Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Reviews for Gamers: Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov

It is time for another book review.  Today's book may seem like an odd choice, so I would like to talk about why I write these "Book Review for Gamers" posts.  Role playing is a creative process and those who partake in it need fodder for their imagination.  There is a reason why Gary Gygax included Appendix N in the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.  Of course, many of Gygax's listings are from the fantasy genre.

Inspiration often comes from unusual sources that one might not expect.  George Lucas was inspired by the Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress when he made the original Star Wars.  Allan Calhamer was inspired by the card game Hearts when he was designing Diplomacy.  When Christopher K. Bigelow wrote issue #1 of his zine The Oracle he included a dungeon adventure that was based on the film Escape from New York.  I believe that it is important to go outside one's comfort zone and read books, comics, plays, etc. from all genres.

My copy of Heart of a Dog
Back to today's review.  I read the book Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov.  I bought this book as a teenager because I was intrigued by the premise.  Heart of a Dog was written in the Soviet Union in 1925.   In the book a physician transplants human organs into a dog, which results in the dog turning into a human.  The premise sounds science fiction but the actual book is filled with political and social commentary.  The book is a quick read at 123 pages.  Anyone interested in post-revolutionary Russia would enjoy the story's satire and prose.

How can this book inspire your gaming?  If you are interested in running a historical game then this book will give you a nice peek at Soviet life in the 1920's.  Literature is a great way to learn about a specific time and place.  Also, the concept of turning animals into people is great fodder for horror/steampunk games.  This territory has already been explored in The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, while Heart of a Dog gives this idea a Soviet spin.  The doctor in Heart of a Dog practices in his clinic in Moscow rather than a secluded island.  Also, the doctor in the book would make for a great NPC.  He is a man of privilege watching as the new generation assaults his lifestyle.  Part of the story is seeing if his connections and important standing can protect him from the consequences of his actions.  I have created a FATE Accelerated version of him below:

Doctor Philip Philippovich Preobrazhenskey

High Concept:  Brilliant surgeon, specializing in animal/human physiology
Trouble:  How dare you lecture me, young man!

Aspect:  Of course I know the committee director, shall I telephone him now?


Careful - +1
Clever - +3
Flashy - +2
Forceful - +2
Quick - +1
Sneaky - +0

Stunt:  Forceful personality - +2 when forcefully attacking during a social conflict.

Refresh: 3

Check out Heart of a Dog.  It is a a quick, unusual read and full of good ideas for your gaming table.