Denizens of the Twisted Earth
Denizens of the Twisted Earth Capsule Review by John Shaw on 11/12/01
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 3 (Average)
"Denizens of the Twisted Earth" is a nice companion to the Darwin's World game, but it won't stand without it. Get Darwin's World first.
Product: Denizens of the Twisted Earth
Author: Dominic Covey
Line: Darwin's World
Page count: 48
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by John Shaw on 11/12/01
Genre tags: Science Fiction Post-apocalyse
“Denizens of the Twisted Earth” is the first supplement released for the Darwin’s World game. This game was one of the first post-apocalyptic games (if not actually the first) to be released under the d20 banner, and in my opinion it is a genre that has been too long neglected. Darwin’s World presented a bleak, scarred future where life is grim and survival is paramount in the minds of most… and “Denizens” continues to foster that theme.
“Denizens of the Twisted Earth” is an electronic download (just like the main rules), a 47 page pdf document (you need the free Acrobat Reader to view it). The book can be divided into two major segments: campaign material and prestige classes, although there are about 10 pages of art as well.
The campaign material: This is the section that reinforces the overall tone of Darwin’s World very well. It starts with a single page of typical adventure locations, providing a brief overview of several possible ideas. I wish this section could have been expanded to include more detail, but the results would probably require several adventure modules. The result is a brief sketch, with the details left to the fertile imagination of the Game Master. Next section is Major Groups, where the powerful organizations that affect the world are described. The section reminded me of the Cryptic Alliances in the Gamma World game, but with a decidedly rougher feel. I always thought Cryptic Alliances was a misnomer, since many of the groups in GW were hardly secretive or cryptic about their goals. Although some of the groups described here are unquestionable altruistic (like the Rangers) and other unquestionably evil (like the Doomriders), most seem to fall somewhere in the murky area between. Morality is hardly a clear cut issue in Darwin’s World.
The third section in what I arbitrarily decide to call the campaign material is Legends, Myths, and Famous Places. A collection of oddities and fantastic tales, it might seem out of place in the post-holocaust milieu, but each myth contains a decidedly futuristic spin to it. Some of it was reminiscent of other great classics of the genre. For example, the ‘Wheeled Avenger’ conjured visions of Mad Max to my mind, and the legend of the ‘Seed-Carrier’ made me think of the ‘Postman’ from David Brin’s novel. Delightful.
The only complaint I have about the campaign material is that there is not enough of it, especially for the Major Groups. The setting is nicely etched out for us, but only in general terms. I would have liked to see some additional details included: for example, the benefits or penalties associated with joining one of the groups, and examples with stat blocks for typical members of such a group.
The Prestige Classes: 11 new prestige classes are presented for your perusal. Six of the 11 classes require membership in one of the Major Groups described in the campaign material, which should tell you something: The prestige classes are firmly grounded in Darwin’s World. They are unlikely to be much use if transferred to other settings. Let me take a look at a few examples that made a strong impression on me.
The Brotherhood Force Master. As far as power level and design, the Force Master seems to be a strong prestige class. In fact, I wonder if it is available too early to low level characters in view of the powers they eventually acquire (a 5th level character could meet the requirements). Perhaps it is just the word ‘Force’ in the name, but he reminds me too much of the Jedi from Star Wars. His abilities include limited telekinesis, some precognition, and a glowing telekinetic sword. Sounds like Luke Skywalker to me! Not that the idea of a Jedi in a post-holocaust setting isn’t cool, but it seems out of place. Of course, the ideals of the Brotherhood are nothing like that of the Jedi.
Demolitions Expert: Well, which of us doesn’t like explosions? That’s what I thought: We all like to see stuff blown up. The demolitions expert is skilled in stealth and explosives, a delicious combination. A few of his special abilities include using explosives in traps, using explosives as thrown weapons, and building his own explosives. Notice the theme here? One of my favorites from the prestige classes, the only negative I have here is that the explosives he can create are described in a future supplement. Why should I wait to start blowing things up?
Ranger: Forget Strider and Lord of the Rings, or any ‘Ranger’ class from D&D. This Ranger is the descendant in spirit if not in truth of the Texas Rangers. This prestige class reminded me of the old computer game Wasteland (Anyone else remember it? Anyone…?), which was a nice match for the Darwin’s World setting. The Ranger’s class features leave you with the impression that they are part of an elite military unit, which is exactly how it should feel.
While “Denizens” is a nice complement to the DW Rules, it is also a weaker product. Though it helps establish the setting more firmly, this product is ultimately only going to be of real use if you are playing Darwin’s World. Don’t expect to be able to adapt much for other games, or a homebrew campaign. I recommend it, but only to those who already have the Darwin’s World Rules.