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Game Review #?? Amber Diceless (G)

Welcome readers…

So it took me a little bit to get this one out, but so be it.

The Amber Diceless RPG was written by Erick Wujcik (co founder of Palladium Books) based off of the Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny.

As a licensed product there are a lot of reasons for me to love this game. I was a fan of the novels, and Wujcik is responsible for some of my favorite content that came out of Palladium.

While the history of the game and the challenges of getting it published are a good story, check the wiki for that one. Also the history of Wujcik and Palladium are also good reading but I do not really want to recap that here. Try the wiki for those too. What I really want to go into is the game itself, and my experience with it.

Now then if I remember right I have played Amber seven times. And with each of those games it has been either one of the best RPG experiences I have ever had or it is one of the worst. There is a high challenge factor to this game. And it takes players and GMs that are up to the challenge to really make it work. And while the game engine could be easily used outside of the Amber setting, getting used to it in the Amber setting where you can establish some outside references makes it easier to get a handle on.

What is it that makes this game so challenging? The whole game engine. In most games you have stats that give you at the very least a general idea of what ‘specifically’ you can do. In Amber they just tell you who is the best, and where others rank. And that is all in relation to standard humans. Powers have some more specific limits on them, but they are written as guidelines to try and encourage creativity in GMs and players. Action resolution is based on who has the highest relevant stat, if they have any skills to back it up, and if they can out describe whatever challenge they are facing. This is why it is a diceless system. You have no mechanic for action resolution. And this is why it is a challenge. And why it can be great or just totally suck depending on who you play with.

See most of the time dice, cards, coins or even bidding chits act as a neutral third party that can side with the person taking the action or with the challenge they are facing. When you have a majority on one side then that side wins. In the Amber system you have to basically convince the person running the game that you have the best idea and that means you should succeed. Unless of course you are taking action against someone or some thing with a significantly higher stat. Then unless you get a lot of help you are just hosed.

The game time I have spent on this system is really just… well… mixed. My very first time playing Amber was at a Seattle Convention called Dragonflight. It was one of the most epic game sessions I have ever been in. It reinforced for me just how players and GMs adding description and flavor and ideas could put so much life in a game session that I quickly forgot my reservations about the game engine being diceless and really got into trying to figure out ways to get myself and others out of challenges. The next four sessions I spent all of my time wondering why the players and or GMs sucked so bad at playing and wondering why they were so dependent on a mechanic to make decisions for them. The sixth session was almost back to what the first was like but not quite. All of this made me think about how the game is played, and who it is played with. And while I would love to play it again, I never will unless I can find a group of players that would be just as thrilled as I am to put roleplay over mechanics and who want to do so with all the flavor they can muster.

There are a lot of elements that I can have fun with in the limited game mechanics that are present in the system, but my personal favorite is the Good Stuff, Bad Stuff, and Neutral Stuff mechanic.

The game engine is point based for character builds. And when you get to the end of building your character you may need a few points to balance things out. If you do you can take on roles for the game, do journaling, artwork, all sorts of things to help the GM run the game and track stuff… or you can take on Bad Stuff (well you can do both but why get into that now). Bad stuff acts like a combination of bad luck, bad reputation, and crap magnet. The more Bad Stuff you have the more bad stuff the GM can feel free and gleeful about tossing your way. If you have points left over you can buy up Good Stuff. It is the opposite of Bad Stuff, really. And Neutral Stuff just means you are balanced. Not so good, not so bad. Sadly the game mechanic does not allow you to have both Good and Bad Stuff, unless someone has house rules. Another way this comes into play is when characters are cashing in XP. The GM does not tell the players how much XP they have, each player submits a list of what they would like to grow, and how much if any Bad Stuff they are willing to take on to get it. So at the end of the story the GM spends all of their points for them based on the lists the players have provided. Points left over become Good Stuff. I know a lot of players that freak out about this part of the game system because it takes a lot out of their hands. But it can also make the role play more interesting by keeping the players in the dark about just how much they have developed. Again, more chance to roleplay and experience discovery with your characters.

So yeah, this game is different. It never was really unique in its mechanics, but it is something that you can really have a lot of fun with IF and only IF you are really up to the challenge.

So how do the points lay out?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – There is so much material in here that comes from the books and so many colorful examples that reading though this is almost like Cliff Notes of the novels. I cannot go to a 4 though because at least half of the art sucks, to the point that it is distracting. I do think though that if there was better, consistent art, I could go to a five easy.

Overall Crunch 2/5 – The rules are light. They are actually pretty easy to use too. And examples are plentiful. Why is that number so low you ask then? Because it is hard to get players to grasp the concept. I dont think that is really a reflection of the game but more on gaming culture. But with the mechanics as they stand it is hard to get players to know what the heck is going on.

Overall Mod 3/5 – This gets a little tricky. I have modded the engine to suit other settings, but without the Cliff Notes factor it gets a little hard to work with. I have also created new powers and abilities, but with the lack of solid standards set in the mechanics it is a challenge to know if you are over powering, under powering, or even if you happen to be totally redundant.

Overall Fun 3/5 – With the right group of players this game is mind blowingly good. And that makes it OHHH so fun. With the wrong group of players… just shoot me. So lets score it in the middle for fun.

Total Score 11/20 – Not a very high score. But a meaningful one. If you love the Amber setting, and can play with a like minded group that can really carry things off without needing a mechanic to determine success, rock this game. Otherwise I would leave it be for the time being and maybe try and recreate the Amber setting in another engine. Would not be the first time someone has pulled that move.

Sooo now you know my thoughts. Get out there and form your own opinion. Thats the one that is worth it.

Now gimme the dice… I need to see if I need the dice…

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Flashbacks and memories

Hi there readers.

I know I had mentioned in my last post that I was going to talk about Amber Diceless this week. But while I was running around with my wife yesterday we passed by the now closed Toys R Us location in Southcenter (Tukwilla)WA. And just driving past, seeing the closed sign on the doors and being able to see a whole lot of… nothing… inside the store took me back down memory lane and I wanted to share.

The image that tops this post is from their original location and was part of an article in one of the local news papers.

The flash that hit me was not all the toys that I had picked up there over the decades of knowing the chain of stores. But that Toys R Us what what gave me the chance to get into gaming fully.

1979 – 81 my family lived … well a fair ways away from the Seattle area. But being back here to visit family we went to Toys R Us… I don’t remember why… but we went. Wandering through the store I went into their books section, yeah for those who only know the more modern Toys R Us in the Seattle area… they used to have really big books and media sections all dedicated to titles for the young at heart, and I had been Jones-ing for a new Hardy Boys or something else by CS Lewis or a follow up to Charlotte’s Web. But I saw a small section with D&D books and games in it. I could not believe my luck. I had wanted more of the D&D stuff since I had played my Kryptonian Dwarf and here it was… in a place that was so cool that it had toys, and books, and now D&D too!!!

D&D_Basic_Rules_1981

And low and behold I found myself in possession of the first Basic Rules set. This pic does it no justice as mine had three hole punches in it so it could be put in a binder… oh damn so easy to carry… And dice that I had to take a crayon to so that the numbers would stand out… and it even came with an adventure module. So COOL! Next holiday I was teaching some of my cousins how to play. We really did not get all that deep into the rules. Made up a lot of crap as we went. But for me at least it was a lot of fun. I hope they enjoyed it as much. But that also got me back to Toys R Us and this time I found another box… even cooler than the first…

D&D_1981_Expert_Set_cover

And the rule book was also three hole punched… and now I had a binder so I asked my dad to three hole punch both of the adventure modules with some of his industrial tools at work. AND EVEN MORE DICE!!! Now my cousins and I could take things even further… and this adventure had DINOSAURS!!! even cooler than Dragons at the time… but not by much.

I cannot remember which one of these two it was, or if it was both… but I know that I did not have enough money for at least one of them, and offered to do more chores and work around the house to get an advance on my allowance (25 cents per week) sufficient enough to buy them. Yeah that’s right I went into debt and took on extra work just to get these.

Then more followed…

Now there was an ADVANCED version… I no longer had to have an elf who did elf things!!! I could be an elf who was a thief or a priest… or what the hell is a half elf? And why is there no half dwarf? Of half halfling… ahhh hell I can figure out how to make those myself…

And all that came from a little kid wandering into Toys R Us and choosing game books over regular books, or action figures, or other toys or balls or Hot Wheels or anything else really.

In 1982 when we were moved back into the Seattle area I found out about Walden Books and B Dalton and sure they had a few little shelves for RPG books. Eventually they became my go too source for them before I found a local book store that had even more… oh so many more… But for as long as the local Toys R Us had a books section they were the place I wanted to hit first to see if I could find anything to feed the gaming hunger.

They have not stocked things like that locally for a long… long time. I cannot speak to any other part of the US or the world where they operated, or in some cases still might… not really sure how all the international business stuff works for something like this… but once upon a time they did. And things have not been so epic since.

And now with the stores passing… with the end of that era… the memories kick up and I get that sad feeling that I will never see its like again.

Ok so flashback shared… memories passed… and so we can move on.

Thanks for understanding the need to remember something publicly and I will get that Amber posting up soon.

Now gimme the dice… I gotta scrape the paint off the numbers and find a crayon….

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Postless in Seattle

Ok so between working on the changes to our living room, a slightly stressed puppy because even though fireworks are not legal to be set off in the city I live in and it is not yet the 4th of July, mixed with current back pain and just general tiredness there will be no actual post today.

Next week I plan on doing a review for Amber Diceless RPG. Should be a hoot. 🙂

Gimme the dice… gently.. one at a time… I gotta roll for pain relief.

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A brief review – Stormbringer RPG

No no no… not StormBREAKER… this has nothing to do with the MCU tossing another characters hammer to Thor… sheesh…

StormBRINGER is a magic weapon of its own accord that was created by Michael Moorcock for the character Elric. The Stormbringer RPG was created by Chaosium under licesne using the same game engine that they used for Call of Cthulhu but without the sanity score and the issues that sanity creates. Not that you could not put sanity into the game… but…

Anyway, as a fan of the Eternal Champion multiverse that was really into Moorcock’s work, I had to play the game.

To be honest I really enjoyed playing this game for two major reasons. First is that without the sanity issue the game engine actually seemed to run smoother… Second is that when it comes to magic items, in this setting you could either put a temporary enchantment onto something that may last a day… or you could bind a being to it. Spirits of Order or Chaos, Elementals, Animal Kings, and even on one occasion that I know of a ghost. Which meant that on some primal level every single permanent magic item has a mind and character of its own. This is not something that the original books go into much but it is something that is present in the major magic items… like Stormbringer itself.

This game has been republished several times over the years and there has even been a d20 version. For my money though nothing stacks up to the original. The world is a departure from the usual fantasy settings. It was followed up by another Eternal Hero setting for Hawkmoon. Which is a good combination of magic and post apocalyptic tech. And this meant that you could actually play crossovers of the Eternal Champion in game. Which is the sort of stunt that any fan with a licensed product in hand wants to do.

So since I am running this one fast so I can get to things I need to work on in the house today and keep the puppy from chewing up too many supplies… lets dive into the numbers as I see em…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – For a fan the first editions of this game were awesome. Many minor characters and all the major ones are given a good blurb, not enough to give too many spoilers from the books, just that right amount to keep you going. The world is also brought out in the same blurb format. Most of the art is ‘meh’ in quality but in the places where it is more than meh it blows the doors off. I dont know why but I included my favorite cover to the game as the image. It is from the Chaosium/Games Workshop edition.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – We lost a little detail on the game engine. You had to wait until second edition of the game to really get a good look at how the magic works. And the rules got modded a little bit by the time the Chaosium/Games Workshop edition came out so that at that point things made a lot of sense. This game engine suffers from the Basic RPG systems biggest issue, and that is that most starting characters will rarely have the skills to get out of their first two or three game sessions without a bit of help or even a lot of help from NPC’s.

Overall Mod 4/5 – So I am rating this one a little higher than I really should  because even though the game engine has its weak spots, with this engine you could… pull in supers… or Cthulhu himself (I actually tried to figure out how to bind him to a soup spoon… long story) or anything else the game engine is tied to REALLY easily. So you can tweak it a lot. Why is this not a 5/5 then… well its because the game engine itself is not generic enough… even with the publication of the Basic Game engine all on its own to allow special abilities and the rules for them to transfer smoothly from one game to another.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Lets just say I did figure out how to put Cthulhu in a spoon so I could challenge Elric to a fight. I dont need a lot more fun than that.

Total Score 17/20 – Another really high score… For myself it is totally worthy of that score… the rest of you will have to look up a copy and decide for yourself…

Ok so things are quiet, I need to go see who has destroyed what while I have been typing.

Gimme the dice, I need to see if I can bind my coworkers to their desk to make magic computers 🙂

Peace and play nice folks 🙂

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Missing the review

Hi there readers…

The wife and I are working on a project in the house this weekend and it is going to be a very cool add. Much like our home made steampunk library and the desk she made me, my wife has awesome ideas that come out so bloody cool. So since this was one of those rare weeks when our mundane life jobs both got us paid at the same time we had to pickup the parts and get to work. That unfortunately is leaving me without enough time to really do a good post this week… and a few other things. And that may happen next week too, we shall see.

Hope everyone is having a blast out there in the world and I am sorry that this is not a better post.

Gimme the dice, I have to see if I can avoid wiring the puppy into the new outlets in the living room.

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Die Fighter, no, we are not backstabing the fighter… sheesh

Ok so last week I asked about posting other things that I have done. I got a couple of replies and have decided to dive in with Die Fighter.

If you are wondering about the pic, well that is the type of customizable dice that I originally created the game with. Not really required but it makes it a little easier in my opinion.

Let me jump straight into a copy of the rules so you can see more about what I mean.

Welcome to Die Fighter first edition

Die Fighter is (C) Copyright Tony Johnson 2013 2014

Permission is given to distribute freely person to person but not to be posted on the internet.

This is a game that is trying to pay tribute to the classic two d fighting games of yore. Classic Street Fighter, Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, and so many others that many of us spent a lot of time and money on in the arcades back when such things were common.

 Tools :

To play this game you need a ball point pen and at least one of these little packets of blank dice.

dice

I would suggest picking these things up at a local gaming or hobby store as you can see if you pick them up at one of the Uncles Games stores they are only 3.99 for a package, but at Amazon online they are 7.19 plus shipping or more.

The game idea is simple really. You use the rules below to design a fighter by marking the stickers and applying them to the dice. And then you and another player (or if you make two sets up then you can play on your own), roll dice to fight and take down the health bar of the other fighter.

Designing a fighter can take a few minutes, running a fight can take seconds to a couple of minutes. Number of rounds and so on will be up to the players involved.

Rules :

Ok so the first bit of the rules is to explain why you need the multicolored dice.

Each color of die represents an area of attack and defense.

Red – Head and upper body

Yellow – Mid body

Green – Lower body

White – Ranged and charge attacks

Initially you select three dice of different colors. This will define your fighters fighting style. Samples of fighting styles would be like…

Grapplers – Red, Yellow, Green

Fire Ballers – Red, Yellow, White

Chargers – Yellow, Green, White

These are just quick ideas. You can some up with your own way to define just what you have come up with.

Now that you have your three dice, you get 50 Build Points, and 10 Health Levels

Ok so what do you do with three blank dice and some points. Well you build a full on fighting style to flesh out your fighter.

Build points can be spent on the following –

(S) Strike – 2 Build Points – 1 Health Level of damage (this can be called a kick, a punch, flashing someone topless, whatever you want)

(B) Block – 2 Build Points – Stops one Health Level of damage against that location

(P) Power Blow – 5 Build points – Does 2 Health Levels of damage +1 Health Level for each other die you have doing damage (so if you have rolled a P, a B, and an S, your S does one damage, and your P does 3)

Strike, Block and Power Blow affect the other fighter on the same color. So you compare Red dice, Yellow dice, Green, and White.

(D) Dodge – 7 Build Points – Dodge avoids ALL damage your opponent has rolled that round.

(  ) Flub – If you have only one blank space on a die this is worth zero Build Points, however if you have two or more on a single die then you get +1 Build Point. This only counts once per die. This is like messing up your joystick command and not getting a strike or a block in.

So you can fill in the stickers that come with the dice with those letters and there you go.

Now you can also do the following items to make more advanced fighters.

Add an additional die of a color you do not have yet – 6 Build Points

Add an additional die of a color you already have – 10 Build Points

Add additional Health Levels – 3 Build Points per Health Level

 

A basic die might look like this

(S) on three sides, (B) on three sides – 12 Build Points

(P) on one side, (B) on two sides, (S) on two sides, (  ) on one side – 13 Build Points

(D) on one side, (P) on one side, (S) on two sides, (B) on two sides – 20 Build Points

 

If I use those three samples to create a fighter I have used 45 build points, with the five left I could add an additional heath level, and put another (B) or (S) on the 13 point die, and push it right up to 50 points. Do not worry if you have a couple of points left over at the end. At least not at first. Get the flow down and have fun with making a fighter or three, and seeing how their style and your luck at tossing the dice go. There are a lot of other combinations past the samples above, and the dice you choose may not be the same as the ones your opponent is using, so you may want to think about the style of fighter you want to create.

Last rules – Roll dice at the same time as your opponent. Compare the dice. Subtract unblocked, or un-dodged damage from Health Levels. If needed roll again until one fighter is out of Health Levels, or both are (and that means a draw).

Closing :

Now then some folks will ask about things like Tag Matches, Taunts, or from Street Fighter Alpha the infamous two on one match, or super boss fights. These things will be brought up in the second edition of the rules. This first edition is just the basics to get things started. There is more coming. 🙂

Addendum :

Dice sets for classic fighting game characters, at least in my opinion.

Guile – (Y) (G) (W)

Ken / Ryu – (R) (Y) (G) (W)

Zangief – (R) (Y) (G) – maybe an additional (Y)

Terry Bogard – (Y) (G) (W) early on then became (R) (Y) (G) (W)

Andy Bogard – (R) (Y) (G) (W)

Mai Shirinui – (R) (Y) (W)

Joe Higashi – (R) (G) (W)

 

So that is the first edition rules of Die Fighter. I have made add ons for Boss Fights, Tag Matches, and Two on One fights. While also adding things like Throw and Taunt moves. It makes for a quick playable game and it allows players to build what they want. During play-test I have had two players set up exactly the same dice, but describe their fighters completely differently. I thought it was completely awesome and could not wait to see more from them. Oh and yes I do have a couple of fighters sitting around here in my dice box. So if you know me in person please feel free to drop a challenge.

So any way, give it some play and see what you think.

Next week I will likely do a review if I can keep the puppy distracted long enough. I have a few I have been waiting to do.

So gimme the dice… I need to see if I can deliver a power move to the puppy for bath time or can pull off a dodge. (actually I did that last night and just wanted to tie this post into a Facebook post I made HAH!)

Play hard, and peace out.

 

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Crazy $#!t I have created

So I seem to be getting a lot of hits in regards to my Random Deity Generator and I have been thinking about posting a few other things I have created to see if folks enjoy them.

Die Fighter – A dice based combat system that I created to replicate 1/1 2d fighting games. But it can have other uses.

Random Bureaucracy Generator – Originally for Paranoia but if you are ever playing a game where you have to go up against big business or any government on their terms it could be useful.

Minion Uprising Chart – Many games have given players the option to have minions, hire legions, or inspire nations. However they get a little iffy on what it takes to not just have them leave your service but totally revolt and try and destroy you. This chart fixes that option.

Sanity Converter – In Call of Cthulhu learning about the mythos costs sanity. Learning magic costs sanity. Surviving physically in tact costs sanity. This handy dandy little table can show you if that would be a cost worth paying. This started out as a joke but when I had a character start at 30 sanity in a game and go up and not down on the first couple of adventures its nature changed.

Goblin Invention Name Generator – This is still very much a work in progress as I keep finding new words that would just work too well in it. I started this when playing Iron Kingdoms as a setting for D20. I have carried it over to other games as well after.

So yeah a really short post. Trying to get the puppy to understand it does not get its way all the time and that requires frequent cleanup.

So gimme the dice, I have to figure out what he destroyed this time.

And if any of these ideas spark an interest give a note/reply and lets see what I publish next.

Peace and play hard folks.

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The power of a good GM

So I am rather certain that every gamer has run into good and bad GM’s. The person running a game has so much influence on a game being fun or not, that they cannot help but have a lasting impact on their players.

I have a few things I do to try and exercise that power in a way that helps my players get into the game that I think other should do… but that is just my opinion.

Those things are –

  • Brief your players about the world they are entering. Write ups, art, music, whatever might help them understand the world they are going to be in. Make sure they know about special rules and things that go outside of the usual for the game. House conditions and things you want to enforce. And do that all wayyyyyyyyy before the game starts. It keeps the players from feeling ambushed by your personal set up and gives them time to embrace it even before character generation.
  • Make character generation collaborative with the story you want to run. That way the players know how they will fit in with the other players. And the GM will know what kind of group is on the field and be able to modify story and encounters to get the most of the game session for themselves and for the players enjoyment.
  • Take some time to get to know the players. It does not have to be a lot of time but just enough to get a feel for them. If you can get a basic idea of the players you can have a better insight to what they would want to do in a game and if you have a group of “Arrrgh I need to blow $#!t” up players you wont be trying to force them into a series of “Gads that story was epic” games.
  • Remember there are no rails. Your game has already gone off the rails. Trying to force players into anything story wise wont help. Giving them options that lead to the story will. Being able to just run with whatever crazy $#!t they come up with would be perfect. The players are not in your head and do not know what is coming or how epic and cool you think it is. Accept that they have their own ideas and goals and you could come up with something even more epic.
  • Enforce role play every time you can. My trick is to call out “Live Table” so that players know that everything they say is what their characters say. Every action they describe are what their characters are doing. Don’t to it all the time. Give players time and space to meta game if they need it. Encourage them to step away from the table to do thinking and planning or just do some solid BSing. And remember in the end, actual role play is not for everyone, so not everyone you play with will be into it or want to handle it.

Why do I bring this up? Because quite frankly I am tired of reading posts in other social media about players who suck because they wont get into the story. Or posts about GM’s who have all sorts of hidden rules and regulations in their games that they never tell you about until it can screw you over. And even posts about GM’s who drive players relentlessly into a story that they have no interest in but would rather explore or put time into some tasty sub plots.

And before anyone gets all high and mighty and says that this is not just a GM’s responsibility, trust me I know. My rant about players needing to pull their heads out and work with the GM and the other players is longer and more detailed and quite frankly would be much more cathartic but I have a puppy that seems to be a bit of an energy vampire and needs attention like you would not believe. Unless you have run a game for 7 year olds.

So gimme the dice, I need to make a roll and the random home destruction table to see what has been blown up in the 20 minutes it took me to write this.

Peace out, game on, and have fun folks. 🙂

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Sorry for the delay

Hey there readers… its been a while…

I have to say there is a good reason.

Puppy.

Yeah my wife and I have added a puppy to the house hold. His name is Binx and he is a Plott Hound / Lab mix. With a beautiful brindle coat and a ton of energy and need for attention.  Only ten weeks old so he is still very nippy, needs to play a lot and every time I have tried to take a few notes to put together a new post it has been …

Ok so the new topic…

Hey Binx ok lets get you outside and play

New topic is…

Ok puppers lets go

New topic…

Oh what did you get into pup, do you need a bath

New…

Snooooooooore….

Yeah those 3am wakeups are not too bad when you usually get up at 4 to get ready for work, but tying them to the 11pm wake up, and the 1am wake up… well… yeahhhhhh.

The wife tells me this is great training for when we have a child of our own… but damn its exhausting. The little guy is a loving ball of fluff though and I cannot do anything but love him for it.

So over the next few months (I hope it takes less time but I wont count on it) posts will be sporadic and may be a mix of gaming and gushing about the puppy.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta put em up so Binx wont chew on em.

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Review #27 IronClaw (G)

Iron_claw cover

Those who are familiar with the game will notice I am using the second edition omnibus cover. To be honest the current copy I have in my collection is digital and I cannot remember which version it is. I know there have been a few changes since first edition and that can make some interesting comparisons but I am going to try and stick to what I have on hand for my review. The other reason I used this image is because the original cover was a little too cheesecake for my tastes.

Ok so you can see from the image (if you dont know the game) that Iron Claw is an anthropomorphic game. That does not make it a Furry game. The Furry Fandom may enjoy the game and feel it meets with what they enjoy, but there is a big difference between Anthropomorphic and Furry. I want that out of the way because I know too many folks who confuse the two.

IronClaw is Sanguine Productions… original… game I think. I believe that they picked up other anthropomorphic games and then converted them to their unique game engine later. IronClaw has a very solid not quite mid-evil Europe/Renaissance setting with an edge of fantasy to it. They supplemented the game with JadeClaw using the same rules to add an Asian part of the world in which they could expand their combat system to include more martial arts and also expanded their magic system to add more types of magic.

Now all of that seems rather brief I know. However there is an element of this game that really drew my attention, and still does. They also put it into a sci-fi setting called Myriad Song that takes things outside of being in an Anthropomorphic setting. That element is their skills and stats system.

To introduce the idea they used, I think that every gamer I know of has at one time or another pulled up a handful of dice and gone, “I am gonna role a 1deverything.” Well in some ways that is what this system feels like. During character creation you start with a set number of dice of different types. These dice are then assigned to stats, your characters race, and also to their profession. This can stack up so you will be rolling several dice of different kinds against a difficulty score. More successes equals more impact on what you do. You also add skill ‘marks’. More marks in a single skill give you more dice. Let me give you an example.

You have a Rhino. (just roll with it) Racial skills for a Rhino are Endurance, Presence and Tactics. A career as a Knight Errant adds the skills Dodge, Melee Combat and Tactics. There are four stats in the game Mind, Body, Speed and Will. So if a player were to put a d6 in Race, and a d8 in Career, and a d4 in Mind, and then 3 skill marks in Tactics, when the time comes to roll for Tactics they would roll 2d8 + 1d6 + 1d4. If the task is easy then you have a difficulty of 3, so you need a four or better. As it gets harder the number goes up, the number of successes needed might go up too. Rolls against another player or an active NPC come up as who gets the highest and most… most of the time.

There are of course modifiers and gifts you can get that will alter the value of the die, add bonus’ of one kind or another or simply add dice. It can be a little challenging to track at first but they make a really nice character sheet that actually tracks all of this quite well so you dont have to think about it too much.

I will admit when I first played this game back in 2000 I had a hard time with the mechanic. It just kinda felt, off. I was so used to single dice unless I was doing damage, or multiple of the same die no mater what I was doing, that having all of these dice to try and do an action just felt wrong. But once I got used to it I found it actually enhanced my tendency to tell stories. I mean when you can see just how your race or career training has helped develop your skills and your natural traits all blend together, it gets very descriptive. And you can make in character comments like “I made it through mostly due to my training, but I think my natural tendency to ….. also helped a bit.” And that to me seems cool.

There are a lot of little things in the game engine to like or dislike as well. But that is true for any game system. What I really enjoy is that they were able to use their game engine to do both fantasy and sci-fi without modification. If you look at games like D&D and the 3.0 experiment with d20 Modern you can see how they had to modify things to compensate for guns and heavy weapons. But that is not an issue with the Cardinal game engine.

So that gives you some of my basic thoughts, what do the numbers say?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – I have to go a little lower on Fluff than I would like to. The art by and large is just ok. If you have any issue with Anthropomorphic stuff then, well sucks to be you, but this is not the best example of the art that I have seen. Also the background material is, well its a little stunted. It is designed to give you just enough to run with but still make you need to buy the supplements to really know what is going on in the world overall. I would not have an issue with it if the supplements were only need to have a good grip on specifics like houses and guilds but this goes beyond that.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – These rules are well written but poorly ordered. So you end up needed to go back and forth a lot before you can really get them down. Sure that is more an editing error than a problem with the rules themselves, but it leads to misunderstandings and with newer groups more than a few arguments.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Given that they have already published rules that show what can be done with sci-fi you know you can mod the engine. I do not think you could pull off supers with it, but if anyone can figure out how to without breaking the engine let me know and I will take this up to a five.

Overall Fun 4/5 – I really enjoy the story telling elements of this game engine. However finding a group to play this is harder than with most engines due to the nature of the game setting. Just from that I would usually bump it down to a three, however I really do like the game despite the difficulty finding folks who would play.

Total Score 15/20 – Not a bad score overall. No hideous either. I like the potential here and would really enjoy playing with it more. In this instance to me the engine gets more props than the setting but not a bad combination.

So as usual, think for yourself, check it out and see if you agree or disagree and have some bloody fun with your gaming 🙂

Now gimme the dice, I have to see if my cats are break in artists of any skill level or not.

 

 

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