Game: Blood and Relics
Series: D20 Modern
Review Dated: 19th, June 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
This review of Blood and Relics looks at the paper edition from RPGObjects. The very fact that the supplement made it from PDF to paper is a good sign. The reception of the first Blood and Relics must have done well the toughest test which all roleplaying products face – sales. I can well believe this. The “Blood and …” range from RPGObjects is very good investment for any d20 Modern fan.
I was pleased to see, right in the introduction, a note to say that this edition of the book focuses on the Blood War. That’s the strife between the Sang Real, servants of the High Power, against the Caeder, those aligned with Dark Powers.
The phrase “Sang Real” is one of those “cheap but clever” gimmicks. San Greal translates as the Holy Grail. Ah yes; the Holy Grail! We all know about the age long search for that particular divine relic. However, what if it wasn’t the San Greal that Joseph of Arimathea was trusted to protect but the Sang Real? That’s an easy translation error to make! Sang Real translates as Royal Blood. Blood and Relics doesn’t make a big deal out of this, there’s no attempt the base an entire idea on a quirk of spelling and if you’re lazy when you read the book you might even miss it.
Sang Real are the descendants of Christ. The Sang Real are those with the blood of Christ. This is a roleplaying game – a work of fantasy – Blood and Relics stresses that it means no disrespect to anyone with religious convictions and the book self censors itself as “suitable for mature readers”. I’m left to hope that no one reading this review on GameWyrd or one of the affiliate sites is going to take umbrage at the subject matter. The Blood War is a battle fought over ancient relics, it’s fought over knowledge, power and it’s fought over souls. The Sang Real are pivotal in this – one side seeks to protect them and the other seeks to abuse them. To get the most out of Blood and Relics I think you need to step carefully into history and re-align events so that they include the insidious twists of the Blood War. Characters in Blood and Relics are part of a much larger picture.
The Blood War is a behind the scenes conflict. Battles between the Caeder and the righteous are fought in the shadows. Blood and Relics uses the phrase “Gothic Modern” rather than “Modern Fantasy” and I much prefer the subtler and darker tone of the game. The new prestige classes introduced by the game have supernatural powers but these are much less “comic book” than the traditional d20 Modern. A spell in a Blood and Relics game manages to be a big thing at the same time as being a natural part of game play.
The Believer is akin to the Cleric class from traditional d20 D&D and enjoys class specials along the lines of undead turning and healing. The Cultist is the evil counterpart to the Believer and has undead control abilities plus the occasional bonus feat. Dark Warriors are a frightening class concept – those who freely allow themselves to become possessed by dark powers (albeit small ones) in exchange for dangerous power. The Grave Robber prestige class is a tricky one and I suspect only workable in a small gaming group with strong “story arch” style of play. Grave Robbers are selfish gits who enjoy the “Cannon Fodder” class special. With Cannon Fodder Grave Robbers can transfer damage they should have taken to one of their followers instead. This isn’t a magical transfer but a cinematic re-write of an action and it’s useless without followers. I can only see the use of Cannon Fodder working as an ongoing plot point for the group. Monitors protect and guard key items or even people in the Blood War. In many ways Monitors are the antithesis of the Grave Robber an infact enjoy stat bonuses when acting against them. Monitors enjoy divine health and live very long lives. The Relic Seeker is the politically correct version of the Grave Robber, Relic Seekers adventure to find and save relics rather than to whisk them away for their own use or find the highest price. The Witch (or Warlock) is perhaps the most extrovert in terms of power as the Dark Shape class special allows the character to shapeshift into a select group of animals.
And yes; there’s a truck load of new feats!
Players do not play Sang Real. In fact simply encountering a Sang Rael will be a campaign making event. There are no stats for Sang Real and we’re reassured that there are no plans for stats for Sang Real in future supplements. This is good, stats destroy mystery and Blood and Relics lives off mystery.
Player are more likely to play characters from the secret societies which plot, strike, counter strike and manoeuvre against each other in the Blood War. Alternatively, the secret societies can solely be used as opponents to independent characters. Blood and Relics serves up a fairly tempting selection of secret societies including the all-to-predictable Knights Templar and Inquisition inspired Frater Torquemada. I’ll leave the question “Are the Frater Torquemada good or evil?” spoiler free.
The campaign guide offers a simple but powerfully effective timeline. Starting at 1500 BCE we’re taken through significant (and typically biblical) events and told when and where Blood War events played a part in known history. King Author, for example, had a role in the Blood War and so forth. I think it’ll take a good GM to run a Blood and Relics game where the players remain on the fringe and yet play a part in the continuation of the timeline.
The campaign guide also includes a wide scattering of stats – everything through noticeable cultists, to imps, all the way through to Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I’m a little concerned by the latter as I do believe such horrors are best kept as a threat rather than an actuality in the game. Blood and Relics can scale up that far. It is possible to take the game to the point where powerful warriors of good fight against a demon incarnate in the abandoned subway system below a bustling and unaware city.
I think Blood and Relics is one of the best supplements for d20 Modern. D20 Modern is a good system but it’s weak on setting (especially considering Urban Arcana) and I this < $20 purchase should really invigorate the game.