Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern is the book that describes itself as being a campaign of evil versus evil, in a setting of mobsters, crooked cops, and general corruption. The book certainly lives up to its description, being extremely grim-and-gritty, but the d20 adaptation, while good, still left me somewhat cold.
The first half of the product is devoted to flavor text that gives us a feel for the city. After a bit of introductory fiction, we receive descriptions of the six boroughs of Haven, along with their various personalities and local locations. Following that are descriptions of the various syndicates and cartels that battle to divide up the city of Haven between them. The flavor section then closes out with a timeline of the last five years in the city.
Altogether, about half of the book is devoted to pure flavor. While the preceding section was intense reading that really drove home the idea of what Haven is about, the absence of statistics for the NPCs was obvious in how it was missed. Most of the people described are movers and shakers in the city, so even an abbreviated stat block would have been nice.
Next, the crunchy section opens with descriptions of the various boroughs and their neighborhoods, again, and this time gives us Modern d20 listings for the backgrounds and preferred feats from those areas. The backgrounds aren?t necessary for each area, but they offer a bonus if you take one of them. A few new occupations are then laid out, along with some new advanced classes (almost all of which are criminal-related, such as the Thug, or Organization Brain), and new skills. The new feats really show off what it means to live in the City of Violence. Well over half of them are new combat feats, and seem quite devastating in what they offer, such as Sucker Punch, which lets you inflict +2d6 damage to flat-footed opponents.
An interesting new mechanic is debuted here. Haven gives us a new system for Disadvantages for characters. The way it works is that a character picks a disadvantage from among those listed, and assigns it a Disadvantage Rating. Each disadvantage has a mechanical effect that it penalizes the character with, with the effect being related to the DSR. However, overcoming your Disadvantage in the game is treated as overcoming an opponent with a CR equal to the DSR, granting you a greater reward for doing so. It?s a fairly ingenious system to encourage players to not only pick flaws for their characters, but to encourage them to come up in the game as well.
The next section lists the various organizations, also again, and gives us various talents for them. Each organization has mechanical requirements (much like feat prerequisites) that must be met before you can select any of their talents, and the talent trees themselves vary widely depending on what role in the organization you serve.
The final section of the book is neither fluff nor crunch, but GM advice. Although most GM advice lately seems to be emphasizing the same few rules about gaming, there were some nice gems here. For example, it drove home the fact that every NPC should, in combat, be played like a real person. How many people, in a gunfight, are just going to stand there in the open and shoot? Likewise, it also drives home the point that you shouldn?t skimp on character death. While you shouldn?t persecute the PCs, Haven is a city where dead bodies are an almost routine occurance.
All in all, I enjoyed reading about Haven, but in regards to the layout, especially with the mechanics, I felt more could have been done. For example, the product has no table of contents, nor are there bookmarks. This makes finding a specific section into a frustrating game of searching around for it. Likewise, why does the flavor portion of the book need to be so clearly divorced from the crunch section? Why couldn?t the flavor section, after describing each area, then give us the backgrounds and bonus feats for that area? Why couldn?t the flavor section about each criminal organization then give us that organization?s talents? It seemed like a lot more could have been squeezed into this product (maybe the lacking NPC stat blocks) if that technique had been adopted. Haven is definitely a place to game if you want to have a campaign where everyone is dirty, but I wish the product had laid itself out a little cleaner.
<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The flavor text lends a great deal of atmosphere, and the selection of new mechanics drive home the campaign of corruption and violence. Haven is a product that knows what it wants to be, and reaches towards that goal very well.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Divorcing the mechanics from the flavor text so much caused some redundancy in the information that appeared, seeming to waste space in reprinted material. NPCs, which are important in Haven, received no statistics at all. There's no table of contents or bookmarks.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>
[3 of 5 Stars!]