Game: Seas of Blood
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 14th, January 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10 [ Something special ]
Total Score: 12
Average Score: 6.00
Hey! Don’t ever try and throw a lightning bolt spell while you’re underwater!
Someone said that the hobgoblins on the front cover of the book are facing in the wrong direction. I think it depends on whether the captain is pointing to tell his rowers where to row to or is pointing at the target of the nasty looking flaming ball catapult that’s mounted on the deck. If the hobgoblins are facing in the wrong direction then its only one of the few things wrong with this well rounded and successful book.
It has been my experience that nautical adventures are often over looked in fantasy games. It’s a shame, just because Tolkien didn’t spend much time on boats there’s no reason why your campaign shouldn’t. More likely, though, a serious sea crossing could play a hazard in your own game. What about a sea fairing adventure set in the dark waters of Ravenloft? You wouldn’t have to worry about your players deciding to sail around the globe and visit every island they see and wouldn’t it worry them each time the mists drew in? Have you had the chance to look at one of the many maps in the Forgotten Realms. There are plenty of important seas and coastlines there. What happens when your band of heroes clears the very last orc out of the mountains of their homelands? Time for orcish raiders from some distant land, orcs that make your local tribes look small and wimpy!
So, yes, you will have worked out that I was all primed to gobble up every last bit of text in Seas of Blood but that didn’t mean I was going to give the book an easy ride. If anything, it was all set to fall further than otherwise possible. As I started to turn through the pages I grew more and more confidant that the book was going to hold true and turn up a real gem. The book begins by offering up ways in which your core rules character classes might find themselves out on the oceans. That’s great. At last a book that doesn’t expect you’ll scrap the game you’ve been playing for the last year to start anew just because there is a set of extra rules. Some character classes are more likely to be out the than others and the book does not shy away from that. There’s a quick conversion for Druids too, if you want to generate a druid that’s linked to the seas rather than some forest then Seas of Blood make it easy enough to do. I hadn’t noticed that bias before. The standard druid assumes that the character protects some tangled forest; why can’t you be a druid of the rolling planes, the mountains or even the sea? Then, only then, there’s room for nautical character classes such as sailors or navigating-wizards. There’s no pirate prestige class. Good! The author says that some people would be surprised and he’s right. There’s no need for a pirate prestige class, piracy only requires violence at sea and that doesn’t qualify as the fundamentals for a new class. It’s refreshing to encounter authors who understand the basic premise of prestige classes rather than using the system to give unwarranted power-ups to characters that are only a cat’s whisker different from the norm. There are a few new nautical feats too; strong swimmer, sea legs, that sort of thing.
The ebb and flow of the book moves on through travelling on the waters, to fighting on the high seas and then to all the different types of ships. Seas of Blood does not become some boring maritime manual, there’s no lessons on the best ways to tie knots or why you shouldn’t drop anchor at low tide. Instead, the chapters offer up clear and succinct need to know stuff. The travel section includes easy to read charts for the effects of weather on travel or how far you can see from different sizes of masts. There is text to cover the effects of disease onboard the ship and the chances of mutiny given different circumstances. The battle rules are taken from Mongoose Publishing’s Open Mass Combat System. In fact, I think the high sea battle rules actually hit the shelves first. They’re simple enough and they seem to work. It isn’t a war game set of rules, there’s not that level of complexity. You do get the rules required to deal with the game where your players promise the king of some small island that if he lends them his fleet of ships that they’ll drive away the menacing hobgoblin pirates. Then the section that covers a sampling of different ships might be able to give you a clue as to just what sort of ship the local king might have at his beck and call. It is worth saying again that the “ships of the sea” section doesn’t waste space with minutia of specialist information, it sticks to important role playing game likely stuff; cost, size, crew numbers and floor plans. Oh yes, that’s where you’ll find rules for great big stonking shipboard weaponry too.
Sea Magic gives you what you would expect. Wizards who have a vested interest in this sort of thing were bound to have devolved both spells and items. It isn’t really a token section, there are a far few spells and more magical items than I expected. I hadn’t really thought about the possibilities of intelligent ships but I suppose in a fantasy game with captains proclaiming that “she be the fasted vessel this side of the empire” then the much loved ‘she’ in question might very well have a mind of her own.
I suspect the trade and commerce section might put some people to sleep. However, if you’re like me and can get into the grand campaigning of economics in a large game then it’ll be a welcome addition. Why fade out after your heroes have secured trading rights with the overseas Kingdom of Ilgoir, why not see if they can’t successfully import Ilgoir’s superior riding horses into their own realm as well?
Before you get on to the obligatory (but understandable in this case) new monster section there’s a whole chapter on playing underwater. It all has a slightly surreal Baron Munchausen feel to it if you ask me. The magical Leomund’s Secure Shelter will sink and flood but it’ll remain secure. On the other hand, you’ll need this if you’re trying your hand at Atlantis. I found the monster section to be nicely brief, you’re given the obvious choice for well known monsters and then a level down (like an ooze as a wave…) but you’re not bothered with the totally obscure stocking fillers.
Finally, I always appreciate the advice on how to run a long-term sea based campaign. I don’t take everything to heart and use it religiously but it is nice to have the chapter as a sounding board or emergency reference guide. As seems common with Mongoose books there’s room for a page of designer’s notes that is something I like to read. The section of summary tables at the back will get an awful lot of use, as well the chart of nautical terms. Sadly, “Sling yer hooks” was missed out and so I’ll let you know that it refers to sailors throwing grappling lines to, normally, help them board another boat.
the seas of blood blog is best.