Theme&andn’What is it?
A Rightous Cause
The forces of Hell are among us. Dark hosts have taken residence in the souls of mortal men and women in their infernal effort to seduce them to darker fortunes. You are a small band of Sisters whom the church has hand chosen to deal with these darker entities. Can you solve the mystery of each fallen soul before it’s too late to save them?
Daemonium Venatrix is a small press Role-Play Game with a zine format. In it, the players take on the roles of specially trained Nuns who perform exorcisms. To complete the task and save the soul you must investigate their lives, find clues to their greatest pain, regret, and passion, and then perform the ritual that will save them from eternal damnation.
Can you do it? Can you face the generals of Hell and save a lost lamb from the brimstone laden pits? With perseverance, a bit of luck, and a dollop of Faith…maybe.
Transparency Note With the current conditions of the world, I haven’t been able to run/play this game. I hope to at some point; it’s got some interesting ideas and a couple of mechanics that I really jive with. Unfortunately, it’s not been a game I’ve been able to get to the table. Additionally, this isn’t a review. It’s my understanding that the game isn’t in its final form just yet. It’s going to Kickstarter and you can click the link HERE to get to the campaign. It’s up until the 5th of March and you should check it out if what I say here interests you.
Finally, the writers of this are friends of a friend. I was given a copy of this through a mutual friend and while I haven’t met the creators personally, our mutual friendship might cause some folks pause. That’s why I’m putting it here. I want to be up front with you folks. That’s all for this. Back to the Preview.
An Opening Hymn
The new trend of RPG zines feels like an update of the old one sheet RPG that was in vogue a few years ago. Personally, I like it. It’s a nice quick bit of a system or game that lets you get started quickly and play an evening’s worth of fun. You can turn them into a campaign with slight modifications. These are a nice fit in the world.
With that said I was interested in this game based on the setting and ideas behind it. I like mystery games with a good chance for role-play. I enjoy Call of Cthulhu even though I don’t get to play very often. VD offers a similar feel with the added use of motive and effect added in. The game is steeped in Christianity from the use of nuns, the ethical nature of your talent pools, and the inclusion of prayers to Saints as a means of finding clues. I’m curious to get this to a table and give it a try.
It’s also partly based on the gumshoe engine. While I’ve never used it, I’ve heard good things and would like to see how this works out.
Going through the book I was further intrigued and wanted to see more. I’m looking forward to seeing the final book in all its glory and how it works when fully completed.
The Inner Workings
Partially based on the Gumshoe engine, at its core DV uses a D6 target number based system. When attempting something that requires a roll you’ll be given a target number and need to roll that or higher on a six-sided dice. The more difficult the task the higher the number you need to roll. If you miss your roll you’ll spend points from one of your talents.
Talents are a series of characteristics that represent the various physical and mental statistics that define your nun. These are: Fortitude (physical fitness), Magnificence (force of personality), Prudence (mental faculties), Witness (powers of observation), and Works (ability to work with ones hands). Further your talents are divided into two pools; ethical and unethical. When you fail a roll to do something physical you can spend points from your fortitude pool to make the roll succeed. The half of the pool you use is defined by the type of action you’re using. If you’re trying to win an arm-wrestling competition fairly then you use your ethical pool. If you were trying to cheat, fool, or hustle your opponent then you use your unethical pool.
The amount of points you have available in your various pools also acts as a type of stress gauge. If you’ve used all of the points from one pool then you are too mentally exhausted to use that type of action that way. If you’ve used all of your ethical Fortitude points you can’t try and perform an ethical physical action. You’re too worried about the outcome, stressed by the situation, or exhausted to work that way anymore. You’ve lost a little bit of hope and need start relying on unethical practices to succeed.
This is further complicated by your Grace attribute. Grace is a reflection of the strength of your nun’s faith. Every time you spend unethical points it wears away at your grace and you lose a point. There are other ways to lose grace but this is the most frequent. If your grace reaches zero you are momentarily possessed by a lesser demon in the employ of the enemy. For 1D6 minutes your nun is under the sway of evil and begins acting out and trying to destroy the good works around them. At the end of the six minutes, the demon is expelled and you are free to return to your duties. But the fallout will land on your shoulders. While the other nuns will understand what happened, others who witnessed the outburst may not.
Everything above is used in the service of the overall theme of the game. You are investigating the life of a possessed soul to find out how to save them. To this end you’ll be partaking in a mystery game. You’ll need to interview people connected to the possessed, dig through their life, and research them where you can. You’re hoping to find three objects that represent different faucets of their lives. You’ll need to find things representing their greatest pain, regret, and passion.
By interacting with Non-Player Character (NPC’s) and locations you’ll determine what events left the victim open to possession. You’ll then need to find items that will represent these acts, memories, or people. Once you’ve assembled the different focuses you can perform the ritual to unbind the victim from the forces of Hell.
The game includes some other bits and bobs, including a mechanic where you pray to specific Saints to find the necessary clues to the locations of the needed items. I don’t want to give away the entire game here. So I’ll leave some mysteries for you to solve on your own.
The Look of Things
There’s not a lot of art, which isn’t surprising considering the length of the zine. What is there is nice, both of the artists who worked on it did a fine job.
The Spirit That Moves You
As I haven’t played this I can’t say for sure but this feels like the fun of the game will be in piecing the lives of the victims together through investigation. If you enjoy games with significant role-play and puzzle components I think this will be right for you. I think the Call of Cthulhu crowd will be right at home here. Especially if they are looking for a quick one shot alternative to their regular game.
The Weight of Experience
The book doesn’t give an age range but based on the content of the mysteries and the potential dark nature of the stories I’d shy away from younger players. You could tailor the adventures to a more PG13 audience but I think this game lends itself to an older 16+ crowd.
As for complexity, the rules are very straightforward. There aren’t a lot of bonuses to remember or figure out as you play. There could be some debate over whether or not an action is or is not ethical and that will be up to your group.
The Final Word
Once again I haven’t played it but I’ve been playing RPG’s since the late 70’s and usually have a good feeling for how a game will work. Daemonium Venatrix looks like it will be an intense yet fun experience. I like the rules they’ve got and think they can be used in interesting ways with the themes of the game.
I can see it being outside some players comfort zones with a heavy reliance with religious imagery and symbolism. The use of Saints and prayers to find information. The use of nuns, the ethical/unethical dice pools, and the use of Latin in the game might be much for some players. If you have strong feelings about Catholicism I think it will color your opinion of this game.
One other thing I hope gets added in later is an adventure. While the book does have some example item’s, clues, and relics that you can go find for several different cases it doesn’t supply a full adventure. I understand the length of the book stands in the way of that, but I’ve always appreciated the inclusion of 1 adventure to give potential game masters a template to follow on their own.
In addition to this there are four other zine style games on the Kickstarter. You can always jump over and check out what the other books are and see if the themes are more your style. In addition, if you’ve read my reviews before you know I’m a huge proponent of trying before you buy and Daemonium Venatrix is offered through the campaign as a free download. There’s a link on the main page that you can follow to find out if you like it.
Until next time, stay safe and be well.