Trying to fit a mythical idea into a role-playing game can be a difficult balancing act. The structured, balanced nature of an RPG is sometimes a bad fit for the vague and often poorly-defined nature of many old myths and legends, meaning that unless the author does some very creative designing, the end result can feel incomplete. That’s the impression I got from The Harrowed, by OtherWorld Creations.
The product is a very short one, being only three pages long (with the third page being the OGL). The majority of the first page is the cover image, which is reproduced in a smaller, black and white format on the second page, along with thin borders along the top and bottom.
The Harrowed consists of exactly two things (after the one-paragraph introduction): a spell, and the resulting template. Specifically, the spell, called Harrow, removes the target’s soul without killing them, and the Harrowed template is then applied to them. There’s nothing else here, which is perhaps why the problems with these new mechanics are thrown into such stark relief.
To be fair, very few of these problems are overt, though a few are. This spell, for instance, is eternal, but that means it’d be better served by the duration being instantaneous, rather than permanent (since the latter can be dispelled). Likewise, why does removing someone’s soul make them Chaotic Evil? Why are the Harrowed described as being emotionless, but become enraged when injured badly enough? There’s no explanation for these things, and it weakens the product.
The major problem, though, isn’t what’s here but what’s not here. There’s just not enough exposition on the effects of losing your soul, in any regard. Can Harrowed be resurrected if they die? Are they subject to a Trap the Soul spell? Can they be energy drained or made undead? Game mechanics are tied to flavor text, and if you alter one of those you need to look for all the places where it’s associated with the other, and deal with it. This product doesn’t do that, and that really makes it feel like a lot of things just weren’t considered.
Ultimately, this isn’t a bad book; it’s just one that feels unfinished. More needs to be done to really capture the essence of what it means, in the d20 rules, to lose your soul. Without that, this product itself feels like it’s been harrowed.