OK so it’s a soft cover but the art work on the front is pretty cool and evokes a feeling of old school RPG action. A knight in shining armour wielding a magic sword sits on the back of a Pegasus as he faces down a huge Dragon! What more could you ask for in a fantasy game?
Note: the 1st printing had an equally old school picture on the cover but we are reviewing the most current version.
Art work is consistently good throughout and the book is well laid out with all of the rules where you would want them to be (something that went a little wrong in some later Palladium products).
Overall a standard quality book that is worth the money. However there is plenty more to this book than production values!
With 13 player races and 23 OCC’s or classes of which 10 are caster types you will have no shortage of choices!
The races range from the standard Dwarf, Human and Elf to the more exotic Changeling (a shape shifter) and Troglodite (a peaceful cave dweller with a legendary temper) to the downright nasty Orcs, Ogres and Trolls! However just because you pick a stereotypically evil race doesn’t mean you will automatically evil. You could easily make an Orc with a noble heart and a kind soul.
The first character I ever made (over 15 years ago) was a Troll. Something about the description of Trolls really did it for me; I think it was their wickedly friendly temperament. Oh and the picture showing a 12ft monster man sat on a pile of skulls!
Rolling the stats was simple enough and then I checked what bonuses I might have. As expected my Troll was strong and so added extra damage to his attacks, he was agile and gained bonuses to strike and parry and he had epic endurance so he could resist poison and magic! What more could I want from a character?
Next I chose my OCC or class. I decided to go for a thief as they can locate secret doors and at later levels do double (or more) damage from behind! Now I didn’t make any old standard thief because the choices you can make within your class allows for great variety. OK so I can pick locks and prowl but I can also wield large swords and large shields, I can even poison my weapons!
You can round out your character by randomly rolling or choosing a back ground. I chose men at arms simply because I did not see my Trolls parents as nobles or merchants! They definitely weren’t farmers (although they almost certainly stole from farmers).
Twenty minutes later he is ready! Mugwort the Bold adventurer extraordinaire! His friends were a Wolfen (giant wolf man) Warlock who specialised in the element of air and an Elven assassin! With all of our alignments being selfish this meant despite racial prejudice we would likely work well with each other as long as the coin and the glory kept rolling in.
This system uses most of the common dice you will have seen before. The D20 is used for your combat actions or saves again magic/poison/psionics or what have you. Magic is handled excellently and is neither too powerful nor underpowered. In fact I shall give the sheer variety of magic a section to itself!
You can also switch your class at any point and start levelling another class. Mugwort the bold would go on to be trained as a Paladin and many years later (both in game and out) he learnt the arts of wizardry. All the while it was still so easy for our GM to come up with fantastic enemies and great story plots to keep us wanting more!
However one of the systems strongest points is how much it encourages you to role-play your character. There is such a vast multitude of things that you can be doing outside of combat/dungeon crawling. Want to go fishing it’s there, want to whittle a statue of your dear uncle? Go for it! Want to seduce the tavern staff? Sure if you have the charm. All of these things a dealt with in a simple but effective way that never slows the game down.
I found combat to be fast and brutal it reminded me very much of the 80’s film Excalibur, with iron clad Juggernauts swinging huge weapons to devastating effect. I still find the Hit Point to weapon damage ratio to be amongst the very best in the trade. No fight seems drawn out and yet all have an air of desperation, a dagger in the right hands can fell the mightiest knight. It has an almost perfect balance of speed and intensity in my opinion.
Once you have levelled up you will find that every aspect of your character improves quite a lot. When you reach 4th level you will look back at your first level character and realise you have developed massively.
Wow, just wow! OK even a standard Wizard could be your tradition Gandalf type with the ability to influence others and wield a sword. You might make a combat Wizard who can buff his and his allies’ strength and protect others with magical armours. How about a Wizard thief that can scale walls in a way that would make Spider-Man proud and all the while remain completely invisible! All of the above combinations and much more are available to the standard Wizard class.
But it’s not all about the Wizard, we have the Psionic class which is like a super charge Jedi capable of moving huge objects and warping the minds of all around them to deadly effect.
Then there is the Warlock who can command the elements of fire, earth, air and water. This guy can also summon giant elemental beings to do battle for him!
The Summoner can summon and control just about every being in the game except the gods. On top of this if the Summoner has the time to prepare he can create circles that can control and dominate others or even protect him from his enemies!
The Diabolist is the thinking man’s caster, he can utilise powerful wards and runes to protect his equipment or certain areas. With enough forward planning a Diabolist makes for a very powerful opponent.
We have the clergy, priest of great power who can ask the gods for extra spells or to boost their combat powers, some can even raise the dead to aid him in combat!
Witches sell their souls in dark pacts with devil and demon and in return they receive great magical and physical power.
Driuds can transform into animals and use nature itself to boost their attributes. They can summon packs of their totem animals to aid them in combat and the forest itself will speak to the druid and tell him any secrets they may know.
The main thing worth noting is that every single caster can be completely different and even if more than one player picks the same class it won’t matter by the time you get into the game you will see that each character is truly unique.
With literally dozens upon dozens of Devils, Demons, Elementals, Angels, Fairies, Giants, Gods, Monsters, the standard races and their related politics and of course Dragons you will never be lacking enemies for the players to face and with maps and descriptions of each major area you will never be lacking a place to find said enemies! On top of this you get a very well written and presented adventure called “The Tombs of Gersidi” at the back of the book. Be warned however that this adventure of for characters that have one or two levels under their belts therefore it might be a bit hardcore for first level adventurers!
Trying to tell you about all about the fun I have had playing and GM’ing this game would require much more space than we have here and could well take months to write.
If you are looking for a high fantasy swords and sorcery setting with some of the best magic classes of any game out there then look no further.
Compliment this with the fact that there are so many skills and abilities that can be used outside of combat/dungeon scenarios and you are onto a true winner.