“Those who are easily offended should run away from this book with their hands over their ears shouting “LALALALALA!” For the rest of you who plan to continue reading, we will make fun of cheerleaders, authority figures, sex, the mentally ill, and gamers. Consider yourself warned.”
So states the introduction to Blood and Blades, a book that focuses on the slasher flick genre that was extremely popular during the ’70s and ’80s (and, to some extent, still is). This is a warning that will make or break a lot of the flavor text of the book; thankfully, flavor text is mutable, so if you ignore the sexist (and other) stereotypes, mockery, and camp nature of a lot of the flavor half of the content, the rules half is actually pretty damn solid. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves…let’s actually examine what those contents are.
A Jock, a Stoner, and a Nerd Walk Into a Slasher Movie
The first thing you’ll meet in this title are 5-level “victim classes”: the Cheerleader, Jock, Mundane, Nerd, Outcast, Scream Queen, Stoner, and Tough Guy. They are all specialized in stereotypes, some of them potentially offensive to some, especially the sexist nature of the Cheerleader victim class with such special qualities as “Tight Shirt” and “Pretty Please?”. If you are playing a straight-up camp slasher game, I can see you using these; otherwise, I’d stay away from them and keep to using Ordinary classes to replicate such NPCs. I don’t blame the author, the talented (in my opinion, at least) Michael Tresca, for this; he was meaning to replicate stereotypical slasher movie characters, and he succeeded. It’s just that..well, they aren’t for me.
Anyway, moving on past that, we have two new advanced classes for player characters. The first is the Bounty Hunter, a Dedicated Hero-based advanced class focused around gaining contacts, tracking abilities, and some knick-knacks such as the ability to tell if someone is lying here and there. To be honest, I prefer d20 Future‘s Tracer and the Modern Player Companion‘s Bounty Hunter more, but this is still a decent advanced class. The second is the Profiler, which appears to be the same as the Profiler from the MPC, so it’s good stuff. Immediately afterward, there are two new skill uses: using Knowledge (Behavioral Sciences) for psychiatric care and using Diplomacy to induce sexual activity. As anyone that has heard of the Book of Erotic Fantasy knows, sex in RPGs is a polarizing topic, so I’ll just ignore that and instead state that the Behavioral Sciences add-on is a good bonus for Smart Heroes with ranks in the skill. There are also three new feats for PCs: Improvised Implements, Improvised Weapons Damage, and Virgin. The former two allow you to avoid the penalty of using improvised tools for tasks and increase improvised weapons damage, respectively, and the latter produces a +2 bonus to all saving throws as long as you are a virgin. Yeah.. There’s also a few flaws such as Ambitious, Extravagant, and Greedy, but they’re nothing to write home about if you’ve ever seen rules for character traits of such nature.
It’s a Dirty Job, but Someone’s Gotta do it
Chapter two begins our look at combating slashers, starting with an overview of profiling and Horror rules. Yes, if you’ve seen d20 usage of rules like Sanity, Terror, etc. before, you probably won’t get anything new out of this, but at least it’s there for completeness and ease of access. I also dislike hearing that a transgender character is just as “disturbing” as a necrophiliac and should be reserved for slashers because they are “unpleasant”, but this isn’t the time for me to go off on a tangent about the author’s beliefs or intentions; this is about the d20 material, after all. So…moving past that, new equipment! There’s a pretty good selection of new weaponry to use, including fire axes, pitchforks, and gloves with blades on the fingers. There are also a few new psionic powers and spells, including Control Objects and Create Evil Doll. So all in all, this isn’t really a bad chapter, although it’s certainly not the best of the book.
Know Your Enemy
Chapter 3 is, finally, dedicated to the slashers themselves. In addition to three new occupations (Disorganized Killer, Mental Patient, and Organized Killer), there are several new slasher-related advanced classes for you to use. These are the psychopathic, two-faced Alter Ego, the dark spellcasting cultists known as the Arawnite Guardians, the self-explanatory Mad Genius, the traumatized psychic Psychogene, and the sneak attacking, skulking Stalker. Other than the Psychogene, which suffers from Lack of Class Features Syndrome, these are fairly solid advanced classes, and good at strengthening up some rather nasty NPCs. There are also some feats, but most of them are either styly “finishing moves” or improve offense or defense, so let’s move on.
What would a book like this be without a bestiary? …Well, seeing as how the last horror book without a good bestiary I bought turned out, I’d say it wouldn’t be pleasant. Fortunately, Blood and Blades does indeed have a bestiary, complete with a total of 8 monsters and 4 templates. Of course, whether or not the bestiary is good or not depends on your personal preference. The majority of the monsters present are movie homages, hands down. The dream stalker is Freddy (right down to an aversion to fire), lurkers are based on the thing from Jeepers Creepers, and there’s no bonus points for guessing what the Evil Doll template comes from. I personally don’t mind homage monsters myself, but if you are a person that does, this chapter will probably aggravate you.
So yeah, that’s Blood and Blades in a nutshell. It’s got a mix of campy prose, stereotypes, and homage monsters, but it does have some diamonds in the rough, and if you do want a simple campy slasher game, this is the perfect fit. Still, it’s not the best product RPGObjects has ever put out. I give Blood and Blades-the Profiler’s Guide to Slashers a 7/10; good, but not great, and rather situational to your personal preferences.