||The Nightmare War is a campaign setting (called a campaign gem) from Old Kingdom Games. The zipped file is sixteen megabytes inside, and contains four PDF versions of the same file, as well as a readme file. The four PDFs are the full color version of the book, a black and white version, and a printer-friendly version of each that lacks page borders or the front cover. The files are one hundred twenty-five pages long, including the cover.
The book does a good job with illustrations and graphic design, particularly in the first section. Things like scribbled notes in the margins of files, or pictures of actual people in medical gear help to put the reader in-character. Having printer-friendly versions of both the color and black and white files is a nice touch, though it would have helped if one version had at least removed all of the artwork altogether.
The Nightmare War, interestingly, requires the use of the Fantasy d20 Core Rulebook I for use, instead of Modern d20. This seems like an oversight on the part of Old Kingdom Games, as it makes them have to recreate things like the Computer Use skill, or statistics for guns. Given that these seem to end up being somewhat similar to what Modern d20 has had for years, it is notable that those rules were eschewed.
The book is divided into three parts. The first one sets the tone, opening with a piece of fiction, and then giving the reader various in-character reports, files, handouts, and more. In the year 2035, global corruption seems on the rise, from corporate malfeasance to government scandals to violent crime outbreaks. What only a few people notice, however, is that all of this is related. Moreover, it has something to do with people termed nightwalkers, seemingly ordinary people who inexplicably began to have horrid nightmares every night, but found themselves imbued with extraordinary abilities at the same time. However, something is hunting them down?
This first part of the book does a very good job of establishing a feel for the campaign. By giving a wide variety of interrelated materials to the reader, it sets the tone for this corrupt near-future very well, establishing a fugitive mentality that is perfect for the campaign. In fact, it does this so well that it is conspicuous that this part of the book wasn?t packaged separately, so that GMs can hand it to their players to read. Printing this section out and handing it to the players is the first thing I?d do if I were running this campaign.
Part two focuses on the game mechanics of The Nightmare War setting. Five character classes are given, one for each kind of nightwalker. The classes seem slightly underpowered compared to Fantasy d20 classes, but roughly on par with what Modern d20 characters could do. Interestingly, here is where we first note that powers and abilities apparently don?t use the various Ex/Su/Sp tags, which may be slightly irking if you bring in other products to use in this campaign. New skills and feats are presented next, followed by equipment.
Part three is a mix of fluff and crunch, and is intended for the Game Master only. Here, the truth is revealed about the nightwalkers, and what is happening to the world. It also gives templates for the phages, the creatures that hunt the nightwalkers, as well as their special abilities and feats just for them. Several important NPCs are given stats, and thirteen different NPC classes are given, to represent ordinary people. The book closes out with some listed references, a glossary, and character sheets for each type of nightwalker.
Altogether, The Nightmare War has a spectacular campaign idea, but only does an okay job of fleshing it out with d20 game mechanics. It bears reiterating that this would have been a far better product if it had availed itself of the Modern d20 rules. Without them, it is forced to reinvent the wheel in several places, and doesn?t address things like using more standard modern fantasy staples like psionics or even magic in this setting. The Nightmare War is a campaign gem to be sure, but it could have benefited from greater polishing.
LIKED: This book did a spectacular job of presenting a fearful atmosphere. The first section really sucks the reader in, and presents a world caught in the gaze of an absent horror.
DISLIKED: This book should have used the Modern d20 rules, and focused more on fleshing out the mechanics with that.
[3 of 5 Stars!]