Picking one of – if not the single most – controversial topics in the United States to focus on, Choice and Blood is a “d20 abortion” supplement. The book presents a mixture of fluff and crunch, presented over twenty-four pages. The illustration on the cover page is the only instance of artwork in the book. However, a slice of this is reproduced as a border at the top of every page. Further, page numbers and section headings are all in light blue. There are no bookmarks present.
Despite my calling it a “d20 abortion” book, Choice and Blood isn’t focused on abortion so much as it’s focused on the massive controversy around abortion. In this context, the book’s aim is understandable. Not since civil rights has there been an issue that’s nor only evoked such strong feelings, but networked in the religious right, military-style attacks on people, and government actions of all kinds. Knowing this, the question then becomes how well does it present this with a d20 focus?
The author opens with a rather forthright notation that he personally is pro-choice, and that the book is slanted towards presenting the pro-life camp as being the bad guys. Beyond that, the book opens with a large amount of explanation regarding the issue and related things. Brief descriptions are given of a typical abortion procedure, of a clinic’s layout, tactics used by pro-lifers to discourage/stop abortions. This takes up roughly a fourth of the book before we move on to the crunch.
The main thrust of the book is the new classes it offers. A single new advanced class is given, the abortion provider. This class is a mixture of a medical practitioner and public speaker; a person who can treat injuries and at the same time sway people at a rally. The remaining classes are intermediary classes. Intermediary classes are a new concept, presented here. They’re short classes that can be taken at character creation, having only story-based requirements to take levels in. Most are three to five levels in length, and serve as gateways to a specific advanced class. For example, a character can take their first three levels in the Blogger intermediary class, at which point they’ll be in a perfect position to take levels in the Personality advanced class, though don’t need to. Discouragingly, there are some errors here, such as missing numbers for the Blogger’s Fort and Ref save progressions.
Following that is a too-brief section on running a medical campaign, which then segues to sixteen new feats are presented, with a selected bibliography rounding out the product.
Choice and Blood isn’t a bad book unto itself. However, by focusing more on crunch than fluff, it ultimately paints itself into a tough position; the new classes and feats need to be recognizably abortion-centered, but not too much so or they’ll become too specific to be used. The book handles the dilemma relatively well, by making the classes short and leading to more generic advanced classes, but the feats have no such out. Moreover, the best part of the book, how to run a medical campaign, is glossed over with little in-depth instruction for how to make such a campaign work. Add in to this some mechanical errors that cropped up throughout, and the book can largely be summarized as “hit-or-miss.”
Ultimately, concrete ideas lend themselves to role-playing games much easier than political ones. It’s easy to dedicate an entire sourcebook to a new race, or a particular region. A supplement based around a political belief, however, is much harder to cover from a game standpoint. Choice and Blood tries its best to do so anyway, but only achieves limited success.