May 222012
 

DH-art[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

If you lived in a world where hope is rarer than gold, where having enough to eat and a roof over your head at night was all you have to look forward to; where you could end up with someone else’s arms, or something else’s legs and life was as worthless as manure, you’d probably want to rebel at some point.

This is what this book is all about.

If you haven’t heard the interview with Iain Lowson in our podcast, it might be worth to have a go. If you don’t have the time, or don’t listen to podcasts, let me give you a quick recap about his game, Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein:

Dr. Frankenstein has got it right. He has found the secret to combine body parts successfully and create life. The Creature is born. The Creature becomes the Creature and despises his creator. His creator becomes immortal. He also becomes the king of Promethea. Oh, and he screws things up. Very, very badly, so the country is kind of a Yemen + North Korea type of regime where you can get chopped to pieces and reassembled for no reason. And it is pretty hopeless.

That is my way to summarise a whole setting into a paragraph. If you accuse me of being vague you’ll be stating the obvious in such manner that you’ll be wasting your time. That was vague. If you want more details, please do get the setting. I promise is worth it.

So, the Resistance deals with the side of things that is against Frankenstein and his not-so-utopian utopia wannabe country. So yes, this book covers how to deal with your enemies. No, you won’t have many friends, so it is to do with your enemies.

The first chapter of the book will guide you through all aspects of playing for the Resistance. From its origins, to its structure, equipment, bases, ethos, modus operandi and recruitment. Also a few hints on how to survive, though they won’t keep you alive for long if you don’t use your ingenuity. In a world where anyone can be a traitor on either side, trust comes at a price as high as hope. Probably higher.

I am reviewing this from a PDF, so I can’t tell about the quality of the printed product. If it is anything like the core DHLOF book, it will have a good soft cover and binding, with good quality paper and in black and white.

The format is a simple one. Two columns with an easy enough to read font and a good reading flow. The text is broken with inserts, which take the shape of parchment, and quite a few really lovely illustrations. The style of the illustrations is somewhat misleading to the atmosphere of the book, though. The style is slightly naive in its rendering. Although I have absolutely no problem with it (in fact, I really like it), you might be forgiven for believing the contents are less serious than they are.

Make no mistake. This is a dark, terrible and hopeless world in which surviving is an immense feat. In terms of dire needs and life difficulty, I would say this close in “darkness” to the Mistborn Adventure novels.

The chapter on the Promethean authorities is a bit shorter, but not less useful. It does cover all you need to know to add the authorities to your campaigns as your antagonists. Their structure and operations and also the ethos behind them. The focus of this chapter is more about helping the GM to bring congruence to the table when is about creating Promethean challenges. Why do they follow Frankenstein? Why are they so devoted? How would they deal with a prisoner? All the details that will help you give your campaign an edge to keep things consistent and true to the setting.

The following two chapters are about where the resistance is in the land and what shape their military bases take. Again these two are fairly short chapters. They are more guidelines with examples on how to create your own bases and help you decide what sort of operation they would have in, say, a village compared to a city.

The fiction chapter has one flaw. It’s much too short. The short stories told here are really great, with nicely defined characters and an atmosphere that gives you the exact idea of what sort of situation the people of Promethea and the Resistance have to face everyday. Despair is pretty much everywhere and the few moments of triumph do shine, giving a good benchmark for the elation of what it is to survive against an overwhelming odd. The stories do set ideas for characters very well indeed, and they are a nice touch to help both players and GMs alike bring the world to the table and make it credible.

Of course there is no war without fighting and fight you will. A lot. So a chunky chunk of the book is dedicated to give you samples of weaponry. Oh, before that, though, are a few pages about how to use the money to buy anything, like those weapons. Currency matters, and since you’ll be fighting for an organisation that is not meant to exist, you need to know how much costs everything and how much you can actually expect to pay for items you’re not supposed to have. You really didn’t expect to be able to buy anything easily, did you?

From how to conceal your weapons, what does a handgun do (and it might not do a log against some of your foes. Just so you know), to rifles which, contrary to popular belief, will probably be a man’s best friend. Or a woman’s. Yes friends, you will be grateful for the information on these weapons when you have a tank of a enhanced human being coming towards you wanting to rip you apart just because you had a dream of freedom. Trust me!

Like any good game designer (and he is one of them) Lowson hasn’t stopped thinking hot to make the game better and improve the rule set. Oh no! Rules clarifications and addition come to your aid and they are good. Issues that weren’t explored as in depth in the core setting are explored now, and new ways of enhancing people are also described here. This also includes a new character creation walkthrough, so any future characters can take these changes into account and not miss out a bit!

And just in case you need even more information to make sure you can place characters and NPCs in the world, there are a whole bunch of pre-made NPCs to keep you going for a while. 15, no less.

Lastly, the adventure at the end of the book will make sure you use every bit of information learned from this book. Designed with that in mind, it features locations that illustrate the sort of conditions and scenarios you’re likely to want to use in your own campaign. Well structured and with enough information to keep you going there, though don’t expect the perfect sandbox here. This adventure is there to show you the ropes of Resistance, not to provide with a long term campaing.

Conclusion

This book is a must if you’re into DHLOF. This book is also handy if you are running a campaign in another game where you need some dark, despairing and terribly difficult circumstances to throw at your players. Any turn of the century or WWII game would benefit from having some of the material in here, such as the hierarchy on both sides. I can also imagine this setting working very well with super-heroes!

The PDF is easy enough to read. I didn’t have many problems and the only thing I missed was proper indexing. Other than that, it did load quick in my device and it never crashed it, so I was happy to read this book for long periods.

Highly recommended for its gripping dark atmosphere, and for being a jolly terrific supplement to a terrific game. 4 well deserved stars!

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Paco G. Jaen

Born in Spain with a talent for dyslexia, I am gamer, player, graphic designer, photographer and psycotherapist. Also online magazine publisher and writer. Yep.. I do lead a busy life!