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Postpartum: The Books of Pandemonium

Rafael Chandler

Validated User
This one's for people who were into the Books of Pandemonium, or who thought that the books needed some changes.

In video games, we do something called a postmortem. The postmortem can be defined as the analysis which follows the conclusion of a process; in our case, it refers to the discussion of a shipped title. The term is obviously quite ghoulish, drawing a connection between the evaluation of your development process and the examination of dead body to determine the cause of death.

However, the term isn't really appropriate. After all, we're collaborating to bring an experience into the world. Our creations live on, frequently surviving the very companies that brought them into being. Consequently, it's more logical to use the term postpartum -- which refers to the first few weeks following birth. So let's have us a postpartum analysis!

What did you actually like about Dread and Spite? What parts worked?

What left you dissatisfied? What should have been playtested some more, or left out of the books?

What would you want to see in a future book? Why?


Validated User
  • The D12 system. It's one of the few dice pool systems I actually like.
  • The simplicity. You can get into play quite quickly. Pre-Gens, easily-taught rules (you can go over them and create characters as you play). And you can easily modify stuff, tack on additions, or remove things you don't like.
  • The straight-forward, focused setting. There's no confusion or question about what you're going to be playing/running.
  • The sheer amount of setting material Spite provided. The massive amounts of different angel types, the factions, the gonzo classic monsters, the renegade Disciples and Zealots and other freaks like Eucharites and Genstructs.
  • The pregenerated scenarios; they're pretty good. The death spiral structure is cool, and makes them work "out of the box" with just reading them once or twice. I've ran all ready-made scenarios multiple times, for different people, yielding different games, but always great fun.

Don't like too much:
  • In the transition from Dread to Spite, Spite did something cool with giving Zealot classes different powers to select from. However, Analysis was made into a power, not a feature of anybody with the class, which took a lot of edge off the class itself. I felt that this should have been a universal investigator feature (like the +1 to Combat for all fighters), and an extra power in its place instead.
  • Drive has always been wishy-washy. It should be limited somehow (like, you can only use it in one scene), but then you get to use it for the entire scene. Following just the written examples and the guidelines for Drive, it's not clear how players are supposed to use it. There were entire sessions in which Drive was completely forgotten.
  • The initiative "system". Seemed so arbitrary that it just didn't need it at all. Then again, it was open to easy replacement this way (in one game, we rolled Sense checks for initiative at the beginning of a fight and used the resulting order).
  • Sense and Soul versus Skills. It's hard to compare them to or keep them apart from Skills. These attributes have so little mechanical impact beyond giving Skill points (sometimes invalidated depending on the case) and Magic points/spells/attribute respectively. We kind of just used Sense as a catch-all for things like checking if you can notice a demon's booby-traps in its lair, but other than that, they just aren't useful, because it's unclear how much harder a check should be if you default to Sense or Soul instead of using the proper skill. For example, you could use Intimidate... or you could use Soul. If you use just Soul to do that against someone with Intimidate, do they roll their Intimidate + Soul worth of dice? We sometimes felt that skills should be added to attributes to form a pool but then sorcerers would be social monsters and investigators could ace everything outside of combat and magic; it seemed like this part wasn't thought out enough.
  • One scenario in the "Scenarios" chapter of Spite... what the hell? :D

Don't like:
  • Advancement points/costs. Spite improved heavily over Dread, but the costs could have been collapsed more instead of keeping the bloat. For example, an attribute raise could cost 13, a new power 4-5, adding an Aspergilia power 1. There's little to no sense of progression as you earn only 1-3 AP per case and some costs are astronomic in comparison. We remedied it by handing out AP for every single objective or noteworthy achievement, making a case's rewards more like 3-12 AP, or by downscaling the costs later on.
  • The arbitrary assignment of damage values to weapons. I would have preferred a tag/keyword system for crafted and improvised weapons; like "bladed/piercing" gives +1 damage, "heavy" gives +1, "large" +1, "fully-automatic" +1, and so on; allowing you to easily cook up a weapon's stats on the fly without having to look them up. Also, there's no clear disadvantage or different qualities inherent in bigger weapons other than cost or obviousness--for instance, it's hard to smuggle a fully-automatic shotgun into a secure area, and it's more expensive to acquire, but those factors aside (shoot your way in/loot it from your enemies!), it's always a wiser choice to use than, say, a knife or a revolver, because it deals way more damage and has more ammo. The more punch the weapon, the less ammo it could have had, and vice versa for the lighter firearms. For the melee weapons, I got nothin'.
  • I liked the way Armor points worked in essence (diminishing and limited use), but everybody I played with or ran for found them counter-intuitive. It's basically the only roll in the game where you don't want to roll as high as possible, and then you count dice, and such. I have to agree. Something like... roll higher than the damage, you can discard the die (or dice if you get multiples creating a higher score) that scored higher than it from your Armor pool and it eats the attack damage... would have made more sense.
  • The layout/style of Spite wasn't nearly as cool and awesome as it was in Dread. Stuff like the weapon tables were simply unformatted lists, a lot of the amazing design work that made the Dread book pop was just gone in Spite.
  • No bookmarks in the PDFs, argh.
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New member
I loved Dread. It was awesome. A friend of mind loved it as well. Sadly I don't have a lot of specifics. It was a very neat game.

Cool Stuff:

Nice system.
Good background and concept.

Bad Stuff:
It needed a different layout, tighter with less white space. Compact that stuff together, get as much in the book as possible.
The conceit. I think it might have been interesting if the conceit behind the game had some leeway--letting players/GM's build the game a bit more there way. I've a few players who'd hate that background,
and others who'd think it was awesome. (Interestingly, both groups were one-time die hard WOD players, now they've deviated sharply in tastes.) Note: This is for my players, not myself. I liked it fine as it was.

In general it was awesome, with only a few hiccups. I think it was hurt by unfortunate circumstances. Similar name to another indie game (thus confusion.) Not enough buzz. Black-white layout in this age of colored marvels. (I like B&W layout for a lot of games, my own High Valor is B&W, because it fits the tone of the game.) Some gamers prefer color, despite the cost that gets passed on to them.

In reality, it was a great game.


SLA Cloak Divison
Validated User
The Good

Simple System
Easy to teach
Little Prep for the Game needed
Easy to read (I finished both books on the day I received them in the mail)
The Splatterpunk theme
The Rule of Cool
Retirement Mechanic (this made death totally awesome and my Players were looking for new and awesome ways to off themselves in a scarlet rain of glory)
The Demons & Angles themselves.

The Bad

The Layout & Editing was not as well done as in Spite
Takes some work to avoid the Monster of the week Game.
Some of the Spells covered the same ground just the flavor text was different.
I found a few easily abused Gamebreakers for example Vore+Warstorm Combo
a few descriptions of the Demons did not match the Demons Attributes.

The absence of the book Mercy in the Books of Pandemonium
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SLA Cloak Divison
Validated User
From what I can remember it was supposed to be about God wanting to tare everything down.
It would have turned the World of Pandemonium into an Apocalypse turned up to Eleven.

Sadly thats all I can remember :(


Validated User
I found a few easily abused Gamebreakers for example Vore+Warstorm Combo
Nice! That's pretty twisted and that one slipped us by. Tell us about the rest of the loopholes you discovered! ;)

What was Mercy supposed to be about?
A third, rumored faction in the Last War, and their agents; the Reavers, Redliners, what have you.

There's an alternative one here.
Your entire site gives me LOLgasms. The good kind.

I'm partial to the initiative system. What did people have trouble with?
To summarize what most people I gamed with had trouble with: rolling a die per person every round to determine initiative order; and it being a completely arbitrary die roll, regardless of their character's stats. Some (rightfully) said you could just as well take turns in a circle, the person sitting to your left continuing after you.
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