Saturday, August 9, 2008

RPG Jaunts: Judge Dredd d20

You might be wondering what the "RPG Jaunts" bit means in the subject line. Well, it's my attempt to have a regular thing on here where I go over my old role-playing game books and talk about them a little. Maybe you haven't seen these products before, and maybe you don't care. I primarily do this for me-- and the hope that perhaps one of you will take interest in what I'm yabbling about.

Today's Jaunt is about one of my favourite rpgs of all time: Judge Dredd (who happens to be my favourite comic bok character of all time), released in 2002. Now, you'll hear a lot of noise about how Games Workshop's earlier rpg offering is the quintessential Drredd RPG. To me, and a probably a handful of others out there, the d20 variation of Dredd is a bit better. Personally, I like it more because it uses a universal system, and a rules-set that is easily tweakable to suit my needs. If I read something for, say, d20 Gamma World or d20 Modern, I can apply it to d20 Dredd, no drokking sweat. Also, though the GW Dredd is excellent and a classic in its own right, I feel Mongoose's d20 Dredd handles the property better.

I'll tell you one thing, citizens: I'm not cracking open the GW Dredd books for information about the Dreddverse. And this brings me to the next point... If you are a fan of the Judge Dredd comic (as you very well should be), d20 Dredd is a great sourcebook. It kinda reminds me of how west End Games' old Star Wars books were (and still are) valuable SW Universe reference guides. Authors use them, fans used them, comic writers used them. Mongoose did a great job doing the same thing with compiling and fleshing out the Dreddverse. This isn't just a roleplaying game-- it's a portal into the world of Judge Dredd. It's your key to The Big Meg. It's absolutely irresistible, by Grud.

The rules given are simple enough if you are familiar with the d20 system. In fact, I feel this game is a better, if not simpler, take on d20 Modern. All you really need, aside from this main rulebook, is the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook 3rd Edition (or 3.5) book. And even that's debatable, as you can get the SRD online for free... I never had to look up anything in the D&D book, myself. At least I don't think I did. If you just have the Judge Dredd book, then you should be fine just winging it if you are in need of anything else. I suppose that's the biggest problem with this game; winging it happens often.

Classes are incredibly non-complex. You can play a judge or a citizen (who's into criminal enterprise, no doubt). There are many different types of each you can play. Psi Judge? Got it. Citi-Def Soldier? No problem. Tek Judge? You can do it. SJS? If I tell you any more on this one, I'll have to kill you, punk. You can even play a Dunk or a Failed Cadet (who could be Wally Squad!). But it's usually either Judges or Citizens. No mixing them up. Now, when I ran a few games of this, I created a media class (based on a modified version of Private Investigator) and attached him to a squad of Judges. Another time, it was Citi-Def and Judges. The only problem with that one was the Citi-Def players were only good for a couple sessions, as why would they be permanently attached to the Justice Department? Of course, if I had played more with that bunch we would have just formed a special unit to keep them on. Oh, and the media guy? He was eventually killed. By friendly-fire if I remember correctly...

Judge Dredd to me played out like a game of Cyberpunk 2020 meets SLA Industries with a little Paranoia tossed in for good measure. The Dreddverse is a place rife with satire and in-jokes. It's rather weird to have a D&D book sitting around in case it's needed, and to be honest, I think that's what put a lot of Dredd fans off on this game. Otherwise, everything is quite smooth and simple, as I've said. You have the usual skills, feats, and character generation stuff modified for Dredd. The layout is nice too, with only a few small glitches. Some of the art (which is striaght from 2000 AD!) looks pixelated in spots, and there are a few typos (surprise, surprise, I know). The binding on my copy has cracked and is somewhat weak. I'm sure after a few dozen more readings it will fall off. There are some FANTASTIC full-colur bits, including a decent map, art, and Tek-Division specs on a few items. I'm pretty sure I've seen all of these visuals before in other places, which is fine by me. It's nice to have them in one place. I do wish there was original artwork; but then again, original artwork is risky. It could turn out horrible and foul everything up.

Could Dredd d20 be better? Sure. There's lots of room for more stuff and there's always my wish that it was twice as big. Still, to be fair, Mongoose crammed a lot into these 256 pages. Thankfully, the sourcebooks and adventures which follow this book are even better! I'll be sure to cover them really soon, because they are some of the rpg books I like best out there.

Is this rulebook worth it? If you are a Dredd fan, a roleplayer and can find it: Stomm, yes. I did a dance of joy when I picked this up, and I am still enjoying it. I hear Mongoose has pulled their Dredd products due to the fact they're out of print. Considering Mongoose has their own book-printing set-up, I reckon they are gearing up for the new Traveller-rules version. You can bet I'll be getting that, too.

You can find copies of the Judge Dredd d20 RPG all over the place, and if you need a place to start, try

And if you do play this game, and you need some extra Judges, here are some paper-minis a nice fan was kind enough to put up.

Lethality: Five out of the six perps are pasted by some hi-ex rounds. The survivor is going to be spending the rest of his life in the 'cubes.

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