HOL: Human Occupied Landfill
Author: Daniel Thron, Todd Shaughnessy, Chris Elliot
Company/Publisher: Dirtmerchant games (part of Black Dog studios (owned by White Wolf))
Line: its very own line
Page count: ?
Capsule Review by Colin Fredericks on 10/14/99.
Genre tags: Science_fiction Horror Far_Future Space Post-apocalypse
HOL is nothing if not unique. It requires a particular sort of person to enjoy this game. I'll go out on a limb and say that you should have the following qualities before buying this game:
I must hasten to add that the book itself will not turn your stomach. It's some of the imagery and illustrations that might do so. Let's put it this way: Flesh-covered cheeseball. If that image didn't make you stop reading this review, then you might consider HOL.
Perhaps the worst thing about HOL (I'll get to the good stuff later) is the possibility that I might never run a game of it in my life. First, the book has a lack of plot hooks (lots of theme elements and plot devices, but few hooks). Second, it's just so difficult to imagine a scenario in which the characters actually survive the first three seconds. I think it would go something like this...
"Your characters walk into a bar. One of the patrons, a charming lad with a squid for hair, takes offense at the way you're breathing his air. He pulls out a Kravdarkian Mega-Cannon and obliterates you."
Of course, suspension of realism is key here.
My other complaint is that huge tracts of paper are totally wasted. For instance, the one page that has just the word "ling" in the middle of it, and claims to be page 37 (it's not). That space could have been better devoted to actually putting page numbers at the bottom and a chapter - ok, there's no chapters, but some sort of heading at the top of the page. This would partially make up for the lack of index and table of contents.
Lastly, there's no set way to create characters. Most of it is "tell your Holmeister (GM) what you want to do, and he'll cut out anything he doesn't want. I've heard that Buttery Wholesomeness (the first and probably only supplement ever) does have a massively complex character creation system. I can't wait to see it. Until then, we have a group of pre-gens ranging from the Silver Surfer to Elvis. No, I'm not kidding. Elvis.
HOL is really goddamn hilarious.
This is definitely the funniest gaming-related anything I've read in a loooong time (and yes, I've read Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner table, both of which I enjoyed). HOL is simply a different, higher caliber of "what the...?" than any other book. Ironically, the layout is not all that bad graphically speaking. Major headers are obvious as headers and distinct from the text, most pictures are set off well, and most pages look like they were laid out by someone who actually knew what they were doing. Typos abound, but if you ever pick up the book, you'll just find out that that's they style they were going for, because the whole thing is handwritten. Most of it's legible, which is a plus.
In all honesty, I consider this more of a comedy about gaming than an actual game.
My favorite is the fact that weapons have both a Damage Rating and an Anguish Factor. Anguish Factors range from 1 (stapling your finger) to 7 (smashing both kneecaps with a railroad tie) to 20 (unprotected reentry into the atmosphere). Then there are some of the skills (or skills as they're referred to at one point). Shortsword, longsword, light cutlass, who cares, it's all just "make sharp things go through soft things that scream and bleed." Have one of the strong silent types who has a complex concept to convey? Just use your "Comprehension through pugilation" skill - otherwise known as beating some sense into someone. Other skills include "That psycho Bruce Lee S***", "Surrender and still look like a man," and the ever-popular "Run real fast"/"Run real far" combo.
Sure, there's a system in here. It's one of those single-table one-roll-does-it-all things. You also get Grace-of-God points, that you can spend to save your bacon. Everyone has the same number of hit points (wound levels, whatever), but your Meat score (it's a stat) and your armor rating will help you take less damage per hit. There's a section on combat maneuvers, including everyone's favorite "Look! Behind you!" tactic. It seems workable, but as I said above, I've never really run a game. It probably doesn't matter. I'm not reccomending this as an actual game, after all - just as something to provide a really good laugh.
There is actually a surprising amount of setting info in this book. Loads of detail with not much overview, which is a surprising change from most RPG's. Everything does seem to fit together if you bang on it with a hammer for long enough. Many locations and organizations are described, from the Church'n'Munch to Wastems to Jumpslug handlers. HOL could have made for a half-decent supplement to most space RPG's, but then it would have missed it's true calling: comic relief for the vaguely twisted mind.
So, here's my advice: pick it up in the store, look it over. If you don't see anything that particularly offends your eye or your decency, you'll probably laugh your head off.
Style was rated on how well they achieved the look they were trying to achieve without getting in the way of things. I give it a 4. Substance was rated mostly on fun, though they lose 1 point for playability. Also a 4.
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)