I've been wanting to review the Book of Erotic Fantasy (hereafter, BoEF) for weeks now, ever since I started my series on Sex in D&D. But I had delays getting my hands on the sex book, and then I had delays resulting from sex. Well, let us delay no longer!
The BoEF is a 190-page hardcover -- which set me back forty bucks, by the way -- so there is a lot in it to review! Let me do it justice -- and get my forty bucks worth out of it -- by reviewing it over the course of the next few weeks. Today I'll offer my first impressions and general comments, with a focus on individual chapters (emphasizing the BoEF's rules and in-game use) in future screeds.
First off, did I mention that I spent about as much for the BoEF as I did for my Dungeon Master's Guide and Player's Handbook combined? Okay, I'm sorry. Let me stop making catty comments on the price. It costs a pretty penny to produce a glossy, well-bound hardcover rules book, even with the printing outsourced to China (per the back cover). And no one forced me to buy it. Still, I have to say, the price colors my opinons on the value of the content.
The book has a solid heft to it, and there is plenty within its covers to explore. Nearly every significant aspect of Dungeons and Dragons is considered: races, classes, items, spells, monsters, gods, and tons and tons of role-play notes. Chalk up points for being comprehensive.
But as an editor and designer, as soon as I opened the book, I gasped. The size of the type is just a tad too big, so that it looks like the designer was trying to fill space or create a large-print version for the seeing impaired. But the leading is too tight, which means that the lines of type are crowded too close together. This hurts readability -- I wish the designer had pumped down the point size by one and pumped up the leading by one.
The typography also made me flinch. The use of generic quotation marks and apostrophes, instead of printer's ("curly" or "smart") quotes, grated on every page. The font on the major headings is so swashy (ornate with swashes) as to be unreadable. And there is way too much confusion on when to use hyphens and when to use dashes.
Worse than that, to this editor's eye, were the few but striking grammatical errors. On page 6 ...
Generally, there is no need to describe a sex act in detail anymore then there is a need to describe the swing of the sword ...
My gosh! "anymore then" should be "any more than"! And that's just one picked at random. I've stumbled on "it's/its" confusion, misplaced or missing commas, and disagreements in number and gender, among other errors.
But let me not sound only negative notes on the BoEF as a book. The tables are easy to read (and I'm a sucker for Avant Garde). The first page of each chapter has a beautiful design. The paper is glossy and heavy.
And the art needs a special mention. The use of photomorphed and retouched photographs rather than illustrations is brave and striking. It is, to an eye expecting the usual indifferent (or even excellent) sketches and drawings, a surprise and a shock (given the subject matter) to see photos of provocatively clad (or nude) humans -- even humans transformed to appear as elves, orcs, fey, demons, and even cat-folk! But these photos do more than provoke -- they actually illustrate: the harem guard, the tantrist, the healing sphere spell, the infestation spell, the hermaphroditic god are all made more real through photos than, I think, than they would have been through illustrations. The art is overwhelmingly professional and creative. I've seen some amateurish photomanipulation on the Web, and this is clearly the work of a pro. Kudos! If only the editing and typography were of this caliber. The art is at the $40 level; the typography, at the $9.99 level. Oh, sorry, I said I would stop commenting on the cost.
But it must be said, the BoEF has photos of naked breasts and naughty bits a-plenty ... so you might feel a little funny reading it on the commuter train, say, even if you have no choice because you have a deadline for your review and time is short. Also, it's not exactly the book you want your mother-in-law to stumble over, say, if she happens to have moved in for the duration after the birth of your beautiful-but-preemie daughter! :-)
Update and Review: [30 Sept 07] I've been going over my old reviews, and I note that I never gave the Book of Erotic Fantasy a rating. I also see that I got bored with it after Chapter Two. Maybe I'll find a way back to it before the new 4E rules make it all obsolete. Anyway, there are great and good ideas in here, but the value for the money is just not there. Two paws, and a lick for the cat photomorph -- or was it -morphs? Can't remember now.
Explanation of ratings:
- One Paw: Broken, badly flawed, may damage your game. Discard.
- Two Paws: Flawed but not dangerous. May have a good idea or two. Not worth buying or downloading.
- Three Paws: Excellent ideas despite slight flaws. Good value.
- Four Paws: Essential and recommended. Seek this out. Use it!
- With a Lick: Slight or inconsequential feline/wemic content.
- With a Pounce: Significant feline/wemic content.
This is the sixth part of a seven part series on sex in role-play games: