Originally Posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/10/10/tabletop-review-clockwork-chivalry-divers-sundry/
What Is It?
A collection of miscellaneous material for the Clockwork & Chivalry roleplaying game.
Divers & Sundry lives up to its name. I’m used to game lines producing secondary general sourcebooks- Player Guides or Storyteller Handbooks. I expect new character options, equipment, magic and maneuvers for players and, for the gamemaster, world background, enemies, rules options and campaign frameworks. Instead, Divers and Sundry collects together an unrelated assortment of material for Clockwork & Chivalry campaigns, some of it published previously in Signs & Portents or in the adventure Thou Shalt Not Suffer, but much of it new. That’s an interesting choice; the only other books for the line besides the core book has been the linked modules of the “Kingdom & Commonwealth Campaign”. While D&S offers some unique material, this volume as a whole feels tacked together.
The Book Itself
Divers & Sundry has five chapters, plus a brief appendix. At a 180 pages, this is substantial supplement. However it falls into the trap of many of these books- combining player and GM material. That isn’t a problem for the GM, but for the player it means that a little under half of the book isn’t really useful. Some will be out of bounds; the last third presents “…a number of tales…set forth only for the eyes of the Master of the Gaming table.” In an era of pdf distribution, there ought to be an option available to buy a reduced player’s version. I understand wanting to fill out the page count to make an attractive product, but combining this material makes it less useful for both halves of a group. I suspect GM’s will copy the early pages or lend their book to players.
D&S has the same simple, clean and useful text design as the original core book. It doesn’t wow you, but it is easy to read and locate information. It can get a little dense when presenting stats and numbers, but it usually works. Unlike the main book, Divers & Sundry has no index. That would have been useful given the varied material – at the very least a more detailed table of contents would have been nice. The illustrations here fit with the period and design- and are consistent throughout. In short it is a decent and good looking book.
This chapter will be the most useful to C&C players. It opens with seven new Professions. Since professions offer only modest mechanical differences (skill bonuses and advanced skills) most of the material here focuses on background. The authors do a good job presenting the place and worldview of these roles. Three of them focus on the criminal side of life in C&C England: Ruffian, Rook, and Highwayman. These last two can come from any social class- offering very different approaches for the same profession. Three of the professions- Cunning Man/Wise Woman, Devil’s Horseman, and Witch/Warlock fit with the Witchcraft rules given later in the chapter. The Iconoclast, a man with a hammer and a faith, rounds out the set. Oddly, the text suggests some of the professions are specific to Scotland (covered in a later chapter) but only one actually fits that bill. The choices expand nicely those available in the core book, but will require GM approval to make sure they fit with the campaign. I imagine any of the Witchcraft-based professions being both cool and a potential problem in play.
Seven new factions follow- some more or less playable. The Adamites, for example, believe in nudity, dissolving law, the absence of sin and marriage as an unnatural institution. That radical an outlook could be a major group disruption. Likewise two of the factions relate to Witchcraft- Satanists and the Horseman’s Word- offering additional depth to the professions mentioned earlier. All three will make interesting NPC groups and opponents or for a very strange campaign. Two factions come from Scotland: Clans and Covenanters. The tensions between England and Scotland on a number of fronts make these a challenging background. Two religious factions, Deist and Friends of Truth, round out the selections. As with the professions, the material here offers both game options and new insights on the C&C setting.
The chapter ends with twelve pages on Witchcraft. The material here mixes a more modern take on the idea with conceptions from the ECW era. Witches come in three flavors- Satanic Cultists, Satanic Witches and Unaligned Witches. These last two offer more power, but require the character to renounce God and so on. While rules and options for handling these two appear, they feel much more like NPCs. The book, however, does not explicitly make those distinctions. Actually, I’m a little surprised that D&S doesn’t take the time to talk about the considerations for a GM working these kinds of characters into a campaign. It does from a practical level- suggesting that if a GM has a Witch in the party, they need to offer opportunities for the players to learn spells. But a discussion of the possible strains these choices may place upon a party, and how a GM might deal with those, is notably absent.
I suspect most players who wish to take advantage of these rules will choose the Unaligned Witch track. Here the player has some knowledge and access to spells, but not to more potent magics or the new Manipulation skill. Witchcraft follows the Sorcery rules from Runequest II with a few differences. Unlike C&C Alchemists, Witches pay no Magick Points for casting spells. The limiting factor here is time, ritual and the need for ingredients. Witches have access to 29 spells modified from Runequest II, plus ten new ones presented here. The rules seem fairly easy and comprehensive. It should be noted that these materials appeared previously in the Thou Shalt Not Suffer adventure and it’s unclear how much this version differs.
Arms and Armies
While the original core book offered some equipment lists, D&S ups the ante- beginning with thirteen pages describing the arms and armor of the ECW period. Most of the material offers color, rather than rules. Many items do get a few additional mechanical notes, but most describe the items and their use in the setting. Basic illustrations complement many items. The arms tables only cover the details of the new weapons, even though others are discussed. If your players enjoy the crunch of weapons and outfitting then they’ll like this section. Oddly chapter sticks to historical pieces and equipment, with a few mentions of more fantastic uses. For example, the classic ammunition bandolier gets repurposed for potions. But I expected more clockwork or alchemical devices here- utilizing the unique nature of the setting.
The next section delves a little into that, as it looks at all of the armies of the period. The first part presents various kinds of “common soldiery” from Dragoons to Harqubusiers, Musketeers to Pikemen. D&S gives covers the role and mechanics of these seven professions. Each can be used to replace the standard Solder profession from the core book- with distinct Common and Advanced Skill details. Next, the material covers Specialist troops in the same fashion. Some of these have real world analogues (Artillery Gunner, Matross, Chirurgeon, Chirurgeon’s Assistant, Engineer, Musician, Pioneer, and Sharpshooter). But they also offer roles unique to the setting (Battle Alchemist, Clockwork Dragoon & Soldier, and War Machinist). The section wraps up with a look at foreign armies, and nine different professions from those (Highland Skirmisher, Hussar, Reiter and so on). For GMs focusing on a more military campaign, all of this could be useful. Military history buff players may enjoy the expanded variety of solider options. But I suspect the material given- despite its depth- will only be really useful for a narrow set of campaigns.
The chapter ends with a look at sieges- a common occurrence during the period. There’s a nice discussion of the general techniques of crafting a siege. A GM can draw some interesting ideas for how players might interact with a besieged city, either trying to escape or break in. Other real world details- such as conditions in a siege, how negotiations are handled and the rules of conduct get covered. It also presents a few ideas on how Clockwork and Alchemy might change the nature of a siege. Finally it wraps up with some specific ideas for GMs on siege-based adventures, including random siege events. I like this last part especially- I would like to see more of this kind of discussion. C&C could benefit from stopping off from time to time to offer the GM advice on how to integrate the deep background it presents with actual play at the table.
Scotland received only a light gloss over in the core book- unusual given the Scot’s role in inciting and reigniting the English Civil Wars. It’s difficult to overestimate their importance. D&S aims to rectify that oversight with this sixteen page chapter (complimented by earlier Scottish-related professions, factions and army discussions). Scotland offers a distinct and dangerous place. While relatively close by, the religious and cultural differences mean a border crossing into an uncertain land. The chapter details the most recent history of the Scottish people- including the important figures of Mary Queen of Scotts and James VI. A little over half this chapter covers history, political structures and highly-placed persons.
The chapter only briefly discusses why a party might go to Scotland. It’s a great setting, but the authors could have talked more about different campaign types and how to make a Scottish episode work. Four brief sections cover the regions of Scotland- each with a d6 worth of random encounter seeds for the areas. While I’m glad to see Scotland fleshed out for C&C, it’s a missed opportunity. I would like to see more playable material and help for the GM. The section mixes together player and GM material. If someone wants to play a Scot, the GM will want to have them read this, but will also have to remove or not use the random area encounters. Overall this chapter, in combination with the earlier material, could be used to run a foray into Scotland, but won’t be as helpful for a long arc or campaign set there.
This chapter presents 29 random tables, broken into eight groups. They’re a nice set of GM inspirations and aids. Some are more useful than others. The Wandering NPC Encounters, for example, could be used to come up with an incident on the fly. Likewise, the Inn Tables offer the fun of both a “Foul and Lewd Inn Name” and a “Sensible Inn Name” table. Some of the sections, such as the Farm, Inn, Town and Manor tables, offer adventure seeds. I would have preferred some lists with some more fleshed out material and ideas, but the tables will assist pick up play.
Adventures and Appendix
Divers & Sundry closes with a set of three adventures, one useful as a light introduction and the other two offering more depth. “The Naked and the Dead” presents players with a mystery and a dangerous monster hunt. It has some nice twists and could be easily fit into most campaigns. “The Dragon of Naseby” is a convention scenario, complete with pre-made characters with their own secrets related to the adventure. GM’s looking for a good one-shot to try out the setting will like this. It ties into the key event in the C&C history, the Battle of Naseby, and offers encounters with both the Clockwork and magic. Finally “The Mad Monk of the Moss” is written for Royalist adventurers. It is fairly straightforward and the ideas could be reworked for other campaigns. This adventure also comes with pre-made characters, although not tied to the specifics of the adventure. The book ends with six additional pre-generated characters, to give GMs some options for pick-up games.
I’m not completely sold on the idea of bundling all of this material together. There’s a great deal to like in D&S, especially for gamemasters. It adds rich material for a couple of narrow niches- armies and Scotland. Much of book hews close to the real world. It could be easily mistaken for a game about a non-fantastical ECW. Readers expecting or hoping for expansions to clockwork or alchemy will be disappointed. That’s not a knock at the book- but at my own expectations for a sourcebook like this. There’s great stuff here, but it feels like a series of pdfs tacked together.
While the book’s aimed at GMs, with random event tables and adventures, it really isn’t a GM’s companion. That would offer more advice on framing a campaign, kinds of adventures, and keys for selling the game to a group. You do get some fascinating historical detail here, but the GMs will have to work to shape that for players. As much as anything, Divers & Sundry feels like an old-school rpg annual. Given that Cakebread & Walton will be redoing C&C next month with the Renaissance system, I’ll be curious how they’ll approach the material from D&S. Will some of it be folded into the main book? Or will it be reissued as is? I think there’s a great opportunity for the authors to split this into two books and expand both, to create stronger separate player and GM sourcebooks.
If you’ve already decided to use C&C with another system, covering the material of D&S should be easy. The Witchcraft rules might take some tweaking for balance. In the other direction, I’d say there’s not so much to be borrowed from D&S for other campaigns, unless you’re running one set in or around this era.