Game: Killing Fields
Publisher: Louis Porter Jr Design
Review Dated: 5th, February 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 3/10 [ Not good enough ]
Total Score: 3
Average Score: 3.00
Louis Porter Jr describes himself as almost 6 feet tall, 230 pounds, with 17 inch girth arms and who lives in Florida (where he says it is practically mandatory to work out). He promises the reader that he’ll tell them about his fights with professional football players when they’ll meet up.
Rather than poke fun at his two page introduction in Killing Fields I’m simply going to quote from it and let you decide. I did mention the arms, right?
“If you wonder what my maximum weight I bench press is I don’t know but I can tell you that I can bench press with 100-pound dumbbells in each hand for a maximum of six to eight times” I think someone stole the commas from that one.
“In a role-playing game, thinking is an importing factor when involved in hand-to-hand combat.” I’m sure thinking is an ‘importing’ factor in hand-to-hand editing too. Perhaps Mr Porter is just too much of a brawler for an editor to risk annoying.
I don’t normally whinge about typos but the Haven: City of Violence line is just so full of them that it beggars belief. I just picked out a few here.
Then there are the two pages of inspirational books and films. I already know each and every inspiration for this roleplaying game because previous Haven products have gone through the list too! I don’t care if they’re slightly different. The 112-paged book costs $20 and has five pages of adverts at the back.
Thankfully the rest of the book has been better checked and there are fewer typos.
If the Killing Fields title and the quotes from the introduction haven’t already given it away this is supplement is about fighting. It’s about punching people and it’s about shooting people. It’s also about blowing people up. Haven is, after all, a city of violence. I think it would be entirely wrong to hold up the Killing Fields and ask “Where’s the plot?” or “Where’s the depth?” No one’s going to buy the book for essays on foreshadowing cut-scenes to shadowy NPCs.
There is actually more than just stats for new guns and an extended martial arts system in the book. LPR Design deserves credit for continuing to add to Haven and for making sure that the additions go towards fleshing out the atmosphere of the city. Haven has its fair share of professional and underground fighting circuits. This supplement lingers on two of them; the biggest professional and biggest underground championships. The Haven Freestyle Combat Federation, the HFCF, is a hybrid of a martial arts tournament and professional wrestling but it leans heavily to the professional wrestling. The martial artists take on good guy and bad guy roles and take part in soap opera like plot twists. It’s a fix. The Folded Circle is the underground circuit, it manages to sell some extremely over priced videos of marathon fights every now and then and it manages to stream some of the fights over the Internet without getting caught. The Folded Circles funds itself mainly from the betting which takes place in the monthly fights. In the Folding Circle there are fights where the winner could hobble a way with a fortune and the losers only have a future in pushing up daisies and feeding earthworms. The G.O.D. (Games Operation Director) has stats for key NPCs at the back of the book.
Towards the middle of the book there are character portfolios to provide ready to play, Killing Fields styled, characters. The Haven rulebook described this as “spoon feeding your lazy ass” and Killing Fields encourages readers to make their own characters if they are planning to play a long campaign.
There is, of course, plenty of crunch a book like this. Killing Fields starts off the crunchy bits with sections for new Benefits, new Drawbacks and then Special Abilities. Not being able to swim is a drawback and you get two points back for this. Great; I’m going create a Haven character who can’t swim, ski, surf, rock climb, install Windows, pilot speed boats or speak German and put all the points I get back into kick ass and gun fighting abilities!
The range of new equipment is extensive. If stun grenades won’t do then what about a thermite bomb? Napalm sir? No trouble. If you want to have fun with high explosives then Killing Fields is a book for you.
The hand-to-hand combat section provides the charts Haven’s rules require for a large collection of fighting styles and martial arts. Each style will cost some XPs, will demand different levels of training and requirements but pays out with a series of advantages.
The martial arts moves are kept in their native language. This adds to the theme and encourages descriptive roleplaying. You do need to read each martial arts’ basic training otherwise you may be hard pressed to decide whether a Juen tek is a punch, kick or something else. If you’re a complete rookie to actual fighting then, like me, you might still struggle with the English translations. A Tai Otoshi is an Arm Throw. What’s an Arm Throw? Is the thrown person grabbed by his arm and thrown? Or does the thrower use his arm for the throw? Isn’t the ‘Arm’ in ‘Arm Throw’ fairly redundant then? What else are you going to throw someone with? A Shimi Waza is a Forearm Roll Choke. Er, someone tries to eat a roll the size of a forearm and chokes? The attacker rolls over his forearm, springs up and gets the defender into a choke? Don’t know!
The expanded character sheet near the back is three pages long.
There are positive things to say for the book. It’s pretty. It’s pretty in a layout sense. I quite like the illustrations too but don’t feel I can use the word ‘pretty’ to describe someone getting his face shot off. It’s also far to acknowledge that Haven: City of Violence does have a respectable fan base, it has this because there are plenty of gamers who want to play a hard boiled cop in a dangerously corrupt city or a live-or-die-by-the-gun crook in a world full of gangs. Killing Fields will give a pleasant boost to many of Haven’s natural fans. Gritty action games can almost always do with a couple more gas grenades and deadly punches.
I don’t know what it is but I was open a LPJ Design product with high hopes and the firm belief that they’ll have cracked it for this one. That’s how I opened the Killing Fields and was quickly disappointed. They haven’t cracked it, not this time, not for me but I suspect I’ll still peel open the covers of the next supplement I find with baited breath.