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Arrows Of Indra $9.99
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Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/08/2014 02:56:05

Recently, a controversy about the consultants for Fifth Edition D&D reminded me of a guy who I hadn't thought about in a long time, "RPGPundit", the author of this work. I eventually worked out with searches and so on that someone associated with his publisher had come onto story hyphen games dot com, a forum I post on, and suggested that we buy RPGPundit's products because story gamers might like them.

He didn't quite see why the author believing that people that post on story hyphen games dot com were "swine" intentionally trying to destroy RPGs might affect our thinking on whether to buy his game. After all, if the game was good, why should it matter that the author considers us saboteurs and infiltrators? Couldn't we, logically, gain our greatest revenge by playing his game and enjoying it? And anyhow, haven't we, in this grand postmodern world, fully acquiesced to the "death of the author" school of criticizing texts, which posits that the author's intentions are of only glancing relevance to a text's quality?

On reflection, I had to consider this attitude capitalistic in the most admirable sense of the word. As the atheist Bible salesman said, "If you rubes are buyin', I'm sellin'!" Well, shucks, when you put it that way, mister, I'm buyin'! (Technically I got a copy free for being a Featured Reviewer, but you all knew that. You all did know that, right?) So let's talk about Arrows of Indra.

Arrows of Indra says it's an Old School Fantasy game in an "Epic Indian Fantasy World". Now, I've read some pretty epic fantasy stories from India, the Mahabarata and so on, but I don't have a lot of expertise in the area, so my analysis will be strictly from the position of the setting's playability and the stories that can come from it. Someone else will have to weigh in as an India expert to say if the game reflects the world well, or appropriately, not me.

As I mentioned in another review (Hulks & Horrors), "Old School" tends to leave me cold as a too-broad statement that encompasses too many approaches to give me a solid idea of what it's about. In fact, that's one of the main weaknesses of Arrows of Indra, it occurs on the first full page of text - it says that it's not going to try to tell me how to play.

Normally I leave "what could be improved" to the end of my review (trusting that nobody of sound mind would ever read to the end and therefore leaving readers with an unalloyed positive impression) but since this flaw is literally right up front, I think I should mention it now. This game does not present a clear picture of the role of the GM and the role of the players in the game. It doesn't indicate an objective for either of those roles. I don't think the roles necessarily need to be "defined", since yes, I do know that in an "old school" game the players say what their characters do and the GM says what happens. But I do need to know by what principles I should GM or play this game. Vampire: the Masquerade, for example, urged GMs to create Themes and Tones to help organize their game, and take careful charge of the initial situation of the characters in order to launch them on their way. Champions comes with extensive advice and even mechanics to help me realize the world of superheroes and villains. I get that people don't want to write what a GM does for the thousandth time. But what players are told to do really does matter to how the game is played; if the game is meant to be flexible, then exactly how it is flexible and how to make a decision to "flex" is very relevant to player experience.

This is probably the biggest flaw in Arrows of Indra. If a second edition were to be released, I would highly recommend more detailed descriptions and tools for players (including GMs) to make decisions about how to play the game in an enjoyable fashion.

Anyway, the introduction also reassures us that we won't need to know that much and that what's presented is not in any way considered a reflection of real religious beliefs or a description of an actual caste system. (Someday I would like someone to straight up say "this RPG contains a reflection of my personal view of this religion/political system" and see how that goes, but today's not that day.) I am surprised to find there's no "bibliography" in the game to help me develop my game further. Especially in a game based on a real-world culture and myths, I definitely would like to know where the designer feels I should go for targeted inspiration.

The character creation system includes the normal array of attributes ("4d6 drop lowest?!?! How old school can this really be?!!? flips table"), before delving into the caste features and, interestingly, a family background generator. The cool thing about the family background generator is that it contains a simple overview of what the player character can expect to inherit and when. In tons of fantasy stories and fables, inheritances play a huge role, and it's often overlooked.

Although I was being jokey about the 4d6 thing, I actually think the caste and family background generators take this game away from the "old school" experience as I've normally seen it explained. It's hard to take on the principle of disposable low-level characters when I've taken the time to generate my siblings, parents, and their social situation. That seems to me to be a more story-based approach, like the background questions in White Wolf games or lifepath generators in Cyberpunk or FATE. All in all, so far this seems like a pretty solid story-based character generation system for a fantasy adventure game.

And thank the heavens there's two pages of names. If you aren't at least a little embarrassed by the proliferation of "$1 for a list of names!" products here (and yes, I've bought and used them), then maybe you haven't clicked around the site that much. If you've got a game and you've got a culture in that game that I can't get names from the local phone book, then maybe a couple of pages of names would help. Stories are only as good as the characters in them, and if the name of a character is way off, the story is way off.

Character class selection is next. There are some things about it I quite like, other decisions are more questionable. It is possible, for example, though unlikely, for a character to not qualify for any of the character classes. (This could be fixed by altering the rule about when a player may discard a character in the ability score section: instead of handling it by a sum of the ability score bonuses and making it optional, make it mandatory and tie it to the character creation requirements.) I know that in certain "old school" games, character balance is something to be avoided rather than pursued, but it does seem rather extreme that a player who rolled random ability scores will not only gain the bonuses associated with those scores, have access to better character classes, but might even get a bonus to their XP if they got lucky enough. This doesn't seem like a good way to test player skill, to make so much ride on the random rolls at the beginning of the game. Again, some guidance on how players (including GMs) should approach in-play decisions would be very helpful to understanding the characters classes' strengths and weaknesses in various situations in their story.

I would say the best thing about the character classes is that they really make me want to play them, especially when paired with the next section.

One thing I've liked about many "old school" games I've seen is that they lack skills, or have a much-truncated skill system. As a guy who calculated half-point skills in GURPS and rubbed his forehead working out where to put an NPC's skill points in D&D3, just having characters DO things is just fine by me. However, when playing a character in a world that's very different from our own, it does help to have an idea for "what can I do in this situation". Arrows of Indra does what very few have done - it just makes the selection of skills random. You just roll on a chart and boom, that's what your character knows how to do. Interestingly, the magical effects that some of the characters can perform are also selected randomly. I love this approach, it fits right in with the quick-chargen ethos of the game. You buy your equipment and get going.

As I mentioned earlier, the "Game Master Procedures" section is more concerned with giving the mechanics of the game than in describing how you should apply those mechanics and how you should generate the situations those mechanics occupy. Task resolution adds a d20 to an ability score, with bonuses and penalties.

The same vagueness that I mentioned above infects the XP rules, though. Characters get experience for the value of the treasure they obtain and sell, not for what they hang onto or give away. (You can optionally give out some XP for "grand gesture" gifts.) This doesn't seem to fit the purpose of treasure in the fantastic India stories I've read. And it seems like it would provoke some decidedly un-Epic actions on the part of the characters. A GM may also grant XP for any reason they wish, but with no information on the specific principles of a GM in an Arrows of Indra game, I'm left with no information on what would be a good or bad reason to grant XP. This area of the rules, like the role of the players in general, needs to be fleshed out.

The surprise rules stand out as both clear and very effective. You are going to want to re-read these because they are going to be among the deadliest rules in the book. And they definitely are going to support some very wily moves by the players. (This is also in line with some of the Indian fantasy stories I've read too, the heroes there had no compunction about ambushing bad guys.)

Not knowing much about Indian myth and folklore, I hesitate to weigh in on the extensive Gazetteer section except to say that it seems like a fairly normal fantasy setting - villages and cities, wilderness and dangerous environs, and so on.

One half-step that I would like to see expanded into a full step is the description of gender roles in the world. It seems wishy-washy, saying that if a GM wants, they can permit a woman character to be free of their strict gender role and become an adventurer as in a normal party. I would prefer to see text that says bluntly that the social rules of the setting only apply to the characters insofar as the players desire - if a player wishes to be an exception to any in-fiction social rule, they should be supported in doing so by their fellow players.

There's an interesting description of a third gender role, a man who is raised and takes on the social role of a woman, and it said the opposite might be possible in your campaign as well. Again, I would like to see this area fleshed out and firmed up. Contrast for us a woman who does not conform to her social role (running away from home, learning how to shoot a bow, being real cool) and a woman who is accepted (or not) into another gender role. Still, it's a solid opening to these issues that a lot of other games don't even mention. Steps like this are vital for a game of this type, that is trying to bring us to a fantastic culture.

I love megadungeons and the Patala Underworld ties a megadungeon format to the setting's religion very tightly - the characters can literally descend to hell battling monsters and taking their treasure! That's pretty awesome. Although I appreciate the random room and monster generation tables - this is the only way to handle a megadungeon in this type of format - I do think that either they should have been greatly expanded (the chance that you'll come across the same type of magic spring more than once, for example, seems high) or, perhaps better, saved for a supplement. This would have undermined the author's goal of a one-book game from the introduction, but I think it could have better served the phantasmagorical and exciting material that I felt was over-compressed.

A monster guide and treasure and item list round out the game (the Gods and Religion section should properly be moved to the Gazetteer section). By this point it shouldn't be a surprise that the monsters are fun and you're gonna have fun interacting with them.

It has bookmarks and they're good. The character sheet, though attractive, is not very useful since more than 1/4 of it is taken up with ability scores and bonuses. It would make more sense to have more room for skill descriptions since some of those introduce new mechanics specific to your character.

All in all, Arrows of Indra creates an interesting fantasy culture and situates its adventurers in it much more firmly than the typical "old school" game. It contains all the elements of a great story game: a GM to set up a situation, players to play out their characters' actions in that situation, and the GM works out the consequences with the systems the game provides. It even puts in moral values and questions via the Holy/Unholy alignment system, reflecting favor or disfavor with the gods. It is flexible enough to handle political stories (so long as someone gets stabbed), wilderness stories, and even, with the literal descent to hell, mythic stories. As a story game, Arrows of Indra definitely delivers. (Since I already went over how it could be improved, I won't do that again like I normally do.)

As someone who the author believes to be working as hard as I can to destroy RPGs, it's impossible for me to decide if Arrows of Indra meets its goals. Am I the target audience? Surely not, surely this game was created specifically to repulse me and all swine like me. In that case, the game was a failure since I quite liked it. Perhaps its goal was to force me to play in a way that I would dislike, thereby driving me from the table. But it failed there too - if anything, it's not firm enough in its vision of what the players of the game should be doing. Hm.

Instead, let me take on that 'death of the author' postmodern capitalist attitude - let me flip through the atheist salesman's Bible.

If I separate the text from the author completely and just look at whether it appeals to me, a modern story-loving gamer, there's no way I can say it doesn't. It presents a compelling world, has cool ideas, sets them up for quick entry, and executes them efficiently. This is a world ripe for stories of adventure, loyalty and family in a culture I want to explore and experience.

Maybe you don't appreciate being called a swine and you don't want to buy a RPG by a guy who thinks you're attempting to destroy RPGs. That's understandable. Of course in a corporatist world we are all compromised and the only proper attitude towards anyone we buy things from is unreserved hostility and suspicion, as the pressure of money corrupts all human...wait, didn't I start this review praising capitalism? I think I better sign off before I make things worse. You can make up your own mind at this point, surely.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Levy K.
Date Added: 07/18/2014 14:24:14

I am going to give it a five because this is not only a sound OSR system, but the closest thing to India mythology I will ever get to in table top. Seriously this is the best one on the market that I know of. RPGPundit had taken great care with his work and it shows. It isn't your typical OSR game, but that is because it wants to do the setting right.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Chris M.
Date Added: 07/09/2014 16:02:41

I bought this product for 2 reasons.

1) I've always thought ancient Indian mythology would make an awesome gaming setting and "Arrows of Indra" does not disappoint. It's inspired me to go back and re-read parts of the India epics the "Mahabharata & Ramayana".

2) I wanted to show my financial and moral support for "The RPG Pundit" who authored this work. To let him know he's not alone in the gaming community in his disdain towards the SJW's (Social Justice Warriors) and Cultural Marxist who constantly attack him and seek to control discourse in the on-line RPG community. Keep on fighting the good fight Pundit.

First they came for the Simulationist Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Simulationist Gamer. Then they came for the Tactical Combat Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Tactical Combat Gamer. Then they came for the Old-School Gamers, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Old School Gamer. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

~ Gwarh



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Brian I.
Date Added: 03/30/2014 14:40:11

I bought this one in both print and digital formats, and feel I got my money's worth, easily. Overall, Arrows of Indra's an excellent entry into the OSR in a unique and fascinating way.

I definitely think the game is spot on for the author's design goals as I understand them. It's a pretty clean, self contained game with a lot of flavor that doesn't feel like (but does feel like) an early alt white box. A ton more grok-able (IMO, or for me more appropriately) than Tekumel (for instance) while having a similar sort of feel.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Thorin T.
Date Added: 03/18/2013 09:08:36

Arrows of Indra is one of the very few mythic India RPGs on the market today. In fact, the only other ones I know of are d20 supplement Sahasra and the upcoming mythic India game, Against the Dark Yogi. (Full disclosure: The author of this review is affiliated with this later game.)

Arrows of Indra sells itself as an Old School Renaissance (OSR) game set in ancient india. And that's exactly what it is, which in my opinion could be either a good or a bad thing, depending on what you're looking for in the game. The real distinction lies in whether you're looking for an India game foremost that happens to be OSR, or an OSR game that happens to be set in India.

Looking at the meat of the game, like many OSR games, Arrows of Indra is basically a recreation of 0e D&D with some of the kinks worked out. This includes a random cavern generator, random encounter tables where you can roll up encounters such as "Asura Demon, Class B," and random loot tables with D&D-style magic items and coins listed in gold, silver and copper pieces. All of these elements do a very good job of keeping with the old school D&D feel of the game.

Where the game falls flat is in emulating the sort of stories and feel found in Indian myth. A starting character in Arrows of Indra is very much a 1st level old school D&D character. They may have a fine and deadly time crawling through India-themed dungeons, but they're not going to be even remotely comparable to the characters featured in Vedic myths. And this will remain true even with many levels under their belts.

Another way in which Arrows of Indra fails to emulate Indian myth is when it comes to having rules to support some of the amazing feats performed by Indian heroes. Heroes in Vedic myth build bridges by shooting arrows, leap miles and rip up trees to use as improvised weapons. Nothing remotely on this level of power is supported in Arrows of Indra.

The OSR part of the design also shows up in the rules for siddhis (magic powers). These are represented in the game as special skills, that once purchased, may be used once per day in much the same way as D&D spells.

The classes in the game are basically the D&D classes with an Indian-themed veneer applied to them. The siddhi is the wizard, the thuggee is the assassin, the priest is the cleric, the fighter is the fighter, the thief is the thief, the yogi is the monk.

That said, Arrows of Indra does have a fairly extensive bestiary, featuring most of the creatures one would expect from an India-themed game, as well as a odd variety of D&D-esque monsters that made it into the game as well.

The writing for the game is clear, the editing is decent and the game also has a very crisp layout that is both simple and visually appealing. The cover art is very nice, but the interior art is… well… it's on par with 0e D&D art. That is to say it lacks the quality I am used to seeing in modern games, but perhaps it fits the OSR feel of the game well.

Overall, I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a specifically OSR game. I might recommend this game for someone looking for a specifically Indian game, but with some reservations on what to expect in terms of genre emulation.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Curt M.
Date Added: 03/12/2013 22:58:26

I come to this game both as a veteran tabletop rpger and as a practicing Vaishnava, so Arrows of Indra is effectively the closest thing game-wise to Green Ronin's famed Testament for me. The previous two reviews do a great job of summarizing the book. I particularly like the author's approach to the caste system and to "magic" in the game [totally not Vancian]. The yogi class doesn't work for me as written because it's basically the AD&D monk. Yogis in the source texts aren't combatants. I do really like the inclusion of celestial weapons, but though there is a charioteering skill, there are not chariot fighting rules, nor are there rules for the Vimanas, a real missed opportunity. There's really a lot to like here, but I have one major beef: Krishna is never discussed as human in the source texts. He's either identified as the original personality of Godhead or as the completely realized avatar of Vishnu. Rama, on the other hand, is Krishna-Vishnu playing as the perfect human being. Also Hanuman was never king of the vanaras. He was assistant to Sugriva. Thanks to the RPG Pundit for putting this out there. Good Gaming, and Hare Krishna!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Joseph B.
Date Added: 03/12/2013 12:13:49

Arrows of Indra, written by the RPGPundit and published by Bedrock Games, takes the "standard" 0E rules and uses them as the basis for a game of heroic action set in Vedic India. I confess I've been looking forward to this game since I first heard about it as an adjunct for my own Greyhawk campaign, and (full disclosure) was happy to receive a reviewer copy of the pdf.

Shortest version: I like this game so much that I'll happily plunk down the money for the hard copy version when it becomes available in a few weeks.

There's much here in terms of mechanics that players used to 0E or its descendants will find familiar; there are character classes (priest, priest-shaman, fighter, virakshatriya (a sort of paladin), scout (a sort of ranger), siddhi (magic-user), thief, thugee (assassin), and yogi), character races (the normal fantasy Europe races are not to be found, but we have barbarians, monkey-men, serpent-men, bird-men, and mountain-spirits) with nice bits of Vedic Indian folklore as their bases, and alignment (holy, neutral, and unholy). Nothing feels like a retread of the older material so much as a re-imagining of it because of the new mythological basis, and all is written in a very clear style.

There are new pieces to characters as well, the most significant being caste. It should be unsurprising that caste plays a large role in a game set in a mythological Indian setting, and there are both mechanical (dalits get +1 to CON and -1 to CHA, for instance) and in-game social impacts for each caste; brahmins run the risk of imperiling their family's status if they pursue a career as a warrior, for instance. The importance of family in the setting is strong, and rules for generating one's family are provided to give more background.

Combat is somewhat different than the 0E system, much more in line with modern sensibilities; the basic system is roll+modifiers must beat armor class to hit. There is an extensive section of skills which are linked to each character class; the magical effects of priests and siddhis are treated like the skills of any other class, which certainly makes for a quick, consistent, and easy system for new players.

There are the expected sections of monsters and magic items (both either taken from Indian mythology or Indian-ized versions of familiar D&D examples), but what really sets this work apart is the setting of The Bharata Kingdoms, which is a very gameified and mythologized version of ancient India. For someone like me, whose knowledge of this culture is extremely limited, the presentation of the setting was terrific, familiar enough that I could hang my hat on some things, while at the same time being exotic enough to have a very different feel from most fantasy campaigns. The sections on the Patala Underworld, a sort of cross between the underdark and outer planes, was especially thought-provoking. Rob Conley did the maps, which serve their purpose well and should be easy enough to use during play.

All this is accomplished with what was, for me anyway, just the right amount of foreign terminology and jargon. Too many settings seem to operate under the impression that all it takes to make an exotic setting is to use hundreds of weird names, but that ends up being nothing more than an exercise in frustration for all but the half-dozen die-hard fans who are willing to memorize the glossary. Arrows of Indra avoids that pitfall; a mace is still a mace.

All in all, this is a fantastic game, and it's a terrific introduction to a lively mythological setting that most people who are used to either Medieval Europe or China/Japan as their default fantasy setting would be well-served to explore.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arrows Of Indra
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Robert F. M.
Date Added: 03/11/2013 13:21:15

Once upon a time, a young DM of the old school bought a book called Deities & Demigods. Among its dizzying array of the mythos he expected and "knew" (Greek, Norse, Arthurian), there were also sections on ones he'd barely heard of. And his favorite of the Asian selections was the Indian mythos, with its many-armed gods and ascetic pacifists with real spiritual power. Wouldn't it be great, he mused, to make a campaign based on that?

Fast forward an embarrassing number of years, and the now-seasoned DM of many editions began to draw up notes for his very own homebrew Indian setting. He hit the interwebs searching for what others had done (because like any good DM, he is an inveterate cannibal), and lo, he stumbled upon Arrows Of Indra. It seemed to be everything he needed, complete with Indian races & classes, rules for caste systems, and even detailed benefits of "enlightenment."

The author of Arrows Of Indra states that his goal was to create an old-school roleplaying game based on Indian mythology that is at once exotic enough to be intriguing and familiar enough to be instantly recognizable to fans of old-school gaming. He meets the goal spectacularly.

The races are all interesting, and the classes seem to be re-skinned standard old school archetypes (the fighter, the thief, the scout, etc., are all here; the paladin is now called the virakshatriya, mages are sidhis, and so forth). This is the part that's instantly-recognizable, so much so that a reader could be forgiven for thinking at first that there's not much new here.

But read on past the char-gen and combat rules, and you get to the part where Arrows Of Indra really shines. There are some early hints in the skills section for priests and sidhis, and the enlightenment powers, and it all blossoms in the chapters on the Petala Underworld (talk about the ultimate mega-dungeon!), the Guide to the Bharata Kingdoms, and the Gods & Religion section. In these places, you really get the feel of Vedic India, and it's clear the author really knows his source material intimately. Everything a newbie needs to know about these subjects is located in one place, and there's no "homework" required.

I can to Arrows Of Indra hoping to find a source to cannibalize for my own campaign. I now find myself wanting to play the game as-is, or at least adapting its rules to my homebrew, rather than sticking to my standard of the last few years, and trying to cobble the setting together from multiple sourcebooks.

In all, Arrows Of Indra is an excellent product, and the perfect introduction to a mythology and culture than few RPGs have ever even tried to do right. Miss it at your own risk.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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