Battle For Oz
Battle for Oz
From: Pirate Press
Reviewed by: Ron McClung
Battle for Oz is a new RPG setting book from Pirate Press.
A couple of years back, while at the Charleston SC convention, StormCon, I had the chance to meet the writers of Battle for Oz. Dan Smith and Dave Hardee are stand-up guys and very passionate about gaming and their product. They work together at each and every con to run as many slots of their game as possible. They have run for me at MACE events several times now and their game has been very well received.
The following year at StormCon, I finally got a chance to sit in one of their games. It was an absolute blast. I love it so much that I bought into their game. After a rough year of conventions, family issues and health issues, I finally am grabbing a chance to read through the book, plan a game for it and review it at the same time.
From page # 9: “You’re not in Kansas anymore”
First and foremost I must say that this is not your classis Judi Garland Oz setting that we all grew up watching. It is one part fantasy, one part steam punk, and one part real world, all meshed together. It is much more mature and dark, taking elements of the Baum series and reimagining them into a epic fantasy world. It takes place 100+ years after the events of L. Frank Baum’s books. It integrates all of what he created in a much more serious, less whimsical world of sword and sorcery, mystery and conspiracy. The world of Oz, a world of crystalline based magic, wizards and witches, is now ruled by an evil tyrant, Ozmandias the Second.
The major kingdoms and its multitude of their people live under the oppressive rule of this tyrant, but there is hope. A rebellion has formed from the remnants of the previous ruler’s allies. The daughter of Dorothy Gale, Amber is one of the leaders of this resistance, along with Solomon Straw a.k.a. the Scarecrow and King Blacktail the Brave, formerly the ‘Cowardly Lion.’ Magic primarily stems from the great emerald (which was later shaped into the Emerald City that we know) found at the center of the continent. Other gems also have magic powers as well.
The history of Oz says the continent of Nonestica was once part of our world, a grand continent with a mysterious giant emerald at the center. The magic of the emerald influenced all that settled there. Through a series of unfortunate events one can read in the background, the continent of Nonestica was eventually transported through dimensional space and enveloped in a shield of time, where it can be found today. Things like the lost continent of Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle are linked to Oz now, opening an endless possibility of real world and fantasy mash ups. The history in the book briefly covers a mixture of original work as well as some of Baum’s work, integrating it all into a cohesive, inspiring and fascinating setting.
There are many options for playing a character in the world of Oz. Nothing ever dies of old age in Oz, rendering all its denizens immortal. Anyone teleported there by the various dimensional holes between Earth and Nonestica also inherit this immortality. This aspect of the game fascinates me and subtly creates amazing opportunity for a GM and players to explore. You can play Outsiders (people originally from Earth, like Dorothy), one of the native races of Oz like the Evain and the Niave (roughly elven-like creatures, high and dark respectively) or other human Kinfolk (Munchkins, Gillikins, Pastorians, Winkies or Quadlings). There are also gnomes, beastmen (lions, tigers, bears and more), Clockwork tik-toks (something like the Tinman), or Patchworks (something like a scarecrow).
At the core of the campaign setting is a single plot point – Ozymandias has conquered most of Oz (still trying to conquer the Gilkins) and the players are part of the resistance who seek to unlock more of the secrets of Oz in an effort to defeat the tyrant. Ozymandias has his army of dragon men, evil tin men soldiers, undead pumpkin head terror squads, straw men assassins, as well as (of course) flying monkeys to help in his efforts.
From page # 65: “Just follow the Yellow Brick road…”
The rule system is at its core Savage Worlds, primarily from the Savage Worlds Deluxe edition. But it expands on those rules considerably to make the game system very unique in itself. Not only does it add a considerable number of skills (mostly Knowledge skills needed for the various magics in the setting) as well as a good number of Hindrances and Edges including special Arcane background for the various arcane aspects of the setting, it also adds new rules to the game that make the setting more epic as well as deadly. Just as a highlight, the damage system based on a raise is changed. In standard Savage Worlds, one raise gains you a single extra d6 and additional raises do not add anything. In Battle for Oz, extra raises beyond the first increase the die type… 2 raises increase it to a d8, etc. I not only highlight this because I like it but I also think it is smart. They do not add extra rules that seem out of place or are cumbersome. They compliment an already good RPG system and make the game a unique experience.
The book layout gives you a lot to get started with. The first two chapters give you the basics of the setting and then what you need to know to make a character, respectively. The character generation portion includes 18 different races or subraces, 22 archetypes, and an expanded list of equipment, armor and weapons. After that is the rules section explaining the various expansions and additions to the base ruleset, as I explained above. After that is a well written and extensive overview of the Land of Oz, giving a little more detail about the various locations contained within Oz and the denizens within.
The remainder of the book delves deep into the plot point campaign, game mastering the setting and gives the GM tools to help make it easy. This includes a list of encounter tables to be used when the adventuring party is wandering the lands of Oz, and a campaign adventure. This plot point adventure is a little more than a one-shot. It not only introduces the players to the setting but it also delves them deep into the fight against Ozymandias. If played out completely, it could change Oz forever, which is kind of at the core of a plot point campaign.
“Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” contains a wide variety of creatures, enemies and allies that a GM can use against his players. Some are based on original Baum works while others were inspired by Kickstarter contributors. Some are familiar while others are very unique and interesting. Just to highlight some of my favorites, creatures like the demonic Claw Biter, the steampunk-like Machacorn, and the hideous Spider-folk. Also contained in this chapter are a number of NPCs with stats including Dorothy, Jack Pumpkinhead, Glinda the Good and many others.
The book ends with a short adventure called the Garden Thicket of Blood, The trouble with Weeds. This is more like a classic one-shot or convention game, if a GM is looking to try it out without getting too deep into the mythos of the setting. It still portrays much of what the setting is about in a classic format that most players would be familiar with – a dungeon delve.
In conclusion, Battle for Oz feels like the perfect merge of the Oz series with elements of Lord of the Rings as well as any fantasy steampunk settings you would want to add. It has some very unique aspects to it and it is brilliantly presented. The art in the book is phenomenal and what I like most about it is the integration of some of the Kickstarter contributors faces into the art. Many of the Kickstarters paid to have their faces in the book as major characters and they are done brilliantly. It is a very inspiring setting and I look forward to running it.
For more details on Pirate Press and their new RPG setting book “Battle for Oz” check them out at their website http://pirate-press.com/, and at all of your local game stores.
Codex Rating: 19
Battle for Oz
From: Pirate Press LLC
Type of Game: RPG setting book
Written by: David Hardee and Dan Smith.
Additional Material: Clint Black, Paul Coulter III and many of our Kickstarter backers.
Editor: Steve Gabrielli
Original Artwork by: Dan Smith (Pencils) & Jennifer S. Lange (Colors), with contributions by Robert Bossinger, John Mohlenhoff, Helen Scorpio, Zackary Smith
Layout and Design: Mike Chaney, Alida Saxon and Gayle Reick
Number of Pages: 200
Game Components Included: 1 PDF or hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core system book, Savage Worlds Delux Edition
Retail Price: $20 PDF, $50 hardcover (US)
Reviewed by: Ron McClung