The new Judge Dredd movie will be hitting theaters this Friday. I am rather excited to see the movie as I am a fan of Judge Dredd. There has been much debate among my circle of friends as to whether this will be a good movie. I, despite my friends misgivings, will be seeing the movie as I know that I will have a good time as it is Judge Dredd on the big screen. I was pondering a way to prepare myself for the 3D onslaught of the movie and could think of no better way than delving into the Judge Dredd setting via table top role playing game.
I did not have to look much farther than Mongoose publishing. They have a Judge Dredd roleplaying game available on Drive Thru RPG. It is 274 pages of full color goodness. As a fan of Judge Dredd, it is a joy just to page through the book and look at all the art from 2000 AD. I also appreciated the chapter openings as I like the bold styling that they used to introduce each chapter. The black background, red lettering, and three column style was visually stunning. I only have one quibble about the look of the book itself and that is with those self-same chapter openings. The lettering throughout the book is crisp and clean except for in the chapter openings. Here, they have a sort of out of focus quality which makes the text somewhat difficult to read. I know it is a small thing but in such a gorgeous book it was a little jarring. Even more so because I really love the look of those pages.
This is not a complete game in itself. In order to play Judge Dredd you will need this book and a copy of the Traveller core rules. I do not mind this approach as I have become accustomed to it due to being a bit of a fanboy of White Wolf. This is how their products have been produced since the introduction of the new World of Darkness. The book begins by providing a nice overview of the Judge Dredd setting. It gives enough information that if you are new to the setting you will have some idea how to begin without alienating someone that is a big fan. The second chapter delineates the differences in character creation for Judge Dredd from the standard traveller character design. Judge characters start at the age of 5 and will go through four terms at the Academy of Law. The first term is three years and and the three remaining terms are four years in length. Hence your character starts play at the age of Twenty as full Judge. There are several charts to roll on throughout character creation. These determine things from skills, special techniques, to survival of a term. this is the only other place that I have a quibble with this game. One of the options on the chart is you die. Yup, you read that correctly. Now, there are rules in the core that take this into account and it doesn’t really end the game right there. I’ve just had the sad experience of playing Traveller where the person running the game made me start over and I ended up having to do this several times. Anytime I see this rule, it sends a shiver up my spine as I recall that one bad Saturday evening so long ago. Outside of the bad memories conjured up by this one result, the charts provide for an interesting character once you are done with the process. There is also a nice example of character creation that illustrates the process for those who may be intimidate by all the charts.
The rest of the books gets you up and running in Mega City one. It covers everything from the criminal code of Mega City One to how the different divisions of the Justice system interact. I found the information about how a sector works to be the most interesting. In addition to describing what the Judges do on a daily basis, it provides a nice insight into the life in a city block. This makes it much easier for me to run a game of Judge Dredd as well as providing an excellent resource for a fan of the source material. Of particular interest to me were the rules for Psi Judges. I actually prefer the idea of playing a Psi Judge and was very pleased to see it as a character option in the book with plenty of support for making it a viable option.
Overall, I have to say this is an excellent setting book for Judge Dredd. It provides everything you need to get started playing a Judge in Mega City One. It provides plenty of background information so that someone new to Judge Dredd will no problem running the game. As a fan, I particularly enjoyed the information on the history of Mega City One and the Justice Department. It does a good job of balancing the appeal to both newcomers and fans of the setting which is sometimes hard to find in a licensed rpg product. It was an excellent choice for getting ready to go see the new movie. If you are a fan of Judge Dredd or just looking for a new game to try out, I recommend giving this a try.