It’s a long-held truism that the military is one of the most fertile grounds for RPG gaming in the modern world. By this, I don’t mean that military groups are more likely to play RPGs (though that may be true also); rather, if you’re playing an RPG set in the modern day, using the armed services as a backdrop for your PCs and/or the campaign gives you almost infinite possibilities for adventuring. In this regard, Blood & Guts 2, from RPG Objects, provides an incredible wealth of material.
I just want to note that, as you may have guessed by the use of 2 in the title, this is an update from the original Blood & Guts. Unfortunately, the original material wasn’t in my collection; given that, I can’t address this review in terms of what’s changed from previous versions. There are occasional sidebars in that regard, however, which makes it plain that some things have indeed changed. Beyond that, Blood & Guts 2: General Edition consists of nine PDFs (the last one being a printer-friendly compilation of the other eight), which I’ll try to go over in some detail here.
The first PDF is the Military Training Manual. Meant to serve as the introductory volume of the series, this covers the history of the American armed services, as well as their organization and breakdown. Already, this is incredibly interesting, even despite this being information that’s readily available elsewhere – I’d always wanted to know how the upper echelons of the military were organized, and now I know (and knowing is half the battle!). After this brief introduction, a series of new advanced classes are introduced, along with new uses for old skills (not new skills, which is nice) and a swath of new feats, including Military Occupational Specialty feats and Advanced Training feats. The PDF closes out with new rules on earning ranks and medals, and what those mean for your character.
By itself this PDF was enough to blow me away…and it was just the first of eight.
Now, a canny player or GM who’s been reading this review will be thinking “Okay, it all sounds cool, but military command has a lot of structure and procedures. That doesn’t lend itself to actual adventuring.” Fair enough – the answer to this is found in the second PDF, Special Operations Command. Basically, this PDF covers the special operations units that are small groups of soldiers sent in to accomplish a specific task in a specific location; the sort of thing that’s right of the alley of an adventuring group. A new advanced class lays the groundwork here, but the listing of a few dozen such groups, along with the benefits for being members of them, are what rounds out this book.
Combat Procedures, the third PDF, is shorter than the other two, but no less packed for what it contains. It starts off with listings for weapons and armor (including armor inserts and armor piercing rules), along with associated feats. But it quickly shifts gears to showcase various optional new rules. These are labeled as being “modern” “gritty” or “true grit,” which are meant to indicate escalating levels of lethality for your characters (and those around them). From hit locations, to mental strain from the horrors of war, to special options regarding vehicular combat, there are a great number of optional rules here that you can use to customize your modern military game. The PDF even ends with a discussion of three campaign options, noting what optional rules they use and what kind of campaigns they are.
The fourth PDF is the Battlefield Unit Combat System. This is exactly what it sounds like, being a short but nicely detailed set of mass combat rules. Surprisingly, this is fairly rules-light, largely being focused on what kind of unit each unit is, how experienced they are, their equipment, and the conditions they’re operating under. The rest of it is unit versus unit combat. I’m oversimplifying, of course, but the rules here do a fairly good job of allowing combat between groups of individuals, with even a sample combat being given at the end of the PDF.
The next three PDFs are all of a piece, so I’ll mention them all at once. On the Ground, Deep Blue Sea, and Wild Blue Yonder all deal with vehicles and vehicular weapons and equipment on land, sea, and air respectively. These books really have everything you’ll ever need in this regard, and quite honestly I doubt you’d ever be able to use all of these even in a full military campaign. I’m not complaining, as I think it’s great to be able to check the hardness and hit points of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, or know how much damage a Tomahawk cruise missile does. Nothing is ignored here.
The final PDF in the series is War on Terror. The natural concluding piece to the series, this PDF is to give GM’s a listing of people that their PCs can fight. Giving a brief overview of terrorism and terror alert levels, this book lists over two dozen terrorist organizations (which are, like the rest of this book, from the real world), noting their size, usual theater of operations, and what groups they usually target (and thus get bonuses against). It was a bit startling to learn that there are this many terrorist organizations still active across the world, and in so many different countries. Interestingly, larger organizations that have achieved some degree of international legitimacy (such as the Palestine Liberation Organization) are not listed (though they are mentioned in the context of other groups).
If it isn’t obvious at this point, I was pretty well blown away by everything in this product. Between the sheer volume of material presented here, and the quality and diversity of what’s given, this is hands down the best book for a military Modern d20 game. Everything you’ll ever need for any sort of military-themed campaign can all be found here, with expert translations of various real world procedures, items, groups and more given d20 stats. In this regard, Blood & Guts 2 is sets a new standard in terms of what it offers, and nothing else even comes close.
[5 of 5 Stars!]