Friday, May 8, 2015

Tommy's Take on Winter Eternal

As you may have seen, we are giving away copies of Winter Eternal here on the blog. As I tend do, I like to have a look at anything I'm giving away, and so I'm setting out to review Winter Eternal for Savage Worlds.
ETHICS IN GAME JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: I was provided a review copy of Winter Eternal by the publisher, Just Insert Imagination. Additionally, affiliate links to RPGNow are used in this article. Purchases made after clicking such links may provide me with store credit, which is generally used to purchase product for review on this blog.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Winter Eternal is $7.99 in digital format at RPGNow, and requires the Savage Worlds rules to use. The book is 122 pages, and is set in the recovery phase of a post apocalyptic world, one that had been plunged into cold and darkness, but has recently discovered light again.

The setting is a fantasy world, so you get dwarves, elves, goblins, grayns (who are kinda like dog people), half-folk (you know what I'm talking about), humans, mekellions (lizardmen) and orc-tainted (the setting's half-orcs). It's been 140 years since spellcasters harnessed the magic to produce miniature sun-like orbs over the remaining cities, and three years earlier, the first sun shards were found, being crystals that generate massive heat when touched by light. The people of Ehlerrac are trying to keep the heat and light burning as the punishing cold sweeps in every few weeks to snuff out all life.

For Edges and Hindrances, the Fantasy Companion is specifically called out as being used in the setting, though I would say it's still quite optional if you don't have it. New Hindrances, like Cold Blooded, play on the setting conceits, and a number of Edges do as well (like Warm Blood and Snow Walker). Professional Edges allow for Brown Cloaks (who protect the streets) and Hands of Death (who hunt down and kill the wicked).

Gear is higher tech here, with sunshard tents (warmed by a sun shard), velopedals (tricycles, essentially) and clockword swords (which act kind of like chain saws). There is, as you may have guessed, a heavy emphasis on cold based equipment and keeping warm.

The perilous environment led to the establishment of the Archways, stone roads that connect the cities, which are divided into bright and green Summer Zones and shadowy and gloomy Autumn Zones...and every 4-8 weeks, everything is ravaged by Super Blizzards which was so powerful they block out the heat spells.

The 8 Cities (Deadfalls, Drogan, Echo, Emerald Rest, Haven, Mirror's Edge, Ochrem and Wallside) are all given some description, as well as a map. Some sidebars get into secrets and rumors, and important NPCs of each town are provided, with stat blocks.

Various organizations are in play here, including the enigmatic Watch, beings who are cloaked and masked and will steal you from your home. The Cosmology uses the multilayered Hell, but this one stops at three: The Silence, The Bleeding and The Horror.

The GM section includes expanded, and brutal, rules for the cold, including certain death if caught underexposed in the Super Blizzards. The GM section focuses heavily on ideas, like different color sunshards, such as red shards that can warp you, as well as plot seeds for other enemies that could be lurking in the cold (like The Dead Ruler).

The Bestiary has unsurprising additions like Frost Giants, Frost Wolves, Ghosts and Zombies, but also weirdness like Gear Swarms, Shard Orcs (who are mutated from living around red shards), Scrap Golems and Shard Mice.

SIX POINT SUMMARY

- The book is just filled with NPCs, with images, many of which are photos. I assume they are Indiegogo backers who bought their way into the book. Some images look great, some have noticeable photoshop, but the whole effect would work better if it was uniform around the book instead photos plus traditional art. The layout as a whole is fantastic, with great looking "old" maps and the drawn art being uniformly evocative.

- No adventure, no random adventure generator and no plot point campaign. Even a Savage Tale or an adventure generator would have helped out a bit.

- The editing was still rough in spots, with noticeable typos jumping out in places. I have been told that is under revision, however.

- Dog people are a nice break from standard fantasy people. If anything, we usually get wolves or shapechangers, but this was a nice touch.

- A lot of ground is covered in a short period of time, as the book rarely lingers too long while detailing even the past or present. A brevity that I surely appreciate.

- Despite the broad strokes familiarity with Hellfrost, Winter Eternal still manages to strike a unique profile as a "dark fantasy game in the bitter cold". Its unique spin on a "Points of Light" setting is not something I immediately recall being done in Savage Worlds, and is one of the better implementations of that that I have seen. 

Winter Eternal strikes a unique cord despite the familiar elements, marred mostly by editing that could have been tighter and design choices that could have been more uniform, but were probably a necessary evil due to crowd funding. I don't see many games that particularly place themselves in a "world in recovery", and the "optimist wrapped in a cynic" in me surely appreciates the aesthetic of people trying to pull themselves out of the darkness. Definitely worth checking out, and - of course - you still have plenty of time to win a copy!