Yesterday I picked up the two modules I’ll be demoing on June 21st at Guardian Games for the upcoming 2nd Annual Free RPG Day. The two modules in question are “Take the Money” for the Tunnels and Trolls RPG, and the brand-spanking-new quick-start rules for Green Ronin’s upcoming A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game. I’ll save the T&T write-up for a later occasion – it’s fun, fairly ridiculous, and amazingly simple, and there’s not much more to really say about it. Let’s take a look at ASOIAF.
I spent a long time looking through the rules while my roommate and friends comically pounded through the hours of ridiculous dialogue in Metal Gear Solid 3, and again on the commute to work this morning. So far, I really like what I have read, and that’s not just me being the bouncy-excited Ice and Fire fanboy that I am. The rules system seems to combine major elements from two game systems I hold in high regard. The core mechanics have a feel very similar to the Roll-and-Keep system of AEG’s Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game. To resolve any in-game conflict, you roll a number of dice equal to your base Ability rank plus any relevant Specialties you may have in that Ability, and then you keep and add a number of dice equal to the base Ability – basically roll AB+SP, Keep AB. The dice are all sixxers, and their results are added together and set against a target number, which you must equal or exceed. In some rare situations, you might roll against an opponent actively, and in others you might have to take track of your degree of success, but in most cases, you’re just trying to equal or exceed a set number.
The second major system that struck my interest is what Green Ronin has called the “Intrigue” system, which is a set of combat-like exchanges used to resolve social conflicts such as bargaining, persuasion, seduction, and intimidation, among others. The Intrigue system seems to be very heavily inspired by the “Duel of Wits” social combat system in The Burning Wheel Roleplaying Game. A lot of the terminology is the same, and several of the system’s “techniques” have descriptors like “does X if used against Y technique” or “is hampered if countered by Z technique,” which are pretty similar to those of the Actions in the Duel of Wits. This isn’t a complaint, though; no, the Duel of Wits to me is one of the best bits of social mechanics I’ve seen in recent years of roleplaying, and I’m pretty ecstatic to see it influence other games, especially a game whose core setting so loudly screams for such a mechanic.
The system also features what seems to have become a default in all new RPGs these days: Destiny Points, aka Fudge Points, aka Artha, aka Bennies, aka Karma Pool/Edge, aka Awesome Tokens, etc. Basically, Destiny Points are a pool of extra juice you (the player) can call upon to get bonuses here and there and make some direct narrative alterations to the scenes and the bigger story at hand. Again, not a complaint: I friggin’ love these things in most games, and I’m glad to see they aren’t leaving the hobby any time soon.
The demo module itself really isn’t anything special; the old “Clear Out the Bandits” standby is a good familiar default, and should be pretty easy for the characters to get into quickly. The module has a few spots for each of the major game mechanics to be shown, too; that travesty of a game I ran last year sure didn’t (unless you consider “new room, new monster” to be a way of highlighting a system’s advertised versatility). I’m particularly fond of the excellent writing that went into the module’s handful of “boxed narration” sections, something which I’ve always felt gets sort of crapped out as an afterthought in a lot of other published modules. This module’s flavor-text is really top-notch, and helps to set the feel of the module and the setting quite effectively. If this is a sample of things to come, then consider me highly enthused.
Another mark on the List of Good Things, this module has sample characters. Sample characters are always a huge plus for a demo module, as they both cut down on the GM’s necessary pre-game preparation and show the players how the designers intend for the system to be used right from the very get-go. Even better, the particular sample characters in this module are actually pretty well-defined people, and the rest of the quick-start text seems to imply that the system is intended to create real people with flaws and actual semblances of humanity. The six sample characters are all interconnected (although one of them seems something of an afterthought), have personalities, excellent character portraits, and very realistic backgrounds.
Finally, the production quality looks pretty high. There’s a lot of typos, but those are my only complaint. The cartography for the module’s locations is excellent, the layout of the rules is easy to follow, and the actual rules themselves, while concise, are very understandable.
I might (hopefully!) give this module a test-run this weekend, before running it at the Big Day on the 21st. I’ll of course post my actual play report after that weekend. All-in-all, I feel that this game has a lot of potential, and if all goes well, I’ll be buying the core rules when they come out in August.