By Patrick O'Duffy.
Well, I finally got hold of a copy of Thorns of the Lotus, after waiting forever to see it released. I really looked forward to this supplement -- the Lotus are fun bad guys, and I wanted to see all the cool new stuff I could throw at my players.
Frankly, I'm disappointed. There are quite a few good things in TofL, but also a lot that I thought was unnecessary, and some that I thought just plain sucked.
I liked the inclusion of Taoist priests in the book, and some of the supernatural creature stuff. Most of the Sorcery material applies to GMCs more than PCs, but that's cool.
However, a lot of the new Sorcery rules seem unnecessarily complicated, more geared to Legend of the 5 Rings than Feng Shui. The adventure is too prolonged and doesn't have enough continuous action. The section on playing Lotus, while adequate, isn't terribly useful for most campaigns. And the background material...
Look, this is Feng Shui. This isn't a game that has a strong focus on realism, facts, or details. What's important in FS (in my opinion) is pacing, fun, and action. Things like the internal structure of the Lotus' bureaucracy aren't what my players will care about, and they aren't what I care about. Sure, they assist in maintaining a certain level of internal consistency, but that isn't difficult. They won't affect gameplay, NPC/PC interaction, fight scenes or the other areas that form FS's main focus.
FS is in many ways a game that focuses on surface ideas, and Thorns gives us structure and body. That's very useful if you run a solely-69 game (as some GMs do), but doesn't do a lot for more "vanilla" GMs like myself.
Personal peeve -- the author seems to like the idea of the Lotus as usually being a subtle and sneaky group in the contempary juncture. Me, I think that they cause big explosions and talk funny. Subtlety I leave to the Ascended.
Ever play TORG? Ever read a TORG "cosm" supplement? They read a lot like Thorns. Lots of background detail, lots of history, some new rules, an adventure or two. I always found that I just skimmed the background for relevant material, culled out a lot of the new rules, and had to tweak the adventure to make it work. That's rather how I feel about Thorns. Some good stuff, a lot of irrelevant stuff, and I have to change some things to make them fit what I want. Frankly, I wanted more than that for my $35 Australian.
Not to say I won't use it -- I will. I also think my friend Kevin, who likes to run pure-69 games, will use it a lot. But I wish it had been better.
Thus far, Daedalus aren't doing that well with support. Marked for Death was largely crap. Back for Seconds was largely excellent, but with some flaws. I'd put Thorns between those two. Hopefully Blood of the Valiant will imporve the grade curve.
One last thing -- Daedalus needs to hire a new proofreader. There weren't any major spelling errors, but there were quite a few grammar problems (confusion between its and it's being a major one), and a few cases of commonly-confused words (whether and weather leapt out). The worst error was p91, in the "Remote Viewing" schtick. The table is meant to print the various difficulty levels for the schtick -- instead, it shows the population figures for the 69 cities (from page 6). Bad, bad, bad.
That's my two cents worth. If you think Thorns is the new Bible, feel free to argue.
Last modified: September 10th, 1997; please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.