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Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
 
$1.95
Average Rating:3.9 / 5
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Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
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Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2009 17:41:07
This extremely professional and well-put-together supplement presents a grim and gritty crime-oriented setting for D20 Modern. Following in the footsteps of great "dark city" settings from comics' Gotham City to gaming's Hudson City, Haven, City of Violence offers a world of betrayal, conspiracy, noir stylings and, of course, plenty of guns and brawling.

A brief short story sets the scene, then a general overview of the organization, history and government of Haven is presented. Then, each neighborhood of Haven is given its own flavor, with many interesting NPCs to both assist and bedevil the player characters. A recent history, emphasizing gang conflicts and organized crime activity, follows.

The supplement introduces the idea of neighborhood-oriented backgrounds, which expand feat options for characters as well as opportunities for Wealth and Reputation. A few new Occupations, Advanced Classes, Skills (and skill uses), and many new Feats are also introduced. I should note that one of the Advanced Classes, the Cleaner, gains significant bonuses from setting up a "murder room" (i.e. with plastic sheets covering the floor and windows, isolated from others, and so on.) This is very stylish, definitely in keeping with the scary-organized-crime aspect of the game, and most important, introduces a new sort of tactic for player characters, encouraging traps and manipulation to get the target to where the attacker wants him.

A simple disadvantage system is also introduced. Unlike many disadvantage systems for D20 games, the one in Haven: City of Violence, feeds directly into the CR system rather than standing on its own. This makes it much easier to integrate into existing material or preplanned campaigns, a big plus.

An interesting Organization section details several of the key factions in Haven, and gives mechanical bonuses to advancement in the faction, including prominent organized crime families and police. Each faction divides its loyal members into "Muscle" and "Brains", and expands additional talent options for those that advance in those areas. This is something that could be expanded on significantly in many different sorts of games, as factions are key to most modern game designs.

A decent GMing section follows, the best part of which is the list of questions which can be used to design an adventure.

Throughout, the text is clear, and the art is highly professional and evocative. I spotted a few minor typos, but nothing serious. I count 91 pages, plus 2 covers and an OGL page, and they're all chock full of wonderful nastiness.

There are several ways this work could be improved - the use of bookmarks, for example, is almost necessary in supplements this big. I also am not sure the neighborhood-background system adds much to the game in the level realm that most people are going to play it in. (By the by, some notes on how to use Haven at low levels, middle levels, and high levels would also be great.) The GM advice on how to have dynamic, exciting action scenes is top-notch, but little attention has been given to how to get the D20 Modern system to handle things like lots of movement in combat.

However, overall, Haven: City of Violence is one of the strongest D20 Modern citybooks out there. It takes a tone and runs with it right to the finish line. If you like Gotham City, if you like Hudson City, Haven will fit right in next door. Like Marv said in Sin City, "I love hitmen. No matter what you do to them, you don't feel bad." The low price tag makes this one a bargain you can't pass up. I'm giving this one extremely high marks, in part because I love the subject matter and it's clear the creators did too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Andy A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/27/2005 00:00:00
Although I haven't read the original version of Haven: City of Violence. This setting in general seemed a little too over the top. Haven is as gritty as it gets. I can see some obvious influences in the work. You can tell that Frank Miller, James 'O' Barr and John Woo definately hit hard on this setting. It was not the best writing I have seen, but nonetheless, it wasn't bad.


LIKED: Gritty details about EVERYTHING that goes on in Haven. The power groups, the different districts of the cities from Golden Heights to Rome Island. Very good stuff that will give GMs more than enough to run a Haven chronicle for a while.

DISLIKED: Advanced classes were disappointing. I thought they could use a little more thought and effort on the writer's part. Worse than the advanced classes are the NPC descriptors. If you are even going to mention any NPC's, their stats should be in there. You want to give the GM a bit of knowledge on what the capabilites of the NPC's are instead of just implying that Dominic Carlucci has so many bodygaurds and goons beneath him, it's impossible to get to him, give stats on the man, and describe his lackeys, whether they be individual NPC's or high level thugs. No NPC stats is definitely the lazy man's way out.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/15/2005 00:00:00
Excellent setting, well worth the money for such a developed locale.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Mark C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00
Having read the original Haven: City of Violence game, I can not help but compare the two, and this new version looks better. The backgrounds are clearer. The art is not underneath the text. This worked for the original but could be hard for those people printing a copy from the PDF. I realize there was a great debate over whether or not to convert to the d20 system but doing so opens the product up to a new audience.

It is a relief that Haven does not reprint the core d20 Modern rules. This is especially nice if you are buying the print version. You do not end up paying for pages and pages of redundant rules. It also means the 94 pages are new rules and information. Most of this is taken up with new advanced classes, feats, organizations and their talent trees. This synergies nicely with d20 Modern and makes a good add-on to the core rules.

Family and organizations are very important in Haven. They determine what special abilities your classes can get. When you take levels in a Haven advanced class, the class does not list talents. Instead each organization you belong to lists the talents for related advanced classes.

Leadership is back in with a variety of modifiers for this violent environment. This and other elements have made a big push for social interactions. Having friends and save your life in Haven. Many of the feats are related to social interaction, bonuses against and for certain groups or organizations.

There are a number of new unarmed combat feats which are neat to see, ranging from Karate to Haymaker. This gives unarmed characters a variety of options to play with and it is something I enjoy.

Age is an important factor in Haven, with an advanced table of aging effects starting with child, changing greatly through the teen years, stabilizing at adult and continuing up to venerable age.

Like many modern books there are new rules for modifying characters. This time it is disadvantages. Characters in Haven are far from perfect and here is your chance to determine how. Characters receive extra experiences when a disadvantage comes up in play and they overcome it.

There is just a hint of the supernatural creeping into Haven. A couple of feats and an occupation revolve around the occult. This is nicely done for a city campaign where there will be the odd back alley practitioner of voodoo but you do not want to turn the campaign into a full blown fantasy setting.

The theme for the book has remained the same as the original. Events have been snowballing for the last five years into what looks like a looming bloody war with a mysterious cause. This is a classic for any violent setting and I have been curious as to the cause. It will, no doubt, be one day revealed and explored in a supplement.

I could only find 18 uses of the F-word in this product, which I think is down from the original but I have the print version and can not search it. This gives the book a bit of a gritty feel and makes the target audience adults looking to play a more serious game.

If you are looking for mobs, gangs, god fathers, and social interactions where you can live or die because of what you say, this is the book for you. It?s hard to choose a ?good? side in Haven. It is more a matter choosing which organization?s brand of violence you like better.


LIKED: Haven really gets into the personality of the organizations and people. You walk into this game knowing you better make friends because you?re going to need them. I like the art, which is what drew me to the original book. With so many other products with so-so art kicking around, this one really stands out. The original has 16 photo-pages of full color art paintings at the beginning. Looking at the list of their supplements to this product, I have located the missing art and it looks good.

DISLIKED: As per some of the other comments, I would like to see the page numbers vertically to make them easier to read in the PDF. There is no table of contents or index, both of which I make use of. I would like to see some NPCs of the many characters listed in the history of the city. And finally (again) a map would be neat. Many of these elements are likely to appear in the numerous smaller supplements which you can pick and choose from as you need or want for your campaign.

Finally I have got to ask, but I might be mistaken, isn?t there a spelling mistake on the back title? ?Out of control criminals, corrupt cops, immoral politicians, and apathetic citizen.? Shouldn?t ?citizen? be ?citizens?? My grammar checker indicates there is no problem with citizen, and no one else has said anything, but it looks incorrect to me.


QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2005 00:00:00
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.


LIKED: 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.

DISLIKED: 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.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Todd F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/30/2005 00:00:00
Intersting little book. Not for the immature crowd though.

LIKED: Introduces some new concepts as far as allegiances and backgrounds are concerned.

DISLIKED: Lack of NPC stat examples. Lack of a map

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Haven: City of Violence d20 Modern
Publisher: LPJ Design
by alan d. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/22/2004 00:00:00
Let's start off with the basics. This 94 page (all inclusive) PDF, written by Chuck Rice of RPGObjects fame and Louis Porter, Jr., writer of the original Haven sourcebook, is pretty hefty considering the current trend of shorter PDFs by Devil's Workshop/LPJ Designs. This is a very welcome change of pace and really packs a great value for the dollar. I purchased this at $8, and it is definately worth it. The book starts off with a 9 page story about a hitman in Haven, which is a fairly good read. Then is about 36 pages of pure data for the city of Haven, including all different sections of the city, and tons of sections within sections of the city. All sections are pretty detailed, giving GMs a good bit of info for running games in the city. There are also regional backgrounds that give bonus feats and other small bonuses for choosing occupations prevalent in that region. Note that PCs get a bonus feat at first level, which may not suit well with current campaigns, but that is easy enough to houserule. Living in Haven is deadly, and I can see why most characters need that extra feat. There is also a disadvantages section, which is very similar to the Blood and Vigilance disads. They are well balanced because they do not provide any up front bonuses, but rather increase the CR of encounters where your disadvantage comes into play. A welcome bonus of XP without the typical front loading of disadvantages of other products. There are a few new Advanced Classes, including 2 interesting classes called Organization Brains and Organization Muscle. These classes are more like basic classes in that they have tons of talent trees (based on which organization the PC belongs to...crime family, police dept, etc) which really provide a nearly unlimited array of PC options. I much prefer advanced talent trees over your standard Advanced Class abilities. There is also a GM section covering the last few pages of the book for helpful hints on running a game inside Haven.

Since there is no partial ratings between 3 and 4, I am giving this a 4 because the outstanding content outweighs the dissapointing lack of ToC or bookmarks. It's an easy fix and will hopefully be updated in future downloads of this product. I have contacted the publisher personally about this, so hopefully we will be able to work something out.

LIKED: The cover and 2nd page art is outstanding. The interior art is mostly B&W, but is tastefully put and does not detract from the PDF at all. The layout is clean, with one exception (detailed below) which lets you focus your eyes on reading the book and not being distracted with wild and crazy backgrounds. As stated above, the talent trees for the Organization Advanced Classes are top notch and a great addition to the game. The other classes and numerous feats are all also well written, many of them coming from other Chuck Rice products. The detail of the city is done extremely well. Overall, there is a ton of material crammed into 94 pages which is extremely good compared to recent shoter PDFs.

DISLIKED: The ONLY gripe I have of this is navigation. The page numbers are written vertically on the sidebars in a screwy (but very nice for anything but page numbers) font in white on grey background. It's very difficult to read. There is also no ToC in the front of the book that points to certain pages for content, nor are there any bookmarks to point you around the document. I am hoping that the bookmarks will come in the form of an update, but I am not sure if that will happen or not. It's difficult to find your way through the document, but the content in sound, and that's what really matters.

The other thing that seemed missing was a map of Haven, but I'm hoping that will show up in either another upcoming product or as a freebie on the Haven website. It's very minor and I won't subtract any score for not having it, but just noting to people that it is missing.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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