Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks

Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks (Free RPG Day)
From: Obatron Productions
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks (Free RPG Day) is a new Free RPG Day Quick Start from Obatron Productions.

Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks is one of the lower quality items from the 2013 Free RPG day, but it takes advantage of one of the more popular and fun generic systems on the market.  It is apparently a Kickstarter setting. By now, they have released a few PDF products on RPGNow or DriveThruRPG.

From their web site:
“[Tunse’al] is a tribal fantasy setting requiring the use of either the Savage Worlds rule book for Savage Worlds play or a rule book from whatever other favorite system you have, in which case you’ll want products denoted as Systemless.”

The first attraction I would have to this product is the fact that is Savage Worlds.  But that only goes so far.  The art and the quality of the product did not pull me in right away.  So you really have to dive into the product to find the value.  It provides a summary of the setting, pointing to the Setting Guide for details.  The gimmick of the setting is the five segregated tribes on a large continent.  These tribes are very different from one another, evolving in different regions with different conditions.  These include the the Korrin of the Footlands (hedonistic, red-skinned, ram-horned freedom lovers), Kresh of the Wetlands (amphibious nature lovers), the Gelids of the mountains (scholars and peacemakers), and the Gales of the Drylands (warring nomads).  There is a common enemy tribe as well called the Skin Eaters and a mysterious group of beings that walk “between the worlds” known as the fae folk.  There is a stunning black and white illustration in the back displaying all 5 races and I have to admit they look very cool.  They are very alien and not like anything I have seen in other games.

From the back cover:
“Money does not exist”

The world itself is significantly different from the typical fantasy worlds (which are usually modeled after Earth in most aspects).  First and foremost, the mountain range that divides the main continent is in the shape of a huge man, as if he had fallen from the sky.  From an astrological point of view, the world has seven seasons, two suns and multiple moons.  The world’s ecosystem is rather harsh.  It is populated by numerous “saurs” (dinosaur-like creatures) as well as giant bugs and other creatures.  Flora is also dangerous.

Socially, because of the disparate and varied cultures, the social structure and politics are a little different from the typical fantasy settings.  The tribal nature of the setting creates a more primitive and chaotic setting.  Couple that with the cultural taboo against mining into the mountain and the setting becomes even more primitive.  There are also many other cultural quirks as well.  There is no common monetary system, for instance.

Magic works differently than typical fantasy settings.  It requires the knowledge of a specific language – the only language that gets the gods’ attention.  Anyone can learn to use magic but because learning the language takes such an effort, only a few learn magic.  The cultural and physiological differences in each race also create variances in magic using as well.

The Free RPG booklet contains something called Quickstarts – six short scenarios that help a GM get something started.  The six supplied average 10 to 12 paragraphs, some more, and are fairly imaginative.  They include an adventure for Novices “coming of age,” tribal diplomatic missions, mystically strange occurrence investigations.  However, they leave a lot for the GM to come up with.  These are great for GMs that can wing it fairly well.  The nice thing about it is the Savage Worlds system lends itself well to improvisation.  You just have to make sure you are real familiar with the core system, however.

The booklet also includes something called Side Tracks.  These are ten fill-in side adventures or encounters in case the GM needs a little something more.  Again, these vary in type and are fairly imaginative.  It supplies stats where needed and really gives the GM some good ideas for simple distractions.

In conclusion, my impression of the setting and the booklet are varied.  Although I am intrigued by the setting, based on what I read on the booklet, I am not sure the dynamic of the setting would draw me into play or run.  The tribal social structure just does not excite me as much as feudal lords and nobility.  Tribal politics are a little simplistic in my view and do not present opportunities of a lot of role play or story making.  On top of that, the technology limitations make it less attractive to me.  I like the dinosaur and giant monster setting, reminding me of the island of King Kong.  Also, the booklet does not really help you with envisioning the character parties.  If it is tribal and each race is separated, the logic would dictate that the party would be all the same race, right?  That’s not very exciting to me.

However, as a product the booklet almost gets the true spirit of Free RPG Day and falls just short by not supplying pre-generated characters.  It implies that there are some available online but I would prefer to have them on hand right there.  I do like the Quickstart adventures and the Side Tracks. If you are into the setting, this is a great product.  It is also useful for ideas in other settings, with a few tweaks.

For more details on Obatron Productions and their new Free RPG Day Quick Start Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks (Free RPG Day)” check them out at their website http://www.obatron.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 11

Product Summary

Tunse’al Quick Starts & Side Tracks (Free RPG Day)
From: Obatron Productions
Type of Game: Free RPG Day Quick Start
Written by: Robert L. and Vickey A. Beaver
Cover Art by: Joe Shawcross
Additional Art by: Alessadro Alia, Svenja Liv, Lucas Pandolfelli, Joshua Pinkas
Number of Pages: 20
Game Components Included: One short quick start pamphlet
Game Components Not Included: Savage Worlds core rulebooks
Website: www.obatron.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung