Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Slow Roll Gaming Show of 2024 - Swords & Chaos, Comae Engine, and More

 This is a remarkably quiet year for a D&D 50th Anniversary. Some stuff is coming out, which is cool, but the key new edition books are all delayed to the end of the year and in the case of the Monster Manual, next year. But luckily I expect to have Tales of the Valiant in my hands in maybe just a few weeks? We shall see!

Part of me acknowledges I am just getting old, but even DriveThruRPG's picking have been....weird....lately. A disproportionate amount of content over on DTRPG seems to have either an intentional or unintentional lack of polish, as if the idea is to throwback the product to a bygone era when your only art resource was you high school buddy who doodled a lot, but meanwhile the rest of the products all have a pristine AI generated polish to them that has that "uncanny valley reality, tinged with anime thematics" look to it that is a grotesque turn-off and an immediate warning that there may have been less actual effort put in to the product. But hey, interesting stuff does slip in the cracks. I am debating ordering the brand new Smoke and Aces BRP book which looks interesting, and I just received my print edition of The Comae Engine, a rather unique reductionist redesign of the BRP/D100 system, and I also ordered a copy of Swords & Chaos RPG, a non-Troll Lord published SIEGE engine RPG heavily flavored for traditional Swords & Sorcery; barbarians only need apply, no pesky hobbits here!

So far, of the two Comae Engine looks a little heavy on the "storytelling mechanics" approach to play which for me is the equivalent of telling me that you can substitute any meat in any meal with an impossible burger patty and it will be just fine. I am not yet decided, and plan to try running it before I make any determination. Some elements such as the skill system approach are pretty cool.....and in terms of trying to make a condensed, modest system that can quickly be skinned for any genre or feel it seems like it might work pretty well in many cases. I think the book could have benefited from about 20 pages or so of examples of how to use it, and example genres/scenarios. 

To contrast, Swords & Chaos RPG from Blackspire Fantasy is a SIEGE engine powered RPG, a sort of updated version of Castles & Crusades which refines the experience to a distinctly classical swords, sorcery and sandals approach to RPGs, with humans as the only species to play, classes that fit Hyboria, Atlantis or Mu, and an excellent roster of monsters that only poaches a handful of classic OGL familiars that best fit the darker S&S vibe (e.g. cloakers, darkmantles), then fleshes the list out with a lot of more traditionally pulp fantasy beasts. No orcs, elves, halflings or dwarves here! 

Put another way, Swords & Chaos is for better or worse more my cup of tea these days, a known quantity my old brain, suffused like a marinade for decades with the swords & sorcery genre, can wrap itself a tasty spinach wrap, maybe. Hmmmm now I'm hungry.

What I like most about S&C is that it is a "all in one" book laden with exactly 100% of what you need to run the game. I am sure you can swap stuff in from Castles & Crusades if you want....but you totally don't need to. This book has it all. I am really big on "one tome to rule it all" lately. I will grant systems where the rules are dispersed over 2 or 3 tomes a pass, so long as those 2 or 3 books combined are 100% complete together.

Despite this, I am still extremely keen to explore the other slightly more traditional yet nonetheless totally cool Dragonbane. I really have too many flavors of classic and pulp fantasy floating around (see also ACKS). I need to wrap up the current D&D campaign so we can get to the other fantasy games all waiting in the wings. Conundrums!

1 comment:

  1. Keep us posted about Swords & Chaos, we were going to play it, but the GM got busy and the campaign never happened.