OK – I have reviewed a lot of stuff from the Era line and it has always generally elicited a positive response from me. None more so than the Era: The Consortium game which was the first that I reviewed last year. It has now been a good six months since that review and I am now able to produce a review of the game based on an actual play that began last Friday night.
I actually put a full night aside for character generation and this was a grossly excessive amount of time for character generation. It is a really simple system of generation that the players need to go through and it begins with a concept and then three to four simple steps. I found that the character generation portion of this was only around an hour to undertake for five players – really simple. What did the group that come out of it look like? A human assassin, a Eulutian drill sergeant, a Eulutian soldier/security officer and a Ximian farmer. I added a further character to them later in the week, a human pilot.
During character generation I threw in some Dungeon World and FATE Core elements to help me create the first game and found out that the players wanted to play a group of sympathetic characters to the resistance as they had witnessed some dubious dealings from Smertios (and I added in Moritasgas Pharmaceuticals) that had caused them to take a step back from the Consortium.
I will admit that I could have prepared earlier. I had planned to do a rules reread on the Thursday but by that stage a crisis (called comics) had hit the store and I lost a lot of the time I had put aside for this. I got some research in on the Friday and also found the beauty of the Consortium Rulebook Primer. This slim volume came in and saved the night really. It strips back the setting and adds in just the rules with some beautiful flow charts that simplify things down into the perfect, manageable bites.
When I sat down to the game I started with just this book in front of me but needed both by the end as the players began to search around their universe and I found I needed more than just the rules to answer some of the questions. That said though it was the primer that got most of the use through the night.
The game was largely player driven – I had prepared some sandbox material for the group – and I allowed the current front to play out for the group. They were on the tail end of a scandal involving a secret Smertios base located in a farming dome of Luxovius and the loss of a Ximian that had been recruited. The Ximian was in fact spaced by a group of elitist human recruits that took matters into their own hands and comandeered a shuttle into low orbit to eliminate the Ximian who was excelling during the course of the intensive boot camp.
The system performed admirably. In fact I was a bit worried about a couple of the concepts but I found that they worked seamlessly when I got to the point of having to work with them. In fact, at the end of the night when we got to the summation and how we felt it ran there was not a negative point made. The group were very happy with the way that everything had gone and it seemed almost natural the way that the system integrated with the story.
An example of this is the sneak attack that I should have realized that it would have with an assassin in the party. But it is one of the rules that I missed in the lead up so I tried to wing my way through it. As part of the round up at the end of the game the assassin’s player and I went through these rules with him and they read exactly as I had played them. That is not a pat on the back to me but a massive compliment to the Shades of Vengeance team who have the rules in precisely the zone that a GM would move into should they need to “wing” something!
Setting and Touches
I have spoken about this before in regards to this game. Its setting is remarkable and beautifully written. It covers around 4 to 5 hundred years of history. I am working in the zone of the current history, that is where the history left off. I also want to put my own slant on things in the game and I have found that the system and history is going to bend nicely for me to be able to do this. I want to eventually work a lot of computer incursion and interaction into the game which will fit perfectly. The broadness of the skill sets allow for a free flowing narrative structure that will work perfectly for the way that I want to handle this.
It also sounds as if a couple of the more immersed characters are looking forward to a touch of space piracy and I think that can work well with this. I move away from the corporation secret stealing style of computer incursion that is classic cyberpunk (where I am happiest) to breaking into the AI systems of derelicts and live ships as they attempt to board them.
I got it bang on in the first review. This is a great game – the system is aimed perfectly at the right level to encourage narrative and not rear its head to break that narrative. The history lends itself to a certain style of play and I do feel that players who read all of the history will buy straight into it though a game could be aimed at a much more generic audience if you wanted to build your own universe. That said, why bother with a history so rich and so full of characterization.
I know that we are going to have fun with this group for as long as it runs. I have a feeling that this will be for some time as the drive is in the players, the system is nice and easy and the universe feels alive and is creative. Keep rolling!