RPG Review

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Kromore Role Playing Game & Campaign Setting

From: Raex Games Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Kromore Role Playing Game & Campaign Setting is a new RPG Core Rulebook from Raex Games Publishing.

On the website, the writer of Kromore boasts some pretty epic claims about his game. First impressions of the PDF tells me that he made a strong effort to fulfil those boasts.  At first glance, I got the impression that Kromore was meant to be a generic system for any genre but then I realized it was more than that.  It is an RPG set in a specific setting but the game can be played within any era of that setting.  Fantasy, steam punk, or space, the game is designed to accommodate any style of genre, but set in a specific world with a very imaginative and vast history.

Both the setting and the system are heavily integrated with each other but not so much that you can’t customize part of it for yourself.  The overall project is very ambitious and epic.  I don’t think I have seen a RPG setting and system done like this.  There have been many generic systems and they have spanned many settings and eras, but I don’t know of a setting to spans multiple eras within a single setting. It is hard not to be even the slightest curious about this game after you know what his goals were.  When you see the book, the art draws you in, like good art does, and then your journey into Kromore begins.

From the website: “For 10,000 years Kromorians have waged war with realm creature, monster, man, alien, and beast. They have struggled through the eras, but there have been many who light the path of survival with honor, bravery, and blood.”

 System:  The system is very character-centric with a strong focus on story as well as character development mechanics.  It has five basic attributes measure in 4-sided dice (d4) dice pools, a leveling system that goes to 30 (and rules for beyond), a pretty elaborate background system, skills and abilities that tie into the leveling system, as well as a profession system that is sort of like a class system but much more flexible.

Attributes are what you would expect – two physical and three mental or spiritual.  They are measured in single point values and are bought through a point-buy system.  These attributes are primarily used to determine the number of d4 dice you are rolling for checks, but also used as simply modifiers to task rolls.  There is a blurry line where I am not completely sure when you use them as dice and when you use them as modifiers and this is where I think more examples would really help.

The short list of fixed skills are primarily measure in bonuses that add to the dice total.  Skills are very broad and simple.  Skills include Fitness, Survival, Operate, Knowledge and Technology.  They each cover a broad spectrum of actions and are very flexible in their use.

Abilities is a much broader and detailed area that goes beyond what the basic Attributes and Skills cover.  They are in part like d20 Feats but also spells and also like d20 Class abilities.  There is a wide variety of them, all categorized in logical groups like Fitness & Fighting, Kicks & Punches, Weapon Abilities, Civilian Abilities and Knowledge & Languages.  There are also Magical Abilities.  They focus on two primary areas – Innate ability and Sci-Magic.  These are strongly linked to the Professions that use them (see below).

Professions are basically the class of a character.  They are divided out into Tiers and each Tier gains a character some bonuses and special abilities.  A character can pick any profession as each level as long as the meet the prerequisites.  In fact, the writer encourages exploring multiple professions so you have a multi-dimensional character.  Professions are broken down into general categories like Military, Combat, Civilian, and Enlightened.  In each category group are 5 or 6 Professions.  Each profession has a varied number of Tiers, between 5 and 15.

My overall impression of the character generation and development system is that it is diverse, and not overly complex. It accomplishes what it wants to do without adding in so much complexity that it is not even worth developing a character.  It is far less cookie cutter than the standard class system of 3rd edition D&D because you have a lot more flexible.  My only concern with this many powers and abilities is that it can tend itself to a lot of book diving unless you make you make good notes on what each one does.  Many are fairly straightforward, and most are not complex at all, but remembering what all they do might be a challenge.

It is an open ended task resolution system where the higher your roll, the better.  It uses 4-sided dice (d4)  in the base dice mechanic.  Instead of a linear distribution of a d20, a [X]d4 system creates that bell curve effect that a lot of people prefer in random probabilities.  I am not a big fan of d4 dice in general but its not really any different from the d6 system in that way, except no wild die.

Combat seems to have a strong influence from the aforementioned 3rd edition D&D, with a slight modification to the actions one can take.  In this system, players have 3 action points to spend and certain actions cost 1, 2,3 or more to perform.  Abilities can reduce the cost of actions.  The points system definitely aids in the tactics of a combat round and also defines actions a little clearer, but it gets subjective when the GM has to make up action points for those off-the-wall actions you know players will perform.

Combat attacks and defense are also handled in an interesting fashion.  It encompasses the attack and damage in one single roll.  The attacker rolls a number of d4 dice equal to his Muscle or Agility attribute, adds in the damage dice of the weapons, and any bonuses or penalties.  The defender rolls his Dodge (Agility) and adds in any bonuses.  The difference, if positive, is damage passed on to shield, then armor and then life points.

Also every character has a Combat Potential, which is a measure of their general combat ability to handle weapons and armor.  This, in a way, takes the place of d20 weapon proficiencies.  This proved to be a very difficult thing to deal with in play test (see After Play-test Report).  This goes up very gradually and limits the time of weapons and armor you can efficiently operate.

This is a system that needs to be experienced to really get a feel for it.  Other than verbiage, slight twists in mechanics, the system is similar to a lot of class and skill based systems out there.  It is just a matter of how that approach works in practice.  As this review is long enough, I will write up my playtest review separate {See After Play-test Report}

From the website: “Kromore offers players the opportunity to choose their game genre and era of play.”

Setting:   The setting is what makes this game so bold and epic.  It sort of a mix of fantasy and sci-fi at its base, with a lot of other genres thrown in as you span the timeline of the world.  The writer divides the world’s timeline in eras, all pertaining to a specific genre.  It deftly weaves a fascinating tale through thousands of years, as ancient aliens (that late become the gods) seed the world with races, through the Age of The Three Kingdoms, through the arrival of humanity (Age of Man) and the disaster that followed.  It continues onward through a Rebirth period and continues on through several others up to the generically named Space Era.  During these periods, there are specific races that are available through out the history of the world and others that area not (some are lost in the aforementioned disaster).  Technology advances. Cultures, kingdoms and countries change. It is a very dynamic world, but through out it remains vaguely familiar as well.

The sheer detail of this setting is too much to comment on.  What I can tell you is there is a plethora of races to choose from as a player character, each with their own cultures that shift and change throughout the ages.  My biggest concern was it being too alien.  Most players need a game to at least be somewhat connected to something familiar like including a human race option.  This setting integrate Earth humans into the world in a very cool and believable way.  And they are in fact Earth humans, as Earth is many millions of light years away.

Another concern I had was how the writer was going to integrate a pantheon to a setting that evolves from a fantasy setting into more of a sci-fi setting.  I was pleasantly surprised by the way he did it, in sort of an Ancient Aliens style that really integrates well with the story.

There is a lot in this book, which explains why it is so big.  A whole planet’s history, technology and peoples all summed up in one volume.  Of course, it is not comprehensive but it is detailed enough to give you what you need to get started.  One complaint, and this is coming from a sci-fi RPG guy, is that when talking about the planet and its neighbors, he puts things in terms of planets and galaxies, never in terms of star systems.  That may be a pet peeve of mine but I like things in this context to at least be believable and translate to things we already know.  I am sure that is to keep things simple.  But when you say the planets in a galaxy orbit a single sun, that just sounds unintelligent to me.

There is a lot depth in this setting but a lot of flexibility as well. There is a complete timeline, as I said, describe all the major events and you can pick from any of the eras and take control of the fate of Kromore from there.  There is high and low fantasy, steam punk, and sci-fi in this.  There is also horror, a potential for post apocalypse and many others.  Following this, is a description of various kingdoms, nations, factions and tribes that populate the land through out this timeline.  There are multiple subspecies of humans, for example.  Not all humans are the same.  There are also vampires, and they play a role in the planet’s history.  Following this is a listing of the religions and the major pantheon of the world that I already mentioned.

Among the other tropes of fantasy, Kromore also has other planes or “Realms” that bring forth celestials and demons.  The Realms are also one of the two source of magic in this setting (the other being Innate or bloodline magic).  The book includes a good number of creatures including Dragons, Demons, and other beasts.    It ends with a very interesting list of cool locations that can be integrated into a campaign.

About the overall book, simply put, it is stunning.  The art is fantastic and inspiring.  I kind of wish it had more pictures of each race, so you can get a better feel for them, perhaps characters in action.  The layout is top notch as well.  If I spot editing problems, it is saying something, and I did.  So it probably could use a little more editing.

Another pet peeve of mine is an quick start adventure.  There is nothing like that in this book and it was probably left out because of page count reasons.  I advise anyone that is making an independent game like this to really consider providing in some way or another to test out the system.  And it would also be nice if pre-generated characters were included but that is really rare.

In conclusion, the play-test result is a better conclusion but on the surface, the concepts of the game and system are sound.  The implementation as later discovered is a little shaky and the presentation is a little rough.  Perhaps the writer took on a little too much with this epic goal, and focused more on the story and less on making sure the reader understood the system.  More examples would be something that would greatly help.

For more details on Raex Games Publishing and their new RPG Core RulebookKromore Role Playing Game & Campaign Setting” check them out at their website http://www.raexgames.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Kromore Role Playing Game & Campaign Setting
From: Raex Games Publishing
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
Written by: T. Julian Bell
Contributing Authors: Kaleb Brown, Marc-Andre D. Fortin
Game Design by: T. Julian Bell
Cover Art by: Christopher Balaskas
Additional Art by: Christopher Balaskas
Number of Pages: 353
Game Components Included: Core Rule book
Game Components Not Included: Standard gaming trappings
Retail Price: $49.99 hardcover (US)
Website: http://www.raexgames.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

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