Reviews: Recent D20 Books for Horror Games

It’s been tough trying to figure out how to write about horror — and horror games, at that — since 9-11. I’m all for the escapist powers of gaming, but horror games haven’t held much appeal for the last month. So, what I’m going to do this time is review the games I’ve bought recently, since I’ve lucked out and ended up with some really nice stuff.

 

 
 

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting.

I was never a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, exactly. It seemed like the kind of thing that was hard to get into because there was so much out there, and the basic books were always out of date from years’ worth of regional sourcebooks and the like.

But I picked this up, in part because of the dearth of supported D&D; settings in 3rd edition and in part because gosh darn it, the book is just so pretty. And it’s worth it. It’s a $40 hardcover, and it’s still worth it. Honestly, this is the best single-product storebought setting I’ve seen for D&D;, and it’s $40 because there’s so much stuff in it. The much-ballyhooed regional feats are a great idea which I hope are emulated by other D20 publishers. The setting section is enormous, as it should be, and has more adventure and campaign ideas than you can shake a stick at. I have a pick-up game going with my ex and her boyfriend, whenever we happen to have time, and we’ve had a blast playing in the Realms.

Here’s the key: for $40, you’re getting the basics, the stuff you need to know before expanding — and you don’t have to expand, ever, but if you choose to, there are plenty of free products available at Wizards of the Coast’s website, in .PDF format — old 1st- and 2nd-edition stuff which they’re giving away instead of reprinting. Excellent selection of $4.99 and less electronic products as well.

But we’re talking about horror. Horror in the Realms? You get. Let’s even put aside the Underdark — the Realms has the best-detailed Underdark of any D&D; setting, with their Drow and Derro and so forth. But you don’t need to go below to scare your players. You’ve got the Red Wizards of Thay. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by a bunch of evil wizards with shaved, tattooed heads, casting ritual circle magic?

If that’s not enough for you, try the Cult of the Dragon — a bunch of eerie fanatics dedicated to the creation of dracoliches (undead dragons). Now that’s a scary critter.