Game: Terrors of the Twisted Earth
Series: Darwin’s World: d20
Review Dated: 24th, April 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 13
Average Score: 6.50
RPG Objects seem to be onto a winner with Darwin’s World and it is in no small part due to the hard work put into the product range. In recent months a whole slew of Darwin’s World reviews having been appearing around the internet, including from some rather famous names. In the same time, since GameWyrd’s first review of a Darwin’s World download, the previous editions have been updated, greatly enhanced and made freely available to anyone who had purchased an earlier copy. PDF supplements are the way of the future for all but the most mighty of RPG companies and RPG Objects really have made a flying start.
I’ve been looking forward to the Terrors of the Twisted Earth for a while now. Suggestions for the title of the download were solicited on the official discussion group and then taken. Imagine that; getting to name an actual to goodness RPG supplement.
That said, just because I was lurking around when there was the chance to suggest a name for the supplement doesn’t mean I’m going to like it. In fact, those RPG additions that are highly anticipated often fall short of the mark. Terrors of the Twisted Earth is a good collection of quick NPC stats, all new original horrors and suggestions for those Monster Manual creatures and critters that might make an appearance, by hook or by crook, in the blasted future of the Twisted Earth.
Its always worth noting the cover art in Darwin’s World PDFs, there’s always some attention grabbing, colourful piece that sets the mood nicely for the rest of the download. One of the improvements to the series is the inclusion on in-text graphics (they really do help break up an otherwise daunting sea of text) but in order to save on the download time these pictures are few and far between and so a mighty front cover helps offset that too.
Bixby, a character introduced in Denizens of the Twisted Earth, opens the book with a warning on the nightmarish creatures that haunt the broken remains of Earth. However, the first main section thereafter is actually a set of tables and stat blocks (thankfully including a good long list of gear – scrounging is important in the Twisted Earth!) for those NPC classes you’re most likely to encounter. This is perfect if you’re running a Mad Max style game and you need a bunch of generic but experienced Raiders for the enemy. You might argue that that sort of extra belongs in Denizens or that it overlaps too much with text already in Denizens but when each download costs so little I don’t think small overlaps are much of a bother.
There are just under 40 mutant creatures and the Challenge Ratings for them start at 1/3 and reach up to the scary heights of 21 in the form of the Death Sentinel. What do you expect from monsters in a radioactive future? Lots of mutated nasties? That’s what you get. You also get – and this is my favourite style of future horror – those creatures that have managed to adapt through evolution (although probably chemically enhanced) to cope with what the world has become and this gives birth to the likes of the Lurking Panther and the Monstrous Cockroach. There are some nice tangents in there as well; the Plague Zombie introduces the idea of the chemically animated undead – that’s something to play against your Dungeons and Dragons born and bred players.
The last section covers those creatures you know already from the Monster Manual, renames them to something more appropriate for the Darwin World’s setting and discusses how likely you are to encounter them. A creature like a hydra would be very rare – a freak mutation perhaps, but a Gnoll could easily be a hyena-human hybrid and along with goblinoids pick up the title “broken ones”. As I read through I started to mull over whether it would be possible to have Darwin’s World as the pre-history of some other fantasy game (wouldn’t it be weird if orcs were distant, mutant relatives of 21st Earth mankind?) and had to admit to myself that a telltale sign of a quality RPG supplement is one which inspires such ideas.
The required game mechanics for the terrors are on the ball as well. The challenge ratings seem to successfully take into account the special abilities of the horrors as well as their raw statistics. Some of the special abilities of the mutant nightmares really are nicely thought out as well and capitalise on the fact that many people will be playing Darwin’s World as an escape from yet-another-fantasy game. I mean by that the abilities don’t just mimic standard magic talents but offer up twists better suited to the post-apocalyptic, radioactive world. The Blob, for example, grows as it deals damage/feeds off people.