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Reviews - Bloode Island XPG
 
by Demian Katz


Blood Island XPG cover Title: Bloode Island XPG
Published by Deep7
Written by John Sullivan, Todd Downing and Mark Bruno
Art by Jon Hodgson (cover), Todd Downing and Steve Hartley (original interior art)
67 pages
$7.95

As I've probably mentioned in past reviews, Bloode Island holds a special place in my heart because the Bloode Island 1PG was my first taste of Deep7's work. Its fast-paced pirate adventures led to a number of memorable gaming sessions. Thus, I've long anticipated the release of the Bloode Island XPG to see if it could expand upon the fun of the original version. As it turns out, the XPG is a good game, but it's not really comparable to the original 1PG. The 1PG is pure cinema, but the XPG actually takes more things into consideration. Although pirate movies are still a major source of inspiration, the XPG takes history a bit more seriously and also includes the option of adding magic to the mix (something only added to the 1PG in an expansion released some time after the basic rules).

After a brief introduction, the game's rulebook dives into the details of the XPG system. As I've mentioned when discussing past XPG releases, there's a lot of redundancy here, and players already familiar with the system may be disappointed at the number of pages spent on repeating old material. That's not to say that there's nothing new, but I still think Deep7 might have been better off (and saved paper by) releasing a free XPG core book and selling the settings.

There are some good additions to the basic XPG material, though. The character creation features some character concepts that are sufficiently diverse, loosely-defined and interesting to ensure that players can create viable PCs without ending up with a party of cookie-cutter pirates, and the game mechanics chapter adds some ship-to-ship combat rules that effectively capture the slow but desperate feel of such conflicts. There's also a whole chapter devoted to an optional magic system that has a good balance of functionality and adaptability.

Once the mechanics are out of the way, the game delves into the setting. There's a lengthy chapter on history which includes plenty of inspiration for adventures and campaigns thanks to its details of Caribbean geography, native peoples, the colonial powers of the time and life as a pirate. Then, after a somewhat superfluous chapter containing stats for animals and monsters (which might have served better as an appendix), we get to the details of Bloode Island and its inhabitants. The Bloode Island of the XPG is quite different from the Bloode Island of the 1PG; rather than simply being a generic tropical island harboring a treasure, it is now a legendary island upon which a man known as the Admiral has created a utopian (but inherently unstable) haven for pirates. This is a clever basis for the game, since it provides not only a base of operations for the player characters but also a source of adventure hooks and mysterious overarching campaign themes.

Next, after a collection of generic NPC stats that, like the animals mentioned earlier, would have served better as an appendix, we get "In Davy Jones' Locker," a sample adventure. In typical Deep7 style, it's a pretty loosely defined scenario, requiring a fair amount of improvisation on the part of the GM. No explicit stats are provided, and many details are excluded. If that doesn't put you off, though, it should make for a pretty good night of gaming. Although details are sparse, the story framework is solid, and it shouldn't be too hard to move things along. Also nice is the inclusion of two final confrontations: one for magical campaigns and one for realistic ones (though both encounters could be used to make for a lengthier and more challenging adventure). It's definitely a good start for a campaign, though I remain a little disappointed that Deep7 seems to convey the 1PG style of minimalistic adventure design even to their more fleshed-out products.

The remainder of the book consists of appendices containing such things as equipment prices, weapon and ship descriptions and a pirate glossary. This is all useful material, and it should help to add flavor and diversity to campaigns. It's all capped off with the rare (in the RPG world, at least) inclusion of an index.

I'm impressed with what Deep7 has done here; in relatively few pages, they've provided a product that supports a variety of styles of play, includes enough inspiration for a whole campaign and is well-organized enough to be useful (even if I don't entirely agree with the order of the chapters). This isn't a replacement for the old 1PG, though. If you're not interested in long-term adventures on the high seas but would rather just spend a couple hours looting and adventuring, that product remains a worthwhile purchase as well.


 

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