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Duty & Honour
by Paxton K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/09/2015 17:20:59

First off, the two reviews written for this game are both extremely accurate. I can see the teachers point of view and Megan was very informative about the content. Nearly 30 years ago, I worked on a RPG for a Napoleonic setting but never hit a great "angle". not only did this hit a great angle; but it also was about a time period and battles that were not as cut and dry as most of the period. The campaign in Portugal and Spain was not so much epic battles; but a series of fights. Perfect for players to feel like they affected things without changing the course of history.

In these terms, one might ask, "What's the point?" Well, Duty and Honor does an excellent job of making it personal. In a battle that historically had 10,000 casualties, does another 100 really matter? It does if they are YOUR company and Your mistakes added them to that roster. Also, the setting period is full of "almost or could have" events that can turn events without having to slaughter your troops to prove you failed.

The concept behind Duty and Honor is so different from most games that it is hard to rate. It is not exactly story telling and is not really tactical. Although, it could be an excellent story telling game and a more strategic based on small events.

I would love to see a demo to see how the author intended it to play. He may have conceived of a new style of gaming.

I got the game PWYW. If this is his style, I can definitely see financing more of his work.

Why not a 5? Well, he picked an excellent time to set the game and at a little over a hundred pages not a single one is wasted. I loved the art chosen for it. It reminded me of the painting guides to so many war games but with style. I don't encourage plagiarism but what does seem missing is some maps and historical information. I know the period is highly covered in all kinds of books; but, for someone who was new, a simple series of timeline maps with key events would have been helpful and not really that much work. I guess in one way, the period could be completely reimagined by someone who did not do research and they could have a blast. But a timeline of events could also have been tied to the mission system as great examples.

I do not like ratings that say, "Well, for the price..." I feel that can be really demeaning to someone's work. If someone puts quality work out and would have to have 1000 people pay $5 each to recoup his price; but he prices it as PWYW in the hopes that will get it into the market. They are gambling that the market will support it if it is given half a chance.

I read that a Second Edition may be forth coming and I would really like to see that, especially if it irons out a few problems I had.

The reason I said I would like to see it in demo is because I feel unclear how one attempt at combat resolves something, even if both sides fail to achieve anything. I also feel that the character generation, while really fun, can make some very lopsided characters. Characters are generated with a random method similar to Traveller; but the problem is not bad die or unlucky dice rolls but what the player can do with them. Oddly, it is not stack them in combat skills, there aren't any except maybe for mass combat.

In short, I think this was a great game, covering a period that one normally does not get a role playing game to cover. This game would have easily been a 5 if it had even simple man to man combat rules. Actually, simple would have been fantastic and keeping with the theme.

I definitely am going to add some and use this game. The author captured a rare moment in a rare style of one of the great events of human history. It could even go great as a "behind the scenes" story for wargaming. I guess in that, maybe, the author has brought us full circle. From wargames reduced to a man to man level back to the actions of men making the backdrop for a wargame.

I would love so see other periods covered.

And I will firmly pout if he does not do the promised French army and maybe some others.

Hey, he put the add in the back so....

Best wishes to his future work and his "team".

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Duty & Honour
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ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Michael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/05/2015 11:49:19

Why Review a Free Product? It will still cost you some time to read and some ink to print if you choose. I'd like to know if it's worth it and I thought someone else might as well. I will not hesitate to spoil the adventure (SPOILER ALERT).

Physical Product This is a 50 page PDF with a single-column format. Normally that would be hard to read on a phone but the fonts are large and the margins are large as well. I paid for a printed copy.

Description I was very curious as to what the design of a two-player RPG could be. I've always been skeptical that you really could role play with two people and I've tried with little success. The "storyteller" in the title gives me pause because I'm not that kind of player or GM but my biases may not be the same as yours.

The illustrations are well done. A good cover and a good city illustration.

Hrrmm. The introduction states that the game has been through several major revisions and doesn't resemble two other games I've never heard of so I'm kind of wondering who this introduction is for. "No pre-planned adventures here I'm afraid - it's just the way I roll nowadays!" How nice for you. Then why are you posting this on the web?

It also states that we are encouraged to publish our own setting packs if we want. Go wild! Gee thanks.

You'll need every kind of polyhedral dice but d20s. Ok.

Character Creation is done by allocated different dice sizes (d4, d6, d8, d10 and one "d0" to five statistics - here pointlessly renamed. Strength (Fire), Intelligence (Craft), Charisma (Song), Wisdom (Granite) and Agility (Ice). You give a 'Tag' description to each of these statistics. The example of setting d0 to Intelligence is "Has no truck with magic'.

Next Equipment (Trappings) is assigned. You can have three pieces of equipment given a d4, d6 and d8. These should be 'special'. The example given is not a Greatsword but 'The Executioner's Sword from the City State of Chun'. It is also given an "element" as well. So you could give your Greatsword Charisma which will represent that it is a "status symbol". So I guess this means it will have d0 Fire and harmless if you try to attack with it?

Another example is that you might be given tattoos with a d6 Intelligence and a necklace of teeth that is given a d4 of Wisdom.

You could also give two Elements to the same piece of equipment. So you could have your sword do damage after all I guess.

A little throw up is entering my mouth.

Next you give your character five "Lore" which are stories of our exploits, assigning d4, d6, d6, d8 and d10 to them.

It seems to be setting maximums that you can also 'Specialize' by having a maximum of 2d10 and 3d8 in the same element. So at least a token node to game balance is given.

Next chapter is "Tales of Legends" which shows how adventures are constructed. Apparently they are all supposed to be conducted on-the-fly but it doesn't explicitly say so. The author not really writing for anyone other than himself.

You construct an adventure Seven Scenes. Each one defined by two of the attributes reshaped as Combat (Fire), Magic (Craft), Intelligence (Granite), Persuasion (Song) and Quick Moving Scenes (Ice). There is a beginning scene where the two elements are chosen by the GM and an ending scene where the two elements are chosen by the player and five scenes in between. After the beginning scene the "loser" of the scene chooses the two elements of the next scenes until the Ending scene where the player chooses the two elements. I guess if there are two players they have to argue amongst themselves which elements are part of the final scene? Or the middle scenes?

No elements can follow a scene that had the same elements.

Actually as a basic outline for constructing an adventure I can't really find fault with it. It's a little 'forced' but that really works well in most adventure tales.

The next chapter is Creating Challenges. It starts by showing how to create NPCs and Monsters (and possibly anything else) by assigning static numbers according to the challenge of the foe - Minion, Standard, Elite, and Legend. Then it gives an example of a pack of wolves which seems to be built like a normal character. I'm not sure but I think you start by assigning them dice sizes and THEN using the static number instead. In other words, the wolves have d8 fight - which then means that the wolves are.... I have no idea. There seems to be no difference in the pack of wolves’ example than just making up a character.

Though it does say you can create one set of statistics for a group of enemies.

It also talks about 'Inanimate' adversaries which only have three static numbers of the same dice. For example a standard door is 4, 4, 4, Fire (because 4 is the static number for either a Legendary d4 or a Standard d8). WTF?

In the Example Adversary Levels they show the Pack of Wolves using only static numbers instead of the dice sizes they used before. I guess this is a second step you have to go through when creating adversaries to simplify them? Double the work to simplify the stats?

The example shows three different wolves, each with higher static attributes.

Resolving Conflicts is next. Elements may not be the same in a conflict. Unless it is a door I guess.

Apparently to resolve a conflict you take one dice from you statistics (that match the element of the conflict), two dice from each piece of equipment and two dice from you Backstory.

In the example, the sample PC tries to include his tattoos in the conflict, but "...concedes that he would be reaching to bring them into this particular conflict." So the author seems to admit there will be a lot of arguments in this game.

"If the players can legitimately find a reason to include their dice, allow it." Oh yeah. A lot of arguments.

So it looks like Combat only takes three rounds. Each side allocates dice (for the PCs) or static numbers (for the GM) to each of the three phases. Whoever scores the most wins (highest number in each phase) wins the conflict.

The winner of each phase is allowed to make a 'declaration' for each phase they won. In a tie, the player who picked the elements for the scenes makes the declaration.

The declaration is "Like this happened!” The loser must agree that this is what happens unless they decide to give up one of their declarations and then they can change it.

To cause a "wound" (physical, emotional, social or organizational) you roll your highest dice of the first Element of the scene. So I guess you have to keep track of each scenes First and Second element?

You beat a dice for the NPC and a static number for the PC, which is the reverse of how it's normally done. Why are there static numbers at all? It doesn’t seem to make any scene and way overcomplicates things. It’s a dice pool system after all. Wounds are subtracted from the Element they are used against in the future. Healing reverses the process.

You may not make the same declaration twice or negate a declaration later that you agreed with.

Then there is a page which says what to do when the declaration is "I kill him." Basically, argue it out.

After that it is a chapter on Advancement. It looks like you gain stuff no matter whether you win or lose.

For a very high fantasy setting magic doesn’t seem to have any rules but handwaving.

Next is a chapter on the 2nd player who has less stats as the ‘main’ hero and they share their dice in the dice pool, sometimes alternating between Main Hero and Companion. Two sample Companions are given.

Storyteller advice follows. Good in that it makes it clear you cannot possibly plan anything ahead of time.

Next is a sample setting. A very high fantasy mountain with a witch and goblins. Two more sample PCs follow and some sample NPCs and a bear. Following are apparently NPCs, a witch, a pack of goblins and another pack of wolves. Also two different types of demons. Also an elemental spirit and a couple more monsters. Five adventure seeds follow that.

There are also some nice sheets diagraming the combat phase and story structure (which is my favorite part of the game so far). Then there is a character sheet.

Overall For a good review I should go one, but I basically don’t want to bother. It's not complete gibberish. There was obviously an intent to put some sort of structure in place for free-form arguing (or roleplaying if you prefer).

For as much as it wasn’t my cup of tea, it’s probably the BEST storytelling game I’ve ever seen. The rules are sub-light Savage Worlds (highest roll wins on a bunch of different sided dice), but that’s a least some system.

Should I Check Out Their Other Products? I can’t really believe that there are any other products or that anyone other than the author and his sister will ever try to play the game. Personally, I have no interest in finding out.

However, it is a good solid interesting way to structure a free-form roleplaying game and I chalk up the experience to “Okay, now I know what Storytelling games are” so for that I’m glad I read it. Was it worth $10 I paid to print it – no. There are eight good illustrations though.

The storytelling structure is actually the best part of the game and it might be interesting to write a computer program to spew out these ‘structures’ programmatically to have a handy set of outlines for writing your own stories.

But of course, I’m not really downloading here for inspiration in writing my own stories.

So I can really only recommend this game as a basis for ideas on how to construct an adventure and for that I’ll give it more than the one it deserves.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
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Creator Reply:
Hi Michael Thanks for the brutally honest review. Not everything works for everyone - especially if this isn\'t your bag to begin with. Good luck with your writing! Neil
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Nathan E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2014 08:10:47

Very interesting system…you play a mythic/heroic character that we so often see in fiction - think Conan, John Carter, or Zorro. But it wouldn't be hard to use the system to play modern characters like James Bond or even supers like a solo Wolverine or Superman adventure.

Everything is based upon different dice (d4, d6, d8, etc). A character has Elements (5), Trappings (3), and Lore (5) - thing Abilities, Gear, & FATE style Aspects. Each one of these is tied to the five broad Elements: Fire (Might/Combat), Craft (Craft/Magic), Song (Charisma/Social), Granite (Wisdom/Knowledge), Ice (Agility/Stealth).

Adventures are built collaboratively - which is cool. There are seven scenes and each scene is tied to two Elements defining the conflicts that will occur within the scene. Storyteller and player both get to pick one of the elements in the scene. The following scenes cannot feature the same elements as the previous - so it is sort of like a puzzle, and it means that you have a robust story that just doesn't feature one element. Very cool!

Conflicts are based upon the elements of the scene. So a Fire/Craft scene could be a magical fight or even using might to overcome a trap. While a Granite/Ice scene might involve a puzzle that depends upon manual or physical dexterity. Each conflict has 3 phases - each with its own difficulty. You get to pick dice from your Elements (1), Trappings (1-2), Lore (1-2) to overcome the conflict. Once a die has been used in a conflict it can't be used again in that conflict.

No minis, no maps. Just story and a little dice rolling to add the spice of random results.

If you lose a phase of the conflict it is more about story that it is about damage - you're trying to create an epic story of your character's exploits. And when was the last time Wolverine died in the middle of a movie? Though heroes do get hurt, and there are rules for wounds - not unlike consequences from FATE. Wounds are tied to Elements too, and they increase the difficulty of future conflicts involving those Elements.

The game is designed for 2 players - Storyteller and the hero's player. However you can add a third by giving the hero a companion. Batman and Robin, Lone Ranger and Tonto, etc. They're noteworthy characters, but just not as powerful as the hero. Now that isn't saying they can't have their own spin-off later, but in the story where they are the companion they simply aid the hero. Cool concept, but might not be for every player.

The wrap-up: Era looks like a fun "rules light" system that could enable 2-3 people to play a quick "epic" game or two. It is also a very fun concept for story building and the adventure creation idea could definitely be used in other games.

I like it, I'd love to play it, and the price is right (but give the author and publisher a fair amount - it is a good book)!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Thomas Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2014 04:58:00

Just read ERA the second RPG from Neil Gow of Ominhedron Games. It is a one on one RPG for one hour games that can be fitted in between our busy lives. It is designed to be a structured game cycle that guides poster and GM through opportunities for narration whilst still being driven by recognisable RPG tropes. I am not going to summarise the system: suffice to say it's elegant and worth the 20 minutes it took me to understand it. I have to say I am very impressed and charmed. A lean and yet well structured game in the original sense; also a platform for lots of autonomous narrative storytelling. I have always loved the idea of elements as attributes and dice shapes as skills. The clearly defined structure of the cycle allows a higher degree of support for player and GM; rather like writing a sonnet or haiku rather than prose poetry. I look forward to running it a great deal.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2013 12:07:43

---------review from my blog: it might be easier to read----------------- ERA Epic Storytelling Game by Neil Gow is exactly what the title says: it's a narrative storytelling RPG where the players play larger-than-life-heroes. It is aimed at one GM and one or two players and short play.

Layout ERA is a 54 pages PDF with bare-bones layout. It's nothing fancy but it works. I personally don't like the choice of fonts in this game but that's a small nitpick. There is some artwork but unfortunately no bookmarks. To summarize, it clearly shows that this is a game by a small publisher. Nothing too fancy but it works out.

Content ERA is divided in two parts: game play and the included setting pack.

How to create a hero

Every character consists of five Elements: Fire (strength, might), Craft (intelligence, magic), Song (presence, charisma), Granite (wisdom, knowledge) and Ice (speed, agility). The savvy roleplayer will see some similarities to the standard DnD attributes. The nice thing about the elements is that they differ depending on the setting pack. For example, Caliphport, an Arabian Nights setting, uses Sand and Wind instead of Granite and Ice. Every hero has dice ratings in the five elements ranging from d4 to d10. Furthermore, she can choose three Trappings and five pieces of Lore, again with a dice rating. Trappings are more or less assets: weapons, armor, charms, spells etc. Lore shows the connection between the hero and the world: earlier achievements, status, relationships to NPCs and so forth. The trappings are also chained to an element but also have some description to it, i.e. Lore d 10 First Son of the Bear Tribe.

Character creation gives the player enough options to make a well rounded and interesting character. The combination between element, die rating and description makes a robust, versatile and fun system.

How to play the game

ERA uses a very structured approach to gaming. In this regard it reminds me of Mouse Guard with its distinction between Players' Turn and GMs' Turn. The framework ensures that there are different kind of conflicts and that the game has a defined three-act-structure: you begin with the First Gateway, an intro scene, afterward there are five Pathway Scenes, culminating in a Final Gateway scene. This helps keeping the game within the 1-2 hour time slot the author has envisioned. Furthermore, it prevents "meaningless" scenes without a goal: every scene revolves around a conflict where two forces clash.

Again, the author keeps within the metaphor of elements: Every scene consists of two elements. One element is chosen by the GM (called Storyteller), the other is chosen by the players. Who chooses first depends on the scene and who has lost the previous conflict. There are also rules about which elements are allowed in the current conflict but I won't go into detail here. Keeping in check with the previous definition of elements in the character creation, Fire scenes are physical conflicts, Craft deals with magic, demons or godly terrors, Granite is about discovery or relevation of knowledge, Song is persuasion and manipulation and Ice scenes give us chases and stealthy challenges.

There is no task resolution for a single challenge. Everything revolves around conflict: one scene (see above) = one conflict = one conflict resolution. There is quite a heavy dose of meta-gaming involved. The game utilizes shared scene framing so it demands active players who want to share the responsibility of creating an engaging story.

Either the GM or the players frames the first part of the scene and chooses one element. Afterward, the other continues with framing and choosing a different element. Every party defines their intent: what do they want to achieve in the conflict? (This is again very like Mouse Guard.)

In the second phase the players assemble their dice pools from their applicable Elements, Trappings and Lore. Only one player can be the active one, if there is a second player he can help but doesn't roll. Assembling the dice pool should be narrated. It reminds me of Cortex games and can be lots of fun. You can only use a die if the corresponding trait fits into the narration AND if it belongs to one of the elements the conflict consists of. For example, in a Fire and Granite conflict, you can only use traits which either belong to Fire or Granite. It doesn't matter if your highest awesome trait is a d10 in Craft for you are known to be the most fearsome magician the kingdom has ever seen: it isn't one of the appropriate elements so you can knock it off. NPCS' dice are translated into a challenge rating (CR) the players need to exceed.

Afterward, the dice and challenge ratings are divided into three phases. In every phase the player rolls and tries to beat the CR. If she is successful she is allowed to narrate, otherwise the GM has the control. Interestingly, you can't determine the outcome of the conflict in narration yet. If you did or did not achieved your intent is determined in the next step.

In step 4 every party can make one declaration for every won phase. If you want to achieve the intent you defined at the beginning of the conflict you need to make it into a declaration. The other party is allowed to partly alter your declaration with the cost of one of their own declarations. You can also apply wounds as a means of taxing the opponent. Losing a conflict is not the end of the world. ERA is much about story and losing just means that there is a twist or some cost for achieving your goal.

The conflict resolution may sound very theoretical but in actual play narrating, dice pool building and declaring facts flows quite nicely. Nonetheless, there is a disconnect between declaring your intent, task resolution and achieving your intent. Again, this is the same as the conflict system in Mouse Guard. The whole thing comes off as narrative but thus pretty "meta-gamey": you always need to keep in mind that you are only allowed to create facts after you have won a phase and thus have won the right to a declaration. This can create problems if one of the players wants to truly "immerse" herself into her hero character. This is a pure-blood story game and thus requires some narrative effort from the player as well. The system needs you to make good and careful use of stating your intention.

For me, there is also a resemblance to John Fiore's two-player-game World vs. Hero where one plays the world (NPCs, environmental hazards) and the other plays the hero(es). Clearly, the underlying premise is the same: one GM and one player. Wait? Didn't you say that you can play ERA with two players? How is it the same like World vs. Hero then? Yeah, I know, I know. Remember the part where I explained that only one player is allowed to be the active player in the game? This mechanic makes it similar to WvH. Actually, the second player is "demoted" to a companion in the conflict. If you play the game with one player this player can have a companion character with simplified stats. With two players none can take a companion but the inactive player takes the (mechanical) role of a companion.

There is also a small section about advancement. The heroes are already very capable and good in what they do. Notwithstanding, "leveling up" is something many players dig. At the end of the session (called cycle) players are allowed to step up one of their dice ratings, get a new Trapping or Lore, or heal wounds.

Advice for the GM

The thing I'm most interested in a new game is how easy it is to create and manage NPCs. Adversaries come in four flavors: minions, standard, elite and legendary. Fair enough and a good distinction to balance out an encounter. Now comes to brilliant part: you only need to create a monster or NPC once. Afterward you can scale it to the four adversary levels. The complicated part is that a monster also consists of the three-parts-trinity: Elements, Trappings, Lore. Everything is statted out with dice ratings, appropriate elements and descriptions. This makes creating a complete monster stat block on the fly difficult. The book falls short on explaining how exactly you choose the amount of Elements, Trappings and Lore and how to allocate dice ratings. NPCs are not exactly build like PCs. Some of them are similar enough but some defy the rules. In a conversation with the author I learned that you more or less wing it. For important threats you use the same rules as for building a hero. For less important threats you can drop some details. Neil Gow wants to address the explaining problem in an errata in the next couple of weeks so I'm hoping for more guidelines in the future. However, the fact remains that the default monster creation mechanic isn't the fastest on the planet. Actually, my idea is: instead of creating a fully fleshed out monster you just concentrate on the parts which are relevant in the specific conflict. As there are only two active elements you just decide which traits the NPC has and slap some dice ratings on it. If you really want to go pro you leave out the dice ratings and decide on the challenge rating directly.

Example: You need to create some skeleton minions for a FIRE and ICE conflict. You decide that the minions can fight fairly well and they are a pack so they get "Element: FIRE 2 Skeleton Fighter Pack" (this would be a die rating of d10). Do they have some Trappings or Lore? They have awesome weapons so they'll get "Trapping: FIRE 3 Well balanced Katanas" (corresponding die rating for minions = d12). They can draw fast so the last stat is "Lore: ICE 1 Draw Fast" (d6).

Groups of minions are created the same like a single opponent and inanimate objects have a fixed CR chained to an element, i.e. a magical trap would be 1,1,1 Craft.

More advice on how to prepare the game and how to make it interesting for the players fits onto two pages. It's solid stuff about pacing the game, gathering player input and being a fan of the characters while still providing good challenges. The round-robin-character of scene framing makes a profound game preparation impossible. The author suggests using the adventure seeds of the setting packs and some of the fleshed-out adversaries. He stresses the need for a suitable gaming space so everyone can talk freely.

Setting Pack "Dragon Tooth Mountains"

The setting is a high Fantasy setting in the North. So there are tribal mountain people, a queen and her goblin horde, animal spirits and dragons. Kudos to Neil Gow for providing example heroes - something that's missing from many games and which I always hate as it means that you can't easily pick up the game. Next is some blurb about the different factions with fleshed-out example threats. These range from human NPCs to hell spawn minions and mountain giants - great stuff. The setting pack concludes with five adventure seeds like an awakening dragon or the death of the king of the mountain tribe. While I'm not too excited about the fairly standard background I like the fact that you get a whole slew of NPCs, monsters, factions and adventure seeds. Some of the monsters are pretty epic and will make your players feel like legends.

My thoughts on ERA ERA sets out to be a quick storytelling game for a small group of two or three players. In my book, the game has surely achieved its goal. Although there are not many rules I wouldn't call the game rules-lite. The rules enforce a certain type of game play and can't be ignored without significantly changing the game. The structured approach to the narration provides a good framework for a short game play session. You need to like meta-game-elements and scene framing from a player's side. It can get a bit kinky due to the separation between intent, conflict and declaration. This is not a game for everyone but if it falls into your niche it's simply brilliant. If you like Mouse Guard but it was too complex for a pick-up-game you must take a look at ERA. For me, it makes some things right which I didn't like with Mouse Guard (i.e. the fact that you needed to decide your approach in a conflict beforehand).

The game is pretty versatile and while the first two setting packs (Dragon Tooth Mountain which is included in the rulebook and Caliphport which you can buy separately) focus on fantasy ERA is by no means restricted to this genre. I know that there is a super setting pack in planning. Per default ERA maps nicely to games with a power element, may it be magic, psi or supers. For all that, I can imagine a modern game without paranormal elements as well.

Things I wish for: I found some sections hard to grasp. I would like to see more examples and/or some clearer wording. Examples include the dice allocation to the three phases when you have more then three scores, wounds made by NPCs ("they do not roll and simply match their score against the table below" - which score?) and healing wounds when you have received them in a immediate preceding declaration. I really wish for more clarification on creating the opposition. Also: digital bookmarks, please. I know that the author will address the first in an upcoming errata.

Things I would like to see in the future:

Clearer guidelines on creating adversaries: see above. Re-skin it to your pleasure: a monster/NPC bestiary for re-skinning it to your own game/setting (Neil Gow has hinted that he plans to do this) Expanding the game: ERA is balanced towards 1-1 (or 1-2) but can you play it with more players? Should you? How? Zooming in: one GM and one player - can't you do away with the GM and play it purely solo? (I played a solo session and it's a bit kinky owing to the fact that writing down the conflict phases takes much longer than narrating it in normal mode) A matter of scale: the default assumption is that the PCs are legends who can take on dragons and gods - but what if you want to have a more gritty game where the best you can hope for is driving away the dragon for killing it is impossible? I wanna play Space cowboys in a Far Future!: tips on how to convert existing settings to ERA. Converting characters shouldn't be too hard - I would just build them from scratch using the adjusted ERA core rules. More Space cowboys: more published settings for the future (they will come, check out patreon if you want to support the project) To put it in a nutshell

ERA Epic Storytelling Game is one of the games which excite me a lot. I have some minor problems with some of the explanations (see above) but nothing which breaks the game. ERA perfectly fits down my alley as I like narrative games with a structured conflict resolution (in contrast to task resolution). The best of all: the game is Pay what You want! That means that you can get this little gem for as much as you want (yes, free is an option, too but I think it's worth more than that).

--- review from my blog:

[5 of 5 Stars!]
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Luke G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/13/2013 05:21:24

This is a very fun game that is just about the perfect game for a quick run of fun with a limited number of players for an hour or two. I picked up two friends and we did a quickie space opera game in which the characters took on bounty-hunters, psi-storms and out-of-control experimental space-stations filled with random telekinetic discharges, animated corpses and malfunctioning robots. We took a little time to set the general setting and then walked through character generation followed by a quick game.

It's not a game really built for a sustained, long-term campaign, but it is wonderful for a situation where you have a couple of friends and you're looking for something to do. During the course of the game I thought of a lot of situations that you could use the system to recreate. I'd certainly be willing for my own settings to be used in this game.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
ERA: Epic Storytelling Game
by Benoit L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/10/2013 17:40:43

Nathan made a detailed review, so I will just say that for me Era kept its promises: it's short, complete, it works without asking the author about some unclear phrasing, and the cycle was finished, we wanted to start another one.

We used a mythic china background, and I improvised difficulties easily, even if I didn't have a setting pack for this.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Duty & Honour
by Andrew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2010 03:27:17

I teach History at a school in New Zealand. A number of my students play Duty and Honour after class during the lunch hours and absolutely love it. The system is simple and elegant. The narrative freedom means everyone is a part of the game. The setting is exciting and cleverly emulated by the mechanics. One of the best collaborative military games you will buy. And Beat to Quarters is even better. My students hope that the developers will revisit the Duty and Honour extended skirmish section to make it as cool as the ship to ship battles in BtQ. But, what is already here is excellent.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Duty & Honour
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Duty & Honour Almanac #1
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2009 06:17:49

The first article is called 'The Enemy Within' and looks at the sort of people who may be your opposition in Personal - as opposed to Military - Missions. These might well be people you normally fight beside, but who are your rivals for promotion or a beautiful woman. Four are presented here: a bullying sergeant, an officer whose leadership takes many to their deaths, a female spy one of whose main tactics is seduction and a religious fanatic. As well as a full character write-up, there's plenty of detail on how to infiltrate them as recurrent characters in your game, at first minor irritants but revealing more of their nature until the characters themselves see the danger they pose and take measures against them.

The other piece in this issue concerns the use of newspaper reports. Although it was not until the Crimea War (1854-6) that true battlefield reporting developed, it was customary in Napoleonic times for the reports sent home by military (and naval) commanders to be published for public consumption. Online archives can provide both a fertile ground for ideas for your game and - especially if your game uses historical battles and events - a source of some excellent handouts and props. Naturally, the news is not confined to matters military so other events in your characters' lives - particularly the ones they might prefer to keep private - can also feature. For example, many young officers took a keen interest in politics with an eye to a future in Parliament, some being sons of the nobility with the expectation of a seat in the House of Lords one day, others looking to seek election to the Commons.

A good few excellent ideas for your Duty & Honour game crammed into a few pages. And it's free!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Duty & Honour Almanac #1
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Duty & Honour
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/26/2009 12:27:23

The book launches straight in to an evocative and sensational description of the state of Europe in 1810, with most of it in Napoleon's hands save the Duke of Wellington's foothold in Portugal. After the brief obligatory note about what a role-playing game is, there is a more detailed and personal view from a retired General of the Scots Foot Guards, incongruously illustrated with a picture of Admiral Lord Nelson. A contrasting view comes from a French colonel, a cavalryman by the portrait.

Introduction and scene-setting done, attention turns to character creation. A character is described by Measures (his Guts, Discipline, Influence and Charm), Reputations, Skills, Experiences, Regiment, Traits and Wealth. The idea is that all characters in a game will come from the same regiment, and they'll define it as character creation progresses. The whole of character creation is built on developing the character's backstory, with such as his Measures, Reputations and Skills being based on what he's been up to even before the game begins. It all seems rather vague but can be a powerful tool to build a character with a rich history who is not just a creation for the purposes of the game but an individual in his own right. There are some interesting suggestions on how to get a good balance of ranks amongst your players: as ever with a military-based role-playing game you are looking for a way to allow all characters an equal chance of the spotlight while operating within what, in reality, is a very hierarchical system. There is a lot of detail here, and it is not something to be rushed but an integral part of the game itself. A few random elements are added with the use of playing cards, but mostly it relies on the collaborative use of the participants' imaginations.

Characters done, and with some splendid examples to give you ideas, we move on to task resolution. There are different levels, depending on how pivotal to the storyline success - or failure - will be. It may be obvious when a test is needed, but the GM can decide - along with a warning to NOT use one if a failure would create too much of a roadblock to the adventure. That's not to say that characters will always succeed at everything they do, often the fun comes in thinking your way around problems, but if you just cannot proceed without managing this task, it makes for better storytelling if it is, well, managed! First, state what you want to accomplish. Next, see what skills, traits and special equipment you have available to help... and any factors which may hinder, like being wounded or having to work in the dark. That gives you the total number of playing cards at your disposal. The GM then draws a card, which is the 'card of fate' that you have to draw against. If the cards you draw are neither the same suit or number, you fail; if it's the same card it's a perfect success and a joker can be used as any card you like! Successes and failures mount up until you've drawn the appropriate number of cards, then you find out what happened with whatever it was you were trying to do. Rules for damage and healing follow, with the interesting twist that combat isn't the only thing that can damage you - gambling may damage your wealth or dishonourable behaviour your reputation!

The next chapter looks at Wealth and Equipment. While a soldier gets issued most of his kit, they are great scavengers; while officers are expected to spend their own money to cut a fine appearance. To abstract things somewhat - who wants to have to account for every farthing? - a test may be made against your Wealth for any special item you wish to purchase, or of course more nefarious activities may be played out to, ahem, acquire the thing you're after!

Next comes the real meat and drink of the game: Missions and Challenges. Missions are set by the GM in the main, but can be character-led, and are the things that you do in order to tell the story of your character's life in the army (and oft-times, what else he does that he may even hope his regiment never hears about!). A simple mechanistic system is presented breaking down the mission into several challenges which must be overcome to accomplish that mission. Naturally, the players - let alone their characters - may not know what these are at the outset. Both the reward for success and the penalty for failure are also listed along with any deadline, such as if you fail four challenges you fail the whole thing. Now as well as the obvious - the military mission the whole group are engaged in - a character can have a personal mission of his own (maybe he's trying to attract the attention of a young lady, or break in a new horse), and he may also have a special promotion mission as well. While the characters may not know the precise challenges they'll have to face, a collaborative approach is suggested where the players and GM arrive at some idea of what they might be - rivals in love turning up at inopportune moments, a wagon of muskets getting into difficulty crossing a ravine or even a French raiding party showing up to harass the troops - which runs the risk of it becoming TOO mechanical, with little real role-playing and stories developing purely through out-of-character discussion and card drawings.

On to challenges, those pivotal events that mean success or failure. Combat is very abstracted, with an entire fight being resolved by one draw of the cards. While a combat will often be at least one of your mission challenges, it is what you do to get there and how you deal with the aftermath that is more interesting than the actual brawl itself. The number of cards you have to draw upon mostly depends on the weapon you are using, there are no specific combat skills although you can take appropriate traits if you really want to be a flashing blade or a deadly shot with a pistol. Well, that's a one-on-one brawl, but in military action it is often squad against squad or even larger numbers, so a separate set of rules for determining what happens in a skirmish are provided. Whoever is senior determines tactics and assigns tasks to everyone else, those tasks are resolved and that decides the result of the entire skirmish. Thus everyone has something to do but a mass battle does not take an entire evening to play out.

The matter of promotion is then addressed. Officers, of course, can purchase their way up the ranks, while everyone can hope to fill dead men's shoes or be promoted for some outstanding act of valour (remember, gallantry medals hadn't been invented yet so it's about the only reward available to a commander). While you can just play things as they come - especially for promotions for valour - you can use the mission system to see when a character is ready for promotion due to such things as number of military missions completed successfully (tenure), nominating an act you think ought to be noticed and completing a challenge to see if it has been, or amassing enough wealth to purchase the next rank. Of course, there needs to be a vacancy as well, and the whole thing can be quite drawn out.

Next comes a look at the sorts of missions suitable for the characters, and how to plan them. Normally this would be up to the GM, but this ruleset proposes a high level of out-of-character involvement for the players in the planning and design of missions. There are lots of different things to do, whether you stick with Wellington's campaigns or venture further afield. Then comes some ideas of running the game to effect, both as a collaboration and in terms of what the GM needs to do... and close the session with three cheers for the King! (Literally, if you so please. It all adds to the flavour.)

Things round off with some background to the life and times of the Napoleonic Age, especially as it relates to the military. Although this will give ideas, it's worth delving deeper, as with all historical games, whether you stick with novels and movies set in the appropriate period or actually get to grips with the history. There are also some pregenerated characters who'll make good NPCs, a bibliography, and appendices on the organisation of the British Army of the time, tactics, real regimental titles and even suitable names of the period.

Overall, this is a fascinating approach to a difficult setting - a real historical military game. It manages to find ways to create genuine role-playing opportunities, looks at how to involve everyone and doesn't get bogged down in lengthy combats. Missions run the risk of being a bit mechanistic, but with care the story and role-playing should win out. A truly original game!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Duty & Honour
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Collective Endeavour Journal #1
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2008 17:48:47

High-quality material for a number of very interesting games - or, in fact, for any modern or post-apocalyptic system you're running. It's remarkable to see something as good as this available for only the time it takes to read through.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Collective Endeavour Journal #1
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Collective Endeavour Journal #1
by Indy P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2008 17:54:33

A very polished, professional and useful compendium of articles about games from the Collective Endeavour. And while it is indeed free to download, this is one PDF I would quite happily have shelled out some cash for.

Sporting articles ranging across genres as diverse as the Napoleonic Wars (Duelling in Duty & Honour) and a Cold War escalation that Never Quite Was (two Hot War articles); and in tone from the serious (er, gonzo grunts in 3:16) to the absurd-in-a-good-way (a Toy Soldiers riff for Contenders), the Journal just oozes quality and enthusiasm. The CE stable have really set the bar quite high with this release: I'd like to see more games companies doing stuff like this. I look forward to the second issue.

(Finally, I feel I must add that the monster pics on pages 33-38 are quite chilling. You've been warned!)

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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