Saturday, September 8, 2012
Armchair Review: Gods of Gondwane
It's a great 46-page RPG that manages to convey a seemingly narrow, surprisingly large kitchen sink setting that opens itself up to many approaches for play for the GM and the Players. It's powered by the Vivid System, a smooth blend of simple rules that distill the best elements of the WaRP and Silhouette systems, with a little FATE mixed in.
I think it's a perfect candidate for a Kitchen Sink Expedition, and a nice ruleset that will afford a bit more detail to my original WaRP approach to Weird Adventures.
But first, let's tackle the setting of Gods of Gondwane.
"Over a hundred million years ago, the wisest of an ancient and incredibly advanced race looked into their future – and discovered their people were extinct."
That pushes the race in question (known by a precious few as the Shapers) time-napping from the future to find out why humans had supplanted them. They began pulling humans from different eras and locales, watched them build civilizations on the supercontinent of Gondwana (known to natives as Gondwane) to discover what secret these humans hold (and destroying these civilizations when they field to yield an answer, or became too dangerous).
This premise allows for a lot of classic tropes from the OSR camp: multiple ancient civilizations with magical artifacts or super-science gadgets, underground lairs, semi-human races,weird creatures, expansionist empires and paranoid enclaves, beings in the outer void, and strange gods of unknown provenance (most of which are part of Shaper machinations and experimentation). It also allows for wallowing in the "lost world" genre, with modern (and not-so-modern) humans plucked from time and thrown into a strange land with dinosaurs and marauding humanoid creatures. It also allows for all sorts of anachronistic adventure and campaign elements to be thrown in here and there, with a powerful bogeyman that seeks to curtail the intrusion of unwanted influence in their experiments (the aforementioned Shapers).
The book also manages to provide a map of Gondwane, plus a listing of the locations on that map -- all the strange locations with their cities and civilizations and dinosaurs for the players to encounter (or in some cases, originate from).
Finally, there's an adventure involved to give the GM and Players a feel for adventuring in Gondwane.
As I mentioned before, parts of the system will see familiar to fans of the d6 system, Silhouette, WaRP, and FATE. Character creation is aspect / trait oriented, with different types of aspects / traits doing different things when figuring out how many dice to roll in order to resolve a challenge.
The "riff" mechanic is a neat narrative method of tackling different exchanges in combat, while still retaining the ultimate resolve mechanic. Seeking various situational and combat advantages is in a comfortable space between traditional bonus / penalty approaches and the FATE-oriented 'tag an aspect' approach (from my limited understanding of FATE, anyway). The magic system draws more from the latter aspect, and makes psychic and magical combat and utility a different flavor from the spell list approach.
It seems that I shall be returning to this book again for both system and setting -- but don't take my word for it. Download a free copy of Gods of Gondwane from RPGNow today!