Review: Imaginary Empire – War Stories (EPOCH)

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War Stories
War Stories is a collection of historical horror scenarios for EPOCH, written by Marcus Bone, Dale Elvy, Liam Jones, Andrew Millar, and Michael Sands and published by Imaginary Empire.
By Aaron T. Huss
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Learn more about War Stories here
Purchase War Stories here
Find other EPOCH products here

DISCLAIMER: I was sent a physical copy of this book for review purposes. Additionally, Dale Elvy, the mind behind Imaginary Empire, was interviewed by Roleplayers Chronicle.

War Stories is a collection of EPOCH tales of horror placed during war times in the modern age including World War I, World War II, War on Iraq, and guerrilla warfare in the Congo. Much like the sci-fi collection in Frontier of Fear, War Stories breaks away from the basic cinematic feel of EPOCH while retaining that character-driven survival horror appeal. There are a total of five scenarios, with two placed in World War II, all written by different authors. That means you get a good variance between scenarios as each author brings out his own version of an EPOCH scenario. New cards are included in the PDF version (or available in POD) to coincide with each scenario. Additionally, each adventure follows the standard format found in every EPOCH scenario, lending to ease of reading and playing from the GM’s point of view.

Part of the horror backdrop in War Stories is the background itself: the horrors of war. Although many of us are immune to the cinematic aspects of war, few of us have experienced it to the point where we understand what that truly means (I for one have never experienced it). With that in mind, it’s difficult for many to picture a horror environment simply due to the war going on around the characters. Four out of the five scenarios add much more to the horror aspects of their respective scenarios (one doesn’t and I feel it suffers for that) creating the survival horror environment of EPOCH. When I think of EPOCH, I think of those four scenarios and really like the resulting storyline. There are many added aspects of “what’s around the corner” that can create that creepiness many desire within a horror RPG. Without those additional aspects of horror, as in more than just the war, I think many gamers would have a hard time feeling suspense due to the numbness from movies and television. Those four scenarios attempt to overcome that numbness, and do an excellent job doing it!

Discussing War Stories too much can easily result in spoilers that reduce the excitement the players will have. This includes discussing the sources of the horror in each scenario, which should be left to the players’ imagination until they finally encounter it and find their character running scared or making a final stand. Instead, I’ll make these simple statements. The scenarios in War Stories are set in very realistic environments that naturally create tension. This tension is a great way of building horror before unleashing the true source of it. The tension allows for internal (mental) conflict alongside external (physical) conflict that can leave the characters making split-second decisions regarding their ability to survive the ordeal. Do they stand and fall in a heroic way or do they flee and go back to the frontline, knowing what they now know because of the ordeal. In other words, is survival better than death…?

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