What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekend R&R: Amazing Adventures

Troll Lord Games has had it's share of challenges in the past few years.  Castles & Crusades is their biggest line and the Player's Handbook has now gone on to a 5th printing (not to be confused with a new edition of the game).  With underlying mechanic known as the Siege Engine, TLG has tried to put out other games to use this game mechanic as a backbone but has, thus far, met with mixed success.

While there are fans of StarSiege, Tainted Lands, and Harvesters -- there are many others that don't share the same opinions on these games for a variety of reasons.  StarSiege suffers from poor organization/presentation took a few departures from what was 'recognizably' the C&C game.  Tainted Lands also suffered in terms of organization and, any extended campaign may end up requiring some of the C&C core books giving it the feel of being more of a setting than it's own thing.  Lastly, Harvesters was good but had more of a feel of an adventure module with some new monsters and races than an actual standalone game.

However, with Amazing Adventures, TLG truly did things right here.  Everything you need is actually in this book.  It is very recognizable and anyone familiar with C&C will know how to play this game.  As far as rules and presentation is concerned, it is also very approachable for a 'new' game.

What is Amazing Adventures? Simply put, an RPG focusing on adventures in the 'pulp era'.  We're talking of stories typically depicted from the 30's give or take a decade.  Think of 'the Shadow', 'Doc Savage', or 'Flash Gordon' or turn towards the hard boiled detective, 'Philip Marlowe' for inspiration.  Indiana Jones certainly takes its queues from the pulps of the era.  Or, you could go a bit darker, and consider the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.  Simply put, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from if considering such a game.

The book comes to just over 200 pages and presents 8 character archetypes, options to customize your character such as traits and backgrounds, and a variety of rules to make this genre of play more accessible (like fate points, sanity rules, and basic vehicular combat).  For those of you who are curious, these characters types are: the Arcanist, the Gadgeteer, the Gumshoe, the Hooligan, the Mentalist, the Pugilist, the Raider, and the Socialite.

White I personally love Amazing Adventures, some may not like it because it is so close to C&C.  What does this mean?  Well, it's a game that follows a very familiar class and level based system as one would find in C&C and other D&D type games.  The game also uses hit points in a similar manner leaving one wondering if a wound track might have been a better option.  Of course, by keeping this the same, it means porting existing C&C material into Amazing Adventures extremely easy and something has to be said for that.  Frankly the complaints leveled against Star Siege simply won't apply here and, even vehicles have 'hit points' and, given the nature of the genre, the traditional hit point system can work depending on other considerations such as melee attacks, magic, and firearms (normally a non-issue for a fantasy type game).

The inclusion of firearms in a framework used in a D&D type game have had a few different approaches.  Sometimes it's handled by increasing damage or damage multipliers or allowing for exploding damage dice.  If trying to run a gritty and realistic / deadly level of combat, the present hit point system is problematic when dealing with characters of higher levels who also happen to have a lot of hit points.  However, as far as the pulp genre is concerned, this isn't so much of a problem.  It is 'believable' and perfect acceptable to have a hear take a few gunshot wounds and keep on going.  What the author has done here is acknowledge that some firearms have a rate of fire but there is a cumulative recoil penalty per shot fired.  Some weapons are better for accuracy and there are others with are worse.  However, the damage per bullet is no worse than damage from something like a sword and, within the context of hit points, this ends up working well enough.  For those weapon that have a higher ROF (10+ shots per round), this is a burst and the targets can do a Dex Save for half damage from such an attack.  Let's face it... a Tommy Gun can do a lot of damage but this simple rule will mean that the would be hero won't be cut down automatically in their first gunfight.

Now, if you are willing to accept that this game uses the same mechanics overall that C&C and other D&D inspired/derived games do, there is one thing that some people might be less happy with.  You will have MANY spells simply carried over from C&C.  In a couple of cases, these have been renamed but, more often than not, they still have the same names and same effects (Magic Missile is renamed to Arcane Bolt but Fireball is still Fireball).  Of course, you don't have 'Arcane Magic' or 'Divine Magic' but rather 'Int based Magic', 'Wis based Magic', and 'Cha based Magic' -- a choice determined when you create an Arcanist character will determine what you have access to.  Unlike C&C though, spell casting is mana point based though you still have the various spell levels ranging from 0 through to level 9.  Suffice to say that it is an interesting re-organizing of spell lists.  Now, using all these spells as a base isn't necessarily a bad thing and some people will no doubt enjoy this but part of me thinks that it is a wasted opportunity to really develop a more specific and streamlined spell selection appropriate to the genre and possibly re-usable for C&C.

That said, beyond the magic, you also have a section on psionics.  Admittedly, this is something I avoid in my fantasy games and never liked but, this fits right in with the genre once again and thus, perfectly acceptable.  I'm happy to say that psionics are not just another spell list selection but rather abilities usable with a successful ability check.  All pretty cool stuff and, in this case, it won't break the game or end up being another type of spell caster.

Overall, I am very happy with the game.  The book truly includes everything you need and there are no additional book requirements but the compatibility is there to easily port in whatever else you feel is needed from C&C.  The presentation of the book itself is nice and clean and the layout seems decent enough.  As for the game itself, there is enough little things added in and a few interesting yet simple tweaks to make this its own game rather than a C&C product with the serial numbers filed off.

Now with all that in mind, imagine some of those classic TSR modules like the Tome of Horrors tweaked somewhat to have a party led by a Raider infiltrating these ruins or even take Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and give that a bit of a pulp flair.  It might work a bit *too* well.  ;)

M