Currently Ed Jowett of Shades of Vengeance has a Kickstarter in operation. It is for a supers based RPG that uses the Era D10 system. The Kickstarter can be found here and is already funded with one stretch goal cleared. There are 14 days to go for it as I write this and I have to say that some of the reward levels are pretty damn attractive. Being a fan of Era the Consortium I leaped at the chance to back the highest level so I get Empowered, Consortium and Lyres all in hardback!
Ed Jowett asked me to take a look at this and review it so I have been given a sneak peek at the Primer and the three Campaign packs that are on offer. Ed and I had chatted about this game previously when I was looking at Consortium and I have to say I liked what I heard. But you have to realise that what we have here is a Primer Rulebook. It gives you the basic rules of how to play and that is pretty much it. There are teasers in here of course of what will be included in the full core rulebook when it is completed but there are restrictions in it being a Primer. You can’t, for example, make a character. They tell you all about the statistics of a character, but none of the “how to” of building a character. The campaign sections you get will have characters in it so that you can choose a pre-generated character for use.
There are other things that I am so eager to find out about this game that the Primer does not answer. The powers of your characters are built off a “Power Tree” that is mentioned but no pre-built powers are laid out. I get the feeling that this is because the power tree may need to be built from a negotiation between player and GM so you receive certain powers at certain development points. That way, in the full book, you should be able to get to play exactly the type of hero (or villain) that you want to.
The rules system is good. It uses a (or multiples of) d10 for all rolls and checks with a target number called a threshold. The more successes you get, the better you do something – the more failures you get then you might botch something. It is a fast lightweight mechanic that is becoming more and more prevalent in gaming systems where the GM advises what attribute and what skill to roll (or sometimes a double attribute). You grab as many d10 as the pairing totals up to and you roll. It also has an exploding d10 system (though it is called additional d10) making it possible to gain more successes than you have dice for. Finally, you also have a luck pool that allows you to add 2 successes to a roll if you spend a point or reduce an opponents roll by 2 successes. Of course for every luck point you use the GM then gets a bad luck point to use against you in the future…
I do like the pain mechanic in this game. You have two ways to take damage, one on the pain track and the other on the health track. The pain track tends to be what you suffer from most damage and the health track only gets affected by attacks that would have serious effects on a heroes being. There are also certain modes that you can enter as an “empowered” that makes you much tougher than your average person on the street.
Overall, I really like this system but there is so little to go on here. I normally learn a system by building a character and then reading the rest of the rules so I do feel a bit stymied in that effect. That said, the look and feel of this game is incredible. If the power tree is as I envisage it I think that I am going to love this system. I saw no real system of effort and effect built in though and this is a mainstay of most comics where each use of a power often costs effort and drains the hero. I would like something like this to be added, but it is a really good system. The Primer is complete from the looks of it. The artwork is on song giving the perfect feel for a pulp comic style and there is lots of use of Comic Sans! So Typographical Nazi’s will have plenty of heart attacks unless they actually realise that the use of Comic Sans is perfect in this context (note – it is not used throughout but is to highlight things).
Difficult to understand rules are all complemented by flow charts too. In this book that seems to be limited to the Combat section but hey – that is great usage of the charts. It explains rules quickly and is a great addition. Each of the campaign sections are really brief but look fun to play. The first has the choice of characters so your players can get a feel of how the game runs. The powers represented by these characters are also broad and offer many different styles of play for your group. I would have liked to see them on a full character sheet but they are only really in a notation style.
This looks like it is going to be a great supers game. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the core book, but that is where this Kickstarter helps Ed out. he takes the money he gets from the primer and uses it for the core book. I know for a fact that he already has a heap of the core book written and it is going to be a very exciting project. The Primer rules are a brilliant thing to have when you are running a game so the players have a quick reference to the rules and I think that is precisely the purpose here. A compact book with quick access to rules for players to soak up and learn to play the game and use their characters. I do suggest you get along to the Kickstarter site and help support Shades of Vengeance in creating this game – it is going to be brilliant. Keep rolling!