Alright, after that last tangent, we’re back with part 2 of the Testament review. And with increased font size, I might add, since I got some notes detailing the fact that my normal PDF-writing font size came out – well, odd, to say the least – in WordPress’s blog format.
Feats of Faith
As with many such books, most of the general feats in Testament can be divided into categories: in this case, feats based on one’s status in life, feats that improve mass combat (more on that below), feats for crafting special items from the classes seen last time, feats for prophetic abilities, and feats God gives you because he doesn’t want you added to his death count. These feats range from the boons and banes of Israelite slave-holding (yes, this title doesn’t shy away from noting Leviticus’s rather racially-charged rules about the Israelites and the slaves they keep) to simple bonuses from being a snake handler. There is also a section about “mythic feats”, which are basically feats that are intentionally unbalanced as a reflection of legendary feats (no pun intended) of strength, magic, and knowledge from Middle Eastern lore. Some of the more notable ones include Celestial Charioteer (which lets you use divine vehicles such as the sun barge of Amun or Jehovah’s “flaming chariots”), Nazirite (which gives you a +8 bonus to a single ability score as long as you follow Nazirite code; chances are you may know of a +8 Strength Nazirite by the name of Samson), and Relic Spell (a feat that means you literally have magic in your bones). All in all, a decent assortment of feats, though you definitely might want to keep tab on those mythic feats, perhaps even making their prerequisites more stringent if you wish to utilize them elsewhere.
Glory to God (or Whoever) in the Highest
Chapter 4 brings us what might just be the most notable addition to the system that can be found in this book: the Piety system. Acting as a major facet of the setting, a character’s Piety (maximum Wisdom score +1) reflects their standing with the deity or deities of their culture. A positive piety score reflects an individual that follows their cultural and religious laws well enough that they are given favor by the beings above, while negative piety can result in social ostraciziation, exile, or being cursed by the gods because they happen to dislike you. Each nation has listed sins and punishments based on their ancient culture; for instance, one of the Egyptian sins is defacing the name on a person’s tomb, which nets you -5 piety (-10 if you’re dumb enough to deface the name of a pharaoh) and the death penalty, while the Israelites have sins for pretty much everything short of jaywalking…which makes sense, given Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Further modifications of your piety can be produced by either fulfilling (bonus) or breaking (penalty) an oath, or sacrificing some piety for an immediate bonus to a roll as a form of temptation.
Go back and read my Blood and Guts: General Edition review; the mass combat system in chapter 5 of this book isn’t that different. I will note, however, that I love the illustration of an Assyrian mage and the towering figure of Pazuzu calling down lightning on Israelite sling-throwers that appears in the mid-pages of this chapter. Try David and Goliathing that.
Taking Home and Temple Economics
Chapter 6 deals with the economy and equipment of the Testament setting. This starts out with Knowledge checks for trade information, as well as a simple but effective barter system, which reflects the emphasis on trading over monetary exchange in the time and regions dealt with by the book. In addition, there are, of course, new forms of equipment for you to utilize. If you’re looking for weapons, a total of four are provided: Sumerian clay ball thrower (think a mega-sling), slingshot stones inscribed with fake arcane or holy symbols to scare enemies into believing they’re under magical assault, the ever-classic Egyptian khopesh, and the Sumerian metal-shod staff. Armor gets out with a few more entries, with seven items that include cloth armor, leather and studded leather cloaks, and simple helmets. Finally, there are chariots – as well as basic rules for chariot combat, of course – and general goods and services such as camels, wine, and slaves (again, it’s not shying away from the dark fact of slavery in those times). So yeah, basic, but decent.
Next time, we’ll be looking at spells, magical items, and monsters, as well as chapters 10 through 25 of the book as we finish up Testament. Yes, I really did say 10 through 25. You’ll see.