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Ironsworn
Publisher: Shawn Tomkin
by Graham S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/06/2018 14:21:16

Dark Age, low fantasy, vow driven quests with an elegant take on Powered by the Apocalypse mechanics. Hugely recommended, a fantastic game.

I've run Ironsworn a couple of times at conventions to a great reception. People like the game, the tightly woven and complimentary 'Moves' that help to drive forward action, the simple character generation that draw on Asset cards to provide unique edges, the elegant dice mechanics, and the beautiful photo realistic look and feel of the game.

The game is loosely derived from the PbtA stable of games, but feels very much its own thing. Your character has five core stats in a 3,2,2,1,1 range that provide the bonus to your Action Die roll. Mechanically, characters are differentiated further by the selection of three Asset cards. An Asset might be a 'Path' such as a Storyweaver, a combat stance - that provides a bonus in combat, a companion, a ritual etc. Bonds are a simple mechanic to tie the character to places, communities, gods and individuals (also providing a mechanical +1 at oportune Move moments.

The game is quest driven. You make sacred Vows and then go off and carry them out. These Vows, once completed, provide Experience for improvement, the amount dependant on the complexity of the task. They can be trivial through to Epic and you can carry many at the same time. Shared Vows tie PCs to their allies and provide impetus for shared action.

Every roll counts. Both Challenge dice under your Action Score is a 'Strong Hit', one die under is a 'Weak Hit' and none under is a 'Miss'. All have consequences.

A key concept that flows simply in play is 'Momentum'. As you succeed in your Moves and in play you graduually buuild up a ally of Momentum. This can be spent to influence the Challenge Dice turning one or both of them from Miss to Success. It's a great feeling to have a well of Momentum pulsing on your characater sheet, Nothing can stop you. Well, OK, maybe not, but you know the tide is currently with you. Once burnt, your Momentum resets and you start to build it again.

Other elements that draw on the PbtA heritage include:

  • The GM doesn't roll dice but guides the use of Moves.
  • Foes are simply rated with a difficulty level. Everything else is fictional dressing. Scaled as per Vows and Journeys, they have Progress tracks that you fill in as you wound them.
  • Core outcomes have elegant Moves that draw the shared fiction in interesting directions
  • Play to find out what happens - the Moves and 'The Oracle' and 'Pay The Price' random dice rolls can do some of the imaginative heavy lifting

It is worth noting that Ironsworn supports a number of play styles: GM'd, co-operative and solo. Random tables provide a rich set of ideas to propel you forward without any fuss.

Reflections after Play

  • It's a breeze to run and prepare for. NPCs and Foes are a single difficulty level. This defines the speed that their 'damage' Progress Track is filled in and the amount of Harm that they dish out if the Move dictates.
  • Players have enjoyed the rules. Even those who are a bit adverse to PbtA Move based mechanics.
  • Although ideal for 3-4 players, I had a table of 6 last time and we managed fine. The deal there is to provide a bit of old school structure on the top to give everyone some spotlight time and split Foe Progress tracks up to refelct the larger number of PC weapons flailing about.
  • Everybody loves the Asset cards. As they are all unique, if you print one set, then the pool ensures that everyone has their own special thing to bring to the table.
  • I can get a bit 'Move happy' as they drive play - which is OK for combat because it provides the essential structure of the game, but it is important to drive events with good narration, the Moves are there to give you options and outcomes.
  • I like the setting. Dark Ages, clannish, interlopers in a wild peninsular with creatures and gods and forces that do not welcome the refugee Ironlanders.
  • Accepting the essential Vow based core, Ironsworn is ready for your own fantastical world with some tweaked Assets and narrative embellishments. People are using it for other genres, by re-phrasing the Assets.
  • The game is heroic - Ironsworn are hard to kill (though I have managed it), but also has a gritty edge to it. Ritual magic is evocative and dangerous.

The game has a strong and beautiful graphical style. The PDFs are free. I print mine out in 'ringbinder editions'. My latest is an A5 book, ready for the quests ahead.

Donwload and play. Let us know how you get on at the G+ community.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ironsworn
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Mortal Fantasy
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
by Graham S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/10/2017 08:30:25

This is a great supplement for the Cypher system and also the Gods of the Fall setting. If you are wanting to use the light and simple Cypher system in a traditional fantasy setting with a sprinkling of the tropes then this PDF does much of the hard work for you. You'll be up and running pretty much straight away.

The core of this supplement is a catalogue of prebuilt 'Types' that give you the additional 'Classes' that you would want, showcasing the mix and match flexibility of the Cypher system. In many ways this large section acts as a primer for you to create your own and a further guide if you are looking to create new Types in different settings (that's one of the things I want to do).

Further races are available as Descriptors. Theer's some guidance on cyphers and artifacts, Power shifts at higher Tiers, mixing and matching Types and Foci, XP and some more.

Thre are links back into the Gods of the Fall setting, but if you are looking to simply kick out to your favourite fantasy setting then you have most of the bases covered, leaving you to build further from there. A short adventure rounds out this PDF and I really like the adverseries as presented.

Formatted and put together to very high standard, this is a 'must have' for Cypher system players.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mortal Fantasy
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Worlds of Adventure: Fantasy Realms Players Guide
Publisher: Applied Vectors
by Graham S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2016 11:32:15

The first outing, though second edition, of this heroic game series provides the 146 page Player’s Guide, which contains everything needed to create characters for the adventures ahead. My hardback is on its way.

If you are familiar with Blue Planet, which I’m not, then the brief introduction to the game mechanics will be like a sensual plunge into those balmy waters of ‘Synergy’, as this game uses that engine. More on that in a moment. Just to be clear, you don’t get much in the way of game in this book. The opening section gives an outline providing some context for the characters to come.

Characters are mostly defined by Attributes, Aptitudes and Skills. You start with a power level that essentially governs how may points you can spend in each of the key areas: Everyday, Exceptional and Elite. The example character is an Elite. Unless you are wanting to level grind, or want to play ordinary people in extraordinary situations, you’re going to pitch for the bouncy elite’s with lots of skill and muscles and dice. The ten Attributes and four further derived ones are strewn across the usual physical, mental and magical categories. That’s a lot of Attributes. These are modified by your race, which suggests the usual core of human, dwarves and various elves and gnobbits. The races give you neat starting packages to tailor you from the genetic get go.

Aptitudes are a key part of the game. These are a series of skill groups rated at one of three levels: Average, Strong or Superior. Aptitude examples include things like Artisan, Close Combat, Stealth and Transport. Each Aptitude area has a host of finer grained skills within. This game is a roll and keep the lowest system. Average gives you a pool of 1d10, Strong 2d10 and Superior 3d10. Skills are quite detailed. In Savage or Fate you might find that the Aptitude categories would be the skill list. Instead, for Worlds of Adventure, you’ve got a more detailed list, at a kind of Runequest level, but not as voluminous as Eclipse Phase. Skills are rated at 1-10.

Just so you know, the game is: add an attribute and a skill together, modify by difficulty to give you a ‘Target Number’ and using your Aptitude dice (1-3 d10) roll and keep the lowest trying to get equal or less than the number. Done. You also have ‘Fate Stones’ to spend to give bonuses and cool shizzle.

Skills are acquired through a really nice lifepath system where you pick up origin, background and professional skill packages to build up a list of skills. Along with racial variation you’ve got complete control to create a story concept and find a path that gives you the skill base to reflect your pre-game experiences. The amount you get depends on the power level you are playing with.

The character profile process is a twenty question list that serves to deepen the understanding of the character, their goals, motivations and attitude. It can probably also be used for when you are next putting a profile on a dating website.

We then have 30 pages of magic and spells. This is a pretty good list of whizzy stuff grouped into domains such as Illusion, Transmutation and Evocation 36 pages of equipment covers in step by step detail the prices and capabilities of Ale and Armour to Swords and Sausages. The ‘Adventuring Essentials’ section provides you with everything that a well healed ravager might need whilst out and about in the wilderness. Any game that affirms that a ten foot pole is 'a surprisingly versatile addition to an adventurer’s kit', knows where its tropes lie.

The character sheet is a functional series of boxes that I might like to have seen more evocative, if not illusory. One for a home redesign.

At the end you get a tantalising page of all the other core books to come. The Moderator Guide (now a few weeks off as at end of Sept 2016) gives you the core rules of the game and how to slaughter each other. Also promised is a bestiary, big book of even more spells, and a ‘companion’ tome of dug up trivia. Now, it seems to me that you really need the Moderators Guide to have a full game. The blurb states that:

This book covers all the information you’ll need as a moderator for Worlds of Adventure; from combat to creating new magic to wilderness survival, moderation tips and a small bestiary.

For now, we have the free Quickstarter (get it on Drivethru), which gives you the core of the game and enough to get started. I’d probably have liked to have had the Players and Moderators Guides together in one book to give you a core game that you can play in one purchase. The others are fine for add ons.

Nicely written, some good illustrations and layout, a sound little system and lots of options to get you started. I like it. The proof is in play of course and I really want to give it a run out with the Moderator Guide in my sweaty palms.

When I do, anyone fancy a game?



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds of Adventure: Fantasy Realms Players Guide
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Symbaroum - Core Rulebook
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Graham S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2016 16:07:07

Overview Symbaroum, named after the fallen realm of legend that new colonist powers and remnant barbarians inhabit, is a newly translated Swedish RPG heavily imbued with a dark Nordic flavour. The gorgeously illustrated 260+ page PDF provides you with a rich setting full of adventure, dominated by the ancient forest of Davokar, littered with the treasures of ancient lost Symbaroum and held under the protection of the watching elves and infested with the corruption of blighted beasts and monsters.

Content is roughly setting/players guide/GM guide in equal page count with an introductory adventure and ready to play PCs at the end. The game is evocatively written, focussing on a specific part of the game world to provide a detailed, rich and vibrant setting with enough spaces for you to make it something of your own. You can play civilised Ambrian settlers, barbarian clan, lone ogre, changeling, or short lived goblin, each arising out of the setting, providing motivation with which to start your adventures. The races and factions all provide immediate conflict and opportunity, before you even dare to gain a licence and explore the great forest.

Setting The pasture lands south of the great forest have recently been aggressively colonised by the Ambrians, fleeing their blighted lands of Arbeletor to the south, now cursed by the shrivelling dark magics that swirled over the battlefields of a great war fought against the Dark Lords. Now, returning to their ancient homeland and once the realms of Symbaroum, they are quickly establishing a new realm under the hero-queen Korinthia. The barbarians of the land, inheritors some say of the Symbaroum past, have been unable to stop the invasion and now look to their own ways and guidance of the witches to set their path as worlds change.

Goblin workers have rebuilt ancient Linderos into Ynderos, the new Ambrian capitol. Ambitious nobles create new realms and settlements, the barbarians recoiling, and the watch of the forests, the elves, warn of consequences if Davokar is sullied with the presence of the newcomers. Solitary ogres, unaware of their own past also find a home in the new realm, huge and brutishly powerful and yet seeking an understanding of who they are. It is said that it is the elves that steal and swap newborns with changelings. Why do they do this? As they grow, they reveal their elven nature and are either discarded or simply outlive their parents, needing to find their own way in a world that neither trusts or accepts them.

The setting is also focussed in on a few key settlements in the new realm. Thistle Hold, a new town on the border with the forest a haven for treasure hunters seeking glory by discovering the secrets of ancient Symbar, the new capitol Ynderos, and the plateau of Karvosti of the barbarians deep within Davokar itself. All nicely drawn (literally) with plenty to get a group of players stuck in. It's unlikely to be quiet or sedentary...

Rules These are my kind of rules. The system is a simple d20 roll under an attribute for a success. Attributes are opposed and modified by other attributes or a difficulty rating. Fundamentally, that's about it. Very simple to remember and, I expect to play. Only players roll dice, the GM simply describes and focuses on the scene and story. Characters and monsters are further defined by 'Abilities', which are known at one of three ascending levels. These provide extra capabilities and powers to improve the use of attributes and step the character up a notch or three. There are just the right number of abilities. Not too many that they become overwhelming, but enough to provide variety and flavour to PC design.

Look out for Corruption that taints and can, eventually, blight and twist you to abomination. Not pleasant, but if you will dabble with the mystical arts, or undertake the ancient rituals, well, I ask you!

Combat is simple and deadly, though swift adventurers with good defence ratings and stout armour are likely to survive, unless you are facing some of the larger and more terrifying denizens. Death saves give you chances to cling on before you cry your bitter last and are lost.

The magic traditions of corrupting sorcerers, pious theurge, witchcraft and wizardry provide for a nice array of competing world philosophies and mystical power. Any PC can use magic, but if you are not of a tradition (or a sorcerer who embraces the darkness), then this is the quickest way to gain corruption.

Before I enter Davokar... I like this game very much. It is a full package. A setting, beautifully drawn with scope for expansion (and more books may come), coupled with an unobtrusive game system that riffs off the place in which it is set. I didn't feel any urge to Savage/Fate/Wordplay/D100 it. It works very well as an integrated game and setting.

It’s not just a pretty thing, I’ll be running it at my FLGS RPG games day in February. Looking forward to it very much.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Symbaroum - Core Rulebook
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Uncharted Worlds
Publisher: Sean Gomes
by Graham S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/25/2015 13:57:55

An Apocalypse Engine space opera, vividly drawn in primary colours and chock full of good ideas and nice flourishes.

The game achieves a Traveller style vibe with a rules light, 'Move based', approach. I'm still finding my way through it, but recommend you take a look. It makes me want to spin up some starter sandbox elements, shed my prep heavy behaviours, and blast off on some adventures, where I as a GM will discover the plot with the players. Build a tasty framework with the tools provided, close eyes, and start 'prompting'.

For those that know Apocalypse Engine better than me, you have a well written toolset that is wide open and eminently hackable.

Shiny.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Uncharted Worlds
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