Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tommy's Take on Adventurers! Revised Edition

So close to three years ago, GRAmel released Adventurers!, touted as being an RPG in only two pages. They recently hit me up about reviewing the upcoming Adventurers! Revised Edition, and so here I am.

Ethics in Gaming Journalism Disclaimer: I did receive comp copies of not only Adventurers! Revised Edition, but the Adventurers! Fantasy book (and copies of all of the first edition items). Given that this focuses on the upcoming Kickstarter version, I am providing no affiliate links to the existing books, but I will direct you to their Facebook page for more information.


Just the Facts: A Kickstarter is coming next week and there will be at two books: The Core rules and Fantasy. One book in PDF is 10 euros (or about $11.20US), both books in PDF are 17 euros (about $20US). Getting one in print is 20 euros (around $22US) and to get both in print will set you back 33 euros (or $37US). The very basic rules will actually be available in a free download off of the Kickstarter main page, so you will be able to read those rules without having to even "pledge and cancel". The rules PDF is a lean 12 pages, and I have been told that it will be released for free (though I assume that will be the digital version - the print version looks to be part of the Kickstarter).

EDIT - The Kickstarter page is here.

The rulebook spends exactly two pages on the Player's Guide (character creation, basic combat rules, powers, recovery and advancement), two pages on gear Gear (one page being a table of items and the next being a series of keyword definitions), two pages on the GM's Guide (advanced combat rules, customizing creatures, reskinning powers and even mass combat rules), a page of four character sheets and three pages of printable monster stat cards (snakes, spiders, vampires, warriors and even spaceships, a real cross section).

Character creation is point buy: You have six points to spend on Strength, Agility, Mind and Attack, with Defense, Heroism and Endurance derived from those. Skills are tiered in Basic and Advanced versions, and you can either start with two at Basic or one at Advanced. Oh, and you have to have a Concept, which is Definition and an Archetype (like Vengeful Warrior, Witch with a Price on Her Head and so on). Simple enough.

The core mechanic is 2d6 versus target number 7, or versus an opposing roll. The game has an Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, in which you roll 3d6 and take the higher two (advantage) or lowest two (disadvantage), and double 1's are critical failures while double 6's are critical successes. You can even spend Heroism to either add +1 to a roll or reroll from scratch.

The Core includes the aforementioned rules, but also includes two settings, each divided into a Player's Guide, a GM's Guide, Creature Cards and an adventure.

The first setting is Space Rangers, a space western/opera hybrid, feeling juuuuuust a bit like Firefly or Outer Rim Star Wars, while still feeling very much like its own thing, puts the PCs in the  role of (you guessed it) Space Rangers, patrolling the space frontier. The Player's Guide has a skill for using ship sensors, setting-specific gear (namely blasters and vibro weapons) and advice on setting appropriate archetypes, as well as races (both alien and human variants).

The GM's Guide provides a few new rules, like losing limbs instead of dying at 0 Endurance, as well as important locations in the setting, space combat, cybernetics and more.

The "Creatures" include a lot of humanoid character types like Gunslingers and Bounty Hunters, plus spaceships (did I mention that the minimalist rules include a guide for scaling, as well, so you can take a spaceship and a person and you can scale the die rolls appropriately?), aliens and robots.

The included adventure is a prisoner transport that, of course, does not go smoothly. It's  a little rail-roady, especially at the beginning, but that's kind of a risk with prewritten adventures.

Voodoo Pirates is a horror-adventure setting in the Caribbean, feeling a bit like Pirates of the Caribbean (as you may have figured), with an even heavier focus on voodoo (as the name implies).

The GM's Guide focuses heavily on Voodoo and on important people of the time. In an oddity from other settings, the gear for this one is folded into the GM's guide.

"Creatures" include ghost captains, duelists, mermaids, pirates, navy commanders and the like, as well as a big list of ships, watchtowers and so on,

The adventure for this one puts the PCs on a pirate ship and tasks them with getting a parrot to lead them to treasure. This is one of those "be careful what you wish for" kind of things, of course.

The Fantasy book is a sizable, 114 page tome that includes three settings, each divided into a Player's Guide, a GM's Guide, Creature Cards and an adventure.

Gothica - Gothica is a monster-hunting horror setting ala Ravenloft or Castlevania, set in the county of Gothica. In addition to guidance on character types, it includes a new rule (Sanity) and new Skills (like Exorcism), as well as new gear (including modifications, such as coating weapons in silver, or paying for a visit to the Asylum).

The GM's Guide offers adventure hooks (including one that sounds a lot like the Mists of Ravenloft depositing heroes into a strange land), new rules (Scars are the after effects of heroes losing too much Sanity), a short Gazetteer and gothic horror appropriate powers, relics and monster abilities.

The included monsters are foes like Cultists, Gargoyles, Banshees, Swamp Monsters and even two more Vampires.

The included adventure involves the heroes being stuck after an accident and is a race against time before they find themselves against overwhelming odds. After an opening scene, it is largely a timeline of events and a map of a castle, with the PCs interacting as they will while the events trigger as time passes.

Kung Fu features anthropomorphic animals performing martial arts, ala Kung Fu Panda, with all the requisite tropes. This includes multiple animal clans (and a demon army), each of which carries the common traits one would expect from the representative animal (snakes being sneaky, boars being brutes, etc). Combat is tweaked to reflect the genre, including multiple Kung Fu styles being represented essentially as weapons, mechanically (using the Martial Arts skill).

The GM's Guide includes a plot hook involving ten Jade Tablets that are being hunted, as well as Wushu powers.

The Creatures included are ones such as representative warriors of each of the clans, ninjas, multiple demons (including ogres and tengu) and even dragons.

The include adventure is a marriage between clans, which the PCs have been invited to, when they are summoned to visit with the distressed bride-to-be who fears for her life thanks to her soon to be husband. As these things go, a fight is very likely to break out.

The Dungeon is the final setting and is pretty much D&D through an Adventurers! lens, complete with archetype advice on how to make all of the D&D classes. This includes a few new races, like gnomes and lizard folk (elves, dwarves and small folk are included as variants in the character creation rules). Another neat new rule is Company Gifts, which are basically team bonuses that an adventuring company can gain, such as Bickering Friends (when two vitriolic best buds are together, they get a -1 on social rolls, but when one is hurt, the other gains bonuses to attack and damage), Packing Tricks (to reduce encumbrance) or All Together! (which either grants the whole team a one round bonus on combat rolls, or a bonus on teamwork rolls). Other new skills are added that emulate famous D&D traits, like Rage and Slaying (which fills in nicely for a Ranger's Favored Enemy). There are even rules for building and maintaining a stronghold.

The GM's Guide offers several vital new areas for D&D-like play, including an abstract dungeon creation system and some sample tables to guide you in dungeon creation. There are also loot tables, magic items and (another thing I love) "enchantments by deed", in which your own items and weapons can become enchanted because of the great things you did with them.

The Creatures are not surprising, running through a who's who of D&D favorites, including (with serial numbers filed off) Mind Flayers and Death Knights.

Thoughts:


  • I got to take a look at one of the stretch goals (Toy World) and was amazed at just how flexible this system is (and how badass that cover is). If this does well, up to seven new settings will be added, each as diverse as the rest.
  • The settings all feel familiar, without feeling like carbon copies of the inspiration material (aside from maybe The Dungeon). This is neat, because it lets you feel comfortable, especially when you start filling in the blanks, without feeling like you are necessarily beating a dead horse. That is an important thing to note: You will have to fill in some blanks, as you are not getting fully detailed gameworlds, but broad strokes settings. Your mileage will vary on how important/detrimental that is to you.
  • The adventures appealed to me a bit less, especially in the Core, because they felt a little too "on the rails". I did think that the ones in the Fantasy book held up a bit better in this regard.
  • While The Dungeon feels the most like its inspiration, the rules tweaks make this forgivable as it shows just how flexible and diverse the system is. I particularly love the Company Gifts, such a simple and neat little feature that makes that teamwork come alive. Something similar could easily be ported into a supers setting to emulate common traits of the Avengers, X-Men or Justice League.
  • In fact, the sheer variety of the settings do just that: They show how this tiny, robust little skeleton can be dressed and beefed up in a variety of ways. I'd be genuinely intrigued to play with this just to find out where its breaking point really is.
  • The free rules PDF, while it'll be ink heavy, is laid out perfectly so that you can print basically all of the rules your players will need on one front-back sheet and start playing. In fact, all of the setting Player's Guides are similarly arranged (though larger than two pages), making this one of the easiest "print from the PDF" games I have ever seen.
A lot of games have tried to do the small, simple, but functional systems, but this has to be one of the best efforts I have ever seen. A very basic core, with modules (like Mass Combat and Scaling) to allow more flexibility, and multiple examples of how to further tweak for various settings, Adventurers! Revised is an impressive site to behold.