Ehdrigohr: The Review

Now, I think, if you follow me in any way, that you may realise how fascinated with this game I am.  Ever since I read that review from Boing Boing I was all over this.  I actually only read that review because Kristin Milton, a friend of mine on G+ who I have gamed with a few times pointed it out to me and said that it was up my alley.  I had seen the picture of the turtle getting around a bit at the time and decided that I would not read it but that pushed me over the edge.  To find that the game is a post apocalyptic setting based on Native American Indian beliefs and using the FATE Core system as a basis just was not what I was expecting and so I immediately bought the softcover and the PDF.  I have now (last night in fact) finished the game and so here is the Ehdrigohr review.  Does the book live up to the hype?

Appearance

This is a solid book, weighing in at a hefty 348 pages.  The moment that the PDF hit my iPad screen I was in love with the visuals and the appearance of it.  Here is a book that from cover to cover delivers on look and feel that is consistent with the material.  The illustrations are fantastic, the layout beautiful and consistent.  I decided to stop reading and wait until the softcover arrived so I could get the feel of the book in my hand as I read it.

Cover of Ehdrigohr
My preciousssss

I have to say that once the softcover arrived (I got it through DriveThruRPG) that the electronic version is prettier.  The illustrations when printed in full colour in the softcover were a little more washed out than the electronic version.  I am not saying that the softcover was a bad choice – I love it, but for maps and the like viewing them on the electronic reading device of your choice.  Know one thing though – this is an absolutely beautiful book, one that will take pride on my shelf, and at the table.

Just to get an idea about how beautiful this is going to be – check out the Council of Fools website and do not click skip until the intro is done.  This is a game that has a beautiful outlook to it and this is even matched by the supporting website!

Content

I have a bit of history of reading about the Native American Indians, strange for someone in Tasmania possibly, but true..  I grew up going to my Grandparents house every school holidays and the TV channels would put on a midday movie for kids on the break and it was often the Lone Ranger or Davy Crockett, all on the screen in black and white and I would be fascinated by the culture behind the Natives Americans.  As I grew up I read books about them and soon became fascinated by their spiritualism and shamanism.  It resonates with me as I would prefer to think spiritually about the life that is in nature than that which is untouchable and all seeing.

I can say though that I learnt a lot from reading this.  Now, this book is not about existing beliefs or real life spiritualism, it is built from the spiritualism from Native American Indians.  The world is completely different, there are fantastic magical realities and a complete back story that is built up to create an engaging and enticing world to play in.  But I learnt a lot.  The book hits you heavily with the mythos and makes no apologies for it.  I was reeling at the different feel to it all and amazed at what I was reading all at the same time.  Factual backgrounds interspersed with chapters that contained fiction, then short hits of rules to go back to world setting again.  It is like a little storm that keeps you reading and keeps the reading interesting.

While the text was fantastic in keeping my interest in the setting, there was one drawback to the book and that is the editing.  I do not often make this point but it was constant and literally all the way through the book.  Spelling was all there but often I would come across a word that was incongruous to the context.  I can see that it has been spelled correctly but it was the wrong word for the sentence.  I knew what the word should have been but there it was, the wrong word staring at me.  This tended to make me jump out of the immersion that the book offered and it was not an infrequent occurrence.  It made me wonder if a thorough read through had been done of the text before it was sent to print or if it was just spell checked and put out.

The amount of information in this world can get a bit overwhelming at times.  I often think, as I am reading a game like this, how much do I need to memorize?  Is it all going to fall over in game if I can’t remember the identity of the four selves, or what of the way that relations work?  I do this even more now as when I ran my taster of Numenera for an Australian group I got the comment that it would have been much better if they had only one thing to learn, the system or the setting and not both together as it was overwhelming.  I get that from this book too and I know I am going to run a game soon so I need to focus on that.  I will be reading back through the setting materials now that I have a handle on the system so that I have that material fresh as I go into the game.

System

At the heart of this lies FATE core.  But it is a variation of the core rules that are spelled out in the rule book.  It is handy to have the FATE Core book, but not really required.  They give you all the rules you need in the Ehdrigohr book and suggest the FATE core book for clarification if you are confused with different things.

Characters in Ehdrigohr are going to have slightly more aspects to them than the regular FATE core characters.  This is not that unusual as many systems have done this in the past.  There is a new mechanic here that looks at the power level of things that is new to me.  Most things are common level in power but say you face a warrior that has a Grand level spear then he is superior to you and gets bonuses to his roll if you are only common.  Facing something that is overwhelming with a common power say, gives the overwhelming creatures an auto +6 and makes it a hell of a tough battle.

sihouette giant hare
Want to ride a giant hare? They talk too!

The other difference here are that the characters may have power over mysteries.  Mysteries are similar, but most certainly not the same, to magic in a fantasy game.  The character gains control of certain powers and their is a huge amount of them.  There are seven traditions that guide the way you look at the mysteries.  They are;

  1. Ecclesiastical Orders;
  2. Mystics;
  3. Solitaries;
  4. Warrior Societies;
  5. Eclectics;
  6. Dynasts; and
  7. Makers.

These traditions guide the way that you use and learn your mysteries, the mysteries are separate completely to them but are flavoured by the tradition.  The Mysteries fall into four broader categories that each contain four individualistic mysteries;

  1. The Elements (characters are called Elementalists)
    1. Earth
    2. Fire
    3. Air
    4. Water
  2. The Essences (characters are called Essentialists)
    1. Weave
    2. Moment
    3. Space
    4. Truth
  3. The Natures (characters are called Adepts)
    1. Body
    2. Mind
    3. Spirit
    4. Soul
  4. The Principals (characters are called Principalers)
    1. Life
    2. Love
    3. Honour
    4. Destiny

These powers are learned like skills in the game and offer up a true feeling of being connected to the land.  In a lot of ways much of these powers are lenses to drive the mechanics through, but it is through these lenses that you can truly see a lot of the beauty of this game.

But What is it About?

I have talked a lot about what the game looks like, how it is written and what the system offers up but what is it about?  Well, it is a post apocalyptic game where the humans got to a point that was so against nature that a cataclysm of sorts occurred.  The technically advanced humans had perverted the world too much and a great war came and shattered that world.  There were great spirits that were angered and a war occurred between the two greatest.  They created minions, Sorrows and Graces to conduct this battle in the world and this shattered the humans into nine distinct tribes who lived out a nomadic existence trying just to survive.

There is now a time of silence, where the wars have receded.  Humanity still struggles to survive, especially at night.  night is when the bad things come out, but with the assistance of the Graces the Humans were able to trap and put to sleep well below the Earth the great Woes that had been created.  The Woes in their slumber still morph and create Evil creatures known as Shivers that swarm the lands at night.  These creatures are kept at bay from most communities by use of spirit towers and individuals of great power that can still wield Mysteries.

But there are others that mistrust the wielders of Mysteries for misuse of the Mysteries can cause rips in the Weave that allows in Evil from the Twain.  There are also others that prey on their own kind, slavers and those that serve to cause havoc and pain.  There is also the Shivers and other spirits such as the dreaded Given known as the Dul Ah’gallaan who made deals with the evils that live beyond in the Twain.  Curses also lay low many and the populace is wary of the darkness that they bring.

It is a game of horror that can take many focuses.  The players generally take on the roles of Mystery touched heroes that go out to make the world a better place by fighting the darkness.  No matter what form it may take.

Conclusion

I have not yet played this game, but after completing this post and letting it fly I am making a game and then contacting a few likely players that may want to play it.  The read through of this game is fantastic though.  You can take it as just a pure post-apocalyptic horror game that has a strong hint of fantasy to it or you can play it and try to realise the goals that it is attempting to integrate.  Either way it is going to be a great game.  Allen Turner (the Author along with Karen Harvey-Turner) have done a great job with this.  Beyond the small editing problems I mentioned there is really nothing that I can complain about.  I am really looking forward to running this game!  Ehdrigohr is available from the Council of Fools website or RPG DriveThru.  I suggest you get out there and grab yourself a copy and take out a Shiver or two!

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