A Little Background
Rehendi Prison ? The Grave is a supplement for HinterWelt?s space opera RPG ?Nebuleon?. For those who are unfamiliar with the system, it?s not dissimilar to D20 involving as it does those old friends ?character classes? and of course ?character level? although in a much simpler manner. It is peculiar in that while the player uses a D20 for making attack rolls in combat, all non-combat orientated skill rolls are made using a combination of percentile dice and tables. Copious amounts of tables. Hit locations are involved. No, it?s definitely not a system that will appeal to those who prefer a quick-and-easy resolution, but it does make a refreshing change for a simulationist who has grown tired of D20 and the background information is original and absorbing.
Back on Track
So that?s Nebuleon, but what of this supplement? The PDF weighs in at a petite 32 pages for the core of the information, with a four-page map of the eponymous prison complex and a likewise four-page PDF of the world that it orbits in separate files for a total of 40 pages. Let?s start with the maps. The first thing you?ll notice about them is that although they are (for the most part) quite competently drawn, the detail is very small and their resolution is very low. This makes them rather difficult to read. I also found that in some cases they were inadequately labelled. Certain of the maps are cluttered up with all manner of hi-tech set dressing with no clear function and there is no key beyond scale markings. Likewise I have no idea as to how the two maps of Mine 212 connect up and can only presume that one represents the surface portion and the other is underground. There are several areas of the underground section that could correspond to the ?mine entrance? on the above ground section, but since none of the underground is labelled at all I can?t tell which it really is.
The world map is one of those height elevation maps that anyone who has seen the Nebuleon core rulebook will be familiar with. Different shades of colour correspond to different heights of terrain with a handy little chart that gauges the precise height. It?s not particularly attractive but it gives you the information you need to know, which in this case boils down to being the location of the various mines on the planet?s surface. There is also a system map showing the other planets orbiting the same sun, although this map is of negligible use and takes up an entire page to itself, most of which is white space.
Although two separate map PDF?s are provided for the convenience of printing, most of the maps are also featured in the 32-page main pdf. Since in places these maps bridge across the middle of a two page spread it?s easy to see why the clearer version was included, but I can?t help wondering why they weren?t simply given their own pages rather than being splashed across the centrefold as they are, forcing the text to be scrunched up into narrow bands around them. This lack of attention to text wrapping makes for pretty ugly and unreadable pages in places, particularly on page four where a tiny amount of text no more than three or four lines high appears directly underneath a large flow-chart diagram that dominates most of the page. It doesn?t help that the font used seems to be rather large, I?m guessing around 11 or 12 point. It seems a shame that these basic problems with layout weren?t addressed since otherwise the product is quite nicely arranged.
There are one or two pictures included in the PDF that aren?t maps, one in particular of which is very nice indeed but I can?t shake off the feeling that I?ve seen it in another Nebuleon book somewhere before. Mark Brooks has definitely done a sterling job on that front. The artwork does raise the question ?why is this PDF called ?RahendiB&W.pdf? when several pages are in full colour?? A printer-friendly version would have been a useful addition, but at least the pretty pictures are there in colour for those who want them in colour. Nevertheless what non-map art there is, is of a high quality and while it lacks a little in action it does at least illustrate the text adequately.
Spelling and grammar is scrappy in places, and quite a few sentences feel a little clumsily structured. The author doesn?t seem to have been able to make up his mind on how to spell Rahendi (Rehendi?) and both spellings are used in the product. The adventure included is also rather higgledy-piggledy and has a tendency to get ahead of itself and leave out important details. The actual adventure itself is mostly scattered through the sections that detail each area of the station and what players are likely to encounter when they arrive there. Once you sort out which parts go where it?s actually quite a nice little scenario, but it could have been organised so much better. Apart from the adventure the pdf also details a race of aliens, the Trigannitaroes (who are mercifully referred to as ?Trigs? for pretty much all of the document). There is a pleasant little discourse on this desert culture including a few notable characters, although these would have been greatly improved in value with a few more game statistics. It would have been nice if the Trigs had been presented as possible playable aliens rather than pure NPC fodder, especially since it would have taken very little to include a strip of statistic modifiers. Then again it wouldn?t take much for a fan of the system to convert the Trigs into a fully-blown PC race, so maybe this isn?t such a terrible omission. The book finishes off with a selection of NPC?s, and thankfully these are fully statted-up and ready to run with. A little more personal information would have been nice, but that is a minor niggle. The important thing is that the numbers are there.
A Prime Example of how PDF can make Reading Easier
As PDF?s go, the product has a comprehensive index that makes full use of the bookmarking capability of the format. Quick bookmarks are provided both in the text and in the bookmarks tab making it a breeze to find any little snippets of information that you might have lost. If a note says ?see comment X on page Y? you can be pretty certain that all you?ll need to do is click and Acrobat will take you straight to the appropriate page. This in particular is a feature I?d like to see more PDF authors making use of.
Since this review was written, HinterWelt have made some important changes to the document. First and foremost the maps are now fully labelled and 100% more useful. Some aesthetic changes have also been made to the system map which now looks a lot prettier. Certain layout issues have also been addressed, namely pictures that were in the middle of a two-page spread forcing text to wrap around uncomfortably are now on a single page making the document far easier to read all round. There is extended game information on the Trigs as well who are now fully statted out (a major boon for the GM in a hurry). I am leaving the original review in place for the reasons of comparison. It's nice to know that there are companies out there who are willing to make such drastic changes in the name of quality. All in all I think the alterations made fully warrant the extra star on the rating. Well done HinterWelt for not dropping the ball in the after-sales service department.
LIKED: Good use of NPC?s, background detail on the prison itself and the Trigs is interesting if brief, excellent use of PDF format, excellent incidental art, intelligently priced.
DISLIKED: Still a few minor issues with layout but nothing sinfully bad any more, still not too fond of that big font but that's mostly my own personal preference I guess.
QUALITY: Very Good
[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]