Game: Dark Masters
Publisher: 0one Roleplaying Games
Review Dated: 8th, July 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 5
Average Score: 5.00
Dark Masters is a d20 PDF sourcebook from 0one Roleplaying and due to some carefully arranged hair and a belt there isn’t a picture of a naked demon women on the front cover. This is Ishale – one of Baalzebub’s daughters, lovers and generals. She’s able to grant spells of up to the 7th level for people who worship her as a deity even though she isn’t.
It’s this demon/devil worship which forms the core of Dark Masters. This sourcebook lists demons and devils with a mind for not only given them stats but for discussing what they can grant their followers and how their church is organised. If the nearly naked women (with spider legs growing out her back) wasn’t enough of a clue I think it’s now safe to say that Dark Masters probably won’t appeal to the Bible bashers.
There are some distinct advantages in worshipping demons. There are extra spell slots and special abilities sometimes. The advantage in being an insane cultist which particularly appeals to me is that my demon master is much more likely to visit this plane and smash heads together on my behalf than some indifferent god obsessed with not interfering too much on the mortal plane. Yes, as an insane cultist I risk going, er, insane or developing some deformities as a result of my diabolic prayers but there’s always a price for power. Perhaps the biggest draw back in demon worship, aside from the endless harassment, is that even extremely powerful demons can’t grant me the same range of spells as a real god could. Then again; promotion is probably easier in a cult than a church so I’ll get to the high-ish level spells more quickly.
I would have paid money (and will!) for a d20 supplement which carries on this debate intelligently. Let’s have some real reasons why we actually might have evil cultists in a setting? Can we have a long running campaign which features a reoccurring cult, high magic and NPCs which keep pace/power with the PCs?
Dark Masters has its focus elsewhere, though.
This a demon/devil plus supplement. There are actually two plus points. Many of the demon or devil comes with a mini-map. These are floor plans of simple lairs and temples. 0one’s cartographic genius comes to the fore here and each and every map is gorgeous. However, these aren’t battlemaps and you can’t move minis around on them. Their value to the DM is limited. They look nice, yes, but they don’t map anything a DM wouldn’t be able to conceptualise or at least scribble down.
In this respect Dark Masters is just a version of Fiend Folio (except Dark Masters is full of Fiends and Fiend Folio isn’t). There’s quite a wide scope of Challenge Ratings too; horrors like Ishale scare us with the likes of CR19 but nasties like Minakhta the crow-demon have a CR of 11. That’s almost in reach of most groups – and easy-peasy for many. Imagine the damage you’d do to someone’s religion by gutting their god? The very fact that some of these “Dark Masters” are so well inside the reach of a sword swing does somewhat prove that the PDF expects these individual Dark Masters to get personal with the PCs.
I’d be sorely disappointed in Dark Masters if it stopped here. Thankfully it doesn’t. Sure, okay, great – the PDF introduces the “spineless” Prestige Class (which reminds me awfully of Gray Men of Wheel of Time fame) and the expected new clerical domains (like War and Winter) but that’s not really the unique extra that works for me. Dark Masters stays true to its mission and continues to discuss – in pleasant depth – the structures, beliefs and politics of the cults (or pseudo-churches) of these demon/devil deity impostors. I can’t but help and toy with the idea of revealing that one of the gods in LocalGamingGroup ™’s campaign is actually a demon impostor.
Dark Masters does what it says it’ll do and that’s just about it. It doesn’t succeed with amazing flare but it succeeds.