Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jake Reviews: Exemplars & Eidolons

I normally don't do reviews. Its not that I don't have opinions, but I generally prefer to avoid telling people what to play. That said, I have recently run into a game that I think is truly fantastic and I would like to recommend it. It is a free pdf so I feel OK about recommending it. If you like it, great. If you hate, nothing lost but a little time. So here goes, my first review, a review of Exemplars and Eidolons.

The Peritextual Elements
The cover art is decent, in that old school D&D style. I will admit, it did not draw me in at first. It is the kind of art that grows on you as time goes on. The internal art is solid, it is basically solid and appropriate(it is taken from a couple of open source art packs, so make of that what you will). The layout is purposefully in the style of the original D&D booklets and is designed to showcase how to do that layout. As such it is very fine. Simple and well laid out, no frills. By and large the peritextual elements of the game are solid and well thought out.

Game mechanics
Overall this is the slickest take on classic OSR based rules I have ever seen. It avoids much of the rules baggage I have seen in many OSR games. Each player rolls 4d6, drop the lowest, for their attribute(which are the standard fare. This is followed by writing down three facts about your character. Facts are a single sentence that defines a relationship, influence, or background about your character. When a fact applies to a given situation you gain a +4 to a given ability roll. to  Players then choose between one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue, or Sorcerer. Each grants the player a set of gifts. Gifts are special abilities and super powers. Players get two from their class and one from any list at level one. You then pick weapons, equipment, and write down effort and HPs. Effort is new, it is how one uses gifts and some magic spells. Leveling up is pretty slick, you may choose any class at the new level and can switch back and forth as you go. Every level grants an additional gift and some more HP. Sorcerers work a bit different than many OSR games, they can cast any of the spells at a level they have mastered, though only a couple per day, per level. You basically start out as a master magus and go up from there.

The die rolls are split between three types, ability checks, saves, and attack rolls. Abilities are rolled against with a roll under mode. Saves are also rolled under, though you add your level in appropriate classes to the appropriate saves. Attacks are rolled pretty much standard. Damage rolls are an interesting take. You roll the damage and compare it against a chart. The results will end up between 0 and 4 damage. Damage comes off of the player characters hit points and NPCs HD(this is pretty great as it lets you pull NPCs from most any OSR game and use them here with minimal fuss).

The other really spiffy mechanics are Wealth and Influence. As you are playing larger than life heroes you don't really have to worry about everyday money, in fact the game tells you to just allow players to get whatever incidental items they could reasonably want. Wealth represents serious riches, like dragon hoards and the like. You can spend it to get influence and other big things. Influence is quite possibly my favorite part of the game. The GM is encouraged to build a really big problem and a bunch of lesser problems. Each one of the lesser problems is worth a set amount of influence. You gain influence by doing great deeds, completing quests, using wealth and gifts. Once a minor problem is taken car of you gain XP, and when a major problem is dealt with you gain much more XP. It is a really slick system.

Setting
The setting is quite slim. Basically the game tells you to play larger than life heroes in a fantasy world and leaves the rest up to the group to decide. I kind of like that as I immediately thought up a bunch of scenarios and campaigns for the game. It has an intrinsic setting that is implied more than outright stated. I rather like this method, as it leaves room to play with the features in new and interesting ways.

Overall I rather like this game and, as it is free, I think it would be worth your time to check it out. At 48 pages it is not a heavy game, but it handles larger than life heroes rather well.