Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is the new diceless RPG from Rite Publishing. I was a backer of this game via Kickstarter and it has now come to fruition after being released on the 1st of December 2013.
Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is essentially Amber with a new setting. It has been called the "spiritual" successor to Amber which is something I can't really comment on. As much as I have wanted to play Amber I never actually got around to it. I can say that the new Rite Publishing game is right on the money though. I have often wondered how a dice-less system worked and I have to say that it works well!
The characters are made in a group setting and an attribute auction is held with every player having a set number of points to spend on these attributes. In game play the actuality is all actions are referred back to the attributes and in essence the highest wins (of course tactics and circumstance have a role to play). In essence, the system is elegant and streamlined. It is quick and painless and allows for a focus on story.
This game is a story tellers wet dream. For both the GM and the player it offers an open set of realms to play around with. This game is GURPS except you play with one character across as many settings as you want to! It is a version of Rifts or the TV series Sliders with much, much more powerful lead characters! The setting of Lords of Gossamer and Shadow is that of the Grand Stair which in essence is a realm that exists between realms! It is a stairwell that alters its appearance and structure throughout its entire length (not that anyone has found a top or a bottom to it) and the Lords and Ladies of Gossamer and Shadow travel its paths to enter realities that are connected by doorways.
A Lord/Lady of Gossamer is what the players are. They are beings capable of finding, and opening, the doors to different realities on the Grand Stair. They may only be new to the stair or have had the ability to traverse it for some time. They are an elite few among all of the realities and they see the forms of power that create the realities in the form of the Eidolon (structure and form in magic) or the Umbra (Chaos, destruction and wildness in magic). Players can draw from either aspect but generally a Lady of Gossamer is a follower of the Eidolon or Umbra whilst a Lady of Shadow would be something more sinister altogether.
The lords and ladies of shadow are a race of creatures known as the Dwimmerlaik who use a power separate to that of the Eidolon and Umbra. They war with the Lords as they see the Grand Stair as theirs and theirs alone. They had recently been thought but a myth by the travellers of the Grand Stair but have made attacks that cannot be explained away recently.
So, you have a meta-plot (the Lords of Gossamer vs. the Dwimmerlaik or Lords of Shadow) and you have a Grand Stair that has doors to an infinite number of realities. Realities with any setting and any genre to play with. Same characters for the players and an infinite number of realities. I can see why I love this game so much. I wander the internet and see so much good stuff going on and right here is a system I could use to represent it all, in one game! The book is beautifully written and is a great system for those of us who are story tellers at heart. It talks more about the way to weave a good story and tackles some big topics in its pages.
It is a game that focusses on players and their wants and needs. It seeks to generate conflict and drama for the players and may often even pit them against one another with crossing one players goals with another. The attribute auction from the very get go points to the possibility of this as the players compete against one another to develop their character. So although they may align and travel the Grand Stair together it is quite possible that they will end up at odds with one another in the long run.
The illustrated PDF that I have is lush and filled with full coloured gorgeous artwork with lead artist Jason Rainville . Most of these images focus on one individual giving a feel for them and the world they may come from. You feel like you know these characters immediately and the images help you overcome the initial shock of "so many genre choices" as they are laid out across many genre fields. You may laugh but when I read the rules as a straight pdf I was a little numb to how I would GM this game because of the immense scope of the realities! The artwork really helps me factor all this in to the game as a whole. The small game I did run all occurred on the Grand Stair so I could avoid putting it in a setting! The art is not on every page though and you will get runs of up to six or seven pages at a time where you will see no art at all.
This game will of course not be for everyone. I have had some very strong reactions when I have talked about the dice-less nature of the system and how it works. There are a large number of people that believe that what happens is purely up to the GM which is simply not true. I have had people say that you might as well have no character sheets at all and sit around a circle and tell a combined story. Again not true. I really wish that this game would appeal to everyone but if you are a player that must hold on to the random element or loves the tactile nature of dice and will feel lonely without them then perhaps this is not the game for you.
I do implore anyone though that has a slight interest in this system to give it a go. I love this game and its possibilities. I will eventually run a campaign with this game. It will not be immediately but it will happen. The beauty of the setting combined with the elegance of the rules is just fantastic. I am keen to build a story in this world that centres around the characters and their abilities. The book is beautifully presented and I can not wait to get my game provided by one of the developers that is on offer as part of my Kickstarter backer level.
This game is for me (and see above about dice-less systems that will cause some to turn away from this) a five out of five star game. It ticks every box for me and is written in a readable and interesting format. Once you get your head around the rules and the setting you will see the infinite possibilities that this game brings to your table. No more rolling!
[5 of 5 Stars!]