by Justin Mohareb
Solid! The d20 Blaxploitation Experience
Published by Wingnut Games for d20 Modern
Written by Hyrum Savage and Dave Webb
64 pages, hardcover
It's like The Phantom Menace all over again, but without the initial
high of "Hey, look, Jedi!"
When I heard about Solid!, I was very enthusiastic. I've seen a
few films in the Blaxploitation genre, and had developed a love for the
genre by reading Badazz Mofo magazine (consider that a plug, by the way). So
when I heard about Solid!, I was looking forward to it, much like
Tolkien fans look forward to every iteration of an RPG adaptation of the
Lord of the Rings.
I wonder if they are as disappointed by every RPG adaptation of The Lord of the Rings?
A Look Inside
Solid!'s biggest danger sign is the font. It is too big, and obviously
is meant to pad out the book, a trick most writers will discard near the
end of high school. There isn't a lot here for 64 pages. Seriously, what
sort of circumstances require an OGL license to be two pages?
The book starts out with a historical précis of the Blaxploitation
genre. It's fairly brief, referencing general info on the beginnings of
the genre, including some less than totally relevant information on
Black cinema from the late '80s forward. There's also a short discussion of The
There's a filmography and a slightly embarrassing discography; the
latter will surely rank up there with Rob Hatch's Goth-Metal fest in the
first Vampire Storyteller's Handbook in the annals of RPG history.
The next chapter gives some guidelines for playing in a Blaxploitation
environment, including the four "Sacred Rules of Funk". These are
amusing, because they betray a strange understanding of the genre. The
first one, for example, ends by saying "Shaft never called for
reinforcements", even though Shaft actually did call for
reinforcements in his first film. The other three rules do seem more valid, dealing with music (I think it's suggesting player characters have their own theme music), sex
(uhh... have some, I guess) and big hair (have a large afro, and a flashy wardrobe).
There's a Jive dictionary that comes across as useful, and is followed
by a selection of GM tips that are mostly generic, and not of much specific use
to someone running a game in the Blaxploitation genre.
Rules Texture: Crunchy, or Soft?
The Crunch chapter has a new rule, OG points, which are similar to the
Drama points in Eden's Unisystem. You can use them to get an
auto-critical or get an auto 20 on a skill roll, reduce damage taken,
attack with "great vengeance and furious anger", or come back from the
dead. The damage reduction mechanic, in this case, works poorly compared
to its Unisystem counterpart. In Buffy and
Angel games, a character can take a turn to reduce the total
damage they've taken by half; Solid! only allows a character to halve the
damage taken that turn. That means you have to track how much
damage you've taken that turn, and it doesn't state when you would use
it (at the end of the turn, presumably, though it's never made
The new Feats are an interesting selection, although you have to really
wonder if there's a feat needed for a white guy to get along with black
people ("Blue Eyed Soul Brother"). The Street Cred (+4 to Rep within the
ghetto) and Fast Talkin' feats seem reasonably well constructed, but
some of the other ones seem rather unnecessary. The best example of
this is Booty Slide, which lets you move up to your maximum
movement as a move action. This would be useful, except you can already
move your maximum movement as a move action; why would you take a feat
to be able to do that?
Some feats seem overpowered compared to standard equivalents. Poppin' A
Cap in Dat Ass, for example, gives PCs a +2 to all attacks made with
pistols. I don't think I've seen any other d20 feats that give such a
broad bonus to attack; even Weapon Focus only provides +1 to one
specific weapon. Makin' The Connection provides a general +2 to all checks involved in
acquiring drugs and illicit items, which is a bit broad, since I can see
clever PCs making almost any task required relate to acquiring drugs and
illicit items. Street Fightin' Man provides lethal unarmed damage for
d8, which combines the best aspects of two feats, Combat Martial Arts
and Improved Brawl. Since there's no base attack bonus requirement, it can even be
taken at first level.
Looking at the equipment section, it's interesting how a Solid! leather
jacket is twice as protective as the standard leather jacket, which in turn
offers the same protection as a denim suit. The vehicles are superfly,
since they carry more people than any other comparable vehicles, go
faster, and provide an Equipment bonus to Drive, although I thought that
was generally reflected in the vehicle's Maneuver bonus.
Some equipment seems kind of silly. Sunglasses provide a bonus to ranged
attacks during the day. Shouldn't they just cancel out a glare penalty? A
Belt of Blackness gives a bonus to attack and damage to any character
with Martial Arts feats, which increases when fighting Tools of the Man.
Is this bonus magical? Brass Knuckles of Ass Whoopin' apparently are a
mastercraft item of some kind, since they provide +2 to hit and damage.
If Solid! used a homegrown system that was more cinematic, these would
probably fit right in; in a d20 book, they leave some things to be
Tables summarizing new items and Feats would have been useful, and would
have taken up space, allowing them to shrink the text a little.
Advanced Classes range in quality. The Black Belt is a name changed
Martial Artist from the d20 Core Rules, with one more skill point per
level. The Hoodlum, Police Detective and Private Dick all seem
appropriate for standard gaming enjoyment, although the last two are
close to each other in ability, and both of them are retooled versions
of the standard Investigator.
Another chapter on Blaxploitation follows that promises information
on running Blaxploitation games, but it's in vain. What we get
instead are more discussions about the genre that focus on the
historical aspects, as opposed to the dramatic elements of it.
There's a short section on Blaxploitation horror films, as well as a
sample campaign that seems to be part generic horror setting, part
Ghostbusters (right down to the equipment listings), and part
A pair of Prestige Classes round out the chapter: the Badass and the
Chosen. Amusingly enough, they're both 10 level PrCs (guess the
creators didn't hear that d20 Modern PrCs are generally 5
levels). The Badass Prestige Class has a strange ability to take out a
"mook" with a move action. d20 Modern does not have a mook rule;
in fact, the presence of such a rule would probably muck up the
encounter generation rules and experience that are central to the
The second of them, the Chosen, is closer to a regular advanced class
than a Prestige Class.
One item that's definitely missing from the book: Sweet Lovin'. There's
discussions of seduction and romance and "it's your duty to please that
booty," but this is a d20 supplement. Just a throwaway line about which
skill to use for seduction would be good. How else is your Hustler PC
supposed to mack his hos? You even get a bonus to "get (your) Mojo
workin'" from a bed full of pillows. What you do with that bonus
will, we suppose, remain a mystery. We didn't need a recreation of the
Book of Erotic Fantasy, but Blaxploitation was heavy on the sex
and violence, and the core book sure as hell covers the violence.
Visually, Solid! is a mess. Borders are ugly (is that supposed to be
film stock?), illustrations range from dark and muddy to ugly (what the
hell is the guy on page 27 supposed to be?), the video box covers that
are scattered around the book look like they were scanned in using a
roll over scanner, and the layout is horrendous, even discounting the
giant type. Editing errors are scattered around like pebbles on a beach.
Solid! is disappointing. The book has elements of Blaxploitation
in it, but lacks the spark to inspire GMs to run, and players to play
in, a game in that genre. It's a shame, because Solid! shows a strong
foundation (some of the items show where they may have been going to),
but fails to deliver a solid product to capitalize on that enthusiasm.
The game ends up a weak summary of the Blaxploitation genre, and
a weak d20 Modern supplement. There's too much missing. There
aren't enough details (please, tell us something about a '70s ghetto),
and not enough information. And the book feels like a d20 book that
doesn't want to use the d20 System, or doesn't know how