Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book
From: RAW Immersive Games
Reviewed by: Joey Martin
Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book is a new RPG from RAW Immersive Games.
Within the Ring of Fire is a tough read. Contained within is a reflection of a rich world in the author’s mind. The best way to review this work is chapter by chapter.
From the back cover: “Within the Ring of Fire is a deep immersive Dark Fantasy roleplaying game designed to allow players to explore passions and politics as members of strongholds, ambitious mercantile guilds, rigid theocracies, blasphemous covens, exploratory expeditions, and more.”
First off, this book (and PDF) looks wonderful. The artwork is of good quality overall and the layout is very professional.
Chapter one is the ubiquitous chapter on roleplaying. The author does a very good job explaining the concept of a roleplaying game and character creation. A good portion of the chapter deals with the duties of the ‘Flame Tender,’ the name this game gives for the Game Master. Player characters are referred to as ‘Catalysts.’ Again, many games drop the ball a bit on this chapter, assuming (correctly in many cases) that players already know these concepts well. This chapter is worth a read even for an experienced gamer.
Chapter two deals with species. These are the races that players can use for their catalysts and interact with in the world of K’Vega-Thale. The author states that some are reimaginings of classic fantasy races. In addition to new races, fresh ideas on classic Elves, Dwarves and more make an appearance.
This is where the game began to break down for me. A dearth of information is given for each race. Everything from social structure, diet, population, physical description, relations with other races, religion, information on mating and childbirth, a creation story, currency, languages and names. It is a lot of information, almost an overload of it, some very useful, some not. One oddity is that each species has a very similar list except for Humans. Humanity gets it’s own distinct list of ethnic groups. The real problem here is the interspecies relations. Played as written, your Flame Tender would have to give you a short list of allowable species for their Saga. Every species completely hates about half of the other species. Most of this is a kill on sight thing. This makes it hard for most gaming groups I know that like to have a diversity and try new mixes of races.
Chapter three is Catalyst creation. This system uses only eight-sided die. Any roll needed will use 2 eight siders. Basically any result of ‘1’ is ignored, any ‘8’ will ‘explode’ and be rerolled and rolling double ‘1’s is a critical fail.
A point-based system is used to build the stats. Beginning stats range from 5 to 12.Human average for any stat score is listed as an ‘8.’ Racial bonuses and subtractions are added after the fact. The stats are Strength, Dexterity, Vigor, Intelligence, Enlightenment and Presence. Secondary stats are derived mainly from the primary stats. These are Reaction, Defense, Defense Capacity, Armor Rating, Attack and Speed. Catalysts are fleshed out using advantages and disadvantages, skills, passions, opulence, possessions and personality.
For a story-based game it does have a good bit of number crunching. In the middle and at the end of this chapter there is additional terminology for the game. A little bit of renaming standard ideas and tropes can be refreshing. In my opinion this game takes that a bit too far.
Chapter four is titled ‘Extras.’ While player characters, or Catalysts, are called ‘Stars’, what you would normally call NPC’s are called ‘Embers.’ It’s a neat title that goes along with the name and flavor of the game, but again it is just too much overall. Basically this chapter tells you that non-catalyst or Star level beings are what you might refer to as minions, easy to deal with in battle or any kind of competition in which your Star Catalyst is even moderately decent at.
Chapter five lists all the Advantages you have access to during catalyst creation and beyond. These include basic skills with weapons, armor and items along with possessions, ideals, special attacks and other concepts that make your catalyst unique.
Imperfections are covered in chapter six. The opposite of Advantages, each point of imperfections gives you more points to spend on Advantages. Some are quite debilitating and the list is rather short.
Chapter seven covers skills. Skills levels range from zero to fifteen. If you have zero ‘grades’ in a skill you receive a penalty of -4 to any related rolls due to being non-proficient. All the standard fantasy skills can be found here.
Chapter eight covers Weapon Skills. These are skills you buy in addition to the standard skills in chapter seven. For a novice gamer this might be easy to miss. The chapter begins with several pages of color illustrations of numerous weapons. Basic weapon terminology used in the game is also given. Each weapon has three numbers listed after its name. The first is the weapon damage, the second its Armor Surpass and the last is its Boost number. The Boost number was defined back in Chapter three. It is listed as “a term which describes superior success.”
Armor is also covered in this chapter. While the name of the chapter is ‘Weapon Skills’ and skills are needed per weapon or weapon group, the section on armor reminds you that you need the appropriate advantage to properly use armor without penalty. Each armor listed gives you the Armor Rating and Skill Penalty. Shields give you a defense bonus.
In chapter nine we visit combat. A note at the beginning of the chapter states that this is the Accelerant system and is designed for Deep Immersion style roleplaying. Basically when combat starts everyone makes a reaction roll for initiative. Order goes highest to lowest. Each turn a player gets a normal, a move and an accelerated action. A normal action is basically anything but a move and an accelerated action is a quick action that is described as most likely coming from advantages. An attack is a roll of two eight-sided die plus your dexterity plus any weapon skill grades plus any advantages or other bonuses. The defender has a few options on their side. The Static Defense is the dexterity plus shield defense bonus or parry bonus plus Status. I missed that I think. Status (back to Chapter three!) is basically the ‘level’ or ‘hit die’ of the target. In practice a Star or Catalyst (a character) is going to hit a static defense just about every time. Remember that chapter on Extras? This is where the minion reference comes from. Extras can only use static defense. Others can use Active Defense. Active Defense is a 2d8 roll plus your evade skill plus any shield bonus plus any parry bonus plus any fortes. In practice it all really depends on the dexterity ratings. If they are close, it’s a 50/50 type of deal on success. Active defense can only be used a certain number of times per round but unless you are being swarmed by a horde, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. You can also parry. This takes away your normal action but should pretty much negate the incoming attack.
Damage is calculated as the weapon’s base damage plus strength rating plus advantages plus one point per Boost. This is where that Boost number comes in. Some more menacing and vicious weapons will do a good deal of damage on a hit. This system also deals with armor damage. Armor damage also depends on the Boost so those nasty weapons will not just hurt your opponent more but also destroy their armor faster.
Damage is applied to your Health Gauge. Here we have another extra term. If your health gauge falls below 7 you are in “The Quick” and have to deal with a difficult recovery and a penalty to pretty much all your actions. Again, making a quick character and fighting with another, this game in practice is deadly. In most role playing games a party can work together and deal with more mundane threats without worrying about losing members in every fight. In this system unless you are dealing with those practically helpless extras, be ready to face death in every confrontation.
At the end of the chapter we are given a section on combat narrative, describing actions and such. A nice addition and something I see even the avid ‘hack and slash’ players doing.
Chapter ten covers poisons and disease. It is a very short chapter listing just a few of each. Poisons are handled with an active roll, poison versus your defense. Failing multiple times is serious. The listed diseases are generally nasty as well.
Divinities are covered in chapter eleven. This is another short chapter with a brief description of the major higher beings.
The history of the setting is covered in chapter twelve. The concept of this setting, the ‘world’ itself is bright, fresh and wonderful. It’s history is not quite as amazing. Written mostly as excerpts from ancient texts it lists numerous names of divine beings, creatures or various types and races that are not explained. It’s a tough read. As it comes to more modern times it does get more detailed.
Also tied into the setting as a whole is its geography. While a nice detailed look at all the major areas and cities in them is given, once again there are details that leave you scratching your head. Population demographics include beings you will likely see if you visit but are not described in any shape or form in the book. Once again when thinking back on the general hatreds between many of the races, there are very few ‘cosmopolitan’ areas where a truly mixed adventuring party could be based in.
The last chapter is titled ‘Other Worlds.’ A few lands mostly outside K’Vega-Thale and a spiritual realm have short descriptions. This is basically just an informational only sectional. I would assume this and much more of the information in this book is to be fleshed out at a later date.
At the end of the book we get two appendices related to the calendar, a full color character sheet, and a beautiful one-page map of the setting.
From page # 65, “First, consult your FT so you can make a Catalyst based around their Saga concept.”
The above quote, while prevalent in many games, highlights the major downfall in this one. If a group of players is willing to limit themselves to just a few races for their Saga, give it a try. I feel this game would be much more fun with a very small group. The changes to standard nomenclature went a little past ‘new and rich’ into ‘a little too much’ territory. I think too many will be a little disappointed in that manner and with combat in general. The other major missing point is magic. No rules on it at all. While this may be covered in a later book, a nod to it or basic rules would have been nice.
In conclusion, you can tell when an author has a great vision in mind. While this was definitely the case here, the execution, while good, was not perfect. The overall concept for the setting is fantastic. If you have the extra cash I would suggest purchasing just for the basic setting and the interesting changes to the races. As for the play within that setting I would suggest modifying it for your own needs and using a more ‘role player’ friendly system such as FATE or a crunchier system like D&D per your preferences.
For more details on RAW Immersive games and their new RPG “Within the Ring of Fire” check them out at their website https://www.facebook.com/RawImmersiveGames, and at all of your local game stores. If you want to purchase any books from RAW Immersive games, you’ll have to search various online retailers
Codex Rating: 9
Within the Ring of Fire – Saga Book
From: RAW Immersive Games
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Ander Wood
Cover Art by: Alex Guillotte
Additional Art by: Andrew Bampton, Alex Guillote, Tilen Javornik, Aleksander Kostic, Lux Pulcher, Ed Cawlo, Lindsey Douglas, Sebastien Allard, Jessica Pink, G.D. Woods III
Number of Pages: 207
Retail Price: $47.99 Hardcover, $24.99 PDF (US)
Item Number: None
Email: None given
Reviewed by: Joey Martin