Welcome again, my friends! We’ll be looking at another RPGObjects tome today (because that other review thingy didn’t quite work out), and one that just premiered recently at that.
Chapters 1 and 2
Chapters 1 and 2 is a reprint of Military Training Manual, which I reviewed back in February.
Chapter 3 presents a USSOCOM handbook for d20 Modern. For those that don’t know, this is the United States Special Operations Command, the joint command of the USA’s various special ops groups to work under. But before the actual units are presented, there is a 5-level prestige class for Special Ops soldiers. This class has two ranks of sneak attack, two ranks of advanced training access (see the Military Training Manual review for more on advanced training talents), and various secondary class abilities such as mental fortitude and a bonus on certain skill checks when they are made against terrorists. Now then, for the actual organizations, there are lots of them, dozens presented for each branch of the four SOCOM standards (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines). The ones presented range from the Civil Services to the Green Berets, every walk of the SOCOM spectrum presented. Each group has specific entry requirements and benefits for entering; this is a pretty solid system that sets up the basics for other organizational benefits for other militaries or possibly even non-military groups.
This chapter is a plethora of optional new rules, which means I have a plethora of material to give my honest opinion on. The first is a set of rules for armor as Damage Reduction. Under this system, armor is its own reduction force rather than a bonus to Defense, and archaic armors lose their damage reduction when being attacked by firearms. I…don’t really like this system. I can see the reasoning (“armor reduces damage, not the chance of attack!”), but in the end, I see it as just adding crunch for what could be done as simply flavor during an attack miss (as in saying something like “the bullet snaps into your armor, failing to make it through as it embeds itself in a circular indent”). It’s not a bad system, though; far from it, it’s really good…just not my personal style. You can easily utilize it if you like the idea. Afterwards, there are new combat options. These are ranked in three levels: Modern, Gritty, and True Grit. Modern can be added to any game type, and includes expanded autofire rules and rules on laying down suppression fire. Gritty expands the rules to a more “cinematic war” type of grit, with rules on targeting specific locations on the body, injuries such as broken limbs, and Reflex saves to avoid getting hit when you are caught in crossfire. These rules I welcome and would use in Arkaden in a heartbeat.
True Grit pulls out all the stops, giving rules for friendly fire, Fortitude saves against Massive Damage or DYING (usually, you are dropped unconscious from failing a Massive Damage save, not dead like in the True Grit system), and Will saves against mental trauma when you see allies die. It’s essentially d20 Modern if you wanted your players to suffer through the reality of war. I would heartily recommend considering what you want to do before ever using these, because a cinematic game can be a nightmare with all of the True Grit rules. There’s also an aerial stunts rule, showing the various Pilot check DCs to perform certain aerial maneuvers..this isn’t an optional rule, it’s an essential (in my honest opinion). Similarly, I’d suggest that the rules on bombing runs, surface-to-air missile combat, and submarine warfare be heartily considered by any GM utilizing military combat.
Ohhh, here it comes…the big one. This is one of the main reasons this book appealed to me when I read about it, so this can either win or lose brownie points. It is…the Battlefield Unit Combat System! This is a system to simulate army-to-army combat happening around the players. The question is, can it do this job well? That answer is yes. It is a simplistic system that revolves around the d20 and some modifiers based on the training, habitat, and years in service the combat unit has had. There’s even a way to get the players in on the action with feats that a single player can take to command BUCS units. It’s a great and simplistic system overall. The only thing that could make it better would be alternative rules for fantasy combat…hmm…I might just have to do that some time. *Plots*
Chapters 6, 7, and 8
Chapter 6 is the first of the “vehicle trilogy”, and deals with aircraft. The one major note is that the Defense scores on these aircraft are well above the typical for vehicles in d20 Modern. Why? Well..the reasoning presented is that fighters have profiles and are thus harder to hit. I can’t really blame them…it’s not game-breaking, and the only military aircraft Wizards touched was the Blackhawk helicopter, so they didn’t have much to work on anyway. Stats are presented for 10 jet fighters, 14 helicopters, and 13 heavy aircraft, including the Air Force One-painted Boeing and the F-series of fighters from the F-14 Tomcat all the way up to the modern F-22 Raptor. The second of these, chapter 7, deals with sea vehicles. This section has a history of naval warfare and stats for 4 aircraft carriers, 9 warships, 4 powerboats, 2 submarines, and an inflatable raft. Finally, chapter 8 is a reprint of Blood and Guts 2-On the Ground, which I did a quicky on here. The stats are all solid (again in my opinion…I’m not that big a vehicle analyzer), and I can see some of them getting varied use.
Mission generator. Moving on.
Remember when I said that I had the feeling that I’d be seeing the book Blood and Guts 2-War on Terror again? It’s baaaaaack… This is a reprint of that title, and serves as the “Monster Manual” of Blood and Guts 2. This book has stats for NPCs and data on 25 real-world terrorist organizations, including Al-Qaeda and HAMAS. Now, I can understand where they are coming from, but this is where the book really bogs down for me. The book mentions domestic terrorism, but do we get any of that? No. Do we get any pirates in the Asian seas? No. Mercenary NPCs? Nada. I understand that the Middle East is the hot topic…I really do…but I would have liked to have seen more variety.
You know what? I’m just dropping the “Art” section from now on unless there’s something of real note, because I’m just repeating myself here.
This book is great, and it is a cherished title in my library. I’ve gone over the good points and “this could be better” points already, though, so let me get down and dirty and say what I feel could have been done more or better. First, a more varied foes manual could have been a great addition. Second, it would have been nice to have added a new chapter on non-United States militaries…hell, maybe even reprinting Blood and Guts-In Her Majesty’s Service in here, that would have been nice. Third…umm…I don’t really have a third. Anyway, in conclusion, pick this up if you want more military-related items, vehicles, or if you just want some grittier (or downright sadistic) alternate combat rules. DON’T pick it up if you hate reprints; this is a collection item of all the Blood and Guts 2 titles (save for In Her Majesty’s Service…you poor lonely thing) all gathered together, but I personally like that since I didn’t have them all before they were retired to make way for the bundles and this book. 9/10.