Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tommy's Take on Ingenium Second Edition

I'm not going to do a massively detailed review of Ingenium 2nd Edition, as I have already done a review of 1st Edition, but as 2nd Edition is upon us, and the Kickstarter is about to close out, I took advantage of an offer to take a sneak peek at the 2nd Edition.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Kickstarter is in its final days, sitting at just over $5,000 of its $9,000 goal. A PDF copy will run you $15, while a print pledge is $30. The first edition was a lean 102 pages, while the review draft of this book is already at 165 pages, with more art to come in the final layout (assuming the Kickstarter succeeds).

The author, Ben Overmyer, promises a game drawn from the inspirations of Robert E. Howard, Joe Madureira and Mercedes Lackey, through a Hollywood lens. The writing on the game is complete, just awaiting a final editing pass, so as Kickstarters go, it's pretty low-risk: The book is done aside from art and layout...and I DO have to brag about the art here, because one of the artists on the new version of the book is my friend and partner-in-crime on The Chronicles of Rachel Strand, Johnnie Johnson, who drew the Myconid picture I posted below.

Your princess is in another castle.
Ingenium uses a cool, three-word creation system, in which you pick a Trait, a Race and a Profession, like a Fiery Gargoyle Paladin, a Zealous Catfolk Inquisitor or a Sensible Human Battle Medic (okay, so that one's technically four words, but you get the idea). The Trait set your Primary an Secondary attributes, while your Race gives you certain abilities and your Profession gives you access to Talents. Satyrs, Myconids, Halflings and Dryads join the fray in 2nd Edition, expanding the racial options which already included Gargoyles, Wingfolk and Catfolk alongside the fantasy standards. 15 Professions are included, like Paladins, Rangers, Assassins, Soldiers, Wizards, Templars and Inquisitors.

2nd Edition alters the level scale a bit, putting it up to Level 30 instead of 25, and the Talent Pools have been rearranged to remove the Elite Tier, placing everything under Basic Talents, Advanced Talents and General Talents. You will wind up with a Basic and an Advanced Talent Pool, as well as borrowing from the General Talent pool. While some progressions are obvious (like an Assassin advancing into the Assassination Talent Pool), there is no hard and fast rule that requires you to take the obvious route. What if your Outrageous Halfling Assassin instead learns the fine art of Thievery?

A nice touch on equipment that I don't remember being in 1st Edition is the addition of different materials for your weapons and armor, which have different effects (like copper blades disrupting magic or wyrmbone armor fending off demonic possession). Great improvement over a chapter that was fairly bland in 1st edition.

Characters still get three actions, but they are now limited to a Major Action, a Minor Action and a Movement Action. I can see why the limit was put into place, but it seems like it would be a tad less cinematic. Extremely high rolls now get Boosts, which can be added to your actions (including damage) or even cashed in on experience points!

The HUGE change for Magic is that, in addition to the spell list, guidelines have been added for making your OWN spells by adding effects and calculating the difficulty, increasing the flexibility of the system!

Monster statblocks, which used to be fairly small, have been expanded a fair bit, and - interestingly - the bestiary selection got overhauled, with a lot of the more offbeat entries like the Auizha, the Cartazon and Heqren being replace with Dragons, Ogres and Goblins. I know one of my original complaints was that it was hard to visualize all of these oddball monsters without accompanying art, and that's certainly not an issue when you switch to the "standards", but I wouldn't mind seeing some of the "originals" pop up again down the line. Skeleton, Zombie, Vampire and Werebeast templates are added on to provide further customization.

A big chunk of the new material comes in the form of Iconic Heroes, seven Level 1 characters designed to be ready to play.

The second big chunk is a chapter explicitly providing detail on the setting Eiridia, covering two of the five major continents.

Finally, the Gods of the setting are also laid bare, combining with the previous chapter to lay out way more setting than was present in 1st edition.

WHAT WORKS: Well, I am a HUGE fan of Johnnie's artwork, obviously. The spell creation is a very nice touch. Steering it back into "classic" fantasy territory seems like it would make for a slightly easier sell, to me. The quick and easy character creation continues to be great.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Examples of Boosts in play would be helpful. I *think* I get how they are mean to be used, but something in writing would be great. I think I preferred "three actions" over "a Major, a Minor and a Movement action".

CONCLUSION: While I've never ran 1st Edition, we did get as far as character creation and intended to play it...the only reason we didn't was because I discovered I hated using a tablet while gaming and I only owned the PDF. I have put my money where my mouth is and backed Ingenium at the print level, and hope to have 2nd Edition in print and in hand. Not sure how much more solid of an endorsement I can provide other than "I liked first edition so much I pledged money to 2nd edition".