Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012--
Continuing the series of reviews of supplements for Colonial Gothic, today’s item is The Templars. Be sure to check out The French & Indian War as well. This book about the Templars is the first in a series being released by Rogue Games regarding various organizations, many of which we are familiar with through movies like National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code if not through our own interest in historical strangeness.
Touch Solomon’s Junk
The first section gives you the general history of the Templars: where they originated and how, and then their growth and dissolution a few hundred years later. As you may know, after the Templars go underground is when things get interesting for them. They are not supported as openly by the church or the ruling power, now they are a rogue organization…kinda. In some places they are kicked out and unwelcome but in other places, like Scotland, they flourish. It is here where the legends and myths begin.
The Templars have, or are thought to have, lots of secrets. That makes them an interesting subject for Colonial Gothic and fits in very well with the setting. Some of those secrets involve the finding or keeping of stuff like Solomon’s knowledge, the Holy Grail, vast sums of money, secrets of architecture, even drugs. This is all in the second and third chapters; various legends and things about the Templars, some that are made up for the purposes of the game and some that were actually reported. The third chapter in particular discusses the various incarnations and machinations of the order as they faced persecution and dislocation. Basically these chapters are informational, giving you an idea of the history and characteristics of the Templars. Colonial Gothic books tend to be good on informing you of the history, which I like a lot.
Late Knight Meetings
Chapter 4 begins giving us actual in-game information on how the players can interact with the Templars: be caught up in some of their doings, having to track one of them down, being asked to perform a task for them, etc. Each of the little sections in this chapter about the order’s situation in the colonies has a few adventure seeds in it, which is always great for a GM to at least look over and maybe get inspired. The chapter also describes the forces other than the Knights Templar who are working to make the Colonies into the sovereignty they want: the Mandoag, Knights of Malta, the Inquisition, etc. This chapter gives the GM and players a lot of different factions to play with, and potentially a lot of intrigue to enact.
The next chapter gives rules for a Templar character, while at the same time cautioning that a Templar is not your normal character type. I personally would resist a Templar character, as if I’m going to use them as a secretive organization I can’t have a player sitting at the table who knows the secrets! You can always have the player be a lower-rank Templar though, in which case they probably would not be privy to all of the knowledge and power of the higher-ups. This chapter gives several options for different ranks of Templar character, and very helpful notes about each one. While not exhaustive about the rankings and what the day-to-day workings of the organization might be, it’s good enough to give an idea of what the character might be like and what they might do.
This Last Part is, Literally, a Book
I, too, think that heading is silly and nonsensical. This next part appears to be an excerpt from a book, but I can’t tell if it is real or not! I’ve written plenty of research papers, and by all the markings this looks and reads like a real book, plus it is clearly stated at the beginning of the section that it is an excerpt from such-and-such book. Well, my fellow RPGers, the last section of this supplement is some period prose for you. It describes many different things about the Templars, from the point of view of this 19th century scholar focusing on their habits, rules, idols, ways of worship, rituals, and so on. It’s a pretty interesting read, although it is a bit weird to have it appended the way it is to the back of this supplement. I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s basically just a chapter from some book.
All in all, this supplement reads more like a history digest, but it does give the GM and players a little bit of actual rules and such to work with. I think the intention was more to inform and excite the imagination than to heap on any more rules, which I am completely fine with. The book does seem to cover all of the legends of the Templar pretty well, and it also sheds a little light on a lot of other organizations in the Colonies that the players and/or the Templars could get mixed up with. Really, the whole milieu of secret orders is pretty fascinating. I would suggest this book if you are interested in playing Colonial Gothic in a game with a lot of intrigue and mystery. It’s just ripe with that kind of stuff.
[4 of 5 Stars!]