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Songs in the Key of Bedlam
Publisher: Plain Brown Wrapper Games
by Philip L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 17:12:19

This was the one Bedlam City product I regretted buying. The compositions simply did not fit the source material, and are not particularly good music in any case. They have a sort of metal/techno vibe, but fail to be creepy, threatening, or engaging, all of which are necessary to fit a city like Bedlam well. The one track that might work is City of Now, but it is my opinion that you can do better than all of this on YouTube for free. Plain Brown Wrapper deserves the money I spent for their fantastic work on a great campaign setting, but I will not be using any of this music.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Songs in the Key of Bedlam
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Straight Out of Bedlam
Publisher: Plain Brown Wrapper Games
by Philip L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 17:08:25

This is, in my opinion, the weakest of the Bedlam City books, but it's still pretty strong. The section on the dangers of astral travel in the city is spot on. The dark forces attracted to Bedlam's madness and misery are brilliantly described herein, and are legitimately monstrous and scary. Death's Other Kingdom is terrifying. The awful secrets are nearly as good as the original book's, the non-powered characters are strong and memorable. The section on the drug trade is excellent information.

It is, however, somewhat let down by the same problem I had with parts of the main book: black humor and deconstruction jumping over the edge into goofiness. The Supervillains remain difficult to take seriously, which undercuts the seriousness of other issues the books tackle fearlessly like racism, sex crimes, and drugs. The section on the past of Bedlam is decent, though I saw little use for it in most campaigns. Most of the adventures were too goofy for my taste, though I could see a few being used.

Overall, it's a must-buy if you want to run a magic-heavy game in Bedlam, and still worthwhile otherwise.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Straight Out of Bedlam
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Citizens of Bedlam
Publisher: Plain Brown Wrapper Games
by Philip L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 16:57:25

I bought this book along with the other Bedlam City products, and I was not disappointed. It evokes the same wonderful tone, grim sprinkled with spots of hope, and effectively embodies my favorite part of the original sourcebook: the ordinary, non-powered citizens. Because in the end it's not the tyranny of a supervillain or extradimensional conqueror that makes Bedlam City an awful city; it's systematic corruption, greed, apathy, and hate. We have sexual deviants, racists, and sadists galore, but also people who are driven to lesser evils for understandable reasons. All of them make sense as characters.

And then we have a few characters who are genuinely good people in spite of all that they're up against, though they too have their flaws. Most of them are at the breaking point, crushed by the responsibility of trying to help a sickened city. Your players will care. More than they fear for nameless civilians taken hostage by the villain of the week, they will feel for the fully-realized people who are mocked and attacked for trying to do without powers what the heroes will struggle to do with their extraordinary abilities: save a city that doesn't want to be saved.

If you want to run Bedlam City, or just grab some Iron Age character ideas, this is a fantastic supplement.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Citizens of Bedlam
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Bedlam City
Publisher: Plain Brown Wrapper Games
by Philip L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 16:46:29

Bedlam City is a fantastic setting book, packed with information and flavor. It is in many ways the antithesis of Freedom City. Its tone is relentlessly grim and thoroughly Iron Age, unafraid to tackle uncomfortable issues but with just enough spots of hope that players will want to fight that tide of depression. Its characters are not expys of traditional superheroes and villains, though they are often deconstructions. This is not a setting where the players will ask "why is my hero even needed?", though they may sometimes ask "what can my hero possibly do?".

As someone who loved the Rogue Isles of City of Villains and always wanted to play a hero there, to be one bright spot in the heart of the corruption, this setting really spoke to me. Corruption, apathy, and outright evil have permeated every part of the city, and it's all described in detail for your players to go up against. They will be fighting to save a city that, on some level, does not want to be saved. It is definitely a setting that stands on its own in spite of limiting itself to describing one city; it draws you in and makes you care, whether raising your hopes or kindling your anger.

The description of the city's infrastructure and the characters who make it work is the best I have ever seen. Everyone is a fully-realized character, with virtues and vices, and their presentation (laden with black humor) is perfect. You will love to hate most of them, but there are a few you will root for with all your heart, the aforementioned bright spots. The supernatural side of the city is also fantastically developed; Bedlam is a wonderful setting for magical heroes, a nexus of vile spirits, reality warpers, and astral travelers. It's also great for street-level vigilantes, with great detail on the vicious mob families, gangs, and drug dealers.

On the other hand, the super-powered characters are not generally ones I would be interested in. While the Westin Phipps everyman evil of many NPCs is powerful, the deconstruction and weird humor surrounding the supervillains lets them down in my opinion. Captain Condor (who looks more like a chicken) and Stabbo the Clown feel out of place next to the believable evils of crooked cops, vicious gangsters, and pedophile priests. Some work well, like Capricorn and the Nowhere Men, but Smashface the indestructible rapist baby-killer has no place in any campaign I can imagine playing.

In short, the strength of this book is an overwhelming aura of everyday, casual evil, with a sauce of supernatural wickedness that would haunt that sort of damned place and a light seasoning of people your players will want to save and see succeed. It looks racism, sadism, sexual crimes, and drugs straight in the eye and presents them unflinchingly. I may at some point run the entire city; until then, I will be forever taking bits, characters and institutions and the wonderfully evocative mood, to flavor my campaigns. This is well worth the purchase.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bedlam City
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