Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tommy's Take on Ingenium

Silver Gryphon Games, perhaps most famous for Wellstone City (and rightfully so), released their own fantasy system a while back, called Ingenium. So I'm going to take a look at it here, and see what it has to offer in the fantasy game market.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Ingenium corebook is a standalone volume, 102 pages in PDF and $4.99 in PDF or $19.99 in softcover...and you can order the softcover from RPGNow and get the PDF for free. The PDF isn't a graphic-intensive book, but it comes with a printer-friendly version anyway.

The cover is a somewhat manga-esque drawing of a warrior battling a huge...thing...which looks evil and, frankly, kinda epic. That's a good start. The introduction talks a bit about the game's development and the goal of making an RPG of epic adventure, part Hollywood, part anime and part Howard...kind of like Conan meets Battlechasers, I suppose. The core mechanic is pretty simple as well: d10 + modifiers versus target numbers or other attribute checks.

Character creation uses the Three Word System, in which you select a Trait, a Race and a Profession. Your Trait is a descriptor that dictates your Primary and Secondary Attributes (Intuitive gives you Dexterity and Magical Aptitude as Primary/Secondary, while Menacing gives you Charisma and Strength). Your Primary Attribute has a value of 3, your Secondary a value of 2 and all others a 1. The nine attributes are Awareness, Intelligence, Dexterity, Physical Strength, Willpower, Endurance, Appearance, Charisma and Magical Aptitude. Next, select your Race, which gives you a pair of Talents. Races in this game are Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gargoyle, Half-Wolf, Wingfolk and Catfolk. Next, you pick your Profession, which sets your Starting Talent Pool, an attribute bonus, your speed, hit points, talent pools you can advance into and starting gold.

For instance, you can make a Cunning Catfolk Assassion, with gives you Endurance of 3 and Intelligence of 2 for Cunning, being Catfolks gives him Feral Claws (a d6 natural weapon) and Bred For War (+4 HP and +1 Strength) and being an Assassin gives him the Shadow Talent Pool (with one rank in every Talent in the pool, plus one more rank for one of those talents), +1 to Intelligence, Speed 5, 1d12 HP and 1d10x5 gold (and access to the Assassination Talent Pool). Additionally, every character gets four talents from the General Talent Pool. Professions include Warlocks, Templars, Merchants, Paladins and Soldiers.

Ingenium uses levels, and the book goes up to level 25. Every level nets you ranks to spend in your talents, as well as some manner of ability increase (your primary increases faster than your secondary which increases faster than the rest).

Talent pools cover everything from skills to neat tricks, essentially Feats and Skills rolled into one. You have Basic Talent pools, which include Force (Melee Mastery, Armor Mastery, etc), Mystic (Healing Touch and Arcane Destruction) as well as Shadow (including bits like Lock Picking and Quickfooted). Advanced Talent Pools are bigger deals and include Arcane Blooded (Mind over Matter, Heaven's Fury and Shatterpoint), Thievery (Pick Pockets, Disarm Traps and Forgery) and Unyielding (Maddening Taunt, Natural Armor and Bull's Strength). Elite Talent Pools include options like Assassination (Hunter's Disguise and Silent Kill) as well as Ruin (Blood Magic and Annihilation). Finally, we have the General Talent Pool, where you get things like Armor Use, Weapons Use and Swimming, as well as background Talents like Mageborn and High Social Standing. Note: That is a very broad overview of the options available. I didn't list all the pools, much less all the talents in the pools.

The equipment chapter only takes up a couple of pages, but covers most of your basic fantasy standards.

The Combat and Action chapter covers, well, combat...and let's us in on a tidbit: Dice explode in this game...meaning that if you roll a 10, you keep rolling it, even for damage. In combat, everyone gets three actions that they take on their turn in initiative. Want to ready your weapon and attack twice? You've got three it. On an interesting note, combat is inherently non-lethal, in the sense that you HABE to declare that you are attacking to kill before your target can die from an attack. Three fighting styles are given as well, with their own pros: Dual wielding, two-handed weapon and single weapon and shield.

In non-combat actions, a critical success comes when you beat a target number by 15 or more, and a critical failure occurs if you miss by 20 or more.

Magic is a notable part of the game, with mages being able to use multiple power sources, including Blood Magic, Spell Points or Leylines. If you successfully tap the power source but fail the Magic Use check by 10 or more...that's bad. The corebook only includes Elemental Magic and Life Magic, with promises and hints that there are other types of magic out there. As it is, that covers a lot of ground, including Invisibility, Fly, Darkness, Instant Fortress, Fire Nova, Light of Healing, Resurrection, Nova Meteor, Contagion, Desert Graveyard, Bolt and Water Breathing. The selection is really broad, and the promise of more magic lurking is promising.

The stat blocks for the monsters look a lot like old D&D blocks, covering only hit points, number appearing, speed, damage, defense, soak and challenge level. Each creature has anywhere from a paragraph on up describing it, what it does, other imporant notes. These range from Bandits and Plains Cats to the subterrerean Hidden Ones and Dreamsnakes to the bizarre Cartazon and Verdant Mantids.

A section is provided on using Puzzles, Riddles and Traps, while a character sheet and index round out the book.

WHAT WORKS: I'm a sucker for a magic system with some flavor, and this one has some good flavor. The character generation is FAST, and there are a ton of option for customizing your characters by mixing and matching the Three Words, as well as the vast array of Talents (with an additional 30 Talents available in a free sourcebook).

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The bestiary just isn't very inspiring, due in part to the avoidance of common fantasy monsters combined with the lack of art. If you're going to go off the beaten path, that's fine, but pictures always help. There are only hints of a setting in the book, and the two factors mean it falls a bit shy of the promise from the great cover piece.

CONCLUSION: The lack of "spark" in the bestiary and lack of a setting aren't a deal breaker, especially given how easy it would seem to be to customize the rules, adding new Talents and Professions, maybe even races and certainly monsters. The system shows a TON of promise...hopefully it'll get the kind of support needed take it up that notch to truly capture the "epic" feel the cover evokes. Well worth checking out the PDF at a minimum.