Game: Doom Striders
Publisher: Bastion Press
Review Dated: 12th, November 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 2.67
High fantasy meets mech. My first impressions, based largely on artwork, was of Zoids meets anime. I think Zoids haven’t quite died off yet so hopefully I’m not the only one who remembers them.
In other words we’re talking about great big suits of armour which are driven, rather than worn, by a captain and sometime a crew, animated by mechanics and powered by magic.
As the book itself points out – it’s a logical step for a high magic and decent technological society to make. If you have wizards who can create golems and artisans who might even be able to make printing presses, perhaps gun powder, certainly impressive mechanical traps and catapults then surely the two can come together. How about animating a catapult so it fired itself on the wizard’s command? How about using a fireball to light a furnace? It all sounds possible. It doesn’t sound easy but it sounds possible.
As Doom Striders points out – it is possible but it’s not easy. This book would be useless if it simply gave us some examples of Doom Striders and then rules to use them. Fortunately we’re not in that situation, neither Bastion Press nor Sam Witt would do that to us. The strength of Doom Striders, indeed the point of Doom Striders, is the construction rules.
There are two aspects to Doom Strider construction; the campaign world side and the mechanics.
It takes a great deal of money to build a Doom Strider and needs a lot of resources. It’s pretty hard doing this secretly and you’re rather vulnerable while you build. If you’re building a magically powered, humanoid, dangerous battering ram then the army stationed in the nearby castle is likely to want to have words with you. If you’re building a Doom Strider at all then you’ll draw the attention of the local authorities. There’s a whole plot here, in fact, this could be a campaign. Can the group get the Doom Strider built? The actual campaign world implications of building these creations are up to the DM – but the discussion is needed and welcomed.
The mechanics of the Doom Striders creation are important. If the mechanics were horribly wrong then the whole book would misfire. What we’re actually given in Doom Striders is a decent set of mechanics. There’s nothing that knocks my socks off here but there’s nothing that makes me sigh, close the book and decide to do it myself. It’s all about finding the sexiest materials (adamantine, sanctified silver, red dragon scale, etc) and efficient ways to power the huge device (a prayer engine, vampire harness or an arcanofurnace, etc) and fancy weapons on a suitable scale. Generally big is tempting; with a big Doom Strider you’ll be able to go for all the mod-cons and fancy weapons, but you’ll have to throw gold mountain after gold mountain into the project until the engineers and techno-mages get the designs and construction right.
If some of this – perhaps the magic-technology – sounds familiar then you might be thinking of the Bastion Press produced and Sam Witt penned Airships. In truth Airships is significantly better than Doom Striders but also a welcome companion. The two books are better for one another.
Doom Striders don’t tend to do well in dungeons. I suppose you could use the little toe of the biggest Doom Striders to knock down the dungeon door (or what about digging straight down to the loot?). The smallest Doom Striders are barely any good in the typical dungeon crawl or confined space because they’ll be lucky if they can raise a weapon or turn around. No, Doom Striders are about castle sieges, battles against hobgoblin hordes or magical melees with angry dragons. There are suitable new combat rules for our Doom Striders. A Doom Strider with a weapon mounted on its tail, for example, has a bonus of +5 feet to its reach. How’s this for a helpful suggestion? We might want to use bigger squares on our battle grids for the giant Doom Striders!
It’s the captain who is mystically bonded to the Doom Strider. The captain has ultimate control of the war device. This is one of the few occasions this year that I’ve thought to myself… oh, we need a prestige class. Disappointingly the Doom Strider Captain isn’t a career PrC. That’s to say there are only five levels of this class and you can qualify for it well before your 15th level. The Master Engineer is the other prestige class offered by the book and again it’s only a 5 level quickie.
This is a 128-paged book (black and white, fairly large text and fairly spaced lines too, for the respectable US $22.95) but we’re almost done by page 80. The remaining chapter, Allies & Adversaries, looks at “NPC” Doom Strider companies and key NPCs in them. We don’t really need this (and I don’t really want it) but it does give us a good excuse for nice artwork and does offer a nice way to include already designed Doom Striders. The last collection of pages does nothing other than show off illustrations – this is a visual book for a cinematic fantasy concept.
Yeah, Doom Striders works but doesn’t wow. If you want magical mechs in your game then Doom Striders is a good option for you. I’m not convinced that the book would persuade you to include them in your campaign if you weren’t already tempted (unlike Airships were you were left willing to re-write and ret-con until you had them in your game).