The John Carter of Mars RPG comes out at a time when there is a great demand for games with laser-focused mechanics that know exactly what kind of experience they aim to deliver. While built upon the existing 2d20 framework, the team was able to craft a quick, punchy, and perhaps most important: authentic John Carter experience with this game.
Layout and Artwork
John Carter of Mars is published in a non-standard landscape format that works well for such a cinematic game. I imagine that the physical format of these books is impressive as heck, and I eagerly await the copies I ordered a few weeks back.
The artwork is beautiful, and portrayal of the Red Martians is tasteful as opposed to other portrayals of their clothing in other materials. I’m honestly relieved as I’ve had the hardest time getting my wife interested when all she gets in Google Image search are pinup artwork of Dejah Thoris in exceptionally revealing attire.
Also cheers for Francesca Baerald’s gorgeous character sheets! There is no excuse to not use the colored versions.
Not only do the game mechanics read well, they deliver the power-levels expected of these larger-than-life heroes, for which death defying adventures are the norm. Paired with design choices that highlight these, (like the lack of cover rules) the players are guided both mechanically and thematically towards the genre it was meant to run.
The game also handles the potentially problematic elements of the game with surprising grace, framing John Carter’s adventures and characters in a way that makes sense in a day and age where we’re more aware of issues such as sexism and racism, without detracting in any way from the source material.
For fans of the setting, the RPG also delivers on the depth of analysis that discusses the social norms and cultures of the various societies in Barsoom in a way that rings true. There’s never this sense that the designers just built the rules and left you the hard work of world building or baking in the feel of the game.
Fast, fun, but backed with a solid framework of the 2d20 mechanics, John Carter of Mars the Roleplaying Game is one of those games that reaches out and seizes the GM’s imagination, demanding to be played.
Much like it’s titular hero, the game cuts down any and all opposition that gets in the way of the primary goal of being able to play a fun, swashbuckling adventure game. Streamlined mechanics, and a focus on Renown as a means of denoting advancement leaves player characters less worried about survival and has them looking forward to the next dire peril that the GM will throw at them next.
GMs, on the other hand, are given the keys to the kingdom, with an entire toolkit for making Sword and Planet adventures, and the means to run them right with confidence.
Overall, John Carter of Mars the Roleplaying Game is a must have for fans of the setting, and for those who are looking for something new, but with solid depth to its setting.
[5 of 5 Stars!]