I really had planned to come back to the blog with a post about racial traits in roleplaying games. Or maybe, the long overdue rough draft of the Barbarian class background for Dragon Hack through level 10. I really, really did.
But then something happened. I was walking through my local (the nearest) FLGS, and I stumbled upon something that stopped me cold on the grubby carpet. That something was this:
I don’t know if it was the unusual 8×8” form factor, the art, or the dust jacket (on a roleplaying game!?) but I had to take a spin through this book. What I found was a game that has quite simply the highest production values of any game product I’ve bought in my lifetime. Bear in mind that just a few days ago I finally broke down and purchased the Pathfinder Core Rulebook in print (I purchased the pdf from Paizo at launch), and as well built as that book is, there’s honestly no comparison. The binding is rock solid, the pages are wonderfully decorated and it is packed with fantastic art throughout. (It’s not Wayne Reynolds, but it’s a different style completely.) The layout is clear and bold with little doubt about what rules elements you’re following, or what you should be paying attention to as you read. It just looks and feels good.
This book exudes charm like the English countryside, and despite the fact that it’s about pretending you’re mice with swords it takes itself seriously enough that I would never label it a “kids” game. Now, as much as I’m prone to fits of impulse shopping, I did not immediately snatch this book up when I saw it. (If you remember I was there to buy Pathfinder products, and I did.) Instead I came home and began searching the Interwebs for information about the game. I found plenty, including the homepage of the comic book series on which the game is based, the website for the game’s designer, who used a streamlined version of his Burning Wheel rule set to power it, and a mega-review by the one and only Gnome Stew extolling its virtues. Now I was hooked.
I’ve never played the burning wheel system, but from reviews I understand it can be a bit complicated. Reviews of this book, however, all are quick to point out that the streamlined version of the rules here are easy to grasp and use in play. Better yet, those who have played the game often comment on the system’s ability to draw the “role” playing out of every player at the table, something I’ve been looking for in a game system for as long as I’ve been playing.
Now, I don’t think this will replace Dragon Age, Pathfinder, or my own Dragon Hack conversion for me. My players and I have a deep-seated love for those systems and that style of role-playing. In fact, I’m looking to join an ongoing Pathfinder Society game soon that will allow me to get my playing fix in between the sessions of Dragon Age I run with my regular group. That said, I think this game would make for some awesome one-off adventures or mini campaigns to play when we can’t get the whole group together for our regular game. (That used to be a role occupied by Dragon Age until my players fell in love with the system so much we dumped 4E to switch whole cloth.)
And even if I never play this game, the book is of such fine quality and such a gem that it deserves a spot on my gaming shelf for no other reason. Having merely gotten through the first few chapters, the book has a readability that so many game systems lack because they get caught up in the hows and whys of the system’s math before they’ve even introduced you to the game properly. In short, I plan to spend many an hour simply reading through this excellent work as a diversion and for game ideas for my more well-traveled systems. If I actually get to play a few sessions with my friends and family, I’ll be all the happier.
UPDATE: I have been asked by the good folks at Gnome Stew to please not link to their images, to which I am happy to comply. I will post more of my own photos, such as the one at the top of the page, when I have something better than my phone handy. Thanks!