Wednesday 31 October 2018

Mini-Review - Romance of the Perilous Land

I actually wrote this post for EN World about a year ago, but since it never made to the site, I thought I might as well share it here. I have two other similar mini-reviews, but I wanted to start with RPL, because I just saw a post on MeWe about an updated release coming in August 2019 from Osprey Games, that will hopefully have more inspiring setting details and gameable material (with 160 pages, it can go either ways, really).

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links.

One of the most iconic releases of 2016 in OSR circles was The Black Hack. It is an elegant framework that simplifies some of the burdensome aspects of D&D-esque games (cf. ditching attribute modifiers and using a roll under mechanic, advantage and disadvantage instead of assigning modifiers, or usage dice in place of unit-based resource management). Since its entirety was released under the OGL, there has been a surge of TBH-based games and supplements. Romance of the Perilous Land is one of these games.

Romance of the Perilous Land is published by Trollish Delver Games (Quill, In Darkest Warrens, Tequendria, Wired Neon Cities, English Eerie). It is inspired by British folklore and tales of romantic chivalry. These things have been part of the D&D experience, of course, but there has only been a few games that really focus on the Arthurian legends and British folk tales, especially if we only consider D&D settings and its derivatives.

There are six classes: Knight, Ranger, Cunning Folk, Thief, Barbarian, and Bard. As in most D&D-esque games, classes are differentiated by HD, armor and weapon proficiencies, and class features. Each class also has three skills that provide advantage on tests. The class features are largely what you would expect: Knights are good in melee, Rangers are fine archers, Thieves get sneak attacks, Cunning Folks have spells, Barbarians rage, and Bards have access to various buffs and debuffs through song. The mechanics are fairly straightforward, although some classes seem less interesting than others (Barbarians mostly just deal more and more damage while raging, for instance).

There is an optional background system that provides extra skills and equipment, but only five backgrounds are detailed (Artisan, Outlaw, Priest, Seafarer, and Aristocrat). It seems like it was an afterthought, which is a shame, because it could have been used to introduce additional setting flavor.

Magic uses a spell point system. Spells have individually defined spell point costs, as well as a level (casting a spell higher level than one's own may result in weakness, severe HP loss, or even self-paralysation). The spell descriptions are brief and focus on the mechanics (e.g. "The Miracle of Levitation, level 6, cost 10, The caster levitates up to 100ft for 1d10 minutes." or "Rot Flesh, level 10, cost 22, 1d6 near targets with HD7 or below rot and die.").

A 3-page gazetteer describes a few places within the Perilous Lands (such as Dinhelm, Penbridge, or Larnbrooke Castle). Nothing revolutionary here (cf. "A headless phantom rider has been seen in the small hours searching for his long lost bride." or "A Red Etin lives in a lair close by. Sometimes one can hear his singing on the wind and see his tracks in the snow."), although I liked how the interesting bits are presented using bullet points (I love bullet points!).

I really wanted to like this game. The source material begs to be used at the gaming table, and the genre is severely underrepresented among D&D-esque games. The uninspiring prose combined with the lack of proper editing, however, leave Romance of the Perilous Land a mediocre product at best. It is not completely useless, to be fair, but a genre-hack of a game should include more tools and gameable material than just reflavouring the already available ones. Its potential saving grace is that it is a PWYW product, and a short one to skim through (roughly 13k words on 52 pages).

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Excellence from the Blogosphere (Aug-Oct)

Following the steps of Humza K, I present to you a collection of blog posts (mostly from August and September) that I found inspirational.