Category Archives: News & Reviews

A Look At Awaken

Awaken_CoreA while back Zoltan Lečei from The Games Collective, a Croatian game developer,  contacted me and told me about their game Awaken which had been successfully funded by Kickstarter in 2015. Awaken is a Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Game with awesome artwork and an intriguing setting. Over the last few days I have been leafing through the book multiple times and I have to admit, I like what I am seeing.

The 217-paged book (Disclaimer: Zoltan provided me with a free PDF copy) is a sight to behold. What immediately becomes obvious that a lot of time and effort were put into the look of the game. As I mentioned before the quality of the exterior and interior art is awesome. Same goes for the layout. I’ve included a couple of art pieces from the book as examples throughout this post.


The game itself focuses on the Vasalli, people who spontaneously developed powerful abilities which go along with minor cosmetical changes. The supernatural powers of the Vasalli are said to be a gift from God, but their usage comes at a price. Vasalli unable to control their powers get corrupted in mind and body.

The setting is the Alliance of the Great Cities, eleven nation-states situated on a large peninsula, which barely survived a war against the underground-dwelling Vargans. These very-same Vargans have now returned and are a threat to the Alliance once more.


From what I’ve seen so far Awaken takes inspiration from many sources. The Vasalli are somewhat reminiscent of the Exalted. The Vagrans remind me of Dragon Age’s Darkspawn. The rules and some of the concepts are cleary inspired by White Wolf’s Storyteller games, but instead of using ten-sided dice, Awaken uses pools of d6. There are also huge colossi created by terrible rituals which transform multiple Vassali into one huge creature giving up their lives and individuality in the process – body horror at its finest.

Even though some inspirations seem obvious, from what I’ve seen so far, Awaken manages to mold everything into a coherent setting combined with a set of simple rules. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read the game thoroughly or even play it, but I looks intriguing enough to warrant a closer look.


If you are into dark fantasy settings there are currently many games to choose from. Aside from Awaken, there’s Dragon Age, Shadow of Esteren, Symbaroum and many, many more. What speaks most in favor of Awaken is the awesome artwork, an interesting setting which is its own thing despite being inspired by many sources and the rules-light mechanics. Of course there are also a couple of problems. The book definitely needs some more editing. I noticed several small typos, and sometimes it becomes obvious that the texts were not written by native speakers. But my first impression of the book is definitely positive.

Again I have to stress this is not a proper review, since I haven’t had the chance to really get into the finer details of both Awaken’s setting or rules. I can only recommend that you check out Awaken for yourself. You can get the game in print or digital form from the official website or from RPGNow for $19.99 (PDF) or $49.99 (Hardcover) respectively. There’s a also a Print+PDF deal for $49.99.
If you want to check out what Awaken has to offer, there’s also a free (or rather PWYW which includes free) quickstart PDF.

Conan II

I have based this look at the Conan rpg on the quick start rules and the Conan Free RPG Day 2017 version Pit of Kutallu.

When Michael reviewed the full rule book the overall impression I came away with was ambivalence towards the game but then Michael is not a real Conan fan. Conan was my way into RPGs in the first place.

So putting the 2d20 system aside (more about that later) how has Conan and Hyboria been treated? With the greatest respect is my impression. The books are littered with vignettes taken from Robert E. Howards original works and these set the scene and bring the setting to live. The quick start book even starts with an essay on what is canon and who Howard’s creation was taken and expanded upon.

I have read through two adventures; Pit of Kutallu, which showcases the dark Cthulhu-esque shared background of Hyboria and To Race The Thunder which is set on the very edges of Aquilonia.

I may be somewhat biased here but these adventures are written in the same style as I tend to write my own. I am not a lover of maps and room by room descriptions. These adventures describe challenges or encounters and the GM may use or ignore them as they see fit or are needed to challenge the players. There is another quality to them and this is ‘relative encounters’.

‘Relative Encounters’

In many classic published adventures; a location will be described and then you are told there are 5 guards stationed here, what they are carrying and any treasure. When the PCs roll up they meet or avoid the guards depend on their choices. These static encounters have the danger of being over powered or under powered depending on the make up of the party. We play a game based upon dice and random things happen.

All the adventure encounters in these publications use a more relative way of describing the numbers encountered such as ‘one less than the number of characters’ or ‘three times the number of characters plus two more’. It doesn’t matter how many characters are in the party, the danger level of the adventures self-regulates. I don’t know if this is a Conan ‘thing’ or just a modern adventure writing ‘thing’, either way it is excellent and I will adopt it for all my future adventures.

Another feature, this may just be because the sample I have looked at are intended to be single shot adventures, but NPCs are designated as being suitable for use as PCs. Should a player die in the game session they can take up the reins of one of these NPCs to complete the adventure. This points to the adventure being well written. It also gives the GM a free hand relating to danger. I am not a ‘killing’ GM. I do not go out of my way to stack dangers against the PCs. At the same time I like to let the dice fall where they may. I am running a game set in the Forgotten Realms right now and the party have two possible options for raising a fallen character, both of which are single use, one is a scroll and the other will be consumed when used. Giving them that ability means that my hands are free to play my monsters and NPC opponents to the best of their ability. Seeding the adventures with potential pregen characters also frees up the GM.

So, as published Conan is a 2d20 system but Modiphius also publish a d20 to 2d20 conversion document to help those moving from the Mongoose Conan game. WotC incidentally publish a D6 to d20 conversion guidelines document relating to the StarWars franchise. This means that junking the 2d20 system, the only element that I don’t like, and adopting either d20 or an OpenD6 system are viable options. My D6 bookshelf has grown to 5 books now and I like what I am reading.


So will I buy Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book? It is a relatively cheap book and certainly good value for money at nearly 500 pages. I think this is a good possibility and kills two birds with one stone, to use the cliché, I could tempt my main group of players with Conan and feed them the D6 system at the same time. So right now Conan is on my ‘I want to play’ pile.

First Impressions of West End Games D6

I am one of those people who is an incredibly slow reader. If Mrs R is showing me an article on a webpage she is forever trying to scroll down long before I get to the end of the screen. I am also pretty slow and untidy when I have to write using a pen. I think that is part of what attracted me to role playing in the first place, the ability to tell incredible stories without the torture of having to write it all down. In a single sentence or two I can paint a picture for my players that would take hundreds of words to describe in a book. If they imagine something different to what I am seeing that makes no difference. Their character is a product of their imagination. If I told you…”The inn is dark and shuttered up with just rays of light from splits in the boards, the tables are upturned barrels and the only seating, planks resting on smaller kegs. The locals all turn to face you as the door opens and the inn falls silent. A curl of smoke drifts up though a shaft of light from a pipe held by bear of a man sat close to the door and nearest to you.” I would hope you are all imagining at least something like the inn in my minds eye.

So for a blog that does a lot of reviews I am not a brilliant reviewer as it takes me forever and a day to read rule books and to top it off I tend to dig deep. I have been looking at Mini SIX and that lead me to WEG D6 OGL System book from West End Games. From 40 pages to read and understand that goes up to 130. Just reading RPG rule books is not enough, you need to create characters and ideally run a session or two as well.

So I thought I would do a ‘first impressions’ post first to buy me some time. I don’t want to disappear off the radar for ages as it looks like I asked for advice, got it and then completely ignored it.



First Impression 1

I am a huge fan of OGL games and content. The fact that the D6 system book is OGL immediately makes me want to like this system. That is a good start!

First Impression 2

The scope of the system book is brilliant. It has fantasy, modern, sci-fi and supers all in the one book. That is more than I hoped for. I have a project on the back burner to create a d100 system like that and I think I can learn a lot from this book in terms of game design!

First Impression 3

The art in section 1, character creation is really creepily sexualised. The book was published in 1996 and I would have thought attitudes would have moved on by then, but apparently not.

I created my first character in about 5 minutes which was cool. I had the idea of a Fantasy style version of John McClane (Die Hard) and the sample professions gave me all the direction I needed.

So what comes next?

Over this weekend I will get a chance to run a quick session so I have downloaded A Dark and Stormy Knight. I want to see if I can through a single character through a 1st level D&D adventure with little or no prep. Before the session I will read up on how to make monsters.

So right now, having never played the game I am quite impressed. I have not read the GMs material yet but I did see references to Stunned and Lacerations which instantly appealed to my inner Rolemaster-kin.