Perdition is a book by +Courtney Campbell, detailing a campaign setting best described as hell by way of Hieronymus Bosch. Along with this setting is provided a significant corpus of house rules, enough so that the book can stand on its own as a singular game, or be sorted through as needed.
The setting of Perdition, its primary selling point, is not built with maps or lists of proper nouns, but in a minimalist, in-passing style. It is more the idea of a setting, rather than the setting itself. If there is detail at all, it will be brief (the great devils that rule the world of Perdition get a few paragraphs of description each), and more often it will be a feature brought up without extraneous comment: the equipment lists in particular excel towards this end. There are war cassowaries. You can hire gimps as hirelings. You can buy a bicycle. There is a list of hats that give you skill bonuses.
That last sentence is easily the most important point I will make in this entire review. There is a list of hats that give you skill bonuses.
All of this means that the book is geared toward relating mechanics to the setting’s core conceit (see: the rules for cutting deals with devils), rather than bogging the reader down with exposition. Perdition is not an invitation into the specific world of Courtney Campbell, but an invitation to take that idea and use it how you will. You can buy in as much as you want.
The mechanics displayed in Perdition hit a sweet spot between OSR/DIY simplicity and newer-school crunch – reading through the classes was fun, because there are both many options to take and they are all easily understood. Additions to the typical formula, such as mental HP, the wickedness stat and the spell dice system (+Arnold K’s GLOG rules are similar) are all easy to grasp.
I’ll give additional praise for the book being a complete text – classes, equipment, mechanics for magic and combat, a bestiary for both normal animals and various fiends, and everything else that would be needed to run a game.
The art is excellent. It’s not necessarily of anything specifically in the book, but it’s certainly effective at driving home the fact that people have entered the wrong neighborhood of the Garden of Earthly Delights. What more could be asked for?
On the whole, Perdition is what you make of it. For my own part, I think I would perhaps not run the setting as unrelentingly bleak as it is presented, but the light touch of the worldbuilding makes changes to taste easy. If, say, I wanted to run a more heroic campaign fighting against the darkness instead of working for it, I could do that handily enough with what is presented here. The mechanics are nourishing food for thought beyond that.
Perdition is a fine book, and I am quite glad I purchased it.