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.

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