Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tenth Game of Christmas

Previously: AlternityStar WarsMageTranshuman SpaceAdventure!Feng ShuiFate Core13th Age, Burning Wheel

And now...

Today's review is the newest game in this series. It came out this year after a successful kickstarter. This game is also part of the OSR(Old School Revival) school of gaming. So in a way it is also one of the oldest games, at least in basic system. That said this game has had my attention since the first mention of it that I saw. I have not played it as much as some of the other games in this series, but it does a lot of wonderful things and I wanted to go over it with you. So without any further ado lets begin with...


A while back I did a review of another game by Sine Nomine. That game was Exemplars and Eidolons. It dealt with doing mythic scale action in an old school game. It is a pretty fantastic game. Anyway, it had been built more as an example of how to do a certain kind of layout than as a game intended for play, so when he heard about the hype for it the designer said he was going to rework it to be better. Boy howdy is it better. After a few months we had access to a play test document and it was fantastic. Shortly thereafter the kickstarter was launched and Godbound was a thing. Within a couple of months after the kickstarter we had the book in our hands. This level of speed, precision, creativity, and polish all point to the singular genius of Kevin Crawford, the designer. He makes me feel inadequate as a designer and games like this set the bar for what I am aiming to do with my designs. The best part about the game is that there is a free version that as all the rules and everything you need to play, the version that costs money has some awesome additional optional rules(like mecha, clockwork cybernetics, and alternative types of Godbound), but you don;t need it to play.

Peritextual Elements
The book is beautiful. Kevin does his own layout and it s well done. It is two columns on a light tan background. The headings and titles are in a dark red text and stand out easily from the rest of the text.  The art within is absolutely gorgeous, and as an added bonus the art is free to use for all personal and commercial uses. Which is just great. The art is full color and truly suits the mood of  the book. The sidebars are easy to read and stand out with just a slightly  darker tan. It is well indexed and the pdf has a solid set of links throughout, navigating is pretty simple.

The games core mechanic is based on a d20 roll vs a target number. That number varies on whether you are in combat, making a save, or an attribute roll.  Attribute rolls are compared to 21 minus your attribute number and then add a +4 should you have a relevant fact(I will go into Facts in a moment). Saving throws are 15 minus your relevant attribute modifier and your level. Attack rolls are a little different you roll a d20 and add your attack modifier and your opponents armor class(with armor class low numbers are better than high) and try and beat a difficulty of 20. So that is the basics on dice rolling.

In this game you play demigods. Your character has six attributes(Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, know the ones) and they are rated from 3 to 18(19 for strength but that is only with the right word choice). You do not get skills instead you choose Facts which are sentences or phrases that describe something important to your character. They are a bit like backgrounds in 13th Age. Needless to say, I like Facts. You also get to pick Words and gifts. Words are kind of your general areas of godly power. You can do all sorts of miracles and special things with that. Like if you had the night word, you could create or remove night, or cause people to sleep, or all sorts of other night related ideas. There are a whole bunch of words to choose from as well as solid advice for building your own. Each word has a list of lesser and greater gifts. Gifts allow you to consistently and more easily do cool effects based on your Word. Lesser gifts are smaller in scale than greater gifts. They are all quite spiffy and evocative. Also each Word has a sidebar that showcases how the word looks when used in the world and mechanically. It is very handy for some of the odder words like Luck or Time. Gifts can give constant defenses or the ability to always have a weapon made from the word(Lightning Sword FTW). Words are simple and yet they add so much complexity to the game. As to equipment and all that, this game assumes you are playing godlike beings and so normal gear is pretty easy to come by. My first character carried over a hundred normal swords with him everywhere he went, because I thought that was cool(and it was).

Some unique rules in the game are the Fray dice and how damage is dealt. Lets start with the Fray dice. The fray dice is rolled with every round. It represents the casual blows and how awesome you are. The fray die is rolled and the damage is dealt to lesser foes every turn. Lesser foes are foes with hit dice equal or less than your level. It starts out pretty fearsome and becomes more terrifying as you level. Damage is not rolled directly the way it is in other games. When you roll for damage you do from zero to four point depending on the roll. If your damage die(plus modifier) is a 1 you deal no damage, 2-5 is 1 damage, 6-9 is 2, and 10 or more is 4 damage. This is done because the monster do not have hit points(though the heroes do) instead damage is dealt directly to their hit dice. Which means your one hit dice monster will be taken out with one hit. Now some gifts allow you to read your damage dice "straight" which means you don't use the table and just subtract the number from the die from the hit dice of the monster. It is pretty awesome when that happens. As you can see this slight change makes the heroes incredibly powerful without having to adjust the numbers at all. It is an elegant solution to the issue of scaling.

Players also have access to a number of ways to alter their surroundings. They have influence and dominion. Influence is your ability to alter the world around you in a temporary way, so long as you keep a point of influence set aside that change remains, however when you take that influence back, the change goes back to how it was. There is a lot of advice on how to handle influence in game. Dominion is something you earn alongside XP when you attain goals and have adventures. Dominion allows you to make permanent changes to the world. It works like influence but it is spent and cannot be taken back. Both XP and Dominion must be spent in order to level up, so the game requires that you change the world in order to get more powerful. I like that.

The setting is really interesting and deep. It goes, roughly, like this. A long time ago man invented super magic and decided to go to God and discover who was right in all the petty squabbles. SO they invented even bigger magic and invade heaven. They fought their way past loads of angels and stuff. Eventually they made it to the throne of the most high and discovered it empty. So the people decided that if god wasn't around they would make their own gods, and commenced to cannibalize heaven to build Made Gods to represent the ideals of the people. Eventually this led to war and destruction and as they had cannibalized heaven the engines of creation were damaged and now the world is split into shard realms floating in the undifferentiated night. Meanwhile the angels sit in Hell, where they regrouped, and plan their revenge on mankind and the world. The game then give a really solid example shard realm with all sorts of different countries and factions. Each one tailor made for different kinds of adventure. My favorite is the bright republic, which has super high tech, but their celestial engines are old and must fail soon, unless some heroes were to fix them. Their tech does not work in the rest of the world. The further they get from the celestial engines of the bright republic the more likely they are to fail. There is also Ancalia, facing undead and other threats, which just recently got a really well put together expansion book, which I would also recommend. Needless to say the setting is top notch, but with the rules you could play in a whole bunch of settings. I have put together a couple already, one is set at the dawn of mankind's first civilizations, kind of a stone/bronze age mythic romp in a lost world type setting. The other setting is closer to Planescape, but using the setting conceits of Godbound's core setting, rather than the setting conceits of D&D. I will probably post those to the blog on some later date. I have even heard of people using these rules for playing in Creation from Exalted.

So that is it for today. Thanks for reading.

Next time...