Saturday, February 9, 2013

Houses of the Blooded: Wilderness [Flip-Through Review]

I've been a big fan of John Wick's Houses of the Blooded RPG ever since it came out. In fact, I went to my first Gencon in 2008 just to purchase it. Dude signed it and everything.

I only got to play it a couple of times (with my wife and her gal-pal playing a wicked pair of evil twins), but it was great smoky fun. As is the way of things, my interest in the game waxed and waned over the years as time passed and new games came and left my radar.

But I'm all excited about HotB again. Wanna know why? Because this thing came in the mail this morning...

We already had the skulls.
Yup, that's the paperback version of the new Wilderness supplement by Jesse Heinig. I backed the Wilderness Kickstarter (because I will back just about anything that John Wick Kickstarts) and today I got my dead-tree copy in the mail, plus a nifty new patch to put on my hipster-gamer messenger bag.

I haven't had a chance to read it thoroughly, but I have flipped through it, scanned passages, and read bit and pieces that grabbed my immediate attention. This here is my “Flip-Through Review” of the book.

I'm used to print-on-demand books at this point, and Wilderness is pretty high-quality. It's in the 9”x6” format that I prefer these days. The cover features dark text on a dark leather background, like a beast hiding in shadowed camouflage. The claw marks remind me of Werewolf: the Apocalypse, so take that as you will. The paper is a nice light beige color that gives the thing a “old and feral” feel and is of a decent weight. The black ink is a bit shiny in places, though. Sadly, some of the wonderful ork illustrations that look great in the PDF come out kind of muddied in print. That's PoD for you.

Flipping through, let's see what's in this thing. We have a new house, the Boar, with it's virtue of Tenacity. That will be a nice addition to the Horse in Josh Roby's Coronets but Never Crowns. The Boar are grungy mountain men living independently in the wilderness. Nice.

We've also got some new wilderness regions for your provinces, including volcanoes. Volcanoes! They cause a lot of trouble in your lands, but you can use them to harvest gems, smelt metals, and collect obsidian. Obsidian's useful for demonology. Wait, what? Demonology?

Yeah, demonology is in here too. Learning to summon demons is wicked easy but carries a hefty price. A first glimpse of the demons of Shanri remind me of the demons in Sorcerer. You summon them, you ask them to do something, they do it, trouble happens.

We've also got rules for unblooded adventuring parties. The aspects system in HotB lets these commoner troubleshooters take on the classic tropes of fighter, thief, wizard, etc. with a Ven twist. The book also talks about unblooded adventurers that toil and fight their way to nobility, becoming blooded “dirt nobles.” We've also got some stuff in here about the hedge magic used by commoners.

And then there's orks. So much information about the monsters of Shanri. We have new ork powers. We have write-ups of various ork species, including my favorite pulp villains, Serpent People. We have rules for ork vassals, and (holy katz!) rules for ork player characters. I thought the HotB core book was lacking in ork information. This book certainly seems to remedy that.

We've also got some new evil Suaven, including Mahl, Mother of Monsters, who's wicked awesome creepy.

The HotB core book has often been criticized for its poor organization (and I would sadly agree). Wilderness seems much better organized. The ork stuff is all in the ork section. The unblooded stuff is all in the unblooded section. Etc Etc...

I'm excited to have this book in my hands, and I can't wait to read it thoroughly. It's a fine looking book and, most importantly, it makes me want to play Houses of the Blooded again. Even with just a quick flip-though, I've already got a lot of ideas to drop into a HotB game.

  • A dirt-noble tries to arrange a good marriage between her son and one of the PC's daughters.
  • A neighboring domain whose noble has gone mad, letting “civilized” orks settle his lands.
  • A visiting noble causes a scandal when he brings his ork bodyguard to a party.
  • A gregarious demonologist is all-too-happy to teach a PC how to summon demons for just “a small price.”
Now that I have Wilderness, Houses of the Blooded has jumped into my queue for games to play after Monsterhearts wraps up.

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