Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

ANCIENT WORLDS: ATISI

Well, my weekend plans went slightly sideways, but in a good way, when I was offered the advance review copy of ANCIENT WORLDS: ATISI. There are details of the crowd funding campaign for this setting at the end of this post if this whets your appetite.

Forget the impervious castles and the knights in shining armor of a medieval setting. Picture an older world, inspired by writers like Robert Ervin Howard (Conan, especially the Stygian stories), Fritz Leiber (Lankhmar books), Michael Moorcock (Corum series), Poul Anderson (The King of Ys series), Marion Zimmer Bradley (Atlantean series), and Jessica Amanda Salmonson (many short stories, and the fantastic Encyclopedia of Amazons). Think in a grandiose scope, of great cities and monuments overshadowing mortals, reminding them of humanity’s achievements in times past (like the Colossus and the Hanging Gardens), and use such imagery in your games.

Dungeon World is one of the systems I have previously looked at and discarded. I am not a fan of hit points, alignments and levels for characters. I do not like excessive player input in world building and I don’t like fake freedoms. Fake Freedoms are where the game says on one page you can create any fantasy world you like but then on the next page if you want to play a thief you MUST be human or halfling, as if an elf never stole anything(!). Either anything is possible or it isn’t you cannot have both simultaneously.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi by Marcelo Paschoalin is a derived game based upon Dungeon World and is an excellent interpretation.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi is an ancient Egyptian style fantasy world and its reimagining by Marcelo appears rock solid. For a start everyone (PC) is human. That instantly removes one of my gripes about DW. It also gives the game a defined point of view. We now know that the world looks like, we can imagine the people, the modes of dress and even the architecture.

The player races have been replaced by a rich selection of cultural backgrounds. These give varied options for appearance, style of dress, language and options to player moves.

Bonds are a feature in DW that I quite like for bringing characters together. Bonds in Atisi are better. The reason they are better is because they are more interactive or should that be collaborative. In the original you simply insert the name of the character you want to have a bond with. In Atisi bonds you choose your bond and ask which of the characters want to be the bond character. I find this simple change means that your bonds help me define the sort of character I want to play. In vanilla DW your bonds impose things on my character.

Another big gain with defining the setting first and then wrapping DW around it comes with the classes. Not only does Ancient Worlds: Atisi limit the available classes but the moves and advanced moves are tailored to the setting.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi Magic

A key element of any fantasy setting is the way that magic is handled. In Ancient Worlds: Atisi Marcelo has defined distinct limits on magic, it cannot reveal the future, it cannot create energy or matter that does not exist and it cannot make you fly. Within those confines anything is possible but as the text says “Power corrupts. Magical power corrupts magically.” All magic carries a risk of corruption.

Roughly two thirds of the 280 page book is setting information but with the DW culture of asking  questions of the players at the end of every section to push you and your group to make the world your own. Included in this setting information are plenty of adventure hooks, creatures in the bestiary, locations to explore and treasures to be found.

All in all I think this is a very good game setting. What I have seen is an Advance Review Copy and not the finished work but it looks extremely good. The only think I would have like to have seen is incorporation of the DW rules themselves. The book sends you to the online SRD site http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com for the game rules. This is fine as Ancient Worlds: Atisi sells itself as an adventure setting for DW but had the rules been rolled into the text then this would have been a fine standalone game. That is not a fault but I think it is a missed opportunity.

Right now you can support Ancient Worlds: Atisi on Indiegogo.com http://bit.ly/atisi it is well worth taking a look.

Long Silence!

It is a long time since I have posted anything here or even commented for that matter. I have not abandoned Stargazer’s World, I have just been exceptionally busy.

Several weeks ago I was given a selection of books by Columbia Games Inc from their Hârn setting. Previously I had heard of Hârn but had never looked at the books. Most of my gaming had been done in either Middle Earth (MERP and Rolemaster),  Shadow World, Forgotten Realms (Rolemaster) or in Sci Fi settings.

When Hârn landed on my desk I was really interested in it from a developers point of view. I like writing and sharing adventures but you cannot publish material for Shadow World as Iron Crown are fairly hostile to indie developers and WotC are not really interested in letting you use their setting for different games.

Hârn on the other hand is a stand alone setting. I have never looked at HârnMaster but I am not in the market for different set of rules (actually that is not true but HârnMaster is not what I am looking for).

I have reviewed the core Hârn booklet over on my own blog but here I wanted to look at HârnManor.

One of the things l like about the HârnWorld materials is that they are fairly ‘bitesize’. Most that I have looked at have been in the 60 to 70 pages. That is manageable and I can read them in an evening.

HârnManor is 88 pages but the second half of the book is five manors fully detailed and ready to use. The first half of the book is all about manor life and how to generate a detailed manor.

Manors are where 90% of the HârnWorld population live and work and is most likely where your players are likely to start their life. The rules presented in HârnManor allow you to create a detailed manor to use as a backdrop for your setting right now to random events. The medieval manor glossary was genuinely interesting and educational!

HârnManor costs $29.99. So would I buy it? I am not entirely sure I would. When I am GMing I may well just tell you that there are fields of crops and there are peasants working the fields. I don’t need to know what the crops are and the exact yield per acre. I just don’t need to know that level of detail. For lots of GMs they love that level of detail. If you are of of those GMs then you will love this book.

If you are into HârnWorld then I suspect you will already have this. It feels like one of the core works and it was published back in 2009. As a standalone setting it is a useful addition I think to most GMs libraries.

First Look Ghost Ops RPG

Ghost Ops RPG by FeralGamersInc is available as a free quick start document. You get an overview of the fudge system, five pregen characters (called Operators) , and overview of the combat system, equipment and a GMs section with introductory adventure.

I have no love of the Fudge/Fate system but this book caught my eye. Some of my dislike about the FATE system is partly down the the whole negotiated world aspect. Call me old fashioned but I still feel most comfortable when I, as GM, build the world, tailor the professions, skills and or magic to reinforce that game world and present the world to the players for them to explore and adventure in. The negotiated world aspect feels like it is robbing me of that particular pleasure I get from writing adventures and prepping sessions.

With Ghost Ops takes that objection and throws it out of the window. The game world is our world immediately following the attack in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. There is nothing fuzzy about that.

The players play the ‘special forces’ on missions I get to plan. They are soldiers or from law enforcement agencies and they will damn well take orders(!), there is nothing fuzzy about that.

This is the first time I have actually looked at a FATE based game and wanted to finish reading the rule book. This quick start is 62 pages and I flew through it. There is a lot of good in here but a couple of negatives as well.

+

I love the setting and I think the treatment of it is far better than I thought possible of a fate system.

This is not an Evil Hat Productions game and the overall production quality, page layout, presentation etc. are not up to the same standard.

There are really important rules missing from this quick start booklet. For example there is a paragraph about pools being locked by trauma but no definition of what a pool is.

This may not sound significant but I actually dug out my copy of FATE Core to look up what the pool was because I actually wanted to know. I now believe that the pool is the pool of FATE points that characters start with.

I know that elements like art and page layout are expensive for small indie game producers. FeralGamersInc have been clever with this game. The Quick Start is free and is featured in this week’s RPG newsletter as free product of the week. They also have a $12 upgraded quickstart with character creation rules and a few extras. Then there is the full game. That is a nice stepped entry into a new game. There are typos in the text, the art is not amazing but the treatment of the setting more than makes up for that. So much so that for another project I have blocked a few hours for a solo gaming project and Ghost Ops RPG is going to be the game system I am going to use. This will be my first attempt at playing a FATE game. That is something I never thought I was ever going to say!

So the conclusion of my first look is that this is the best FATE based game I have ever read.

I will try and report back after the weekend.

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that Ghost Ops is, in the authors own words “I think of it as more leaning towards Fudge than Fate”. I had assumed Ghost Ops was Fate based when I saw the copyright acknowledgement to for the FATE Core font on the opening page. This is my mistake. It is still really cool though!

EDIT 2: I really should have linked to the games kickstarter. It is already funded and well into the stretch goals but I guess every extra helps.