By Thilo Graf
This pdf is 27 pages long, 1 page front cover and one page OGL.
That leaves 25 pages of content and here is where my review splits into one short and one long version:
The short version is for all the people who purchased “Darkness & Dread” by Fantasy Flight Games in the 3.5.-days of old. This is an update of those rules to Pathfinder RPG – id est, you won’t really find new content within these pages.
The long version:
The pdf starts with an introduction to a health system, an alternative to the hit point system. I’ve got 6 years of experience with this system and tell you: It’s a great system, but spellcasters need to be balanced. In “Darkness & Dread” this was done via rules that drive people who cast battle magic insane. Without this, it severely favours casting classes, so be warned. It’s a great system but it might need some tweaking and adjustment at higher levels as the original was written for characters of levels 1 – 10 with special, weaker, base-classes that are absent in this pdf. At level 6, I had to adjust the system with my homebrew modifications to keep it working.
After that, we get a system of wound levels and injuries, similar to what some of you might know from e.g. Shadowrun. The system works, but leads to PCs and NPCs spamming their hard attacks even more early on – strike hard and fast is the motto.
After that, we get a system of Fear, Terror and Madness, which is working in my Gothic Horror campaign for more than 6 years – it’s probably the best system for fear, terror and madness for dark fantasy out there and unless you want to go all CoC on your players, it’s working perfect. The huge number of quirks, disorders and final insanities help to make this system work.
Unfortunately, that’s where the pdf stops. I would have loved an update to the cthulhoid, unstoppable monsters of “Darkness & Dread”, the classes and ESPECIALLY the black magic rules that dished out madness to casters.
The pdf is well-edited, has several well-crafted systems that are easy to implement and features essentially what I’ve been playing with for several years. However: If you own “Darkness & Dread”, you might feel screwed over, as there are no new quirks, disorders or the lie within this pdf. I know that, had I known that this was essentially a repackaging of “Darkness & Dread” wouldn’t have bought it. That being said, you get three EXCELLENT systems for making your game more lethal, grittier and simply (at least in my opinion) DARKER with a capital “D” – a good deal for the price.
If you own “Darkness & Dread”, this is a one star product – you’ll feel like you wasted your money or got cheated out of it.
HOWEVER: If you don’t own said book and want to go for dark fantasy or just a more “realistic” approach, this pdf is awesome – shell out the bucks, for you, it might be a very good purchase and a 5 star-product. (Although I’d prefer the original hardcover due to being more extensive…)
My final verdict will thus be the middle-ground: While I belong to the first party, I’ll be professional and rate this an average of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 due to the fact that there possibly are more people who read this who have never heard of a certain book called “Darkness & Dread”, but who’ll nevertheless have to tweak the system to help with the spellcaster-issue.