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The Nightmare War
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The Nightmare War
Publisher: Old Kingdom Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2007 00:00:00

The Nightmare War is a campaign setting (called a campaign gem) from Old Kingdom Games. The zipped file is sixteen megabytes inside, and contains four PDF versions of the same file, as well as a readme file. The four PDFs are the full color version of the book, a black and white version, and a printer-friendly version of each that lacks page borders or the front cover. The files are one hundred twenty-five pages long, including the cover.

The book does a good job with illustrations and graphic design, particularly in the first section. Things like scribbled notes in the margins of files, or pictures of actual people in medical gear help to put the reader in-character. Having printer-friendly versions of both the color and black and white files is a nice touch, though it would have helped if one version had at least removed all of the artwork altogether.

The Nightmare War, interestingly, requires the use of the Fantasy d20 Core Rulebook I for use, instead of Modern d20. This seems like an oversight on the part of Old Kingdom Games, as it makes them have to recreate things like the Computer Use skill, or statistics for guns. Given that these seem to end up being somewhat similar to what Modern d20 has had for years, it is notable that those rules were eschewed.

The book is divided into three parts. The first one sets the tone, opening with a piece of fiction, and then giving the reader various in-character reports, files, handouts, and more. In the year 2035, global corruption seems on the rise, from corporate malfeasance to government scandals to violent crime outbreaks. What only a few people notice, however, is that all of this is related. Moreover, it has something to do with people termed nightwalkers, seemingly ordinary people who inexplicably began to have horrid nightmares every night, but found themselves imbued with extraordinary abilities at the same time. However, something is hunting them down?

This first part of the book does a very good job of establishing a feel for the campaign. By giving a wide variety of interrelated materials to the reader, it sets the tone for this corrupt near-future very well, establishing a fugitive mentality that is perfect for the campaign. In fact, it does this so well that it is conspicuous that this part of the book wasn?t packaged separately, so that GMs can hand it to their players to read. Printing this section out and handing it to the players is the first thing I?d do if I were running this campaign.

Part two focuses on the game mechanics of The Nightmare War setting. Five character classes are given, one for each kind of nightwalker. The classes seem slightly underpowered compared to Fantasy d20 classes, but roughly on par with what Modern d20 characters could do. Interestingly, here is where we first note that powers and abilities apparently don?t use the various Ex/Su/Sp tags, which may be slightly irking if you bring in other products to use in this campaign. New skills and feats are presented next, followed by equipment.

Part three is a mix of fluff and crunch, and is intended for the Game Master only. Here, the truth is revealed about the nightwalkers, and what is happening to the world. It also gives templates for the phages, the creatures that hunt the nightwalkers, as well as their special abilities and feats just for them. Several important NPCs are given stats, and thirteen different NPC classes are given, to represent ordinary people. The book closes out with some listed references, a glossary, and character sheets for each type of nightwalker.

Altogether, The Nightmare War has a spectacular campaign idea, but only does an okay job of fleshing it out with d20 game mechanics. It bears reiterating that this would have been a far better product if it had availed itself of the Modern d20 rules. Without them, it is forced to reinvent the wheel in several places, and doesn?t address things like using more standard modern fantasy staples like psionics or even magic in this setting. The Nightmare War is a campaign gem to be sure, but it could have benefited from greater polishing. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: This book did a spectacular job of presenting a fearful atmosphere. The first section really sucks the reader in, and presents a world caught in the gaze of an absent horror.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: This book should have used the Modern d20 rules, and focused more on fleshing out the mechanics with that. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>

[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Nightmare War
Publisher: Old Kingdom Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2006 08:46:41

An RPG Resource Review:

The intent behind this work, and the whole Campaign Gems series, is to provide a single-book campaign with sufficient material and background to enable you to run one-off adventures or a whole campaign from just the one product. In this, The Nightmare War succeeds admirably.

It starts off with a short story designed to set the scene: a dystopic near-future where the action takes place mainly in the underclass. From here, the first section is pure flavour and background, laying out the situation in which the characters will find themselves. It is 2035, and much the same as now with perhaps a bit more of a divide between the haves and the have-nots, a greater tendency for disasters natural and man-made to sweep the world and so on. Beautifully and atmospherically presented, much of this first part could be printed as handouts to set the scene or documents that the characters discover.

The characters start out as normal... but something seems to have changed. They have begun to get truly horrible nightmares, and find that they are developing weird powers. Oh, and someone (or is that something?) is after them, apparently with the intent of terminating them with extreme prejudice. The game can focus around pure survival, or an attempt to find out what is going on.

The second section provides the rules materials you need to create characters. Instead of character classes, they are classified by which particular group of 'special powers' they have begun to develop. Here I need to raise one difference of opinion with the authors, as a D20 System book they naturally rely on a Wizards of the Coast core rulebook for certain aspects of character generation and advancement... and refer to the Player's Handbook while I feel it would work better if you use D20 Modern, hence having put this product into the D20 Modern section of RPG Resource.

The power groups are well-designed and balanced, allowing characters to develop mental or physical abilities or even an affinity with machinery. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and all suffer these dreadful nightmares (don't read about them if you are on your own at night!). There does not appear to be any rhyme or reason why someone acquires these powers, there's just a sudden momentary disorientation and you suddenly find that there are things you can do that you could not do before. Pick up other people's thoughts, perhaps, or run an awful lot faster than you did before...

The characters section also outlines skills and feats, both new ways of using existing ones and plenty of new ones (feats in particular) specific to this setting. There are also a few notes on technological developments and likely equipment, although it's kept quite low-key as befits the intention of 'ordinary' characters to whom something extraordinary has happened.

The third and final part of the product is intended for the game master. It explains what is really going on, and how to use this to create exciting one-off adventures or build a complete campaign using this particular setting. There's a lot of background information and a good array of 'monsters' and NPCs (some friendly, many not) with whom the characters can interact. It is sprinkled liberally with ideas for adventure and for longer-term plots.

Overall, this is a very good product, taking a basic concept and developing it into something that will run easily with no more than a couple of read-throughs of the material presented, and generating some characters. A full introductory scenario might have been an advantage, but there are plenty of ideas which can be developed into one with minimal effort on the game master's part. In terms of its intention of being a whole campaign in a single book, it has suceeded extremely well. If you fancy a bit of near-future horror, give it a try!

For more product information & reviews, visit http://www.rpg-resource.org.uk/

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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