A Look At The Exodus System by Jacob Ross

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imageI am always on the lookout for new and exciting game systems, and so it’s not surprising that I eventually found out about Jacob Ross’ Exodus System. It was inspired by various games both modern and old-school ranging from Numenera and Cortex+ to ACKS and Black Hack. Jacob graciously provided me with a free copy of the Exodus System SRD which this review is based on.

The system reference document is 41 pages long, and has a simple one-column layout and no artwork. The system has been released under the OGL, so you can use it in your own works, or add stuff to it.

The Exodus System uses the familiar D&D attributes namely Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Strength and Wisdom. Each attribute is ranked using dice. The default for most attributes is d6, but one of the player’s choosing starts at d8. Over the course of a longer campaign attributes may be raised to d10, d12, and even d20.

Aside from the attributes each character is defined by their Party Role, which describe the character’s non-combat abilities, their Combat Role, and two Flavors which help to distinguish your character further.

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Alternatives to Lovecraft?

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We all love Lovecraftian horror. Call of Cthulhu has always been a pretty popular roleplaying game. For most people it’s THE horror roleplaying game. But this popularity comes at a price. Over the years, you have seen it all. You quickly know so much about the Cthulhu Mythos, that there are fewer and fewer surprises. Sure, the story presented by the GM may have unexpected twists, but the mystery at the core of it all becomes a bit stale after a while.

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Luckily there are games that try to press the same buttons as CoC without actually being based on Lovecraft’s stories. Unfortunately these games don’t get the attention they deserve, so that’s why I want to talk about two games dear to my heart.

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Why I Love Kevin Crawford’s Games

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If you haven’t been living under a rock you’ve at least heard of one of his games: Stars Without Number, Silent Legions, Godbound, Other Dust, just to name a few. I first heard about about him when suddenly everyone started to talk about that exciting new (and free!) science fiction roleplaying game, which combined sandbox gaming, with OD&D combat and a Traveller-like skill system. This game was Stars Without Number.

Over the last few years Kevin has successfully kickstarted a couple of games which have two things in common: 1) OD&D-like rules and 2) advice and tables to help the GM to run sandbox campaign. Some of his games also make use of a skill system reminiscent of classic Traveller. On top of that especially the more recent books are just gorgeous and Kevin also made the artwork used available for free and under a CC license as well, so that other small publishers can use it in their own work. Have I mentioned that most (if not all) of his games are also available in a free edition? That means you can basically get the whole game for free, before deciding if the deluxe version is for you. That level of generosity is unprecedented.

One of the main selling points for me is the sandbox advice included in the books. Since I first read about sandbox campaigns I wanted to run one myself, but it always felt like a very daunting task. The GM chapters in SWN, Silent Legions, etc. not only give you advice on how to run the game in general but also gives specific advice on how to run a sandbox. The included tables and rules for factions, etc. make the GM’s job much easier. Suddenly the idea of running a sandbox campaign doesn’t sound that bad anymore.

If you haven’t done so, I recommend you check out Kevin Crawford’s work. He recently successfully kickstarted the revised edition of Stars Without Number which should be out in early 2018. But you can already have a look at the beta version for free. I did mention that Kevin is incredibly generous, didn’t I?

Unfortunately I haven’t really had the chance to either run or play one of his games. This is a real bummer since I enjoy reading his games so much. In my regular gaming group science fiction and post-apoc games are a tough sell, so SWN and Other Dust are probably off the table, but Godbound and especially Silent Legion should be a better fit for my players…

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