After Play-test Report: Kromore

From: Raex Games Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Kromore Role Playing Game & Campaign Setting is a RPG Core Rulebook from Raex Games Publishing.  This is a summary of a short playtest of this game.

My playtest of Kromore was two fold: (1) character generation and (2) short combat.  I actually developed a cool idea for a one-shot adventure but wanted to first see how the game played out.  We are veteran players 42 years old and older, with a lot of gaming experience between us.

Some writers put together a rulebook very modular and understand that a game master may not read the entire rulebook cover to cover at first, especially of the rulebook is 350+ pages. Before I dedicate myself to a 350 RPG, I need to be able to clearly understand what I am investing myself into.  Rules need to be placed modular in their proper locations  of the rulebook so they can be easily referenced and note spread out or even assumed.  At first try, I want to get a taste of the game and in doing that, I need to be able to reference the basics of the game quickly.

The best thing I think a writer can do is write up a simple quick start set of rules and a supply an short adventure to get a GM started. Clearly state all the rules in the sections they belong, and establish clear conventions of your mechanics first and foremost. However, in truth, many writer don’t do this the first time, which is why second or revised editions are released.

Kromore suffers from some of these missteps in the writing, as we discover in our play-test.  As i struggled to clearly understand some of the concepts, I was flipping a lot of pages and found reference to various rules in odd places.  I found myself begging for more examples.  Of course I realize that more examples could easily make the book 400 pages but perhaps the writer could post examples on the web site in a download section.

As a GM, I really would have liked higher resolution maps so I can get a better feel of the setting.  This is something else that could be placed in the download section.  It might be nitpicky, but the fonts used on the map made the wording harder to read as well.

We first did character generation.  That went fairly smoothly once we had our concepts down.  To make it quick, I assigned concepts to each player – warrior, magic user and rogue.  They set out to find the best ways to make a 1st tier character based on that.  The slowest part of character generation was the origin story, using the complex flowchart.  But once the players got through that, they really did have a good feel for their character and began to take ownership of it.  They liked the potential of versatility in the class or profession system, and the ability enhancement added more variety.

Once made, the characters had some pretty good numbers.  In some areas they felt like first level characters but in others they really felt effective.  I set up a short combat with a couple of beast men, and wasn’t sure how it would go.  There is not a lot of choices to throw at a 1st level party, but you can learn a lot from more challenging situations.  It went fairly quickly and we definitely discovered several areas we need more clearer understanding before we tried it out again.

In play, we struggled with several things with our play-test that would have been easily solved with examples, perhaps a little editing and clearer definitions of game mechanic conventions.  Understanding when to use the attributes as dice or as modifiers is not clearly defined.  This is a key convention mechanic that needs to be explained a little clearer, I feel.

We tried out some basic spell use and it does not seem to be very balanced and we saw some scaling issues with it. Example was fire ball.  There are 5 layers of fire ball ability that one can take and each layer, there is more damage.  However, it is very easy to dodge the fire ball and makes it totally ineffective.  There should have been (and might be, but I could not find it) a means to allocate the points you exceed the spell cast test to make it harder for targets to dodge the fireball. Also, throwing magic around also seems to depart from the one-roll concept that is in combat and that confused me at first.  First your roll focus to cast and then you roll damage.  I think there needs to be a little more consistency in that area.

The aspect called Hero Points was something I missed in the previous review.  In Savage Worlds, we call them Bennies, and in 5th edition D&D, they are called Inpiration.  In both those systems, they are handled better.  In Kromore, they are gained as you level but once used, they do not come back until you level again.  You only have one until 7 level, and once you spend it, it is gone until you can level up.  The problem with that is the benefit does not make it worth the wait.  You can spend a point to get a chance to re-roll, max out a damage of one hit or automatically stabilize a dying character.  Honestly, I would want more out of something I can not gain back.

What got the players interested was the setting, but we struggled with the rules.  We needed a little more clearer definitions and think that this book would be better with a little more editing and content to help people play the game.  Maybe some downloadable game enhancements would help because we all can see the potential in this game but ran into too many question marks and things that made us go “huh?” as we played.