Game: Slaves of the Moon: The Essential Guide to Lycanthropes
Publisher: Paradigm Concepts
Review Dated: 16th, September 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 17
Average Score: 8.50
Sweeping generalisations are wrong… but, there’s one I often find hard to fault. There’s often a big difference between RPGs which begin by describing the game world, setting and theme and RPGs which begin by describing character creation, combat and skill checks.
Slaves of the Moon, The Essential Guide to Lycanthropes, is a d20 supplement which discusses the origins of various were-creatures, their society or culture with organises, ethics and religion, etc to at the start. Then, in later chapters (oh, okay, the very next section), Slaves of the Moon presents the game mechanics.
Strictly speaking and as Mike Mearls points out the term lycanthrope refers to werewolves. Slaves of the Moon isn’t so limited and sticks with the D&D catch-all replacement for the word. This Essential Guide from Paradigm Concepts includes werebears, wereboars, wererats, weretigers and werewolves. There’s no flying were-creatures (surely swans who are also humans are a common European myth) here nor aquatic weres (and weresharks are a common Indonesian myth). I just happen to be one of those gamers who suck up any trivia (like wereshark myths) that might possibly be useful for a roleplaying game but there is a concise discussion of this very thing at the start of the book. Bonus.
The were-creature introductions work in what I’ll call a D&D world neutral way. The only assumptions made are that demi-humans like elves and dwarves exist and that they, as do their goblinoid rivals, fulfil the standard D&D race-casting. Elves are respectful of the woods. Orcs see woods as firewood and battering ram supplies. Despite this and because of this (that’s not as mutually exclusive as it sounds) the history-cum-flavour text that is given for each were-creature is a strong point for the book. You could buy Slaves of the Moon just for the weretiger rules or just for the wereboar rules. First you’re told about characters you’d want to play or include as NPCs and then you’re told how. First you’re given the bait and then the hook.
In d20 core rules you can be born a lycanthrope and you can become a lycanthrope, the Essential Guide to Lycanthropes covers both. There’s yet another angle, of course, in that you could be a human wereboar or an elf weretiger or a gnome wererat, etc. And yes, this supplement makes accommodation for those possibilities too. Your base race does effect you stats. If we flick back to the cultural sections for the lycanthropes we find a wide range of ideas for each sub-race too. There are no cookie-cutter solutions wasting your money here.
Slaves of the Moon: The Essential Guide to Lycanthropes may have begun with juicy flavour and held off with the crunchy bits until appropriate but this is very much a d20 supplement. We have prestige classes and feats.
Prestige classes are a mix of were specific classes and generic were ones. The Bestial Warmaster, Master of Fang and Blade, Lunar Adept and Pack Lord are suited to any lycanthrope. The Emerald Claw and Midnight Justicar are weretiger prestige classes, the Herald of Decay and Shadow Prowler are wererat prestige classes, the Knight of Glade and Glen is a werebear prestige class, the Master of the Hunt and Night Howler are werewolf prestige classes and the Relentless Charger is a wereboar prestige class. The wolf slayer is more suited to human, demi-humans and goblinoids who live in territories infested with werewolves.
There’s similar breadth for the feats and spells – we have feats and spells applicable for everyone (whether they’re a slave to the moon or not) and feats which only suit were creatures. All the feats and spells, though, have that lycanthropic feel too them. You don’t have to be a were creature to cast the level 1 Bestial Fang spell but it’ll certainly give you a were-creature appearance. All the spells were, we’re encouraged to imagine, devised by lycanthrope casters. Some of the feats are a bit icky, Blade Grasper, for example, which is lycanthrope only, has a wound heal so quickly that it catches the blade in the were’s flesh, allowing the were to twist and pull the weapon from their opponent’s hand. Now that’s got to hurt! There is enough new spells as well as a suitable supply of feats to give ambitious GMs all they need to run an entirely lycanthrope based campaign. That strikes me as one easy way to maintain group game balance.
The closing sections of Slaves of the Moon returns to the less crunchy side of the hobby and addresses such issues as the relationship between the were and the moon, possible cures, how the different D&D races deal with lycanthropy and even lycanthropic magic artefacts. What Slaves of the Moon doesn’t really bother too much is address the negatives of being a were creature. Of course, in D&D you’re likely to quickly master the effects of the diseases/ bloodright and cope with it if you want. There’s no tragically hip angst here or a doomed struggle against the dark, tree hating, gods and the orc minions. No, Slaves of the Moon is typically high fantasy; if you’re a werewolf then you’re a lucky puppy with extra cool powers.
Slaves of the Moon is a good looking book. It has great artwork (the blurb mentioning that the best talent of the industry used) and a professional, third party, layout firm used. The Essential Guides are part of the OGL Interlock and thus Slaves of the Moon is partnered with Green Ronin’s Mythic Vista Spirosblaak and goes well with the lycanthrope overrun setting.
Here we have an OGL product working in a way that might once have been imaged as all OGL should work. This is a high quality but niche d20 publication. If you want to use a lot of lycanthropes in your campaign then Slaves of the Moon is a supplement to consider, if you’re an avid collector then you won’t object to this but as is the case for almost all supplements there’s no compelling reason to fork out the cash, there’s no leap forward in gaming ideas here nor desperately needed d20 fix. Me? I liked it.