Sunday, September 9, 2012

Armchair Review: Doomed Slayers

Doomed Slayers is not an RPG, but a sourcebook. And an unusual sourcebook it is: a campaign premise -- a rationale, if you will -- for many of the D&D adventurer tropes that have occasionally made us challenge the societal plausibility of the game setting. It can be applied to any D&D ruleset or retroclone, and can even make the adventurer's culture a significant aspect of the campaign.


Part I of the book, which explores the premise, is quite good. Within its short page count, it introduces the idea that 'doomed slayers' are a separate class or subculture of society that deals with monsters. Monsters, you see, are overtly and covertly responsible for the fall of many civilizations (even if the weakness and corruption of humans is also at fault sometimes), and often stop smaller communities from gaining a foothold in various lands. Experienced dungeon delvers familiar with the plethora of monsters out there can easily make a case for this somewhat simplistic statement, and will understand the necessity for the emergence of monster hunters in their ranks.

Much like the monster hunters seen in contemporary urban fantasy, these slayers have no real lasting place in society due to their calling. Unlike contemporary urban fantasy settings, however, Doomed Slayers posits that it is a calling that is afforded certain benefits and concessions and even grudging respect for the lifestyle. However, that tenuous relationship between society and slayer caste, is governed by a social contract.

On the part of the Slayers, there is the Slayers' Code:
  • Go where you are needed, help where you can.
  • Do not tarry where you are not needed.
  • Own only what you can take with you.
  • Fight the monsters, not your kin.
Each of these tenets and their implications are covered succinctly, and grant rationale for the roving lifestyle of these adventurers.

On the part of normal society, there are some (usually) unwritten rules:
  • Pay them what you can, appropriate to what you ask of them.
  • Do not bar their way.
  • What they find, they keep.
In addition to these, there are other nuances and extrapolations of the interplay between Society and Slayers that are tackled -- how PCs might enter the ranks of Slayers, other organizations that might arise due to the presence of the Slayer culture (Lightkeepers, Crowmen), and how some Slayers might ultimately leave those ranks (aside from death, that is).

Part II is the world, and -- at first glance, does seem like a saddeningly generic take on the fantasy setting: the Known World and its various locations, countries, and regions. However, a closer look reveals that it is actually another exploration of Slayer culture, and how the many varied, yet familiar cultures and societal structures themselves deal and interact with Slayers. Think of it as a guided tour of a world where Slayers make an impact in every corner (even Faerie and Hell).

Overall, Doomed Slayers is a good sourcebook -- however I find myself looking for more. I want more examples of different types of Slayer organizations that might have arisen -- some more like the Templars, some more like the Freemasons, and some like Hell's Angels perhaps? The intriguing premise already has me looking for more source material. This doesn't mean that Doomed Slayers isn't satisfying -- it means that it has set me up for the next expansion to this campaign premise, which will hopefully maintain its ability to translate almost all of the material into any D&D setting.
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