Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Death Love Doom: A Review
It's just after 6 in the morning, I just finished reading through the pdf of James Raggi's Death Love Doom and well, hmmm.
I have a tendency to think of myself as jaded. I laugh my way through horror films, I make jokes about inappropriate topics, and look oddly at others whose stomachs don't allow them to. Every once in awhile, though, I'm reminded that I haven't quite lost every bit of my innocence. Usually I come upon that realization only as another bit is ripped away. The last time this happened was when I read Garth Ennis' Crossed comics. I remember thinking to myself that I admired the craft that went into writing something that was able to disturb me. I also remember wondering if it that was a good thing.
Raggi definitely wades into deep water with this module - he is staking his claim to the dark, murky depths of extreme horror roleplaying, and his promotion of the contents has been accurate - this module does what it says on the tin. There is a Cronenberg meets Barker sort of vibe running through the descriptions that leaves you feeling uneasy, and slightly queasy. I can only think of Mongoose Games' Noctum as comparable RPG material, if that gives any indication. The artwork brings out the horror, with the two page drawing in particular evoking feelings of disgust. You know the one I'm talking about. Or you don't. I'm certainly not going to reproduce the image here, but kudos to Kelvin Green for his evocative artwork.
The thing is, this sort of product is essentially review-proof. You're either sucked in by the idea of a Big Nasty, in which case a bad review isn't going to sway you, or you're repulsed by the idea, in which case it could have been ghost-written by Gary Gygax, and you're still not going to pick it up.
So is it good? I don't see it as compatible with my gaming group. That's not necessarily a failing on the part of the product, but rather a realization that it isn't providing material that would prove entertaining for the dynamic of the group that I play with. I suspect I won't be the only one to feel that way. That doesn't mean it's not good, it just means it's not useful. Hrm.
So maybe good/bad isn't the correct indicator for this review.
So is it effective? To a certain extent yes. It's essentially a tableau, a diorama that the PCs wander through, and experience the horrible things Raggi has dreamed up. There's no saving anyone, there's no rescuing the damsel here. Shit has gone down, and there's no coming back from it - the best that can be hoped for is to put some that linger out of their misery. There's no satisfaction to be found, no victorious release to be had, and some groups will not enjoy that. They don't interact with the setting, but rather bear witness, and indeed, are punished in many cases for interaction. So the question of it's effectiveness depends on the expectations of the group, not just with regards to the gross-out factor, but with regards to how much influence they should have over the story, and it's outcome.
I think that, for better or for worse, whether your group would appreciate this module or not, whether you can stomach it or not, whether you agree with the design or not, there is a strong statement being made here. To me, it seems that this is less an adventure than it is a manifesto, so take it for what it is - a declaration of intent, a vision of Raggi's world, where life is a Hobbesian nightmare - bad thing happen to good people, and the best you can hope for are "heroes" to clean up the mess.
Unless a man possessed by a giant insect sprays black goop from his junk and kills them first.