Brimstone and the Borderhounds: A Cold Day in Hell (B&B, as I will call it) is a free “Open & Play” RPG pdf from Troll Lord Games, makers of the Castles & Crusades fantasy RPG (my review of the C&C player’s book here) and using the same SEIGE mechanics. Troll Lord is releasing a full 128 page core book but there is no release date or price yet on their website. This 27 page introductory pdf can be ordered through Drive-Thru RPG.
B&B is one of those odd–to me–RPGs set in the afterlife, specifically Hell. It is based on the comic book of the same name. Many other afterlife worlds exist in this setting, from Valhalla and Heaven to “Wherever those people who believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster go.” Hell and all the rest are corporations, which is a trope I have encountered before. Amber Benson’s Calliope Reaper-Jones novels use this kind of set up, for example. In B&B, the corporations are battling to gain and keep souls, valued as both currency and slaves.
Now I have read, or at least flipped through, rulebooks for afterlife RPGs before and never gotten interested enough to buy, much less play. But I decided, as a service to the GamerNation, to take a good look at B&B and report on what I found in Hell.
The SEIGE mechanics, as I mentioned in my C&C review, are very easy to pick up for anyone who has played d20 games, especially D&D 3.x or Pathfinder. B&B has a mechanic I haven’t encountered in C&C, Fate Points. These are actually a number of dice, given as XdY, such as 5d6. You may opt to add a die to a roll, leaving you with one less. All the mechanics needed are presented in detailed sidebars. There is also a selection of spells from C&C for spellcaster PCs and NPCs.
Remember, I haven’t tried running or playing this. However, based solely upon a read-through, B&B seems to really be, as advertised, open and play, assuming your players use the bounty hunter (“Borderhound”) characters included and that you run the intro “Cold Day in Hell” module. While the first 10 pages are setting background, including suggested campaign types, if I were running this, especially an Earth-based (“fight supernatural threats”) campaign, I would wait on the core book, since the suggested Earth-based PCs are investigators, paranormal experts, and the like. (B&B does recommend Troll Lord’s pulp RPG Amazing Adventures as a resource for these types of PCs.)
The “Cold Day in Hell” module itself, seems to be a pretty standard “PCs are framed and must find Who Really Dunnit to clear their names” scenario with a Norse mythos flavor. The module does include everything needed to run and play it, with one minor exception. The module says for giant stats to use stats for a couple other monsters, however the page reference is a place holder not the actual page numbers; I was able to find them easily on pages 20-21, however. Again, players should probably stick with the comic book Borderhounds stats provided in the pdf.
This looks like it would be worth a try if your gaming group likes this genre, or perhaps the post-apocalyptic genre as there are many similarities in the setting. All you are investing is a few gaming sessions and, if you’re GMing, some prep time.