Game: Requiem for a God
Publisher: Malhavoc Press
Review Dated: 31st, August 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 10
Average Score: 5.00
Requiem for a God is an electronic event book from the ever popular Monte Cook’s Malhavoc Press. Requiem is an electronic product at the moment but come November it’ll be available in print. Malhavoc Press works through Sword and Sorcery Studio (hence the logo on Requiem’s cover) and SSS are part of White Wolf. I’m a great fan of electronic supplements, they save trees, they’re delivered as and when you want them and they’re very cheap. I’m content to sit and read the document on my computer’s screen too. I’ve a 1024×768 resolution screen at the minute and that’s the larger of the two common sizes at the minute. Requiem for a God opens up in my PDF browser and immediately expands to 158% of its default size and fills my screen. It’s just as well because I don’t fancy trying to read it if the text was any smaller. The phrase “Gods fade” nearly made me drop my mouse since in the small italic text used for the flavour rich quotes it looks very much like “Gods … some other four lettered f-word”. I suspect most people print their electronic supplements out and Malhavoc has been paying attention to that. The Book of Eldritch Might II is a wonderfully coloured document but the downside to such luxury is that it sucks all the expensive coloured ink from your printer, even if you print it out on greyscale there is still an awful lot of page to cover and you’ll be looking to replace your ink cartridge or laser toner before you know it. The Requiem for a God has been specially designed to be printer friendly. Decorative sidebars are no longer the standard; instead some pages have a greyscaled mini sidebar in the style of a navigational calendar and some pages have their top corner decorated with a curved picture. I think the resulting effect is rather nice, it looks pretty, it encapsulates the text in a clearly defined page and since the same images are repeated throughout the document your computer only needs to load them into memory once. I’m not so impressed with the minimal curvy lines which decorate the top right corners of some pages and the little doodle which is used to tag the top edge of textual asides you’d normally expect to find in a grey background box. Nevertheless, I appreciate the effort made to make the document as printer friendly as possible since it allows me to sit back and concentrate on the important bit of the product – the contents themselves. The text file that accompanies the PDF offers a little more advice on how to print Requiem out and if those instructions look a little strange then open them up in WordPad rather than Notepad on your Windows computer.
Requiem for a God comes in two clear parts. After the introduction where we find out about the authors, Malhavoc and that they don’t want insane zealots bothering them about the supplement’s title there is a healthy chunk of helpful information and then the perfectly balanced game mechanics begin.
The premise for Requiem for a God is the death of a god. Serious stuff. Imagine if your cleric was suddenly unable to wield her divine magic. The informational chapters of the book are there for the DM and they discuss the sort of things to keep in mind before, during and after the death of a deity. The initial chapter is by far my most favourite in the book. The pros and cons of killing off any given god are considered. Killing off a god that’s already firmly established as a campaign deity or even more importantly a deity that one of the PCs worship is contrasted to the death of deity that’s hitherto unknown by the characters. After discussing which god is the unfortunate victim the download goes on to talk about possible causes, murder, suicide, lack of followers or some complication of those three. We’re reminded that the sudden death of a deity will suddenly cut clerics off from their power whereas the death of a god through lack of followers will not leave any clerics without power since there wouldn’t be any clerics for the deity to power. That’s a fine line there. Just how stupid are the readers? I think Monte manages to walk the line safely, these points may be obvious to most of us but still need to be made. I never got the sense that I was being talked down to or treated as someone who couldn’t tell his d20 from his 2d10.
There’s more than just the cessation of divine magic when a god dies. In fact, under Requiem for a God, there’s a whole host of side effects and these are all discussed in turn. There’s some really good stuff here, campaign inspiring suggestions and the sort of weird and drastic game events that’ll leave your players talking about it for ages. Imagine if the sun god died inconveniently right in the middle of the player’s war against vampire lords and as a result the sun was hidden for months afterwards. To its credit, Requiem doesn’t solely focus on what happens in the immediate aftermath of a god’s death. There are sections devoted to the long-term effects of a holy death (what if the god had been holding at bay two terrible demon serpents) and very much more on the lingering relics of the dead god; godflesh, godsblood, energy wells, divine sparks and more. You’ll be able to use this product if your campaign world has in its history a god who died hundreds of years ago.
In relation to these lingering effects of dead and dying gods there are two organisations that Requiem introduces. The Cabal of the Dirge and Memento Mori are solely considered with the death of deities. I have mixed feelings about the pair. Each society is carefully constructed and loaded with great plot potential. Yet, if you want to be strictly fussy – or, more likely, have players who’s characters will want answers for this sort of thing – then you might wonder why there are these two organisations at all. How often does a deity die? Once every 1,000 years? Every 5,000 years? Longer? That’s an awfully long lived organisation. That’s a religion in its own right.
Fortunately, you’re not bound to these two groups. There are four prestige classes in Requiem for a God and those ones clearly part of either the Cabal of the Dirge or the Memento Mori all make the point of carrying the caveat that if you’re not using the two groups then the prestige class can be used as a more generic concept. It only takes an extra line or two in the prestige class description but it goes a long way to setting this reviewer back at ease. Prestige classes focused on the death of a deity are inherently strange and powerful. Although GMs will have to use them with care its safe to say that they’re absolutely balanced in terms of level advancement.
After the prestige classes the crunchy bits continue. There are sections of Godsblood feats and on special spells. Godsblood is the liquid substance that leaks from the body of the dead god and without it, without drinking it or covering yourself in it, you’ll never get access to the powerful Godsblood feat. It sounds rather morbid to me, divine vampirism. “Sure I drank his blood! But don’t worry, he’d been long dead!” That’s not really covered though, the bits of dead god are typically presented as loot and powerful treasure throughout Requiem and there’s the sense that if you choose to ignore their potential then you’re as silly as someone who refuses to trade in his sword for a magical one. It’s probably what you would expect from the average ‘loot the body’ game play of many D&D adventures.
Requiem isn’t a particularly high-powered supplement. It’s not something you’d buy with your Epic Level Handbook. From the outset we’re told that there’s no expectation that the players themselves have a direct hand in the death of the deity and that holds true throughout (although there are places where such possibilities are considered). It’s possible to use Requiem in a low fantasy setting and in fact a dead god is particularly suited to the dark and dangerous low fantasy setting. The same is true for new magic spells; although most are extremely high level and almost all require access to some part of a dead god there are lower level ones which could quite happily play a plot centric role in a low fantasy game. The latter sections of Requiem have something of a classy supermarket feel to them; if you can shrug off the urge to put to use absolutely everything available into your campaign’s shopping basket you’ll be able to cherry pick the best and use them to greater effect.
The very last sections of the book are on particularly strange divine creatures and on adventure ideas. Although I claim to be nothing of a crunchy-mechanics fan I will admit to a small penchant for a good bestiary, the combination of the psuedo-mythology and decent illustrations can often inspire whole encounters or adventure ideas. The same is true for the monsters at the end of Requiem even if they’re not likely to be used very often. The scenario concepts are just as inspiring; their approach is to detail out a few solid ideas and offer them in the same sort of game-academic discussion that permeates the whole supplement rather than simply list a hundred one liners.
If you’re a Monte Cook fan then you’ll certainly want to pick Requiem up. If you take things on a case by case basis and liked the Eldritch books but are less keen to see your players deal with nasties that have been locked in a temple by a powerful cleric then you’ll find Requiem for a God is safely on the former and better half of that equation. I’ll look forward to more “event books”, I think the style has a wider appeal than typical dungeon crawls and Requiem serves very well as the premier example of the product.