Spelldancer is the fantasy RPG by Gethsemane games, set in their “Elizium”
fantasy setting (although you don’t need to use the setting if you have another
you would rather use).
Character generation is points based and the number of points you start with
depends on your age. Old characters get more starting experience than younger
ones BUT they also have more disadvantage points. Disadvantages are handled
differently to other games. Here you don’t buy disadvantages to gain more
experience points. Instead you start with one quarter your age in disadvantage
points you have to buy off or else you lose some of those experience points.
There are a lot of skills to chose from, but you don’t always need to roll to
check a skill when you use it. If the circumstances are ideal, you pass just by
owning the skill. You only roll if you are under pressure or circumstances
Combat is skill based, and there are a lot of special manoeuvres you can use to
get advantages to your chance to hit, or the damage you do. The better you are
with a weapon skill, the more damage you are probably going to do, which I like.
Damage is handled by comparing your Killing Power to your enemies Resistance
Factor. Killing Power is made up of how much you passed your skill roll with
your weapon by plus any Killing Power Adjustment you have from your Strength and
that the weapon itself has. It is possible to score a hit then do no damage if
your final KP was too low - this represents the minor bumps and bruises. The
system also builds results like being knocked out, having your arm broken, being
stunned or knocked over and even concussed into the basic combat and doesn't
seem to slow play down much at all but adds a lot to the game play.
Magic is split into types, called “Arcaniums” and each arcanium has it’s own
spells that relate to an idea, like Necromancy (death magic), Vivamancy (life
magic), the 4 elemental magics, Dracology 9magic relating to dragons) and so on.
there is also a “minor” arcanium which you must learn before you can take the
specialist or “major” arcaniums.
The races of the game are very interesting. they are split into Wyrm kind
(several types of dragon), Beast men (that have evolved from animals), Corporeal
spirits (that are a sort of minor demon that takes on a permanent physical form,
Umbra spirits (demos that have to be summoned to enter the world), Undead,
giants and animals. Humans are considered beast men and get on best with other
beast men races. The standard fantasy staples like elves and dwarves are
Corporeal spirits which makes them feel more like the Elves and goblins of old
European mythology than the standard RPG interpretation. It also makes them
feel a lot more alien. Sprits have a hard time understanding death - because
they can’t die - they just go “home” to the umbra. This means even the
“friendly” ones are likely to kill you if you are in their way, because they
don’t realise what a big deal death is to other races. Demons are very nicely
done, they are quite flexible and the GM can use the demon creation rules to
create just about anything!
Magic items are also very fixable, and are built on a points system that lets
you make customisable items. Oh and the rules for mages creating familiars are
nice and flexable too. If I’m reading this right (and I think I am 0 there is
no real limit to how many familiars a mage can have. Be careful though, the
bigger and more powerful an animal you select for your familiar the fewer points
you will have to give it special powers. In our game we had a mage with 2
familiars, one was a cat the other a snake, and they had very different powers
I like this game a lot, and it is great for customizing and making it into what
you want. the setting material is really cool to, although I would have loved
to have more of it. The town of Tolar is a great place to get started, right
between the civilized empire and the wild, unclaimed lands to the south. the
town “feels” alive and is bursting with ideas. The culture of the Empire is
just different enough to feel like it wasn’t lifted from the authors favourite
period of history without finding it hard to get into.
Skills are percentile based, combat is deadly, magic even more so, a lot of the
monsters are quite powerful 9but not impossibly so). So if you like realistic
combat and percentile based systems this is for you, if you don’t, it isn’t.
[4 of 5 Stars!]