Friday, March 6, 2009

A Song of Melting Ice and Guttering Fire

It saddens me to see such a beautifully-illustrated product as this be party to such pedestrian design. Ho-hum, a hybrid CA. Ooh, metagame Currency! Ugh, a table for weapon rules. Blech, a separate section for combat rules. Blarrrrgh, two different resolution systems, one with target numbers and one without.

It's like someone found a really amazing artist to do the pikchurs, and then took every "Mike's Standard Rant" from the Forge forums and cobbled things together into one game. One thing that is pretty cool: the designers went halfsies on that whole "stats vs. skills" design aspect, such that there are no stats, only twenty or so Abilities that cover the combined ground of stats and skills (the ground they'd get in most games, anyway).

The art, which is awesome, reminds me of Richard Corben's work (Bloodstar was one of my favorites growing up) and that of David Petersen (of Mouse Guard fame), feels too good for this game. The game isn't some horrible creature; it's just so bog-standard (at least in the fast-play rules preview available at the Green Ronin site) that it feels like it doesn't deserve such evocative images.

The Game of Thrones series has super-strong themes, an intensely detailed setting (but the basic movers and shakers aren't hard to understand, thankfully), and characters that feel real and authentic. To have yet another crack at an RPG adaptation of the series be so ... typically mainstream makes me want to go and design my own version of it. I swear, though, this is yet another series where noble houses, respect, and reputation are all major-league forces, which means I don't need to make something out of a whole new cloth - some minor adaptation of Mask of the Emperor would suit the series quite well.

One major thing that'd need to happen, though, is rules for monsters. Well, maybe not new rules, per se, but certainly the injection of overtly supernatural beings, beyond what the Sorcery rules can accomplish. The monsters all still involve people, rather than just being flat, boring obstacles for the protagonists to overcome, so that's cool. I'm also wicked-excited about making the Black Brothers the new Heralds; they are so Aloof it's not even funny! I'd been considering taking the Monk role along with me when I adapted Mask to a Christian Medieval setting, and I think the vaguely-Catholic-Church nature of the Seven-faith in Westeros would work great for Monks. I'd need to swap out the Way, or something, but letting Black Brothers be the "fightin' Aloofs" instead of the Septons would at least maintain the fighter-y options for people wanting to play Aloof characters. Good times.

Edit: upon reading a bit more of the sample game, I noted that the full stats for the sample characters are incredibly brief, almost Mask-brief. This mitigates the game's other flaws somewhat, though its resoundingly incoherent CA (Gamist and Sim, back and forth!) still puts the nails in the coffin for me. Ah, well. Simple rules do not mean good rules, although they do help.

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