Stargazer's World is a roleplaying game blog. It's a place where I can write down my thoughts on the roleplaying industry, the community and roleplaying in general. And by roleplaying I mean good old classic pen and paper roleplaying.
I have only just discovered The Witcher RPG from R Talsorian Games. Actually, I have only read the first two Witcher books so far. I only discovered them in March this year. I am obviously well behind the curve.
The full Witcher RPG is a 300+ page single volume rulebook that covers everything you need.
If you wanted to have a play there is also a quickstart version called Witcher: Easy Mode.
My taste in games these days is for ever simpler rules. This game is certainly not rules heavy by any means but at the same time it feels a little disjointed. The characters are nice and simple and the character sheet is well laid out which keeps things simple in play. The skill system is nice and easy, roll a dice, add your skill and get over the target number. So far so good.
Then we get to combat. It feels like combat was written by a different author. As there are two writers on this game that is entirely possible. All the speed and elegance of the skill system disappears and instead we get a seven step process for rolling an attack doing your damage. You need to roll your attack, then you roll damage and you may need to double it. You roll for hit location and then you may need to triple it or maybe halve it depending on where you hit. Then you have dodging, blocking and armour to take into account. Once you do hit there is a critical wound system, I am a Rolemaster fan so criticals are fine by me!
When we get to magic we are back into simple territory again. Ever spell description contains everything you need from a description of the effect, any damage, ranges and so on. They have pride of place on the character sheet and there is a good variety of spells. My favourite is Earthen Spike that rips a stalagmite out of the ground and up into your intended target. Too often I read spells and they just seem like reworkings of D&D spells but that is not the case here.
The bundled adventure looks well thought out and designed to test drive all the sample characters and give each their moment in the spotlight.
All in all I am impressed with the game, the interpretation of the setting and the presentation. I think combat could be slicker but to balance that it is hard to imagine a game detailed enough to bring the setting to life that could be any less detailed. The Easy Mode version is free for you to take a look at and play the sample adventure, the full game is $24.99 for the PDF but DrivethruRPG are about to start their Christmas in July sale in about 2 weeks time so you may well pick it up cheaper. Either way it is worth the money if you are a Witcher fan and want a new fantasy game to play with.
If you have recently picked up the Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG and feel that you’re missing something, don’t fret. Modiphius has provided us with several free downloads that make things easier.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Print & Play: High Res 2 Player Cards (Download)
This should actually have been included in the FWW RPG Download in my opinion, since it contains equipment and weapon cards needed to play the game if you don’t have access to the two player starter set of the miniatures game.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Rules of Play (Download)
You read the RPG expansion and still have a couple of questions on how some things or if you are now interested in the miniature game, you can check out the rules for free.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Getting Acclimated (Download)
”Getting Acclimated” is basically a quickstart version of the full FWW rules. It includes some basic scenarios and a phase by phase guide to the core rules.
Fallout: Wasteland Warfare – Print & Play: Dice and Ruler Info (Download)
This PDF is especially helpful if you don’t own the official FWW dice set. While the game uses d20s and d12s these are printed with special symbols. This PDF contains handy conversion tables for your dice rolls and colored rulers for use with miniatures.
Later today Modiphius is going to launch the Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG Expansion. A couple of days ago Modiphius gratiously provided me with a copy, so I had the chance to give it a first look.
The Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG is both a standalone tabletop roleplaying game and also an expansion of their Fallout Wasteland Warfare miniature game, which I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to play yet.
War Never Changes I don’t think I need to introduce you to the Fallout universe. Especially after the huge success of Fallout 4 every geek worth their salt knows about the retro-futuristic and post-apocalyptic world. But if you have avoided video games all these years, here’s a quick primer: imagine a world culturally stuck in the 1950s, but with highly-advanced technology. Cars are powered by fusion reactors, there’s true artificial intelligence, robots, and powered armors. Even though fossil fuels and uranium became pretty much obsolete at some point, it is the fight over these resources that eventually starts a war between the US and China. This war ended abruptly with an exchange of nuclear weapons. In mere hours millions die, only a handful people survived in so-called Vaults. As the first people emerged from the vaults many years later they found a changed world filled with lawless bandits, mutated animals, radiated humans called ghouls and various factions fighting over the scraps left by society before the war.
The book gives an 16-paged overview of the setting in its second chapter, directly after the introduction. If you are a long-time fan of the series you’ll probably notice that not just the newer Bethesda games are covered, but factions and places from the two first games are mentioned as well. Unfortunately 16-pages are not enough to give you a good grasp of the setting if you haven’t played any of the video games before, but I guess the target audience of both the RPG and the miniature game are fans of the series.
What makes you S.P.E.C.I.A.L.? Character creation in the Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG is a pretty straight-forward affair. You pick one of the starting archetype cards, decide on a backstory for your character, pick 2 Gifts and 2 Scars and last but not least you get 5 experience points to spend on Perks, additional skills, etc.
If you have played the miniature game before you might feel right at home, but if you haven’t, expect to feel overwhelmed for a while. In order to save space and probably make translations of the cards easier, skills, movement ranges etc. are printed onto the card as colored icons. It took me a while until I understood what everything meant, or at least where I could look things up. The attributes used are the same as in the computer games: Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility and Luck.
Even though every character is based on one of the 16 archetype cards available in the book, with the addition of Gifts and Scars (advantages and drawbacks), Expertise Skills, and Perks, you can customize your characters to your heart’s content. I was also positively surprised that Robots, Super Mutants, and Ghouls are valid character options.
Wacky Dice and Many Colors
The Fallout Wastelands Warfare game uses custom dice for task resolution. Skill dice are 20-sided dice with numbers and special symbols, while Effect dice are 12-sided dice with symbols and modifiers. When your character tries to achieve something which has a chance to fail (like attacking an enemy or hacking a terminal), a pool of these dice is rolled. The pool consists of one Skill die and one or more Effect dice (depending on skill used, circumstances, gear used etc.). To succeed the roll result has to be equal or lower the effective skill value of the character. I have to admit I haven’t been able to try out these mechanics during play yet, but they should work just fine – as soon as you get used to reading the dice.
From what I’ve seen so far, the system – if you are at least a bit familiarized to it – allows for a surprising level of depth and generates interesting results while still being pretty quick. In a way it reminds me of FFG’s Genesys System which also uses custom dice for great effect.
The game also makes extensive use of color-coding when it comes to distances (like weapon ranges): orange is 6 feet, yellow is 12 feet etc. Luckily the designers have taken in account that color-blind people may have issues with this and included color blind markers to make things easier.
The combat rules are – unsurprising for a RPG based on a miniature game – pretty extensive and detailed. Since combat plays a huge role in the Fallout universe, this is only fitting.
The Overseer, Settlements, and more
The Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG also includes an extensive GM section (who is called The Overseer here), which not only contains tips on how to run the game, but also on how settlements work in game. As in the Fallout 4 computer game players can build up a settlement to server as their base. The settlement system is not as in-depth as the one in Mutant: Year Zero, but it’s a nice touch and may help the Overseer to come up with plot hooks. The book concludes with a short introductory campaign called “Parzival and the Wasteland Knight”. Unfortunately I haven’t really checked it out yet. But I’ll probably follow up this “first look” with a couple more in-depth looks at the game at a later date.
A few words on artwork and layout
Overall I like the look of the game. The layout is a standard two-columned one, and the PDF version of the game comes with both textured backgrounds and a printer-friendly version. The artwork consists entirely either of photos of miniatures and terrain from the tabletop miniatures game or Vault Boy illustrations. While the photos are extremely well done, I would have preferred a different art style, but since the RPG is meant as an expansion (even though its stand-alone) to the miniature game, the use of miniature photos makes perfectly sense.
Overall the Fallout Wasteland Warfare RPG looks great. If you haven’t played the miniature game before, the dice mechanics may be an initial hurdle. My first impression is that the game does exactly what it set out to do: it allows fans of the Fallout series to experience exciting adventures in this post-apocalyptic world – with or without miniatures.
You can get the game later today from the official Modiphius store. The hardcover book will set you back €27.99, while the PDF edition costs €13.99. There’s also a bundle deal consisting of the hardcover rules book and a set of dice for €39.99.
Update: I just noticed that the PDF version is also available on DriveThruRPG.
So why should anyone pick up AFF? That’s easy. First and foremost it’s a part of British roleplaying games history. The rules are based on the ones created for the gamebooks released by Steve Jackson (the UK Steve Jackson, not the US one who created GURPS among other things) including the famous “Warlock of Firetop Mountain”. back in the day It’s also a rules-light game with old-school sensibilities which is not based on D&D. Personally I think it could be the perfect game to introduce new players to the hobby. In addition to that AFF and Stellar Adventures are perfect for online play, which has become much more common in the last years. I highly recommend checking out these bundles.
Normally when I create adventures for my players I know everything what has happened before, I know the characters back stories, I know their style of play and what the players enjoy. I take all of these and roll them into an adventure that everyone will enjoy.
Over the past six months I have been writing a set of adventures each is published monthly and they link together to form one much larger adventure.
What I wanted to avoid was railroading. Although the first adventure had to come first as it introduced the story and the second installment was the most logical thing to do next and it was what the NPC mentor figure would desire. Beyond that all the other parts could be played in any order, or skipped entirely. They could be skipped entirely, spaced out with other adventures or played back to back.
When I set out this seemed like a great idea but I am now five episodes in I have learned a few lessons.
Why be simple?
The target system is the new (beta) edition of Rolemaster. This game is due for release in 2019 but as with many ‘new’ games there will be very few adventures available for the game because all the effort has gone into creating the game, not supporting material. So, I also thought I would all the adventures backwardly compatible with both Rolemaster Classic and Rolemaster FRP so that the adventures are playable now.
As with most fantasy RPGs there is a definite European/medieval bias built into the game with castles, plate mail and heavy war horses abounding. Rolemaster’s default setting is Shadow World which varies between medieval and nearing renaissance periods but is still very eurocentric.
So to be different I have set these adventures in a south east asian-esque setting with hints of buddhist temples, tangled jungle paths and commerce by river using canoes. Mountains are terraced with crops stepping down the valleys.
I wanted monks and ninjas. I wanted dragons and demons. What I didn’t want was just another ‘oriental adventure’. I have dodged Japan and I think I have landed somewhere in a fantasy Vietnam or possibly Cambodia.
The result is that alongside creating adventures where I don’t the mix of characters, I don’t know their level, their play style or what they have already don’t, I also now have to create the entire world before them.
One month I found myself having to include in the adventure some simple random tables to be able to create a random town with suitable name, industries and NPCs all in keeping with this minimalist setting. All that just to let the players walk about and meet people.
H, A and Relative Level
I don’t know if you know about ‘H’ when setting encounters. This is not my invention. I think I first encountered it while playing 7th Sea. The letter H represents the number of heroes in the party. Once you know that you can describe the number of foes encountered relative to H. For example 2H means twice as many foes as there are heroes. ½H means half as many and H+1 would mean one more foe than their are heroes.
The beauty of H is that I no longer need to know how many PCs are in the party. H replaces the number encountered dice roll, which I think is a good thing. The problem with number encountered/No. Appearing is that if the book says 2d8 Zombies (for example), 2 Zombies may be no challenge at all but 16 could be a TPK. When setting the value for H you can decide on the threat level while writing the adventure and know that it will remain true for all parties.
‘A’ is my own invention, or if someone got their first then I arrived at A on my own. A represents the Average level of the PCs in the party. Rolemaster is a leveled game so this will always be relevant. In these adventures I don’t know if they are being played back to back so the players level will be fairly low or if they are being interspersed with other adventures so the characters have leveled up many more times.
I can use A to describe NPCs. ½A means the NPC is half the level of the party average, A+2 means that the NPC is two levels higher than the average. In the most recent adventure in the series there are lots of evil priests running around and most are A-2 but the high priestess is A+2.
Rolemaster comes with tables of stock NPCs at a wide range of levels so you can easily look up the number of hit points and the skill levels of an NPC of any profession at any level. A means you can vary the threat level regardless of the level of characters.
What’s in the box?
Relative level is another invention of mine. I broadly defined four levels, low, mid, high and very high. This describes the party’s level as a whole. Roughly speaking low is 1st to 5th level and each band is 5 levels wide.
The reason for this is all to do with monsters. When you open a crypt any number of Zombies is not going to worry a party made of 20th level characters. On the other extreme, the same crypt containing a single Vampire is a death sentence for any number of first level characters.
At the top of each adventure I have a small table where I have my four relative levels and I create a label for each role played by a foe. In the current adventure I have alongside servants, guards and priests I have set up a chase scene through the jungle. Rolemaster has five different types of genie from Jann at 2nd level, Jinn at 5th level right up to Marid at 20th level. I can now create a label called ‘hunter’ and use that label throughout the text and the GM knows that for his low level party the hunter is a 2nd level Jann type genie. For a very high level party the hunter would be a 20th level Marid.
Now my high priestess can release her genie to capture the characters with impunity. I don’t need to know anything about the party to set the challenge.
Making an Entrance
The final thing I have had to do is tell the GM what, if anything, needs to be in place when or before the adventure begins. If the characters need horses for a scene to work or have to be in a small river village then it is just common courtesy to warn the GM in advance. They can then work this into their game naturally.
This has been an interesting learning curve in avoiding railroading. In the past I have thought in terms of scenes vs locations. With scenes you end up creating far more scenes than you will ever need because some may never happen, they are depending on the players actions. With locations the characters can visit them in any sequence and they remain constant. No one is forced to visit location A before B before C. I kind of like scenes and tend to treat locations as just broad strokes and let the GM elaborate as their players act within the location.
Now I can describe an objective and the challenges the characters could face and everything else just wraps itself around the party.
I don’t know if these tools will work for your or your favourite game but I hope you find them useful.
Recently Nicholas Kitts, head of Nexus Shift Games, let us know about the kickstarter for their new tabletop roleplaying game called “Children of the Beast”. It’s set in a really weird and original world. To quote Nicholas it’s a world “where mountains walk the earth and the moon crawls across the sky”. The player characters are occult beast hunters trying to stop a terrible corruption, which is spreading like a plague and mutates its victims. Yuck!
What sets Children of the Beast apart is not only its truly weird setting but also a companion app which streamlines playing and running the game in various ways. Personally the games looks a bit too weird for my tastes, but your mileage may vary.
Other interesting features are the in-depth wound system which allows you to hack off limbs from enemy monsters or the corruption system which allows you to sacrifice your humanity to gain new abilities. The games uses the Xd20 system which uses d20-based dice pools for task resolution.
If this has piqued your interest, you should definitely check out the official Kickstarter project page. Nicholas’ team is trying to raise about $17,000€ with 22 more days to go to make Children of the Beast a reality. If you are still unsure whether the game is for you, you can check out the prototype app and rulebook right now!
Greg Saunders (check out my 2017 interview) is currently raising funds for his latest roleplaying game called “Golgotha Tabletop Roleplaying Game”. It’s a science fiction roleplaying game focused on exploration and discovery (with a bit of horror thrown in for good measure) made with The Black Hack.
The Golgotha are dead worlds at the edge of human space, filled with the secrets of unknown inhuman cultures, and lost technology coveted by the Overseers. The player characters are scavengers exploring these dangerous and mysterious worlds in order to get their hands on priceless artifacts.
A game by Greg Saunders using the Black Hack and with a dark sci-fi setting? I have to admit I backed it as soon as Kickstarter informed me about the project! As with his other games the KS is mostly to raise funds for the art he’s using. The games are usually already written and will be ready shortly after the campaign ends. That’s why the estimated delivery in July is more than feasible. If you are a fan of Greg’s work as I am, or if you’re just interested in a unique rules-light sci-fi game, you should give this KS a closer look!
This post concludes my first look/review of the fantasy RPG Unity. If you haven’t read Part One yet, you can check it out here.
Before having a closer look at the rules, let’s talk about the setting a bit more. Aside from the detailed history, the Unity core rulebook gives you an overview of the world and its locations, as well as its new gods – or rather demigods. When the mortals slew the Ivory Queen her divine energy wasn’t lost and six new gods formed around certain human ideals and beliefs. The book gives short descriptions on these demigods like Aluvane the Dawnwalker and Mave the Trickster.
Following a certain god has – as far as I know – no mechanical effect, but it helps to immerse yourself more deeply into the setting.
Magic and Technology One aspect of the setting – which I didn’t mention enough – in Part One are the techno-magic artifacts of the Golden Age. Unity is not your standard pseudo-medieval setting, but the technology level is much higher. There are firearms, huge mecha called Titan Rigs, and many other technological and magical marvels from this lost era. This aspect of the Unity setting reminded me a lot of Japanese video games like the Final Fantasy series which might have been one of the inspirations.
A Shattered World
The world’s geography is described in pretty broad strokes which I like a lot. Often GMs and players get quickly overwhelmed with setting information. In Unity you get description of a few major locations like capital cities and the rest can be fleshed out by the GM. One focus of the game is definitely exploration since the world changed a lot since the Cataclysm. The broad strokes approach to the setting also makes it easier to strip it out if you want to use Unity for your homebrew world.
Creating your character is a pretty straightforward process in Unity. The game recommends that you set up a Session Zero for that purpose. So everyone can talk about what they expect from the game and what character they want to play. This definitely helps to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
After choosing one of the playable races (the aforementioned Valla, Furians, Human, and Afflicted), you distribute a number of points among your four attributes: Might, Agility, Mind, Presence. Each race give you a baseline set of stats. A Furian for example starts with Might 2, Agility 1, Mind 0, and Presence 1. If you prefer rolling up your stats, there are alternative rules for that as well.
A Class of Its Own
The probably most important character creation choice is your class. It defines what powers and perks you get access to. The available classes are Dreadnought, Driftwalker, Fell Hunter, Judge, Mystic, Phantom, Priest, Primalist, and Sentinel. The Dreadnought and Sentinel are your basic fighters, the first focused on heavy weapons, while the latter is more of a defensive type. Driftwalkers remind me of the D&D warlock and dabble in dark magic from the Drift. Fell Hunters are basically marksmen, Judges are pretty much Paladins (or similar faith-based fighters), Mystics are mages, Phantoms are assassins, and last but not least Primalists are shamans or druids. What struck me as odd is that Unity does not have a classic thief-like class. Sure the Phantom is a stealthy backstabber, but there doesn’t seem to be a large focus on picking locks, disarming traps, and picking pockets. Interestingly the Mystic actually has a level 1 perk called Unravel which gives them benefits when opening locks.
Each class’ description comes with an advancement table which describes what a character gets while leveling up. This may be a HP boost, additional Core Path point (I’ll talk about that later), Attribute boosts, new perks, power tokens (see below), a higher artifact capacity, or bonusses to attack and defense ratings. Phew.
One last thing: Clerics in Unity have two class paths. They can either be Chaplains, or War Priests. Depending on that choice you get different class features. As the names suggest, the War Priest is more like a templar or crusader while the chaplain is more of a religious scholar.
Perks, Features, Resources and Power
Perks are used to enhance your character’s class identity and usually give non-combat benefits like the aforementioned Unravel or the Phantom’s Stealthy which gives them bonuses to all kinds of stealth checks. If I am not mistaken, you pick from one of two class perks at character creation and may later pick additional perks from a list available to all classes during character advancement. Mechanically I think they compare most closely to D&D’s feats. Luckily the list is much less exhaustive and you don’t get to pick new perks every level.
Class Features are special abilities which every member of a class eventually gets access to like the Driftwalker’s Siphoning Strike (which transfers health from the target to you), or the Primalist’s Beastwalker feature which allows you to “inhabit” the body of a wiling animal, while your body falls unconscious. Think of “warging” from A Song Of Ice and Fire. Characters get new class features every level.
Powers are special attacks or magical powers which come in two tiers. Tier I powers can be taken as early as level 1. You start with three Tier I powers, and acquire two Tier II ones at level 5. At certain levels you’re granted power tokens which can be used to buy new powers or upgrade existing ones. Unfortunately this section of the rules could have used a serious rewrite since it’s often not clear how everything works. Or maybe my reading ability wasn’t up to snuff since it took me quite some time until I understood how and when you acquire new powers. I eventually found what I was looking for in the “How To Read The Class Advancement Table” section.
Last but not least I have to mention Resources. Each class has a resource they use to fuel their powers with. A Mystic uses Mana, a Driftwalker Bile and Blood, the Dreadnought uses Fury, etc.
Resources are replenished during rest.
Unity doesn’t use skills, but rather something the call Core Paths. These serve as backgrounds, help define your character, and also may grant you bonuses when you try to do something. I’d describe them as a melange of skills and Fate’s aspects. You can create these from scratch or pick one from a list of predefined ones. Personally I’d recommend doing the latter, especially if you are new to the game.
Personally I like the idea of Core Paths and how they are an easy and customizable way to make your character unique. On the other hand some GMs and players may be uncomfortable with loosely defined abilities like these.
Core Rules I have to admit that all this stuff with perks, powers, tokens, resources, tiers, levels, etc. can be pretty overwhelming quickly. The core rules in contrast are surprisingly light. As in other class and level-based fantasy RPGs you use all common polyhedral dice from the d4 to the d20 (including percentile dice). What differs from most classic RPGs is that all dice-rolls are done by the players. The GM doesn’t roll for NPC attacks for example, but the players roll for evading those attacks instead. This was one of the things I really liked about Monte Cook’s Cypher System and I like to see it here as well. If you really need to roll your own dice as a GM, there are optional rules for that.
The core resolution mechanic is 2d10 + any bonuses vs. a target number (TN). The bonuses usually come from one’s attack or defense rating in combat, or from one of the attributes and a fitting Core Path in non-combat situations. Simple, everyday tasks have a TN of 5, while for a heroic task you need a result of 22 or more.
Unity also borrows the advantage/disadvantage mechanic from D&D 5th Edition. Here it is called Benefit & Hindrance. When the rules grant you either condition, you may roll 3d10 and either drop the lowest or highest die respectively.
Spark and Ruin Many modern games uses a meta currency to encourage people to roleplay which is then used to grant benefits to the players. In Unity this currency is called Spark Points. When a character takes the extra step to describe their actions in detail, or make the game more fun for everyone by a clever quip, the GM may grant Spark Points. All players share one pool and the number of available points is represented by a die placed visibly on the table. For four players the game recommends a d12 as Spark die.
In a four-player game you then need 4 Sparks for 1 Moment of Glory. When choosing to use a Moment of Glory, the player character has Benefit for the next action!
Of course there’s also a special resource for GMs called Ruin. Ruin is used to power certain monster powers, allows forced intrusions into the characters’ rest, and generally allows the GM to create tension and difficulty. Accumulated Ruin may even cause breaches into the Drift which can make a bad day even worse. Ruin is generated by immoral actions of the players, or just by the passing of time.
What I especially like about Unity’s core rules is that they fully embraced the concept of “failing forward”. A failed check should always make the story more interesting. “Nothing happens” is just boring. Some of the powers even have special failure conditions. For example the “Mark of the Heretic” power of the Cleric allows you to deal half damage even if you failed the roll. Nice.
Combat in Unity was build around the idea that the party should decide in which order they take action. Usually the narrative decided which team (the player characters or their opponents) act first. If unsure the players may make Speed checks against the monster’s speed rating. If successful they may act first, or decide against it.
If it is your character’s turn, you can take one of the available actions once (aside from the free action). The available actions are: Standard (like a basic attack), Movement, Quick (like quaffing a potion or switching weapons), Reaction, Maintain, Overdrive and Ultimate. Overdrive and Ultimate are special since they can only used once per Full Rest, although Overdrive can be recharged by an Adrenaline Rush.
Whenever you roll two 10s on your attack roll you can either cause a Massive Hit which causes three times the normal damage against one target, or maximum damage against multiple targets, OR you can cause the aforementioned Adrenaline Rush. Each power lists which Actions it uses. As expected Overdrive and Ultimate powers are extremely powerful. Reactions can be triggered during an enemy’s turn, but – as with all other Actions – only once per round.
Unity doesn’t use a grid system, but rather range bands from adjacent (about 2.5 meters) to very far (24 meters), which makes things so much easier.
Describing all Unity’s combat rules is beyond the scope of this review (which is pretty long already). I recommend to check out the free primer which should give you a good overview of the game’s look and design philosophy.
Perhaps I should mention that Unity also comes with special rules for Titan Rigs, which are basically huge mechanized war machines (think of humanoid mecha) from the Golde Age. These machines are not piloted by one pilot alone, but the whole party cooperates.
Equipment and Artifacts
Unity doesn’t come with long lists of equipment, nor complex coinage. The currency in Unity is the Denerim. 10 to 15 Denerim pay for a hot meal and a room. Player characters start with 150 to 250 Denerim. Armor and Weapons come in broad groups which share stats. A light melee weapon (like a dagger, shortsword, or club) does 1d6 damage and costs 40 D. A light reinforced armor (like a chain shirt, or reinforced leather) costs 2000 D and grants a Armor Value of 3. This allows the player and GM to easily make up weapons on the spot. Simple and efficient!
All other equipment (aside from artifacts) is grouped under either Necessities or Gear. Both cost 5 D each and a character can carry a certain number depending on their Might attribute. When ever you need to rest outside of a shelter, you mark off one Necessity. Necessities are basically food rations, water flasks, maybe your bedroll.
Gear is pretty much everything else, from flint & steel to a set of tools, or a torch. Each time you use something like that, mark off a piece of Gear on your sheet, and write it down, to remind you that you carry this piece of Gear around. The next time you use it, mark off another Gear. This represents the wear and tear of your equipment. Some players and GM who love shopping might be put off by this abstract mechanic, but in my opinion its genius!
Artifacts are more complex and precious pieces of equipment. Unity gives a few examples and also guidelines on how to reflavour them. Artifacts can also be upgraded during play. So the magic sword you found in session 3 is probably still powerful and relevant in session 30. Overall there’s not a huge emphasis on equipment like in – for example – D&D. Again, this may put off certain players, but as a GM I believe it might make things much, much easier for everyone at the table.
Bestiary and GM Guide
Since Unity took the “One Rulebook To Rule Them All” approach, the bestiary and GM Guide are all included in the core rulebook. This also explains why a pretty rules-light system needs an almost 400-paged book. The 40+ pages long Bestiary not only gives stats and descriptions for quite a few NPCs (from standard foes like Zombies, to more unique monsters like Zoog & Rikkisi).
Each bestiary entry gives a description of the monster, a stat block, and one or more illustrations. There are also rules on how to design encounters and also how to come up with your own monsters. This is probably especially helpful if you wish to use your own setting.
The GM Guide starts with the design philosophy of the game. Together with the sidebars all over the book, you should get a pretty good picture of why the game was designed in this way. It’s obvious that the authors of Unity wanted a game with a lot of cool player abilities and powers, which allow cinematic action and high drama without the minutiae of marking off every single piece of ammunition, or having to keep long lists of equipment. Fun for both the players and the GM were very high priorities. What I especially like about the GM Guide is that it provides really useful information on how to run Unity instead of rehashing general GMing tips we have read thousands of times before. Instead it answers questions like how can I approach levelling in Unity? How can I embrace “fail forward”? How do I use Ruin and Intrusions? That’s really helpful stuff for a change.
The Small Details
The PDF this review is based on, comes with a fully bookmarked table of contents and an extensive index. A character sheet and a map of the world are included. Nice!
Unfortunately they decided to disable copying which is a massive pain if you ask me (Printing works fine). Using Sumatra PDF I was at least able to copy images and texts (as an image), but Adobe Acrobat didn’t allow either. I guess its a measure to fight piracy, but in my opinion it hurts the legitimate owner more than the ones who download it illegally. But this could be an issue with the copy I got for this review.
Unity is a class and level-based fantasy RPG with a very cool setting and light but deep rules which allow both narrative gameplay and tactical combat. It takes elements from popular games and melded it into something new. The Unity core rulebook is a huge tome of almost 400 pages with gorgeous artwork and a clear design which rivals the products of much larger companies. Personally I enjoyed reading the book and can’t wait to actually play it. Unfortunately the name is probably one reason you haven’t really heard about Unity yet since it shares its name with a popular video game engine. But don’t let the generic name fool you. Unity is a game with heart and soul, and it should be on the radar of much more people than it is now! If you are into fantasy RPGs with a techno-magic twist, you should definitely check it out!
Unity is available directly from the official webstore or Modiphius both in PDF form or as a book+PDF bundle. The bundle sets you back about €50. The digital version is also available from DriveThruRPG and costs about €25.
Earlier today I was made aware of a comment Zak S. posted on the Demon City Kickstarter page. I’ve included a screenshot below.
Screenshot taken from the Demon City Kickstarter page on May 10th 2019
Personally I find this highly disturbing. What he’s doing here is an attempt to monitor spaces where he’s not welcome anymore. Regardless of whether he is eventually found guilty of anything or not, this is unacceptable behavior. There’s also a badly veiled threat included in this: “I likely won’t weigh in, but I will make a record of it and that record will come in handy soon. There will be accountability on all of this.“
Sigh. I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish with this. Is he collecting “evidence” for a lawsuit? Is he hoping people will censor themselves out of fear? Is he planning to send in his followers? Whatever his plans are, this is IMHO a bad strategy. This behavior is exactly why people have avoided him in the first place, long before any accusations. Damn, I am so sick and tired of his shenanigans…
Unity is a roleplaying game by Zensara Studios distributed by Modiphius which was crowdfunded on Kickstarter back in 2016. I really haven’t had it on my radar until Panny from Modiphius asked me if I was interested in doing a review. At first I was hesitant, because I feared it might be another overly complex fantasy heartbreaker. Oh boy, was I wrong!
In a way it is a heartbreaker. From the setting to the mechanics Unity shows that the authors love fantasy roleplaying in all its forms. The setting is reminiscent of fantasy MMOs like World of Warcraft, and JRPGs like the Final Fantasy series. The rules have elements from fan favorites like D&D 5th Edition or Monte Cook’s Cypher System. But what really sets it apart is that everything works perfectly together. This could have easily turned out like a weird mishmash of ideas, but fortunately it’s a really impressive game with a lot of potential. Unity is a class-based fantasy roleplaying game where magic and technology coexist. It has also elements of a post-apocalyptic game with a world slowly recuperating from a huge cataclysm.
Artwork and Layout
The first thing you notice when you leaf through the 371-paged PDF (there’s also a hardcover version) is the gorgeous artwork. The book just looks awesome. The production values are definitely top notch comparable to what you’d expect from Free League Publishing or Paizo. The book is also laid out in a very clear and readable manner. It uses a standard two column layout with sidebars which often contain helpful information.
A World of Unity Shattered
So what’s the setting like? Unity is a post-apocalyptic fantasy world. A world where a Golden Age ended abruptly after the Skyfather – the creator god of that world – basically tore down the gates to hell in his anger. But let’s start in the beginning. The Skyfather and his beloved Ivory Queen looked for a planet where they could create life and eventually found Unity. There they created the Valla, Furians and eventually Humans.
Eventually the Skyfather left Unity and the Ivory Queen remained to watch over her children. As it is often unavoidable the three races started to wage war with each other. The Ivory Queen wanted to stop this war and followed the whispers from “The Drift” (a spiritual world in which all the darkness in the people of Unity was made manifest) she had been listening to for a while now. So she created the Crimsom Horde, which contained all manner of dangerous creatures which attacked Valla, Furians and Humans alike. This common enemy should force the three races to work together. Unfortunately this plan worked too well, and eventually the three races overcame the Crimson Horde and slew the Ivory Queen herself. This victory lead to many hundred years of cooperation and the three races experienced a Golden Age with huge advances in magic and technology.
But eventually the death scream of the Ivory Queen reached the Skyfather. He returned and in his anger tore down the veil beyond this world and “The Drift”. This lead to human-created automata to become self-aware, the dead rising from the grave, and demons from the Drift spilling over. The angered god also cursed the three races. The Valla lost their empathic link, Furians are now overcome with a destructive rage, and the best and brightest of the humans got afflicted by the Phage which causes limbs and organs to rot away. The Afflicted only survive by replacing lost organs with technology. They left are now a fourth faction, shunned by their brethren and looking for a place to call home. The Skyfather’s onslaught eventually ended, but now the world is destroyed, former nations have fallen, and the survivors are now trying to pick up the pieces. It’s the perfect time for daring adventurers to make their mark in the world.
This concludes the first part of my look at Unity. Next week I’ll continue with a closer look at the rules. If this article has already whetted your appetite, I highly recommend you check out their 43-paged sampler which is available here.