Game: Terrors of the Twisted Earth
Review Dated: 6th, December 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 8
Average Score: 8.00
It took an age for me to work out what was different about the front cover to the Terrors of Twisted Earth. Initially I put it down to the fact that I’d previously seen the illustrations online as part of the electronic lineage of Darwin’s World line. That wasn’t it though. The front cover doesn’t just use colours not commonly seen on RPGs; pale greens and blues with orange highlights but the title text on the book are more discrete than usual. The image of the two adventurers, standing the back of some crashed machine and fighting off some unsavoury mutant creatures dominates the book in a way that cover illustrations don’t often do.
I know. I know. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. You probably shouldn’t judge a book by its illustrations either. I’ll tell you what though; for the first time that I can think of this paper production of a PDF product has been such an improvement. I think the improvement is at least partly due to the illustrations. Don’t get me wrong; I rather liked the original and electronic edition but I like this issue better. Standards in the PDF side of the industry keep on rising, in fact, standards in the d20 RPG industry keep on rising and if I had time to go back and re-review some of the first wave of products to appear on GameWyrd then I’m sure I’d find myself being more picky. I think it would be entirely fair to slaughter any attempt to take a PDF product with as many months behind it as Terrors of the Twisted Earth and that tried simply to offer up more-of-the-same-except-on-paper. Luckily, this is not what the paper copy of Terrors of the Twisted Earth does.
The book is a beastiary for the post-apocalyptic, horror, mutant fancy of Darwin’s World. The monsters of the Twisted Earth include a wide range of humans and nearly-humans. The terrors are those mutations that have gone beyond the norm and become something altogether different. If playing in a non-fantasy world seems to be a rather daunting task for you then a book like Terrors does well by reinforcing the similarities and yet also capitalising on the differences. If you enjoyed getting a feel for a fantasy world by learning the biology, where the dragons live, just why its not wise to explore the mines of the misty mountains then you should be able to improve your grasp on the dark future of Darwin’s World by flicking through this book. If you want to know why you might not want to go exploring the sewers of a city washed with pulses of radiation for last hundred years then the Ratbite on page 42 will explain. And yes, there are just more monsters here, 64-pages of them but because the setting is not yet-another cheese fantasy flick these “even-more-monsters” carry undertones of being different. Just undertones might you, nothing that’ll redefine your understanding of roleplaying monsters.
It’s a nice book to hold. It feels weightier than the total of 64 pages would lead you to expect. Presumably we’re befitting from the choice of quality cover and internal paper. The back cover is worth noting too; rather than lots of blank space or a spiel about what you can expect to find in the book (and there’s only so much you can say about a collection of creatures) there are six illustrations of the monsters inside. I said at the start of this review that I thought the illustrations made the different and its because they’re there to grab your attention what you succumb to the tempting of picking the book up and flicking through it. The illustrations aren’t particularly big or bold, in fact the sidebars and the black background boxes of flavour quotes are a more stark contrast to the page. Instead the illustrations nuzzle nicely against the text and slowly draw the eye. If you’re looking for a random creature to throw at your adventures in the Twisted Earth then you’ll have no problem in picking a page at random and using what you find – and if there are any tests for a monster compilation then that must be one of them. It’s this “flick through factor” that is often missing from PDFs, even after they’ve been printed off and although the electronic format has plenty of advantages I think this particular product does better by being on paper.
There’s a fairly decent range of monsters. Typically you’re looking at mutations which are reasonably easy to trace back to a source; Ratbites have rat heritage, Plantmen have plant heritage, Two Headed Mutant Bears have bear heritage and so on. These heritages do a good job of running the gambit from the mundane to the obscure. Then there are creatures without any obvious histories or lines of mutations and they’re always good at keeping players on their toes.
There’s room for improvement, there almost always is, I think side boxes or distinct sections for rumours and whispers about these monsters would have been a welcome addition to the book. Just how common are some of these terrors? What will the average scav know about them?
Darwin’s World fans are encouraged to pick this one up. With this level of quality coming from RPGObjects then the newly announced re-release of Gamma World is going to have stiff competition – and that’s good for consumers.