Tome of Corruption is the second supplement to the ongoing second edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or WFRP. It is a true rules supplement like Realms of Sorcery and while it does have an incredible amount of setting information it's a little bit meatier than some of the other products as far as raw rules and stats are concerned.
Since this is a supplement a little bit of background information on the product it is supplementing is in order. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, or WFRP, is an offshoot of Games Workshop's Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The setting is very heavily borrowed from late medieval and early renaissance Germany with a series of Elector Counts ruling independent Kingdoms loosely organized empire ruled by a non-hereditary emperor. Firearms and cannon have been around for some time now, Magic is very real and very dangerous and, with the rampant superstition and ignorance in the world, as likely to get you burned alive as turned into a slavering mutant blob. Many features of the renaissance have been brought over including Universities, witch-hunters, the middle class and more. Disease is rife while ignorance and illiteracy are the rule.
The setting is a fantastic departure from the pseudo anglo-french medieval structure that's been crammed down the throat of fantasy roleplaying since its beginning and makes much more sense historically than the poorly planned wannabe medieval societies in many other games. The rules fit well with the setting; life is nasty, brutish and short. Fighting means that you will put someone's eye out, or lop off a random limb and armor does nothing to keep you from being hit as it only provides damage reduction. The system is percentage based with players rolling under a skill percent and full of tables, lots of tables of every kind from combat effects to hit locations, spell effects and so on so forth. Rarely do things not simply just fail, there is a range of bad things that can happen and even the occasional range of good things.
Tome of Corruption is full of bad things. It starts off with the words of what is presumably a daemon of chaos commenting on the book in a stream of consciousness fashion as he/she/it tortures and slowly kills the author. The intro serves to push home the point that Chaos, like many other things in WFRP is just not nice.
The book is divided into a number of parts, beginning with the definitions of Chaos, taking the reader through all of its aspects in the empire to the far flung wastes of Chaos in the north. In between are dozens of new mutations, rules for playing Beastmen, cultists, mutants, some hideously powerful creatures of Chaos and careers for aspiring Champions of Chaos or more mundane slaves to Chaos. There's also lots of Ã¢â‚¬Å“objects of ChaosÃ¢â‚¬Â, artifacts and adventure seeds. There is a great deal of setting information including details about the mysterious Chaos Dwarves, descriptions of Norscan raiders, Kurgans and different cults of the Ruinous Powers. The list goes on and on; suffice to say there's a lot of information in this book.
The organization of the book mirrors the theme of Chaos in that it begins with how Chaos affects every day things in the WFRP universe, or any universe for that matter. It starts in Civilization and progresses through Cultists of Chaos, chaos-tainted mutants and the like, including Beastmen and other hazards of Chaos in the civilized world. As the Tome Of Corruption delves into deeper corruptions of Chaos it begins discussing the Norscans and Kurgans, people who live close or in the tainted Chaos Wastes, and finally dives into the subjects of Daemons, then the Ruinous Powers, the Gods of Chaos, themselves.
The rules presented in the Tome of Corruption helps open up a number of possibilities for other types of games. Players can take on the role of beastmen marauders, cultist of one of the Chaos gods undermining the empire and more. There are as many or more opportunities for intrigue and inter-party problem causing as there are opportunities for red-misted slaughter.
Much is written about the nature of Chaos. The Ruinous Powers, or gods of Chaos, have four aspects. The god of slaughter, Khorne, is the aspect of destruction while the aspect of decay is represented by the god of pestilence, Nurgle. The chaos of change is represented by Tzeentch, the power of magic and the changer of ways while moral decay and decadence lost of restraint and inhibition is seen in Slaanesh. Things aren't quite that clear cut and the Tome of Corruption muddies the waters by showing the varied ways in which the Ruinous Powers and Chaos are worshipped and followed.
The amount of information leads to the first problem. The font in < a href= http://www.blackindustries.com/?template=WH&content=wfrp-tome-corruption>Tome of Corruption is very, very small, appearing to be about 8 to 10 point. Words are simply crammed together in what is presumably an attempt to reduce the page count. This makes for hard reading and a hard time finding information that is buried in piles of miniscule text.
The other major problem with the book is the proofreading. Grammar and syntax errors are rife, making sentences confusing and unclear. Some of the descriptions of rules and effects are made very vague by this. On closer inspection there are a handful of times in the book where information was replaced with a repeat of old information, i.e. the effect of one particular Reward of Chaos is absent and replaced with a previously printed one.
Editing and proofreading aside the book is very well done. The pages are laid out in a simple two column format with tables and box text clearly delineated from the bulk of the book. The Tome of Corruption is well illustrated throughout with both old and new art, printed on heavy glossy paper.
A lot of the stuff in the Tome of Corruption, even the rules, still amount to flavor and setting material. Running a long-term game with many of the rules included would be difficult or downright impossible. The amount of raw power that is available to the players and GMs is huge. Some of the more powerful features, in an effort to reflect their abilities in the tabletop version of Warhammer, would slaughter an entire army of PCs. Many of the careers are also ridiculously powerful. Gamemasters are going to want to be extremely careful in what they allow players to take from the book, but for anyone who wants to run a high-powered epic game the Tome of Corruption provides everything and more.
The Tome of Corruption is also a great read. For those who don't like rules the mechanics are presented in such a manner as to be almost totally separated from the setting material. Unlike many supplements the point of the book is not just to create more rules but to add to the setting. Games Workshop properties have always been based around very strong and very well defined settings and the Tome of Corruption only reinforces that tradition.
In all the Tome of Corruption is a good buy. It's a bit steep at 40 bucks (or 35 pounds) but there is a lot of information here. If you can't use it in a WFRP game then it is a great idea mine for other games or for pleasure reading.