seanblacksheep

Recently, I had a friend write and publish a brand new RPG system. I know this is a Commander website, but Commander and roleplaying games fit into the same gaming niche for me; they are games that are most fun when the whole group is enjoying them. They are also games that are primarily about the experience instead of the result. Most of the cool Commander tales aren’t about winning; they are about some sweet interaction that no one has seen before; in my last game, I had out Possibility Storm with Mishra, Artificer Prodigy. One of the people I was playing with Possibility Stormed into a Threaten effect, stole Mishra, and then cast an artifact.

That opponent got to see Mishra be relevant for the first time in her Commander experience.  RPGs are the same way. You don’t talk about the last session and how it ended; you talk about the craziness between.

REVIEW

This review is going to be broken into five sections:

  • Presentation
  • Lore
  • Character Building
  • Gameplay
  • Overall Experience

I will try and be as honest as possible about this, even though the creator is admittedly a good friend. I will also say that I am looking at a slightly unfinished version, and there may be things that have changed slightly for the final release. If you want to take a look for yourself, head to RPG DriveThru and do so at a price of “Pay What you Want”:

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/141683/Hc-Svnt-Dracones

Here’s a Description of the game from the author

A unique character generation system allows you to assemble your Vector layer by layer, from their family, to their species, to the unique anatomy that defines their appearance. Interact with your story on two legs or four, from six feet up, or less than one. Explore new character interactions and problem solving possibilities when your party can range dramatically in size and shape from person to person.

This new and original RPG setting in the post-human Sol system features a dynamic dice system that allows players to approach problems from a variety of angles, rather than using a single blunt-force solution for everything. With a fresh combat system that incorporates enemy morale and the benefits of leadership, to bizarre implants that grant otherworldly abilities at grave personal cost, HSD promises a gaming experience uniquely different then your usual fare of elves and goblins. Learn about the 8-10-12 dice system in the book, or at http://hsdroleplayinggame.com/videos/

 

Presentation

The HSD book is 292 pages long, and it’s fairly obvious that the creator is an artist himself. The book is set up to where art conquers all, to the point that the section references on the pages force the text to move out of their way. There is a wide variety of art styles, so some of the art is marvelous while other portions are just mediocre. It does give you a good idea of how exceptionally unique the characters can be in the setting. (My preference would have been to have the book printed in landscape, rather than the portrait layout they went with. This is more of a coffee table book than something that should be sitting on a book shelf.)

The author’s tone is consistent and easy to understand. You get a real sense of Pierce as you read through any portion of the book. He clearly presents the rules without it sounding too much like a lawyer.

Overall, the presentation of the book is a high point. It’s worth downloading and donating a few bucks just to leaf through and see the work that was put in.

Lore

This is not an environment for children. The story of the downfall of humanity is a rough one, and the author doesn’t shy away from some of the more taboo consequences of starting to make animals look and act like humans. The 50-or-so pages of pages of lore set up a unique and interesting setting for a game.

The plus side of this is that you have a rich and colorful storyline that is left open for you to create and play in; the negative side is that you will have to convince players to read through an additional 40 pages before ever looking at the rules just to be able to play the game.   Compared to familiar settings in fantasy games or based on books, it’s a bit more of a time investment before you get started.

Character Building

This is a long section because of how dynamic the building process can be. With that said, I would suggest that you check out the character building tutorial before plowing through the nearly 100-page section of the book-

 

Once you make it through the tutorial and understand the process, it’s actually fairly quick to build.  (Another suggestion is just to go with what you think is cool the first time through.)

The interesting part of the Vector building process to me was something I feel underrepresented in the art – The Hemi morphism is distinctly more human than the other vectors. While the game generally has a distinctively anthropomorphic or ‘furry’ feel too it, I found it interesting that a player could decide to be nearly human in this setting.

Gameplay

The gameplay section was straightforward and easy to understand. It does have a very interesting critical failure rule that is both fascinating and seemingly impossible to actually use in-game, however; a critical failure is when a character does something completely wrong, but believes in all their heart that they did it perfect and acts accordingly. In theory, this means you set an explosive to blow up in two days, but really it’s in 20 seconds. You casually pack up your equipment, and BOOM!  In reality, I am not sure how you can do things like that without the players reacting to what they really know. I feel like you would need the DM to roll all skill checks hidden to be able to pull that off to good effect.

In the end, gameplay will vary depending on your DM and the group, just like any roleplaying game. You will need to try it out and see if it works for you.

Overall

Overall, I think the system accomplishes what it was trying to do. It’s a new system that feels fresh and caters to its niche crowd, while being playable by anyone looking to enjoy a new roleplaying system. I personally think it is best catered to an experienced playgroup who all like to read and try out new things. The system itself works well for newer players, but the hurdle of having to learn the lore behind a new universe is often a deterrent to starting out.

In any case, the price is right and it’s worth downloading and having your group consider.   

-Sean
@SwordsToPlow
P.S. – For anyone who is waiting for Magic content, don’t worry. My next article will be Commander related.  I promise.