Hound. I'm somewhat glad no art was provided for him. If the PCs succeed, tips are provided on how to continue the adventure into a full fledged campaign.

The book concludes with an appendix (full of useful links for research), an index, full credits for everyone involved, and an ad for The Fires of Promethea, coming soon.

WHAT WORKS: Again, another book just jam packed full of material. It does a great job of showing the dark side of the Resistance and the noble intentions of Frankenstein and his military, establishing the shades of grey world. More augmentations are always nice, and I again love how the present the NPC stat blocks. The hunters in the introductory adventure are absolutely terrifying, in a great way. The fiction again does a nice job of bringing you into the world of Promethea.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I could never use the introductory adventure as a campaign launcher, because of the incredibly specific start (the PCs are circus performers) and it would be difficult to replace the pregens with home made characters. That said, I think it would, in fact, make a fantastic convention scenario. The comic short at the beginning didn't really feel like it added anything to the book (though it was hardly a huge strike against it, either).

CONCLUSION: You certainly don't NEED this book to run Dark Harvest, but it does alleviate some things that were missing from the first book (like a character creation example)...but if you LIKE Dark Harvest, there's a lot to like in this book, from a setting standpoint (the fiction, the essays on the Resistance and the Military) and from a game standpoint (the extra augmentations and NPCs, especially). I am very much intrigued to see what is coming in Fires of Promethea now.