And now for a non-Savage Worlds review, and my first meeting with the Ubiquity system: All-For-One: Regime Diabolique by (you guessed it) Triple Ace Games and written by (you guessed it) Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams...which I ordered from Beautiful Brains Books & Games. See, there was a theme to this week. Now show up for the chat tonight and talk to Wiggy, as well as Clint and Jodi Black.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: All-For-One is an alternate history/supernatural action game set in 1636 France and revolving around crazy musketeer fun. So, when the new Three Musketeers movie comes out in a few months and people are going "but how do I PLAY that?", this might be the place to look. While there is a TON of support for it, the corebook is standalone, with all the rules needed to play already present. Retail price is $34.99, with the PDF selling for $24.99.
The Ubiquity system is very interesting because it uses whatever dice you have available...and rolling a smaller die isn't any better or worse than rolling a larger die. Essentially, evens on the dice you roll are successes, odds are failures. Odds are the same if you're rolling d4s or d12s, since you're rolling dice pools. There are Ubiquity Device availible for purchase, but I don't know much about them other than they are available for purchase.
The premise is that it is 1636 and France is being horribly corrupted, by demons, witches and sometimes just very crappy people. The PCs are all Musketeers, fighting to save France from the darkness that threatens to envelope it, from the top down.
Character generation is a point buy, beginning with selecting an archetype. It is worth noting that the game does NOT put forth "musketeer" as a limited character type, providing a number of archetypes to choose from, like occultists, doctors or even criminals. Then you have to select a motivation (like Duty, Justice, Greed or Revenge), which allow you to use Style Points when in pursuit of said motivation.
Attributes are rated from 0 to 5, with extreme examples going above that, with dice pools derived from Primary attributes, by doubling the Primary. For instance, Body doubles into your Resistance pool, Dexterity into Balance, Strength into Feats of Strength, Charisma into Influence, Intelligence into Reason and Willpower into Courage.
Secondary attributes are rated from 1 to 10, and include Size, Move, Perception, Initiative, Defense, Stun and Health.
Skills also typically rate from 0 to 10, and include everything from Archery to Con to Fencing to Gunnery to Magick to Warfare. Each skill is linked to an attribute and has specializations (like Streetwise specializing into Haggling).
Talents are not unlike Edges in Savage Worlds parlance, covering a wide range of combat and non-combat aspects, such as Attractive, Calculated Attack (allowing you to use Intelligence as your base attribute for a certain type of attack), Danger Sense, Jack of All Trades (removing unskilled penalties for any general skill), Ricochet Shot and more.
Characters also gain Resources, rated from 0 to 5, and include allies, followers, a refuge and even a membership in a fencing school.
You can also take a single Flaw in order to gain an extra Style point, as well as another point whenever your Flaw comes up in play. They include Physical Flaws (Blind, Glass Jaw), Mental Flaws (Addiction, Overconfident), Social Flaws (Pacifist, Vain) and Miscellaneous Flaws (Danger Magnet, Primitive).
Finally, every character gets a Lackey, which can be most any non-Musketeer, though some samples are provided (as well as a slew of sample characters, like the Aspiring Noble, Man of Faith, Hero in Training and Spy.
Interestingly, the game advocates "taking the average" whenever a task comes up...comparing the difficulty with the average number of successes you are likely to roll (half the dice in the pool) and, if that is enough to succeed, you are assumed to have done so with the "normal" amount of effort. You can use Style Points to gain bonus dice, reduce damage and boost talents, and Style Points are lost at the end of the adventure, so you are expected to use them, not hoard them...and you gain them by doing cool stuff in addition to whenever your Flaws come into play.
The list of combat tactics is remarkably like Savage Worlds, and very fitting for swashbuckler like play, covering such gems as Trips and Disarms, as well as Tricks (like hurling your beer in the opponent's face).
In combat, your Defense rating is a mixture of Size, Body, Dexterity and Armor, and makes up the dice pool that you roll when attacked. Every success that the attack gets over the defense equals a point of damage and can stun you, knock you down or even kill you outright (though that last one is pretty rare).
In addition to the combat rules, there are also Social Dueling rules, which are basically insult contests in which the combatants put their reputations at stake.
Magick (requiring the Magickal Aptitude Talent) is divided into Traditions (Ceremonial, Natural and Theurgy) and Arts (which run the range from Aeromancy to Necromancy to Hydromancy to Pyromancy...fourteen of them in all). Oh, and Alchemy, which is both a Tradition and an Art. If you know more than one Art, you can combine the effects. Magick doesn't have a set spell list...rather, it has a list of modifiers that you use to make your spells, like Range, Duration, Area of Effect and Effects. Eight sample spells are provided so you don't go into spell creation blind. Reminds me of the Cinematic Unisystem magic system, which I was a huge fan of, but somehow looser than that was, if that's possible.
The GM section focuses heavily on both the life of a Musketeer as well as tackling Swashbuckling in general. There is advice for scaling the Action Level up and down, from Gritty Realism (No Style Points), Low Adventure (Style Points are there, just harder to gain and more expensive to use), Swashbuckling Adventure (default), High Adventure (honestly, I couldn't see what was actually supposed to differentiate this from Swashbuckling Adventure) and Legendary (Style Points are way more valuable). You can also alter the Supernatural level, and it does not have to be in relation to the Action Level. This ranges from None to Low (default) to High (which the book notes puts it closer to Buffy territory).
Really, a lot of the setting information in the book is found in the discussion of various organizations, such as the King's Musketeers, the Daughters of Medea (an organization of female assassins) and the Rosicrucians (who have popped up in a few RPGs, most notable to me being Witchcraft). Important NPCs in each group are given stat blocks, as well as generic members. In addition, each has an appropriate Resource listing for your PCs to use (like a Musketeer being a rank 1 Ally or the Vicomte Charolles of the True Knights of Saint Michael is a Patron 3.
A good selection of monsters are provided, such as animated corpses, evil spirits, Incubi and Succubi, vampires and witches. The section even includes a sidebar on using things like crosses and holy water to fend off evil. More mundane stat blocks are provided as well, for thugs, soldiers, peasants and animals. None of the stat blocks are hard to read, and it seems pretty simple to use the ones provided in order to construct your own.
WHAT WORKS: I dig the magick system, as I already have a fondness for that type of "construct your spell" system, and a very good amount of game information is provided. I had no prior experience with Ubiquity, but it feels familiar enough to systems I have had experience with that it doesn't seem like it would be hard to pick up at all. As with Hellfrost, Triple Ace Games has a TON of support for the setting in the form of adventures and microsupplements. The concept is just cool...I like fighting monsters in more than just a "kill 'em all and take their stuff" capacity, and the whole "Everyone's a Musketeer" thing helps you bypass that "why are your characters on the same side, again?" thing that comes up in some games.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Given the setting, as I'm not even a remedial student of French history, a closer look at the setting would have been great. I mean, there's enough there to run with, but it's kinda spread around from the beginning of the book to the end. Also, you can never go wrong with including an adventure generator...just saying.
CONCLUSION: I'm way more enthusiastic about Savage Worlds stuff, so if I had to pick a Triple Ace franchise and run with it, it would certainly be Hellfrost. That said, Ubiquity seems like a really easy system to pick up, which is always a plus. I actually like the Magick system better than I do Savage Worlds powers. It wouldn't take much encouragement to get me digging into the microsupplements, especially stuff like Guide to Expanded Characters and Creatures of Sin. If you don't mind learning a new system and the idea of Three Musketeers vs Demons, Vampires and Witches appeals to you, then I heartily give this a strong recommendation.