Game: Blood and Relics
Review Dated: 7th, May 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
San Greal – Holy Grail. Sang Real – Royal Blood. Easy mistake to make.
The Holy Grail is a relic, a bloody relic since it was supposed to have contained the blood of Christ. Royal Blood is just blood, but religious blood. Blood. Relics. Blood and Relics is one of the very first supplements to support D20 Modern. It should already be pretty clear the angle the PDF takes.
Blood and Relics introduces gothic conspiracy to D20 Modern, it introduces demons, cultists and those who fight against the darkness. This is a theme that d20 fantasy players will be familiar with and it’s therefore a good idea for an early D20 Modern supplement.
At one point we’re told Blood and Relics focuses on Europe. It doesn’t really. It builds the conspiracy of darkness and light along the lines and development of the Old Testament. Blood and Relics is therefore interested in the history of Palestine and Israel, key events in Jewish history, the birth of Christianity, and the development of the Church, the Inquisition and its changing role. It just so happens that the geographical areas of interest are Europe and the Near East (Israel and Turkey both have standing applications to join the EU). The demons, new advanced classes, feats, allegiances and other mechanics can be used as easily in Canada as they can in Europe.
The PDF isn’t suited for real life religious zealots though.
I like the shades of grey the D20 allegiance system allows (as much as I like to poke fun at d20 fantasy’s alignment system) and Blood and Relics does well here. The Inquisition is a great example, how it began with good intentions, was corrupted (but many Inquisitors still have had good intentions) and then came around to the light again. Blood and Relics includes a few new allegiances. These new allegiances are central to the back-story, the game meal, that’s portrayed in the supplement. You can now have an allegiance to a Dark Power or Higher Power. If you like the idea of a modern inquisition operating in a secret world of demons and descendants of Christ – then Blood and Relics is for you.
We continue on safe ground with the introduction of new advanced classes – D20 Modern’s own version of prestige classes. The Believer comes with an illustration of a monk and if that doesn’t summarise the class for you then I need only mention the Turn Undead or Lay on Hands class features. Cultists are evil, not that we have Evil any more but this advanced class develops dark powers and gets a dark familiar. No prizes for guessing the Dark Warrior’s shtick. Grave Robbers are archaeologists’ eternal bane; they care nothing for preserving or recording ancient secrets and history and are just good at getting to the loot no matter what. Monitors are guardians, people who keep an eye out for the forces of light. The temptation to name your Monitor character either Giles or Wesley Wendham-Pryce will be there and it must be avoided. At least it shows you’ve got the idea of the class. Similarly you might want to call your Relic Seeker Sydney Fox. Relic Seekers are a good idea though, they’re one of those natural advanced classes that come complete with plot hooks.
A few new skills – Knowledge (Ritual), etc – lead us into a weightier section of new feats. Animal Sacrifice, Black Bargain, Black Mass, Brain Washing, Consecrate Ground, Prayer and Profane Ritual are just a handful of feats from the three and a bit pages. Just listing them gives a good summary of Blood and Relic’s flavour.
The PDF introduces new conditions. The health of the spirit will be as important as the health of the flesh in any Blood and Relic styled game. I’ve already dropped a clue to one: Brainwashed. Much of the rest of the chapter is busy with spiritually tainted conditions – such as unnatural doubt or hate. There’s possession too. There are stages of possession (and Blood and Relics goes for the projectile vomiting version) through to (hopefully) exorcism.
The following chapter is one long time line from 1500BCE to 20 years ago. We’re warned it’s not an historically accurate time line – so I’ll assume John Paul the 1st didn’t actually battle demons in the Vatican’s hallways – but there’s still plenty of real history there. Unless you’re allergic to dates, you shouldn’t find that this chapter puts you to sleep. It’s just a clean way to present the key points from a long background. I was disappointed, at first, by the lack of recent activity – nothing seemed to happen at the year 2000. It didn’t take me long to come around though and now I much prefer the idea of there having been something of a spooky lull, or a GM determined year 2000 event and even the chances of a new Pope in the next few years.
There are really only a few entries in the Secret Societies chapter. There could have been much more in here; all the Hermetic orders, for example. You have the Knights Templar instead – and they’re always popular – and the current form of the Inquisition.
There are a few items of legend; bits of the sword Excalibur, the spear used to stab Christ on the cross, nails from the cross, scrolls with powerful rituals on them and others. Treasure and relics for those relic hunting games.
There are monsters, demons, actually, powerful lords and smaller minions. The most powerful of these arch-villains in the Blood and Relics setting has a CR of 14. The servitors tend to have a CR of around 4 or 5. The fiendish vessel template is a great asset; allowing GMs to introduce fiendish hounds, raven spies or other suitable genre animals.
The 44-paged PDF concludes with Gamesmastering advice. I found the chapter to be more like GM reassurance. I thought I’d detected fantasy vibes from the PDF and this chapter reassures me about that. I’d noticed the supplement paying heed to D20 Modern’s own flavour and mechanics and this chapter explains why. I thought the Sang Real would only work as extremely rare encounters and possibility only as plot devices. Again, the reassurances required to steady that assumption are here.
The PDF product is good. The default page slow is set to continuous. There are bookmarks and internal hyperlinks. The layout is easy to read, the illustrations are frequent enough and the text is formatted around them nicely. There’s a sidebar free, low resolution, still with touches of colour, version that is there to be easy to print.
I like Blood and Relics. It doesn’t grab me, shake me about and stuff inspiration down my throat – but if I was going to run an occulty D20 Modern game, or an Indian Jones style game, or a Relic Hunter style game or even a supernatural noir then I’d want to have Blood and Relics.