Sunday, 26 September 2021
Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game comes not as one book, but three. They include ‘Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game’ along with ‘Bounty Hunter Resource: Huntari Region’ and ‘Bounty Hunter Bounty: Halcord Midmo’. However, they are not separate books, but have been compiled into one book and compiled into one book without each being renumbered. It gives the book an odd feel, but not necessarily a feel that impedes play. That oddity aside, Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game comes with everything necessary to play, including rules and character generation, setting, and a scenario.
A character—a Bounty Hunter—in Bounty Hunter is defined by his Species, Skills, Action Points, and Equipment. The creation process is a matter of making eight choices. These are for Species, Birthright (or origins), Education, Career prior to becoming a Bounty Hunter, Reason to Become a Bounty Hunter, Six Interests, Abilities, and Name. In the default setting of ‘Bounty Hunter Resource: Huntari Region’, eight Species are given and at each choice up until Reason to Become a Bounty Hunter, a player has nine options to choose from and each choice provides a Bounty Hunter with two Skills. At the Six Interests step, a player is free to select extra Skills his Bounty Hunter does not have—the number depending on the number of players, whilst for Abilities, he selects a single one. An Ability is an extraordinary or dramatic talent, such as Fast Draw, which allows a Bounty Hunter to automatically act in the First Phase of a Dramatic Scene with a Ranged Attack or Doctor, which increases the amount the Bounty Hunter heals from five Action Points to six. Also up until the Six Interests step, all of the options are accompanied by a piece of flavour text, which a player is encouraged to copy and modify to help develop his Bounty Hunter’s background. With more than one player, the creation process is intended to be collaborative, with players discussing the Skills they have chosen so that a broad range of Skills is available to the party.
Birthright: Slave Pits
Skills: Culture, Deception, Engineering, Logic, Melee Combat, Mounted Weapons, Ranged Combat, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Strength
Languages: Slavesk, Galactic
Action Points: 20
Mechanically, Bounty Hunter is simple. It uses an Action Point economy. Every Bounty Hunter starts each day with a total of twenty and they represent not just his capacity to act, but also his health. To act, the Bounty Hunter must have the particular Skill and simply expends one Action Point. If he does not possess the Skill, then he cannot undertake that task, though he can defend himself in combat. If the Bounty Hunter has the Skill and the Action Point is spent, he automatically succeeds at the task. It is as simple as that.
However, Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game gets a little more complex when it comes to opposed actions, with participants in a situation—for example, a Bounty Hunter using Intimidation against a small time crook NPC with more information about a bounty, the Game Master using Psychology to mentally defend himself—expending Action Points to counter each other. Typically, this countering of Action Points continues until one participant decides to give way, switches to a different Skill which cannot be countered or defended against, or one participant exhausts his Action Points. Tasks can also be Repeated, requiring the Bounty Hunter to expend Action Points over multiple rounds for it to succeed, and they can also be Chained. This is again, more complex in that a player will need to expend multiple Action Points to succeed at a task. For example, to fire a weapon at another spaceship, Thorby Baslim uses the Mounted Weapons Skill, but to target a specific location on another spaceship, his player needs to link or Chain three Skills, in this case, Engineering, Logic, and Mounted Weapons. His player pays an Action Point for each use of the three Skills, for a total of three. In general though, Chained actions are used for starship combat.
Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game is played in Freeform or Dramatic scenes. Freeform scenes are when general or supportive actions and roleplaying takes place, Dramatic scenes are when the action and excitement take place, and could be a shootout, an interrogation, a computer hacking attempt, and so on. Each Dramatic scene is divided into two phases, a First Phase and a Last Phase. Each participant can take one significant action in a Dramatic scene, but must choose whether to act in the First Phase or the Last Phase, and if a participant wants to act in the First Phase, he must expend an Action Point. This is in addition to the expenditure of an Action Point to use a Skill. Within each Phase, all actions are simultaneous and each player needs to declare his action lest his Bounty Hunters be unable to act for that Scene…! In combat, if an attack is successful, damage is inflicted in terms of Action Point loss—two for a punch, three for a martial arts strike, five for a sword, five for a RAN ‘Rail-Assist Nil Point Variance Projectile’ Pistol, seven for a PHASE ‘Phased Hayer-Accelerated Single Electron’ Pistol, and so on.
Starship combat in Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game adds another degree of complexity, but not overly so. Players and their Bounty Hunters are still using their Skills and expending Action Points to act, but a starship has various components, from communications and countermeasures to scanners and transponder unit, each of which has a Power Pool of points. A Power Pool is slightly different to Action Points, in that although it represents how much damage a particular component can suffer before being knocked out, it also represents how effective it is. A player can spend Action Points to have his Bounty Hunter shift points from one Power Pool to another to increase a component’s effectiveness, for example, increasing the damage done by a RAN turret, or to repair damage done to a starship.
Beyond a handful of NPCs and sample spaceships, the latter running from single-pilot craft to warships, Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game includes a sample setting with ‘Bounty Hunter Resource: Huntari Region’. This details a region of space occupied by several different factions, not just Humans, including the Rakesh microbe colonies, the tentacular Lonlaneek, the militaristic and dispassionate Goraan, the warlike and feline Baharresk, and more. There are eight different Species in the region, plus AIs, all of them playable as Bounty Hunters. They are all different and they are all interesting, although the Baharresk do feel like the Aslan of Traveller’s Third Imperium setting and the Kzin of Larry Niven’s Known Space tales. A nice touch is that their descriptions do include their preferred pronouns. The various polities and sectors are described in a fair amount of detail in just a few pages each, covering governance, unique features, military and police, individual worlds, and a list of bounties. So the Greypan Alliance consists of human-dominated worlds in a mutual defence and trade pact, which heavily patrols against intruders from the region of space known as the Rift which dominates the Huntari Region, contains a completely neutral sector space within its borders, and is home to the Mefausa Henad, a ruthless criminal syndicate that the authorities have failed to stamp out. Conversely, the Noso Protectorate is completely surrounded by the Rift and is home to the amphibious humanoids, the Trafye, who are more interested in science and the mysteries of the Rift and its black holes, neutron stars, and so on, than in expanding. There is a wealth of detail here for the Game Master to include in her campaign, although the Huntari Region as a whole is missing an overview that would help the reader before it dived into its detail.
Rounding out Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game is ‘Bounty Hunter Bounty: Halcord Midmo’. This is a beginning scenario designed to take place after the Bounty Hunters have graduated from Bounty Hunter School. It is specifically designed for a party of four players, so may need some adjustment if this number is different. This is a good introductory adventure for both the Game Master and her players and it nicely escalates in scale. It should provide a good session or two’s worth of play.
Physically, Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game is very nicely presented. It is full colour throughout, the artwork is excellent, and throughout there are not only well written examples of the rules and play, but boxes marked ‘Critical Concepts’. Most are for the Game Master, though there are some for the players, but they all explain particular aspects of the game and how it is played. These are very helpful and to the point. Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game does need an edit here and there, but the problem with it is the lack of cover. Printed on good quality paper stock throughout, it does feel as if it should have a cardstock cover for better protection.
Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game is designed as the world’s easiest roleplaying game—and it is. Mostly. Play comes down to whether or not a Bounty Hunter has the right Skill and not just sufficient Action Points to act, but whether or not a Bounty Hunter has enough Action Points to act now or needs them for the next Dramatic scene. So it is a resource management game as much as anything, and the switch to diceless mechanics, as easy as it is, also requires a shift in how the game is played. The player more used to the dramatic, sometimes last minute, even unskilled, desperate roll of the dice to save the day will need to adjust to considering just how much effort or resources his Bounty Hunter has every day. Which will limit what his Bounty Hunter can do each day. In a traditional roleplaying game, this limit might be due to timing or damage suffered and the need to heal, essentially down to the randomness of the mechanics, but in Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game, it is built in. In the long term, as a Bounty Hunter increases his Reputation by bringing in more bounties, the number of his Action Points will increase, but that limitation in resources will still be there.
In terms of storytelling, the removal of dice—or other random mechanic—from Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game also shifts the storytelling. Both players and the Game Master need to be proactive in their narration of outcomes and of making scenes dramatic and exciting, because there is no ‘Woah!’ moment of that stunning dice roll. This is not necessarily a criticism, but both need to be aware of it before playing this roleplaying game, and for some players, that shift might just be too radical a step. That said, the lack of dice and the simple resource economy of the Action Points in Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game make it perfect for playing online.
Ultimately, not every playing group is going to adjust to the mechanics of Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game, but its simplicity makes it easy to learn and teach, and the lack of dice does give player and Game Master alike greater control of the narrative—as long as they have sufficient Action Points, that is. For example, for a group wanting to do space opera in the vein of The Mandalorian, Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game would be a good choice. Exactly forty years on from the first diceless roleplaying game—Phage Press’s Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game—Bounty Hunter – A Diceless Tabletop Roleplaying Game provides an impressively simple, narrative driven roleplaying game with an equally simple premise and set-up.
Saturday, 25 September 2021
Thirty years ago, H.E.R.O. (Heuristical Exploration and Reconnaissance Operations), now known as the Free-Lancers’ Guild, was founded during the First Crater Council. It was established to undertake independent operations free of politic influence, to conduct expeditions to the ancient Astarite cities, and once there recover the surviving items and blueprints of Arcanotechnology that have survived, and also to research the Alteration, a strange, gangrenous fungus which was found to be spreading from the ruins. In the years since, the Free-Lancers’ Guild, operating out of Patera, the Crater City, has continued to undertake the same missions, but also provides guards, exterminate monsters, mediates conflicts between communities, and also acts against dragons. These creatures fall as seeds from the stars and when they hatch and grow, they can devastate whole communities. In return, members, known as Freelancers, receive lodging, support, training, and more.
This is the set-up for Lore & Legacy: Fantastic Adventures in a World of Science and Magic, a French science-fantasy role-playing game published by Empyreal Media Productions. It takes place on the fantastical world of Empyrea, a vast planet home to numerous species who have come from the stars and settled. In the long years since, they have forgotten their homeworlds, how they got to Empyrea, and how to operate much of the technology. Indeed that technology has come to be regarded as akin to magic and only a few have the skill to use what has become known as Arcanotechnology. Empyrea is also a world of many ruins, especially of the grandiose and sinister necropolis left behind by the mysterious Astarite civilization that came before anyone settled on the planet. They are said to contain lost treasures and forgotten technological wonders, but also many dangers—antediluvian biomechanical guardians and creatures corrupted by the poison of the Alteration, a mysterious fungal gangrene that spreads over the regions that once formed the heart of the Astarite kingdoms. In recent years, the Alteration has begun to spread again and Dragon Seeds have fallen from the sky, giving birth to Dragons, creatures of unrivalled destructive power. Where such threats occur, the Free-Lancers’ Guild steps forward to protect and investigate. Found throughout many nations, its members coming from many different species, the Free-Lancers’ Guild sends out those determined to unravel the mysteries of the past and to venture beyond the borders imposed by incomplete maps, to protect the population, lift the veil on ancient lore, and reclaim their lost legacies.
A character in Lore & Legacy is defined by his People (or species), seven Attributes representing his physical and mental prowess, various Abilities in which has either been trained or is gifted, and a number of Traits representing his personality quirks, special talents, obsessions, phobias, and the like. The Peoples of Empyrea—at least on the northern half of the continent of Enelysion, especially in and around the Great Crater and its neutral city of Patera, are the Ælfyns, Agamids, Dakti, Humans, and Orcs. In more recent times, they have been joined by the Disincarnated, sentient androids who once served the Astarite who have awoken devoid of personality and knowledge, but quickly grow to acquire both, as well as the traits of the other Peoples of Empyrea. The Attributes are Acumen, Fortune, Mastery, Presence, Robustness, Temper, and Vigour, and all bar Fortune are represented by a single six-sided die plus a modifier. Fortune is a straight value representing the number of Fortune dice which a player can roll each day. Now not all of the remaining six Attributes are not exactly clear as to what they are from their names. So, Acumen is the character’s ability to observe, reflect, and analyse; Mastery is agility, dexterity, and precision, and ability to think and react quickly; Temper is his willpower; and Vigour his raw physical strength. This runs counter to most naming conventions for attributes and may well be confusing for some players.
Abilities include Arcanotech, Charge, Investigation, Melee Combat, Passion (Painting), Wizardry, and more. They are always represented by a single ten-sided die plus a modifier. Traits tend to apply situational modifiers. For example, ‘Beast of Burden’ increases a Player Character’s Luggage Points by three; Healer which grants a Fortune die any non-magical healing action; Agoraphobic, which levies an Adversity die on all actions when the Player Character is in an open space; Ancestral Weapon, which grants the Player Character a weapon with the Ætheric, which reduces the Magic Resistance of a successfully struck opponent; and Remarkable, which marks the Player Character out in social interactions with members of other races, levying an Adversity die and adding a Fortune die. A Player Character also has a number of derived secondary characteristics, including Health Points, Magic Points, Physical, Magic and Mental Resistances, and so on.
To create a character, a player selects a race, which provides the base attributes and traits. He has six points to assign to his character’s attributes, eight to spend on traits and ten to spend on abilities. One of the latter points must be spent on a passion or a hobby. Lastly, a character receives some money and equipment, and if he has studied magic some spells. In general, characters tend to be fairly focused and specialised, backed up with more general skills.
Our sample character is Zuwena whose fascination with Arcanotech has never extended beyond the library. She has joined the Freelancers’ Guild in the hopes of joining an expedition, if not actually leading one. In the meantime, she has to undertake other tasks for the guild, perhaps to prove herself worthy, perhaps to gain a bit more experience of the world outside of her books.
Temper 2 Acumen 4 Mastery 4 Presence 2
Robustness 1 Vigour 1 Fortune 2
Racial Traits: Noticeable, Technophile
Traits: Bookworm, Little Genius
Abilities: Archaeology 2, Investigation 2, Observation 1, Dodge 1, Melee Combat 1, Mysticism 1, Wilderness Survival 1, Wizardry 2
Passion Ability: Arcanotech 1
Wizardry Spells: Ætheric Echolocation (6), Ætheric Arrow (3), Healing (3)
Health Points: 4
Magic Points: 8
Physical Resistance: 3
Mental Resistance: 16
Last Chance Pool: 3
Injury Threshold: 2
Mechanically, Lore & Legacy uses the ‘3d’ engine, which uses three sizes of the dice and three types of dice. The three sizes are ten-sided or Ability dice, eight-sided or Damage dice, and six-sided or Attribute dice, and they are always used in specific situations. In general, when an Ability or Attribute is tested, or Damage is rolled, only one die, the Basic die is rolled, any modifier being added to the result to get a total. However, it can be as many as three. It cannot, though, be more than three. The extra dice can either be a Fortune die, an Adversity die, or even both! The result of the Fortune die is added to the result of the Basic die, whilst the result of the Adversity die is subtracted from the result of the Basic die. Adding both a Fortune die and an Adversity die to the dice to be rolled does not mean that they cancel each other out. Instead, their results are added and subtracted respectively.
When a Player Character undertakes an action, his player makes an Action Roll, consisting of the appropriate Basic die—whether a ten-sided die because the Player Character has an appropriate Ability or a six-sided die because he does not and must rely upon an Attribute instead—and applies any modifier. The Difficulty Rating for the Action Roll ranges from six for ‘simple’ to eighteen for ‘superhuman’. The success result can vary. A result equal to, or greater than the Difficulty Rating is a Standard Success and indicates that the Player Character has achieved his intended aim. A result one-and-a-half times or greater than the Difficulty Rating is a Major Success, and indicates that the Player Character has achieved his intended aim with positive benefits. A result less than the Difficulty Rating and less than half of the Difficulty Rating is a Partial Success, and indicates that the Player Character has achieved his intended aim, but with unforeseen complications. A result less than the Difficulty Rating and more than half of the Difficulty Rating is a Failure, and indicates that the Player Character has not achieved his intended aim.
In addition, a Player Character can also roll a Spectacular Success or Disastrous Failure. A Spectacular Success is achieved when a Fortune die is included in the Action Roll and a maximum result is rolled on the Fortune die, when the result of the Action Roll is a Standard or Major Success. Similarly, a Disastrous Failure is achieved when an Adversity die is included in the Action Roll and a maximum result is rolled on the Adversity die, when the result of the Action Roll is a Partial Success or Failure. Although a Disastrous Failure cannot result in the death of a Player Character, the Game Master is free to be as creative as she wants, whether the result is a Spectacular Success or a Disastrous Failure.
For example, Zuwenna has been assigned an escort mission, and whilst she is not interested in the job itself, the route does take it near some ruins that are rumoured to be Astartite. Before she attempts to persuade her colleagues that they might be interesting, she decides to spend some time in the archives conducting research. She has the Investigation skill, so her player will be rolling a ten-sided die and adding Zuwenna’s Investigation of 2. In addition, the Little Genius Trait grants her a Fortune die with any Ability which uses the Acumen Attribute. However, she does not have long, so there is a time penalty to find any useful information. The Game Master sets the Difficulty Rating at twelve. Zuwenna’s player rolls the two ten-sided dice and rolls a six on the basic die and a maximum of ten on the Fortune die! Not only is the result a total of eighteen, but the ten on the Fortune die means it is a spectacular success! This means that she definitely has some information related to the ruins and it could contain arcanotech. That should be enough to persuade her companions on the road.Both combat and magic use the same mechanics. A combatant has a single gesture, move, and action each round, and if he attacks, his player’s Action Roll is against his opponent’s Physical Resistance as the Difficulty Rating or Magic Resistance if the weapon used involves arcanotech. A Fortune die can be added to an Action roll if the opponent is immobilised, paralysed, knocked down, unconscious, and so on, likewise an Adversity die can be added if the attacker is suffering from similar conditions. Damage is rolled on a single eight-sided die, plus the weapon’s damage bonus, and is halved if the outcome of the Action Roll is a Partial Success, but increased by a half if a Major Success. Damage inflicted equal or superior to an opponent’s Injury Threshold and an injury is inflicted.
Lore & Legacy includes several types of magic. Illusory magic deals with changing the perceptions of others about their environment, whilst Material magic being the scientific study of making real what was not, or transforming what is. Ritual magic consists of magic which takes several magicians to cast, whilst Spiritism deals with ‘nature spirits’, including possession and exorcism. Bar Spiritism, the other types of magic include lengthy lists of spells, which are all in their own way interesting and ones that a magic using character in the game would want to cast. As in combat, the outcome of a Partial or Superior Success on an Action Roll halves the effect of the spell, or increases it by half, respectively.
For example, Zuwenna has persuaded her colleagues to investigate the ruins in the hope of finding some Arcanotech or at least something interesting. She has already cast Ætheric Echolocation to determine the extent of the underground passages and rooms when the guards left behind to protect the caravan come looking for them. Not to check on their welfare though, but to steal what Zuwenna and her colleagues have found. However, their disappointment at the lack of discoveries leads them to threaten Zuwenna and her colleagues, and a fight breaks out. Zuweena is attacked by one of the guards, Hagor. Both Zuwenna and Hagor have a Speed of five, but he is wearing chainmail, which reduces it by one to four. However, surprised by the attack, Zuwenna decides to fully defend herself. This doubles her Physical Resistance from three to six, to which is added her Dodge skill of one and the bonus from her padded armour, for a total Physical Resistance of eight. The Game Master rolls a Basic die and adds Hagor’s Melee Combat skill of 3 to the total. She rolls a two and adds the three for a total of five. This is a Partial Success, which means that any damage inflicted by Hagor is halved. The Game Master rolls 1d6+1 for his shortsword, rolling a one, then adding one before halving the damage inflicted—one! Clearly Hagor was expecting to be more of a pushover, as he growls, “C’mere you little witch!”, but Zuwenna’s Health Points are reduced from four to three.The advancement mechanics in Lore & Legacy are nicely woven into the setting itself. Being a member of the the Free-Lancers’ Guild provides a Player Character with motivation and missions to undertake, but having completed a mission, the Freelancers are paid in Asters which can be used to gain training, access Arcanotech archives and magical libraries, and even undergo experimental therapy to effectively buy off the negative effectives of Traits. For example, Bookworm provides extra points to spend on Abilities during character creation, but at the cost of an Adversity die being rolled every time a character undertakes an action related to his Vigour. So a player could spend the Asters to pay off this negative effect, all of which provides a nice range of options when it comes to Player Character advancement.
Now Zuweena can act. She has a dagger, but attempts a desperate blast of magic by unleashing an Ætheric Arrow at Hagor. Having already cast Ætheric Echolocation, Zuwenna has two Magic Points left, but Ætheric Arrow costs three to cast. This means that the power must come from somewhere and that is from her Health Points, which will be reduced by a further single point, leaving her with two. To cast the spell, Zuwenna’s player will be rolling a ten-sided die and adding Zuwenna’s Wizardry of 2. As before, the Little Genius Trait grants her a Fortune die with any Ability which uses the Acumen Attribute, which includes the Wizardry Ability. The Difficulty Rating is determined by Hagor’s Mental Resistance, which is fourteen. Zuwenna’s player rolls eight on both dice for a total of sixteen and adding her Wizardry gives a final result of eighteen. This is a Standard Success and inflicts 1d8+1 damage. Zuwenna’s player rolls a total of eight, enough to beat Hagor’s Injury Threshold of eight. This can trigger a Condition, which will vary depending upon where the Ætheric Arrow. Zuwenna’s player rolls ten on a ten-sided die, indicating the head. Hagor screams as his head is burned by Ætheric energy. Until healed, the Game Master must roll all of his actions with an Adversity die.
Although Lore & Legacy employs magic and wizardry, it is very much a Science Fiction game and this shows in the range of equipment available. So not just swords and shields, but firearms, technologically enhanced weapons such as gravitic bolas or phase kukri, and Arcanotech. The latter are lost devices from all of the peoples on Empyrea whose manufacture is no longer possible, and they need to be found and deciphered. They can be weapons such as Adamantine Claws and Disphasers which paralyses targets, and artefacts such as Anti-Grav Boots, Assessor collars which estimate the value of items, Khading Wings carried in a backpack and allow wearer’s to fly. Vehicles exist also, such as the Agamid aerial junks, gunboats that have survived wars, but are fielded during emergencies, such as dragon attacks. Full stats for dragons are provided in the bestiary along with a host of other threats and dangers.
Lore & Legacy includes a decent amount of background about the Free-Lancers’ Guild, what it does and what the Player Characters do. Patera, the Crater City, is also detailed as is the Greater Crater Region, along with various NPCs which can be found throughout the region. There is plenty here to support an ongoing campaign, and both the Game Master and her players are provided with a starting point. For the latter, it is set of six pre-generated characters, but for the former, it is not one, but three adventures. They begin with an investigative adventure in Patera itself following an attack on the Free-Lancers’ Guild headquarters, whilst the second is more traditional, being an expedition to investigate a meteor strike which at worst could be the arrival of another Dragon Seed. Lastly, the third scenario follows on from the second, to further investigate what was found at the site of the meteor strike. Together the three scenarios nicely showcase aspects of the setting—the Player Characters’ base of operations, what expeditions are like, and a little bit of some of the mysteries of the Empyrea. In addition, suggestions are given as to how to include the ‘Froglins in the Mist’ adventure from Lore & Legacy – Quick-Start Guide in between the three adventures in the core book. Each of the three should provide at least two sessions’ worth of play, if not more.
Physically, Lore & Legacy is well presented. Much of the artwork is excellent and much of it reminiscent of FASA’s Earthdawn roleplaying game—which should be no surprise given that artist Jeff Laubenstein worked on both. The writing is also good, and the translation is more than reasonable. It feels a little overwritten in places, the rules, though simple, often feel as if they have more terms than they really need. If the book lacks anything, it is an index. The table of contents is good, but an index would have helped.
Lore & Legacy: Fantastic Adventures in a World of Science and Magic could be described as Earthdawn meets SkyRealms of Jorune, but the former is primarily due to Jeff Laubenstein’s artwork. Nevertheless, it firmly falls into the ‘Sword & Planet’ genre, combined with post-apocalyptic elements, whilst adhering to Clarke’s Third Law which states that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Its inspirations—the French science fantasy comics series, Valérian, the works of Moebius, Philippe Caza, and Philippe Druillet in Heavy Metal, C.L. Moore’s Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry, the computer game, Might & Magic, and even She-Ra and the Princess of Power—all combine to give Lore & Legacy a different feel, a stronger sense of the other and the alien than might be found in similar roleplaying games.
Lore & Legacy is an adroit combination of a simple rules system, intriguing setting, a set-up that provides the Player Characters with motivations and missions, and a sense of mystery and wonder in the secrets of the Astarites. Although it leaves both wanting to know more about the world of Empyrea and its mysteries, Lore & Legacy: Fantastic Adventures in a World of Science and Magic provides Game Master and players alike with an impressive introduction and start.
Friday, 24 September 2021
Mew-Tants! takes the seemingly supernatural abilities and attitudes of cats and turns them up a knotch or two in the scratching post to turn them into superpowers. So ‘Laser Eyes’—not so much blasters as pointers with which to distract other cats; ‘If I fits I sits’—the cat can expand or shrink to fit exactly into any container; ‘Spidercat’—being able to climb down(!) and up trees, and even upside down; and ‘Keyboard Cat’—being able to use computers and keyboards because everyone believes you can! There are just twelve superpowers, along with twelve breeds of cats, which are enough for a one-shot or a mini-campaign, whilst still leaving plenty of room for the Game Master or even the players to create their own.
A cat-racter in Mew-Tants! is defined by his Breed, from Moggy, Scottish Fold, and Bengal to Tortoiseshell, American Ringtail, and Norwegian Forest Cat, and his superpower. A cat has four stats, defined by his Breed. These are Claws, for fighting and all physical activities, Whiskers for mental abilities and awareness, and Fucks, for how many it gives and its ability to interact with other cats and animals (including dogs). It also has nine Lives, just as you would expect. To create a Mew-Tant, a player rolls or selects a Breed and Superpower, modifies one stat for something his cat is good at and one stat for something his cat is bad at, selects his cat’s fur colour, and decides on a relationship with another cat and the reason why he joined the team of super cats.
Superpower – Keyboard cat
Mechanically, Mew-Tants! is simple enough. It uses dice pools of six-sided dice, equal to one of a cat’s stats. If a player rolls a six, then his cat succeeds at a task. If opposed, the winner is the cat—or even a dog or a rat—who rolls more successes than the other. In combat, successes indicate damage inflicted on an opponent. Further dice can be added to a pool if a cat can find a box or a bed—for a nap, Kibbles so the cat can care more, or a Scratching Post to sharpen a cat’s claws. These add to a cat’s Whiskers, Fucks, and Claws respectively. Lastly, Lives represent a cat’s Hit Points, but can also be expended to reroll any dice. Catnip—or ‘nip’ if obtained from a dealer on the streets—grants bonus Lives dice.
Play in Mew-Tants! is supported with advice on scenario or mini-campaign, design, a detailed scenario, and a dozen ready-to-play super cats. The advice is to keep it fairly short and focused on small neighbourhood, perhaps even a neighbourhood known to the players. A table of antagonists and goals provide some ideas, and whilst the advice is limited, it is sufficient for a roleplaying with the scope of Mew-Tants! In comparison, the scenario, ‘The Catnapping’, is relatively lengthy and detailed. It is a missing moogie mystery litter box played out over nine locations, with plenty of NPCs that the Game Master can develop and roleplay. It should provide a good session or two’s worth of play.
Physically, Mew-Tants! is decently done and written. The artwork ranges from the realistic to the cartoonish, but works either way. Published as an A5-size booklet, it is short and easy to read, such that a Game Master could pick this up and read it through and have it ready to play in ten minutes.
Cats will be familiar to almost every player, so the combination of the subject matter and the simple mechanics make Mew-Tants! both easy and engaging to play. The combination also means that Mew-Tants! is suitable for younger players or play by a family—or it would be. Its use of adult language to describe a cat’s charisma and the fact that is reproduced on the character sheet on the back cover simply means that it is anything but—when it really should have been. Now the Game Master can change both, renaming the stat and redesigning the character sheet—perhaps Catrisma?—but should that have been really necessary? Maybe the publisher could provide a family-friendly character sheet?
Overall, Mew-Tants! is both easy and engaging, with scope aplenty for the input and invention of the players as they imagine the adventures of their cats and how they see the world around them.
Monday, 20 September 2021
Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu Invictus, The Pastores, Primal State, Ripples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was a Five Go Mad in Egypt, Return of the Ripper, Rise of the Dead, Rise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...
The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.
What You Get: Sixty-six page, 37.78 MB Full Colour PDF
Elevator Pitch: Ripples in Carcosa II?
# Lots of detailed research
# Involve the effects of slavery (but not actual slavery)
Sunday, 19 September 2021
1974 is an important year for the gaming hobby. It is the year that Dungeons & Dragons was introduced, the original RPG from which all other RPGs would ultimately be derived and the original RPG from which so many computer games would draw for their inspiration. It is fitting that the current owner of the game, Wizards of the Coast, released the new version, Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, in the year of the game’s fortieth anniversary. To celebrate this, Reviews from R’lyeh will be running a series of reviews from the hobby’s anniversary years, thus there will be reviews from 1974, from 1984, from 1994, and from 2004—the thirtieth, twentieth, and tenth anniversaries of the titles. These will be retrospectives, in each case an opportunity to re-appraise interesting titles and true classics decades on from the year of their original release.
For example, Fenschon the Juggler is out hunting boar when the Game Master asks his player to make a Scent check. He only rolls 19% and fails to note a sudden shift in the smell here deep in the woods that would indicate he is not only one hunting the boar. It means that he is surprised when a pair of the beaked and clawed Hunting Dogs of the Dharzi burst out of the bushes. It must mean that someone nearby has engaged the services of the Dharzi lords in temporarily obtaining the use of one of their packs of hunting dogs, and that perhaps this pair has got away from the pack. So he manages to only fire the one arrow before they attack rather than two. The creatures are fast, but not quite as fast as Fenschon, who manages to lose the one arrow he had nocked. His player rolls 10% and the arrow strikes the flank of the lead creature. This inflicts seven points of damage. Then the beasts attack, each having two claw attacks at 20% and a beak attack at 25%. The Game Master rolls 67%, 56%, and 98% for the two claw and beak attacks for the first Hunting Dog of the Dharzi, and then 77%, 73%, and 81% for the second.In the next round, Fenschon realises that he has the wrong weapon for what is now a close engagement and so has to change his weapon. This costs him the equivalent of five points of Dexterity, so for this round it is reduced to the equivalent of 15. Since the Hunting Dogs have a Dexterity of 19, they attack first. Only the first Hunting Dog successfully attacks Fenschon, snapping at him with its beak with a roll of 21%. Fenschon cannot parry as he does not have his dagger out, but he can dodge, but with a roll of 57% fails. The Hunting Dog’s beak attack inflicts 1d6+1 damage, the Game Master rolling a five. Fenschon’s leather armour might protect him and his player rolls 1d6-1 for the effect. Unfortunately the result is a one, which is reduced to a zero, and the hunter suffers the whole five points! This is not enough to inflict a Major Wound, but that is half of his Hit Points. Finally, with his dagger in hand, Fenschon stabs at the first beast and rolls 02%—not just a successful strike, but a critical hit. The Game Master rolls 19% for the Hunting Dog and fails its parry roll, so Fenschon inflicts double damage for the critical hit. Fenschon rolls a five, which is doubled to ten. This reduces its Hit Points from fifteen to five. The situation looks dire for Fenschon. Perhaps a career as a hunter is not for him?
For example, Princess Kragulan is researching ancient Melnibonéan history and wants to summon a Lesser Demon of Knowledge who might know more. She selects the demon, having researched its name, purchases both a finely wrought ring into which she plans to bind the demon, the necessary sacrifice, and prepares the necessary ritual circles. After the necessary purification processes, Princess Kragulan spends several hours chanting and so formulating the summoning, and upon excising the heart of the sacrifice, attempts the summoning. Princess Kragulan’s player rolls her Summon Knowledge Demon 95% and with a result of 23% brings forth the Lesser Demon, who appears in the circle and crises out, “Who disturbs the deep studies of Brerin the Knower?” Princess Kragulan states, “I am Princess Kragulan and in the name of the Lord of Chaos, Arioch, you will make your knowledge mine!” Having summoned the Demon, she attempts to Bind him. This is a Power versus Power using the Resistance Table. Princess Kragulan has a Power of 22 and it was previously determined that the Lesser Demon’s Power is 12. This gives her a 95% chance of successfully Binding Brerin. The Lesser Demon reluctantly agrees and is drawn into the ring that Princess Kragulan had prepared. Had her player failed, Brerin may have fled or even agreed to stay and lie about what he knows when asked a question…