From: Dark Tavern Press
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin
Shroud of the Ancients is a new RPG from Dark Tavern Press.
Both a new role playing game and a campaign setting, this book delivers on its promise of a fresh approach to the genre. This is a system with no classes or levels that still allows for character development and the potential for long campaign play.
From the back cover: “Over two centuries ago, Terrath’s second moon shattered and fire fell from the heavens.”
In the most basic terms this is a post apocalyptic fantasy setting. While that does not define the game as a whole, it is the best one line description if one is asked ‘what is different.’
This product uses an updated version of their ‘D5RPG’ rules set. Character creation is relatively straightforward but a little complicated. First time players may have to read through it a few times to really make the character they want. Variations on standard fantasy races are provided, with a few sub races based on location for some.
There are four main attributes, Might, Agility, Presence and Essence. These should be self-explanatory for the most part. Essence is a reflection of the character’s inner strength. Those planning on using magic will need to emphasize this attribute. The game master, called the Shroud Master here, sets a campaign style based on how powerful the characters will start. This gives the number of points to distribute to attributes. All are bought on a one for one basis except for Essence, which costs 5 per 1 point.
Secondary attributes, called Aspects here, are derived once the attributes have been finalized. These include Awareness, Stamina, Mana, Will and Destiny. A third set of attributes, called Secondary Aspects is also derived. This includes Fear Rating, Movement and Natural Defense.
Characters then choose Distinctions. These are abilities and such that help make your character unique. There are positive, helpful distinctions and negative distinctions. Taking negative distinctions gives more points to spend on positive distinctions and also wonderful sources of role-playing material.
Skills are next. These are divided by main attribute type and a set of Natural Skills. You get a number of points equal to your score in that attribute. Skills cover everything your character might do day to day, like fighting, jumping, moving silently, searching, knowledges, casting spells and playing a musical instrument.
Once that is done all that is left is fleshing out your history and other role-playing ideals and purchasing equipment. While character creation seems a little long-winded it is a process that becomes easier as time goes by.
From page #194: “Beyond Aegis lies the unknown. As expeditions prepare to venture through Fenir Keep in earnest, none of us can say what we will discover in the Lands of the Forsaken.”
The D5 system is based on rolling 5 ‘D5’ dice. Dark Tavern Press sells 5-sided dice or you can use 10-siders and divide the result in half. One of these dice is your ‘destiny’ die and should be a different color. This destiny die is open ended. Reroll any and all ‘5s’ on this die alone. To attempt an action these 5 dice are rolled. The result is added to the appropriate attribute and skill rank. Situational modifiers may also apply. The Shroud Master will assign a target number you must exceed to be successful. The ‘average’ difficulty target number is 30. Considering the dice results are added to an attribute and a skill rank you can see that characters are above average individuals in many cases.
Combat in Terrath can be deadly. A skilled opponent can land blows all day on the average person. Weapons vary in damage abilities but a skilled warrior with a dagger can still do a lot of damage. Armor prevents and absorbs damage, a more realistic system. It is possible for your armor to be damaged to the point where its ability to protect you is degraded or completely nullified. A warrior depending on his or her armor would be smart to take a few points in the appropriate crafting skill. Overall combat flows well and quickly.
Magic can also be a powerful force. Casting spells can be more difficult than most other skills but the results are awe-inspiring. Magic is detailed into nine circles or types of magic. The casting process requires a little practice to fully understand and get used to. The balancing factor in this setting is religion. Most of the inhabitants of Terrath are at least publicly religious. Non-church spellcasters need to be cautious lest they be charged with using dark magic. For those who master the art, slinging energy, weaving protective wards, enhancing attributes and more are within reach.
The campaign and world background is rich and full. A detailed timeline really pulls you in like a good novel. An area called Aegis is home to all. This is the known surviving ‘civilized’ land on the planet. The heart of current civilization, the city of Av’Talen is well detailed. What lies beyond is up to you, the player.
In conclusion, this is a fun game. While character creation, combat and spell casting may take a little practice to get perfect, players and Shroud Masters alike should revel in discovering what lies beyond the ‘safe’ borders of Aegis.
For more details on Dark Tavern Press and their new RPG “Shroud of the Ancients” check them out at their website http://www.sotarpg.com/, and at all of your local game stores.
Codex Rating: 18
Shroud of the Ancients: The Adventurer’s Guide to the World of Terrath
From: Dark Tavern Press
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Randy Miller, Roderick Edwards
Cover Art by: Hokunin
Additional Art by: Al Debnam, Rhonda Libbey, Jacek Pilarski, Silviu Dinu, Nicholas Cloister
Cartographer: Chris Strecker
Number of Pages: 215
Retail Price: 29.95(US)
Item Number: DTP1000
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin