Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tommy's Take on Warrior, Rogue & Mage

If you haven't heard of Stargazer Games, you may be missing out. They have released a few games, all of which are completely free...and now, I'm going to step in and take a look at a few of those games, beginning with Warrior, Rogue & Mage.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Warrior, Rogue & Mage is a fantasy RPG that has neither classes nor levels, and is completely free. What it DOES have is three Attributes (Warrior, Rogue & Mage), as well as skills (which are linked to given attributes and offer +2 bonuses to rolls) and Talents (which offer extra perks).

Every task involves rolling a d6, adding the relevant stat (and rolling again if you rolled a 6), versus a target number. Each of the three attributes ties into various other areas, like Hit Points being based off of Warrior, Fate Points off of Rogue and Mana off of Mage. Defense is set by both Warrior and Rogue, and different weapon skills are keyed to different stats (battle axes are a Warrior thing, daggers are a Rogue thing).

Initiative is largely "common sense" with a simple high-roll mechanic in place if there is any doubt as to who should act when. Anyone can cast spells as long as they have at least one point of Mage (you CAN leave a given stat at 0), and spells are divided into four Circles. The higher the Circle, the higher the target number and the higher the Difficulty Level. Spellcasters can cast spells while wearing armor, it just costs more mana. In fact, the magic system has a surprising amount of depth, allowing you to store spells in rings, staffs, gauntlets, etc., or to boost a spell's effect by spending more mana and the Difficulty Level.

First Circle spells let you create light and heal with a touch, while the Second Circle can make food and water and summon lighting bolts. At the Third Circle you get Firebolts, and the Fourth Circle gets into raising the dead and teleportation...and if you don't like magic at all, a variant called Warrior, Rogue & Scholar is included that turns spellcasting into a Talent, which can be completely removed to get rid of magic altogether.

A setting is included, the fallen Imperium of Vaneria, but is painted in very broad strokes, encouraging - heck, requiring - the GM to fill in a lot of detail, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Skills and Talents are provided in the appendix, with Skills like Unarmed (Warrior), Thaumaturgy (Mage), Firearms (Rogue) and so on. Talents include Hunter, Blood Mage (which allows you to spend Hit Points instead of Mana for your spells) and Massive Attack (add your Warrior attribute to your melee damage once per combat).

Although the setting assumes humans are the only race, a number of common races such as Elves, dwarves, orcs and halflings are included in an appendix, getting Racial Talents (including a negative one in each case, to balance the bonuses).

There's an odd little aside about the Dual Wielding talent, and how it does not provide extra attacks (unless the PC also has the Double Attack talent), which makes me wonder what the point of Dual Wield is, other than to act as a prerequisite for Double Attack.

The bestiary provides a list of common NPCs (which can have the racial Talents added in of you need, say, an elven Apprentice Wizard), animals (from horses to giant spiders) and monsters like War Golems and zombies. Not a huge selection, but enough for an enterprising GM to expand on his own.

The book wraps up with a summary of all the important information, as well as spell sheets and a nice looking character sheet.

WHAT WORKS: Well, you can't beat free. Especially when you look at the production values (which aren't on par with major commercial products, but still look very nice and have a very evocative feel to them). For a 41 page, rules lite RPG, there's a good amount of depth, especially with some of the little bits and tweaks in the Magic section. Five free supplements have already been released, expanding on the game in various ways.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I'm not a fan of some of the organizational issues, like Skills and Talents being in the back of the book. Dual Wielding is apparently just a prereq talent, or was very poorly explained, although without actually playing the game, it may be that two attacks is a big enough game breaker that it requires essentially giving up an advance to get. A few more examples, especially of monsters, would have been great...but come on, it's a free product.

CONCLUSION: Easily on par with, or beyond, many of the lower-tier RPGs, and blowing right past about every free RPG I can immediately think of (aside from, say, older titles that have now been released for free). Warrior, Rogue & Mage is rules lite, yeah, but has a solid foundation and the thought and effort that went into it is very apparent. while the game includes a low-magic, and no-magic, tweak...I would like to see someone tweak it a bit more (higher magic, dark fantasy, etc.).