I can’t speak to the game’s production value, since I’ve only read the free online version, which is missing a lot of the artwork. That being said, the game still has a lot more artwork than many other free or not-free digital rpgs I’ve seen lately. Clocking in at over 200 pages and less than $0.01 to purchase, there’s really no reason not to go peak at it. I am rather fond of the inclusion of incredibly pertinent and apropos quotations at the top of the chapter headings, from Aliens to It to the Dark Tower.
Spahn says that one reviewer described it as “. . .one part The Matrix, one part The Cell, and two parts Quantum Leap with a healthy dose of Stephen King sprinkled over the top!” I would say that thematically, that’s pretty accurate. Unfortunately, structurally, the expansion to D20 Modern feels like it might have been written by Kevin Siembeda.
Spahn’s world is one where dreams can come alive, and it feels a lot like the World of Darkness (or of the Matrix), in that a select few are in the know, and the rest of the world stumbles along blindly, unaware of the war being fought in their backyards. Spahn has deftly created a universe where any number of genres can be effortlessly pillaged for extra value. The game obviously lends itself to a cyberpunk/gothic horror mythos, but since the backdrop of the game is dreams, your characters can enter a dream on the Starship Enterprise or the Land of Mordor with ease.
Once, when I was in middle school, first getting into D&D and role playing, a friend of mine (friend of a friend, really, but I was a nerd and couldn’t be picky) wanted me to fight a Turask. You know what I’m talking about. In the end, so that he didn’t kill my character (whom I loved more than my parents), it was all a dream. It was a really stupid idea. In Dreamwalker, it would have been nothing more than a poorly structured adventure.
Of special note is the Denouement, a rather insightful creation on Spahn’s part. Every adventure, in theory, has a point. Group of Heroes intends to accomplish Goal by overcoming Obstacle. (Okay, in middle school, I may be been on, and run, a few pointless adventures. See above.) Spahn has incorporated this goal into the Dreamwalker Cosmology – the Denouement is the dreamer’s intent, and the players frequently have to assist, or occasionally thwart, this goal. It’s a very nice piece of work, and something of which Spahn should be proud.
The Brood, the Taenia Spiritus, are the villains. It feels a little heavy handed, but it’s a good construction. It makes the game a little black and white for my tastes, but I’m sure it’s right up the alley for some. The different Broodlings are all well described, though their ephemeral nature as dream-kind seems to leave a lot of work up to the DM to design them.
The organizations in Dreamwalker Revised are solid. The Sword of Gaia and Project Dreamwalker are modeled perfectly on the Platonic Ideas of templars and government agencies. The Lost City of Revead is fantastic, feeling a lot like Sigil. And the Kingdom of Malice… kind of speaks for itself.
My one complaint is some of the more mechanical aspects. My main complaint is with the “advanced classes,” also known as prestige classes. Many of them feel a little… extraneous. I’m looking at you, “Government Agent.” The Government Agent class really doesn’t feel like it’s needed. I admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time with D20 Modern, but I’ve spent enough, and I don’t feel like the Government Agent adds anything that a bunch of feats couldn’t do. The Influence Memory ability might need to be broken down into two feats, but otherwise, there aren’t really any awesome abilities in the class.
The other prestige classes aren’t that awesome, either. The Tomb Raider (yes, that Tomb Raider) is a class that has almost nothing to do with the Dreamwalker mythos. Certainly nothing to do with the world of dreams mechanically. The Paranormal Investigator seems hackneyed at best. The Totemist and Arcanist are both interesting classes, but really don’t feel like they belong in the Dreamwalker Revised book.
Part of this is my problem with prestige classes in general. I feel like the entire concept creates a Palladium like atmosphere, where each book necessitates the addition of new classes, each more unique and powerful than the last, until the entire concept is relatively meaningless. Some of Dreamwalker Revised’s prestige classes really work, like the Dream Weaver and the Dream Warrior. Others, like the Brood Hunter and the Brood Slayer, feel like overused tropes that have to be included and tailored to this specific setting.
But enough. Over all, the supplement is fantastic. If you run D20 Modern campaigns, or any kind of “paranormal” campaign, then I highly recommend you go out and shell out for the full version of this game. Buy it and support it. If you don’t run those kind of games, download the free version and steal one or two idea for your next adventure.
Overall – 9 out of 13 stars.