Saturday, February 7, 2009

Review: Chaositech (Malhavoc Press)


Prior to 3rd edition being published, Monte Cooke was developing and play testing what would become Ptolus, which was the test bed for 3rd edition. Shortly after 3rd edition came out, Monte left WotC, and started his own company, Malhavoc press, which according to his website specializes in,” ... unusual magic, monsters, and evocative elements that go beyond traditional fantasy,” and I would agree with that statement. Out of his work on Ptolus would come a number of supplements and adventures that were published under the Malhavoc Press imprint. Eventually Monte would release his masterpiece Ptolus, which ties these earlier works together. I remember when he released Chaositech, back in 2003, and I was seriously considering buying it at that time, but for some reason I did not. When Monte released Ptolus in the summer of 2006, Chaositech was one of the bonus products included in the CD that was attached to the big book. This was an unexpected find, and I was very glad that it was included. Just recently I printed it out and after looking through it again, I could not resist writing a review on it.


In general, the layout is very good, and I am going to gush a bit about it. Malhavoc Press benefits from having Sue Cook as the editor (as she is a very good one) and she is the one that ensures that everything hangs together. There are a number of elements that I think separates this product from similar products done by other companies. I have always been critical of other third party products that have no table of contents or incomplete ones. In my opinion, there is no excuse for not having a good table of contents. Malhavoc’s tables of contents sections are always very complete. I bring this out as a general example of the care and attention that goes into their products, and this one is no different. Another point that I will bring out is the number of sidebars with insightful information. When reading through this product, one gets the feeling that the author is speaking directly to the reader, and sharing in the behind the scenes look at the product. I am just a big proponent of sidebars, especially insightful ones..

Getting back to the overall organization of the book. The book has six chapters, an introduction, and an appendix. The book starts off by describing what chaos is, and then goes into three different kinds of Chaositech, and then wraps up with character templates, monsters and Chaositech items. It is a very logical flow, and very easy to follow. There are other third party publishers that could learn a thing or two


The artwork is done in the typical Malhavoc style. I write that because the products produced by Malhavoc have a very distinct style about them, with a color cover and black and white interior, that is very different than the earlier versions of D&D. The cover is done by RK Post, and his style reminds me of Brom’s work. The interior art does hang together very well, as the style is consistent throughout. The interior has pencil sketch feel to it, as some of the pieces look incomplete, but it still works with the rest of the book. Some of the art is very solid, and I would say that it has an evocative feel to it.

Key features

There are a number of features that this module provides that I am going to list out below:

1. Three different flavors of Chaositech

2. A number of character options, including templates, classes, equipment, and augmentations.

3. A number of new monsters, secret organizations, and options for how to use them in one’s campaign.

4. While this source book was designed around Ptolus, it is still generic enough to be used in any campaign setting or in any edition of D&D.

Final notes

In recent years, I have seen a number of supplements make use of fluff that was originated in the early years of D&D. When D&D was first developed, good and evil were not specifically called out; rather alignments were Lawful and Chaotic, with the implication that Chaos was evil. While I am not a hard core Warhammer (or WH40K player), chaos is clearly evil. In Monte’s Ptolus world, Chaos is evil, and he goes as far as to name his secret organizations, chaos cults. As I read through the old school blogs, there is more and more of this movement to chaos as evil, rather than just calling it evil. This means that a product like Chaositech fits right in to this trend.

While I can understand the reluctance of some folks to accept technology into their campaign, I am one that likes a little bit. Chaositech gives the GM options of adding this strange technology that is different than magic and it not outright Sci-Fi. What I like about Chaositech is the role playing choices that it creates. It is clearly evil stuff, but it gives power, and creates a bit of a dilemma for the player. Even the most Puritan of players can eventually slide a bit to the dark side if exposed to choices of power.

My final comment is that even though it is written for 3rd edition, there is plenty that can be harvested for use in any edition of play. The book is loaded with interesting ideas, evocative artwork, and oozes flavor that begs for use. My last campaign was in Ptolus, which this material was specifically written for, but I am planning on using a number of elements for my next campaign

Rating: 4 1/2 Dragons (on a scale of 5)

This is one of the more interesting source books that provides more than just a rehash of the same old stuff. This book contains much darker and sinister stuff!

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