Friday, March 25, 2016

Actual Play: Godbound – A Game of Divine Heroes (Part 2)

Yesterday we run the second and final session for our Godbound demo scenario (first part can be found here, along with a review of the game). At the end of the previous session heroes reached Level 2, so they’ve grow stronger (the game is designed to be easy to level up the first few levels)

Wounded and drained, the heroes returned to Quetzal. They announce that High Priestess Painalli has been defeated, but the fight against the dragon god is far from over. Gathering his divine strength, Harun make the villagers combat skills permanent by spending Dominion points. Jade and Decimus, meanwhile, spend their Dominion points to inscribe the stone wall surrounding the village with glyphs that makes it imperceptible to onlookers unless they know the proper rite (using Earth and Deception).

A few days afterwards, Harun uses the power of the sun to see what transpires in the Eternal City. A funeral for Painalli is performed atop the temple, where a muscular warrior swears revenge upon her killers. Harun speaks to him across the sunlight, but the man (revealed to be Painalli’s son, Akumal) isn’t impressed by the Godbound’s defiance.

It doesn’t take long to learn that Akumal, the Tempestuous Jaguar as it is called by many who fear him, is rising an army to march against his enemies and avenge his mother. Across the region many villages are raided, their inhabitants captured to be sacrificed at Zyanya’s temple to appease Ilhuitemoc’s bloodlust.

The pantheon splits. Decimus stays at Quetzal to build an underground fortress by molding stone with his divine powers, while Harun and Jade, accompanied by the elder Imari, travel to the nearby villages to get as much people as possible to safety. Most villagers are afraid, but Harun’s aura and divine words tranquilizes them, so they all join the cause in the end. When Harun’s words fail, Jade’s dark nature puts them in line.

On the last village, the group is attacked by a bunch of farmers, who have become hostile due to famine and sickness, desperate enough to resort to thievery and murder. Jade defeats several farmers before the rest are paralyze by fear, only to reveal that she hasn’t killed them but rather put them to sleep. An old woman defies the Godbound, for she knows her ancestor’s gods will return to help them, like they always have. Jade approaches the woman, and with his divine power infuses her with a blessing of the Night. The woman falls to his knees, crying and recognizing the Godbound as divine.

Back to Quetzal, the time for war has come. Harun uses his divine sight to see the marching enemy troops closing their way. The pantheon rides along their Sun Warriors into battle.

Both armies clash in the battlefield, and quickly the jungle turns red with blood. Zyanya Warriors are exceptional, but the Sun Warriors, men and women fighting for their home and freedom, have been blessed by the divine, so even when in shorter numbers their power is superb. At their side, the pantheon fights as well, unleashing miracles of burning sun, chocking darkness and mighty stone.

Decimus fistfights with Akumal in a one-on-one duel. Akumal combines the mastery of a lesser wind-based strife with certain gifts granted by her mother, which makes him a formidable opponent for the young Godbound, who unleashes the fury of the earth with each strike. After a few rounds, Akumal is defeated and the pantheon emerges victorious from the battle, but for as long as Ilhuitemoc is alive, the war won’t be over.

Next morning at dawn the group leaves the Sun Warrior to tend the wounded and the prisoners, and march alone to Zyanya. They reach the top of the temple, where Harun issues a challenge to the dragon god. Without an immediate response, Decimus starts punching the temple to rubble, piece by piece. It doesn’t take long for the sky to darken with storm clouds, from which Ilhuitemoc emerges furious.

As he descends from the clods, the carvings of warriors across the temple walls come to life, an army of stone warriors begins to climb to the top. Decimus uses his powers over stone to control half the creatures, making them fight against each other. Ilhuitemoc, furious of his defiance, unleashes lightning and thunder over the temple, burning his foes and imploding the stone warriors. After a few rounds, even the temple’s ceiling collapses.

Harun is the first to fall, but not before he triggers his Divine Fury and unleashes a few sun-burning miracles on the dragon god. At this moment the dragon’s crystal scales on its chest open, revealing what it seems to be a withered old man trapped in rune-carved chains, his divine force being slowly drained by draconic crimson veins. No doubt this is the missing godly protector of the region, Ohtonqui, he’s ultimate fate now known.

Realizing that Ilhuitemoc is using the old god’s life force to heal his own, Decimus grabs Jade, makes an impossible jump and drops her over the dragon, her divine powers stopping her from falling and granting her full movement while atop the beast. Ilhuitemoc becomes furious for this, trying to desperately crush Jade under its wings. Jade runs and dodges, reaching the creature’s chest where Ohtonqui is imprisoned. The decision is a difficult one, she could either kill him outright or try to free him. Developing some sort of sympathy for the old man, she conjures tendrils of pure darkness to break the chains and grab the weakened god. Meanwhile, Decimus jumps across the city, clashing with the dragon god to keep him distracted.

As the old man is freed, Ilhuitemoc screams in pain and fury, his powers now weakened. He decides to burn all his divine might to crush his foes as soon as possible. His attacks are lethal, causing both Godbound to activate Divine Fury to gain a few more rounds.

Decimus launches a series of his most powerful attacks, before falling unconscious and defenseless. Finally, Jade conjures her last strength into a last attack fueled by all her divine strength. Ilhuitemoc seems to be unaffected by this, but suddenly tendrils of darkness erupt from inside his body, choking the life force of the dragon god for good from the inside. The creature plummets from the sky and crashes right into the temple, destroying most of it. Jade manages to jump at the last second, landing into safety before falling unconscious as well.

A few minutes of silence pass, as the people in the Eternal City begin to realize what just happened as the clouds dissipate and the sun shines. Their immortal god was dead. From the rubble, the Godbound arise once more, their words burning with divine defiance, urging everyone to break the chains of slavery and unite under a single banner.

The fight was over, but their saga has just begun…


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review & Actual Play: Godbound – A Game of Divine Heroes (Part 1)

Currently on Kickstarter (and doing quite well, if I may add), Godbound: A Game of Divine Heroes is the new roleplaying game by Kevin Crawford, owner of Sine Nomine Publishing, a one-man company that brought us awesome OSR games like Stars Without Numbers, Other Dust and Scarlet Heroes.

“What's OSR?” you ask. OSR stands for Old School Revival, a trend of games that base their core engine on earlier iterations of D&D rules. It's well beyond the scope of this review to talk about OSR, but there is plenty of information available if you search for it. Suffice to say, Kevin's games take the classic D&D engine and give it a fantastic spin. His games definitely don't disappoint, even if you are not an OSR fan.

I've split this post in two parts: a review of the book (Kevin made the several iterations of the draft rules available to the public), followed by an actual play of the first session of our demo game.


I want to start this review by saying I genuinely love this game. I haven't been so hooked and in love with an RPG in a long while, probably not since I played Exalted 1st Edition for the first time a little over 10 years ago.

The setting goes like this: over a thousand years ago, mortals stormed the halls of Heaven in search for the One God, battling the Angelic Host along the way, so that they may know the truths of the universe. That didn't end up well, though, since the Throne was empty. Furious, mortals looted the Celestial Engines to build their own divinities, the Made Gods, according to each people's philosophies and dogma. It wouldn’t be long before Made Gods clash in the blattlefield, with each conflict tearing the fabric of the universe a little more. In the end, the Last War produced the Shattering, a cosmic cataclysm that broke and scattered the world into many Realms, each one floating alone among the Uncreated Night. Meanwhile, the Angels were forced to withdraw to Hell, a safe heaven from where they could plot to destroy the world in order to recreate it anew.

With the Made Gods dead or weakened, and the Celestial Engines at the blink of collapse, hope was all but lost. But then, the divine energy contained in Heaven's dead Made Gods poured into the world below, gifting ordinary men and women with divine might. These are the Godbound. Whether the world is to be saved or doomed, it's their fate to carve its ultimate destiny.

Like I said before, the core engine is recognizable to anyone who has played classic D&D before. You have six attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence and Charisma) rated 1 to 18 to measure how good you are on a particular field. If you need to make a check to see if you succeed or fail, you roll a 20-sided die. High is good, low is bad. The usual stuff.

What sets Godbound apart? For once, no skills. Instead, players have Facts, which work in a lot of ways similar to Fate's Aspects. If you have a Fact applicable to a non-combat die roll, you add a +4 bonus to the roll. Quick, simple, and customizable to each PC's backstory and deeds. Players may also use Facts to get a general idea of a character's resources, and it's possible to gain stuff like Lesser Magic (wizardry used by mortals) or a Divine Artifact in lieu of the +4 bonus. You start with three Facts, gaining a new Fact with each experience Level you reach.

Of course, that alone wouldn't make for unstoppable demigods, so we have Words, the spheres of divine might that tell us what a Godbound can do. Some Words are Fire, Beasts, Command, Passion, Sword, and many more. Each character starts with three Words, although it's possible to bind to more as they level up. Just be bonding with a Word, characters get access to some related perks or Attribute increments. For example, anyone who bonds with Fire will be immune to flames, while someone who bonds with Might will automatically have Strength 19.

Once a hero’s Words are chosen, the player selects Gifts among those Words, powers his character will always have available (some are constant, while others must be activated by the Godbound). In addition, Godbound may invoke Miracles from their Words, either to emulate Gifts they didn't buy or to create their own effects (of course, doing so costs more than having purchased the right Gift for the job). That way, Godbound have both fixed powers and free-form magic they can access in times of need.

Some Gifts and powers are free to use, but most require the character to commit Effort in order to activate them for as long as the power is on. One the Godbound no longer needs the power active, he may instantly reclaim his spent Effort (for example, if a Gift enhances an attack, the Godbound can reclaim the Effort as soon as the attack is resolved). The strongest powers require the hero to leave Effort committed even after its effects have ended, either for the remainder of the scene or the whole day. A Level 1 character starts with Effort 2, and increases this score by one each time they Level up. It's incredible how much you can achieve even at first level with just two points, making bookkeeping quite easy.

How does this all play in game? Awesomely. Combat is fast and furious, with lesser enemies possessing no treat to a pantheon unless in very large numbers (luckily, Godbound has fantastic Mob rules). All Godbound have a Fray Die (1d8 by default). Every turn, regardless of their action, they get to roll their Fray Die to represent minor miracles that inflict damage on lesser foes. That way, Godbound can dispatch larger number of lesser enemies quite fast.

On top of everything else, the book itself is incredibly helpful for the GM, full of advice and techniques to design epic adventures for your players. Even if you don't like OSR, and even if the quite streamlined and polished rules in this book are not to your taste, the book is so full of rules and tips that can be easily converted to other game systems that it's worth buying it just for that anyway.

My favorite subsystem in the book is Influence and Dominion. As they gain Levels, characters increase their Influence pool, which they can commit (just like Effort) to alter the world around them off-screen based on his Words. For as long as the Influence remains committed, their divine powers sustain the change, only returning to its original state if he withdraws the points or an external force interferes. For example, let's say a Godbound finds an isolated island village that is constantly raid by pirates. He has to travel to a far place to deal with the tentacled abomination the pirates have for a deity. He fears the village is not safe until his return, so he works on a plan to defend them while he's away. Working for a few days, he crafts a metal-men army, imbuing them with life with the Artifice Word. For as long as the Influence remains committed on the task, the army will be upkeep and functional. If he ever withdraws it, though, they will start to fall apart and malfunction.

If a Godbound wants to make one of this changes permanent, he has to spend Dominion. Once he has done so, the change is permanent and he no longer is required to commit Influence to upkeep the change. Once spent, Dominion points are lost, and the character needs to earn more (usually from receiving worship, performing heroic deeds or looting Celestal Shards). Following the previous example, the Artifice Godbound could spend dominion to make his metal army a permanent addition to the village, ensuring that even after he has long gone they will still protect the village.

Conclusion: if you like what you've heard, I sincerely encourage you to take a look at the draft (backers get instant access to it, although the author has given us permission to share the link to the folder freely) and I dare you not to feel the need to pledge on this awesome Kickstarter afterward.

Actual Play

Last week I gathered a few friends to play a Godbound demo game. I made several pregenerated characters for them to choose from (available from the Downloads section).

They chose Decimus (a former soldier and slave; bound to the Words of Earth, Endurance and Might), Harun Sadar (a free spirited merchant and ship captain; bound to the Words of Passion, Sun and Wealth), and Jade (scion of a wealthy family on the run, turned rogue and thief; bound to the Words of Alacrity, Deception and Night).

Our adventure begins with Harun and Decimus traveling aboard the former's ship near The Thousand Gods (a jungle peninsula filled with many cults and secrets). They soon find out they are not alone, for Jade comes out of the shadows to introduce herself. She has been following them for a while, since she knows they are similar to her.

The chat is abruptly interrupted by a sailor. When the group goes out of the captain's chambers to see what's going on, a pyre of smoke dominates the horizon near the coast. Without a second thought, Decimus lets his divine power flow in a thunderous ten-miles long jump. A few thousand yards away, he can see a defenseless village attacked. He makes another quick jump to go back to the ship (with a very swift landing that makes a hole on the ship's deck, oops). Without a word, he picks up Harun and Jade, then jumps again toward the coast.

Back to the village (picture a pre-Hispanic mesoamerican village), they run toward it to see it in flames, with several dead bodies scattered across the ground, and many more still-alive villagers trapped in cages. Over a hundred tribal warriors are herding the remaining survivors into cages, when Decimus explodes in rage and attacks. Harun and Jade followed. They are faced by over a hundred warriors (Large Mob), two giant feathered reptile-like frying creatures (Minor Misbegottens), and the warrior's leader (Minor Hero with no special powers save for rallying his men). The fight probably lasted three or four rounds before all foes where dead, with the heroes barely damaged at all.

When they open the cages, the villagers are terrified of what they just saw. Harun steps forwards, using his powers to calm the villagers and befriend their leader, an elderly man by the name Imari. He explains the small village is called Quetzal, and that it's not the first time those warriors attack a nearvy village. They come from the Eternal City of Zyanya, an evil place ruled by a woman named Painalli, High Priestess of Ilhuitemoc, He Who Descends from the Sky. Every year, warriors from the city raid local villages searching for sacrifices to their god, in a bloody ceremony that lasts for days. So far they've always been protected by their own deity, Ohtonqui the Wise-Walker. But now he seems to have vanished, deaf to his follower's pleas for help.

Once they hear the story, the heroes vow to help the villagers to stop Painalli once and for all. They spend the next few days on several things:

* Decimus used an Earth Miracle to create a stone wall around the village.
* Harun works to give the villagers hope and courage, investing Influence to enhance them with the Sun Word (he made them into 2HD warriors for as long as he kept the Influence committed).
*Jade used her powers to quickly travel to Zyanya, fast moving from shadow to shadow, covering a dozen miles in a few seconds. She used her powers to remain imperceptible to the inhabitants, exploring the place as much as she could.
* Decimus used a Might Miracle to pick up Harun's ship and relocate it inside the village's walls (this made us all laugh).

With everything set, the group departs to the Eternal City. They arrive at dawn, just to see that atop the tall pyramidal temple a woman (Painalli, no doubt) is about to start a row of human sacrifice. With no second thoughts, Decimus picks Harun and makes a huge jump, while Jade enters a tree's shadow to exit atop the temple.

Painalli becomes furious, commanding her warriors to kill the intruders. On this encounter, the pantheon had to face Painalli (Lesser Eldritch with the Beast Word), her two bodyguards (Veteran Warriors), the several dozen tribal warriors that make Painalli's personal retinue (Small Mob), and all the temple's guards running toward the top of the pyramid as fast as they could (Large Mob in HD, but fights as Small Mob due to the narrow stairway that leads to the pyramid's top).

This fight was hard, mainly due to the player's having terrible rolls (it happens to the best of us), and Painalli's quasi-divine powers. On several occasions they had to invoke defensive Miracles to avoid death from one of Painalli's attacks. They managed to kill both mobs and Painalli's bodyguards after some intense rounds, leaving all three of them to deal with her. Painalli then stroke a lethal blow to Harun (in Godbound, when you reach 0hp you are unconscious, not dead; an NPC needs to attack you when helpless to kill you). Harun's player then invoked Divine Fury (a cool rule that allows, one each Level, for the Godbound to get up with half his Hit Points and bonus Effort for a few rounds before being rendered helpless), using all his remaining Effort to deal damage to Painalli. Then, striking simultaneously, Decimus and Jade managed to kill Painalli with their last strengths.

When the heroes were about to address the crowd around the temple, the sky goes dark, cracking with thunder. A furious whirlwind formed in the stormy clods, a portal from which Ilhuitemoc descended, a towering 100 feet dragon with crystal feathers furiously roaring and exhaling lightning. With no strengths left to fight and many wounds sustained, the pantheon is forced to retreat from the confrontation… for now.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Just Backed #5: Wield – A Little Game about Ancient Powers

Wield is the new game from John Wick and Gillian Fraser (a team that previously worked in Wicked Fantasy for the Pathfinder RPG). To go to the Kickstarter page, just click on the logo below.

What’s the game about?

Since you get access to the playtest document as soon as you back the game (a trend that I highly value in Kickstarter projects nowadays), I've decided to make a very short review about it.

In Wield, players take two roles. On one end, they are the vatcha, powerful sentient artifacts of old that have seen the rise and fall of an uncountable number of Empires (think the One Ring or Stormbringer). On the other end, you also play the hero who wields the vatcha of another player. Let’s talk a little bit about both.

Like already stated, the vatcha are ancient sentient artifacts, as such they have their own agenda as well as night unlimited power to achieve it. And yet, they can’t do anything on their own, for they are just mere objects meant to be wielded by heroes.

When creating your vatcha, you choose among several Domains like Fire, Life or Darkness in order to select the powers your vatcha can grant to its wielder (each domain has ten powers). But there is a catch: the more powers your vatcha grants to a hero, less control the vatcha has over its wielder (more on that in a minute). The only magic that exists in the world is the one that comes from wielding a vatcha, so this aspect of the game is what sets heroes apart from regular people.

Once everyone has their vatcha, you create a hero (or pawn as the vatcha calls them) that wields another player’s vatcha. You can make this character in any way you want, as the vatcha as little to say in who wields it. Heroes are composed of two things, a background to determine their overall aptitudes (sailor, soldier, alchemist, courtesan, etc) as well as an epic destiny, something the hero is meant to do (probably quite different from the vatcha’s own goal).

Once you finish these two characters, you are ready to play. As you can see, you will be playing two different characters at once: a vatcha and a mortal hero who wields another player’s vatcha.

As a personal note, it seems that you’ll be playing the mortal hero more that the actual vatcha, as it’s the hero the one who tries to accomplish things (unless, of course, the vatcha has almost total control over him).

The System

The system is very simple; you roll one d20 plus another d20 if your background is relevant to the roll (John noted on the KS page the new playtest will switch to d6). Difficulties are escalated: Easy, Hard, Heroic, Epic and Impossible. If something in the scene modifies the roll, it goes up or down one step on the ladder for each event. For example, climbing a wall may be Hard, but climbing a wall while trying to avoid arrows shoot at you is Heroic, and climbing a wall that is on fire while trying to avoid arrows shot at you is definitely Epic. On top of this, heroes may have powers that grant additional dice or flat bonuses to certain tasks (this is the only way to achieve an Impossible task).

One of the core aspects of the game is what happens when the hero and the vatcha want two whole different things. This is when players have to either negotiate or, if they can’t agree, roll for control. When you roll for control, you roll a number of dice equal to your character’s Control stat (both the vatcha and its wielder’s Control totals 10, but how this is divided depends on how many powers the vatcha grants, as they grant more power to their heroes, they also give more control to them). The player who rolls highest gains control.

On top of that, before any task roll is made (like the aforementioned climbing a wall on firing while dodging arrows), players may bargain with the GM (called Fate in the game) in order to get an automatic success. To do so, they have to swear a Geis (something their characters must or must not do). If the GM approves the Geis, they automatically succeed on the task, but now they are bound by their oath (breaking it has serious consequences for the character).

Combat probably deserves a special mention as well, since it works quite different from other games. There is no initiative, but rather everyone acts simultaneously. As such, the GM counts up to five, and then everyone (at the same time) must make a hand gesture to let everyone know if they are attacking, defending or using a power (and with how intensity they are doing it). Then each action is resolved, with the difficulty based on the rank of the action set by the player (yes, in Wield you set up your own Difficulty to hit or defend, but it also measures how much damage you deal or avoid if you succeed).


Wield is a game about negotiation, either with other players or with the GM. It’s a game about struggling with power, and the playtest (while still very raw and obscure about certain aspects of the game) shows very well how this works. I can’t wait to see an updated playtest, not to mention the final version of the game.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Just Backed #4: Against the Dark Yogi

I recently backed this project, an Indian-themed roleplaying game about larger than life heroes struggling to defeat the Dark Yogi (as the tile suggests) over one or more reincarnations. If you want to go the KS page (and you probably should), you can click on the image below.

Something great about this KS is that you get a complete draft of the game as soon as you back it (regardless of the amount, even $1 is enough), so you know exactly what you are getting for your money right away. I think this is a clever move for a new publisher, since it helps to build trust with potential backers (I probably wouldn’t have backed this game if not for that little fact). When you ask people for their money you have the responsibility to let them know what they are getting in return, and I think giving a full draft as soon as possible is a great way to show them your commitment with your work.

The draft itself is 267 pages long (the final book is expected to be around 300 pages), of which approximately 50 pages are setting material while the rest is dedicated to the system and a bestiary (with mythical Indian creatures, Gods, heroes and villains, including the infamous Dark Yogi himself!). We can see several pieces of artwork on the KS page, so there is no doubt the book is going to be gorgeous to behold once it’s finished.

I haven’t read much about the setting yet (it’s not India, but a fantastic land based on ancient India called Bhurloka), but I've read most of the rules, so I’d like to talk a little bit about that. For starters, the game uses poker cards rather than dice. I wasn't very convinced about this aspect of the game until I saw the rules, then decided that there is no way the game could feel the same using dice.

On a nutshell, you have 8 attributes (4 physical, 4 mental) and several skills. To resolve an action, the GM tells you the relevant target number. If the total of your Attribute + Skill + Card (you draw the first card of the deck) is equal to or greater than the TN, you succeed, otherwise you fail. Success usually allows you to bring conditions into the scene, which acts as a bonus or penalty on further rolls. For example, if you want to disguise as a Prince and you succeed, you may gain the “Disguised as a Prince” condition, granting you a bonus every time you want to act as a Prince or where being a Prince could be helpful; on the other hand, you may use the same condition as a penalty on anyone trying to pierce your disguise.

On top of that, each player has both Good Karma and Bad Karma. Good Karma is represented by the cards you have in hand, while Bad Karma is represented by cards on the table facing down. Good Karma can be used by the player in several ways, the most common use being using a card from your hand rather than a random draw from the deck for a check. Bad Karma, on the other hand, may be used by the GM to complicate things for your character. You gain Good Karma by doing good deeds and following your dharma, while you gain Bad Karma by breaking the rules (like stealing or touching a dead body).

The combat system is very interesting, with the player spending points from his Chakra pools (5 different pools) to perform several actions each round. For example, you may spend crown chakra to read a book,  afterwards spend lower chakra to run, then spend another lower chakra to jump over a cliff and finally spend more lower chakra to land a spear attack upon an enemy. That way, you may take several actions per round based on how much chakra you have on your pools. You recover a little bit of chakra each round (similar to how chi breath works in Weapons of the Gods).

A very interesting feature for combat is that most of the time you are probably going to face hordes of lesser enemies, maybe under the orders of a more powerful enemy. As such, the game has a very interesting way to represent this. A unit is equal to a single individual, with a number of HP equal to the number of individuals in the unit. You may attack the unit just like any other regular character, but what’s interesting (I don’t remember having seen this in any other game) is that each time the unit attacks a character, that character automatically deals a number of points of damage to the unit, representing that even as the unit strikes you, you managed to take some extras out of the fight. That really makes you feel epic (it also helps that most attacks can’t kill your character, only leave him unconscious, only major villains and special attacks have any chance to kill a character).

As for character creation and advancement, that’s where things get interesting. To create a character you have to first think on his previous five incarnations, and each incarnation will grant your current self skills (or other benefits if he was non-human, like the capability to fly if he was a bird on a previous life). Then, you choose two Paths that apply to your current character. Paths are archetypes like Spearman, Archer, Charioteer or Yogi; they give you starting equipment and, more importantly, they tell you which traits you can purchase (a character may only purchase traits from his Paths and from the Universal Path).

Traits represent special equipment, combat maneuvers, tricks, allies or weird powers your character has. Some are very mundane, like the ability to make a counterattack in combat, while others are far more surreal and mythic, like the ability to build constructs by firing arrows (my favorite trait in the whole game) or a God blessing your chariot so it can fly. You start with 2-3 traits based on your Paths, but you may purchase more during the game.

As for character advancement, the most interesting part actually happens when you die. At any point, the GM may choose to move the timeline a generation, so that all characters die and are reincarnated again. When that happens, your Enlightenment score goes up one point (that is, you become more powerful and awesome). With time and reincarnations, you’ll be able to gain more Paths, recover more Chakra per round, have more Health and overall kick more ass. In addition, if you are not into multiple generations campaigns, the book has optional rules that allow characters to increase their Enlightenment without dying.

My only complaint with this game is the title. When I read Against the Dark Yogi, I picture a short one-evening story game like The Mountain Witch, not a 300 pages book planned for long campaigns. The tile is not bad into itself, but I think it follows a format that doesn't quite picture how big and wide this game is, but rather ties it to a single plot. Of course, it’s a minor marketing detail that doesn't have any impact on how awesome this game is, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

As you can see, I liked this game quite a lot (I don’t usually do “Just Backed” posts this long, but since the game came with a draft, seems like a good idea to make a short review as well). I like how your character feels epic at all times, while at the same time keeping a simple system that is easy to grasp.

I can’t wait to play this game with my group, and I think you should give it a try as well!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Just Backed #3: The Strange / Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy RPG

Hey, folks!

For those of you who don’t know, these two Kickstarters are doing amazingly well since they launched not so long ago. Let’s talk a little bit about them (as always, click on the picture to go the project’s page).

The Strange

Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell join forces (I think for the first time) in order to bring us another iteration of the Cypher System (the one previously used in Monte’s Numenera). In The Strange, characters are able to use a complex alien virtual network created at the dawn of time in order to travel to the myriads of worlds that reside within it, called recursions.  What’s cool about recursions is that they are often the product of an aspect of the real world. For example, Ardeyn (one of the main recursions the game focuses on) is a MMO back on Earth.

Another interesting aspect is that each recursion has its own unique laws (for example, Ardeyn has magic), and that your character changes as he travels from one recursion to another. In a technological recursion your character may have an advanced laser gun, while in a medieval recursion the same weapon may turn into a crossbow (or just stop working altogether). Or maybe your character is able to cast lightning spells while on Ardeyn, but as soon as he enters Ruk (another recursion, focused on biotechnology) this power shifts into a mechanical implant that allows him to channel electricity from his fingertips.

All in all, The Strange seems a game worth checking out, either if you already are a fan of Numenera eager for other settings that use the same system (or just want supplemental material to use in your Numenera games) or if you like weird games where anything can happen as reality isn't set on stone.

Ryuutama: Natural Fantasy RPG

Described as Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail, Ryuutama is the second Japanese game translated by Kotodama Heavy Industries (same team that brought us the amazing Tenra Bansho Zero less than a year ago).

Unlike most Western fantasy RPGs, Ryuutama is not as interested in combat as it is on your character’s journey and what problems he may find along the way. Does he have enough food? Can he keep himself warm at night? Does he know how to find his destination across the forest? That’s the kind of questions that become important on a standard Ryuutama game, as everyone in the Ryuutama setting feels a calling to undertake a journey to see the wonders of the world once in his life. You don’t play with brave heroes or powerful sorcerers, but rather as common folk who venture into the unknown, and you have to deal with the problems they have along the way.

One of the most interesting and original aspects of Ryuutama, something I've never seen in any other RPG, is that the GM has his own character as well, the Ryuujin (Dragon). Based on the character the GM makes, the focus of the campaign shifts and the rules with it (for example, a Red Dragon is all about adventure, combat and dungeon exploration). The Ryuujin also has certain spells and special abilities as he increases in Level which allow him to help the player characters once in a while from afar (Ryuujins gain experience as they tell stories, that is, with every completed story arc in a game session).

As a perfect blend between traditional old school mechanics with original modern concepts, Ryuutama is a game that has much to offer to everyone, even people who don’t feel attracted to anime in general. It’s well worth your time (and money), so you should definitely check it out.