DriveThruRPG: Comicworld Ukraine

For must of us, the Ukraine is just one of those weird places on the Risk map that makes up what we consider Russia.  Even with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of so many of the states that formerly made it up, most westerners know nothing about any of these nations beyond that they were formerly part of the Soviet union.  We certainly know little or nothing about their culture or history.

Comicworld Ukraine is designed to address this deficiency of knowledge for gamers who are interested in the area or who are simply looking for a new place to set their campaigns.  It is written by a self proclaimed Eastern European which gives it an insider point of view and, undoubtedly more accuracy.  This fact also shows in the writing style.  There is more than one occasion where it is clear that the writer is not a native English speaker.  It is certainly not bad and there have been any number of products by people whose first language is English that were much more incomprehensible, but occasionally, the author’s use of possessives especially is jarring.

Perhaps because the author is a native of the area, he is able to pack a great deal of information about the culture and the flavor of the country into this product.  While it is generic enough that it could be used as a resource for any super hero, or just any game set in modern times, it is designed with Icons in mind.  As such, qualities and challenges appropriate for the area and culture are provided throughout the product.  Adventure seeds that are geared toward the turmoil and landmarks specific to the country are also provided, making it possible for even someone who knows nothing about the area to create adventures and campaigns that feel accurate for the country.

To help game masters get a feel for the area, and operating under the idea that you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve come from, the supplement includes a history of the region.  An admittedly compressed history but a history nonetheless.  This history goes back a thousand years and is only three pages long, so “compressed” is a bit of an understatement, but all the high points of the area’s history are hit and there is plenty of information to give people who are not at all familiar with the region at least enough of a view of what has happened to allow them to present it properly to people who don’t know any more than they do.

This same compression is applied to the section that is given for the geography of the region.  Ukraine was a respectable sized portion of the Soviet Union and is a fair sized country by itself now that it is independent.  Undoubtedly a book that is about nothing more than the geography of the country could take up the 20 pages that encompass this product.  Even a product designed only as a gamming supplement about the geography could be much longer.  Nonetheless, the two pages of geography provided by this supplement are enough to give most people a satisfying enough high level view to allow them to run a game in the region and it manages to provide adventure hooks and locations that could be easily included in any campaign.

One of the most interesting parts of this geography section is Chernobyl.  Most of us would not have been able to identify where Chernobyl was located beyond that it was somewhere in Russia, but apparently, it is in Ukraine.  With a location loaded with so much history and mythology, a location that everyone is familiar with, the writer capitalizes on it.  Of course, Chernobyl isn’t just left as an area stricken by a tragic accident and poisoned by nuclear fallout.  Instead, it has been turned into a prison and research center for super-humans in this product.  A great deal of intriguing ideas are suggested for this area, providing a number of possible adventures in this area alone.

A character gallery follows the geography section.  Only a handful of characters are provided, but again this is a relatively short product and the characters are not its only focus.  To that end, the characters simply provide flavor for the area.  However, the author states that he does not want these characters to nothing more than stereotypes of the people in the area or of patriotism.  Just as not every American super being has something to do with American spirit or American history, not every Ukrainian super being’s identity is completely wrapped up in being Ukrainian.  In fact no Captain Ukraine style character is presented but all the sample characters given are firmly grounded in their native land in some way or another without being laughable stereotypes.  The characters provided feel Ukrainian without being defined by their nationality.

The final portion of Comicworld Ukraine is an abbreviated discussion of the pantheon of the ancient religion of the area.  Though few people know it, the pre-Christian Slavic pantheon was as diverse and robust as the Viking, Greek or Egyptian mythologies,.  This product does not provide stats for every one of the gods, demons and mythical beasts of this pantheon but provides the names, abilities, personalities and relationships as well as some of the myths surrounding them.  Again, this book’s 20 pages would not be enough to encompass all of Slavic Mythology especially if stats for the main entities in the pantheon were provided but enough information is given for any game master to work off of to create his own game information about them.

The theme throughout this product is that the information given is a good basis but is not as thorough as one might like.  Understandably, given the length and the scope of the product, it would be impossible for anyone to cram all the information that might be desired in.  Any one of the segments of the product could easily be expanded into a product at least as large as this one and it would be viable for the writer to do just that, release an expanded product for each of these sections.  There is plenty of information in this product, however, to give everyone interested a good feel for the region and to allow anyone to run believable and entertaining adventures in Ukraine whether it be in Icons, some other super hero game or even just any game system set in the modern day.