Sunday, October 23, 2011

Epees & Sorcellerie : dogheaded, loving fanboi review.

Nicolas Dessaux's (Frightful Hobgoblin) has released the English translation  of  Epees & Sorcellerie (Sword and Sorcery,) and it is great.  Go here and download the free PDF, then, as I did, go back and order the very reasonably priced print version from Lulu.  If one were to draw venn diagrams of the OSR, the OGL and the micro d20 schools of design, it would sit right in the sweet spot where all three intersect.  

I have to admit that I was already predisposed to get the game due to his excellent one page RPG , Searchers of the Unknown, so keep that in mind.  I'd love to play SOtU , but my gaming group wants a bit more crunch than a one pager -why, I'll never understand, since we all bitch about rules bloat. But anyway.

E&S  is an Original D&D derived system that is largely setting free (well, Fantamedieval is a setting, so there's that..) with the six basic stats, three basic classes, hit points, levels, load and shoot magic, and some standard races (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Orc).  However, it is not a retro clone.  Its a way to play the same kind of genre and adventures that OD&D aimed at; and, yes, it does use some mechanisms and tropes from it; but if you are looking for a pure clone, this aint it.  Nor does it try to be, which is exceelnt, as there are quite a few of those around, many of which are excellent (Swords and Wizardry, anyone ?) 

Its main departure from purist OSR is in adding some d20 derived ideas (ascending AC, roll +mods vs AC combat); and all resolution (and stat generation) is based on a 2d6 no funky dice mechanic, which adds nicely to the play value, as far as I'm concerned.    One needs to be careful in adding modifiers to rolls as the 2d6 curve is more sensitive than 3d6 (or 1d20), but even then, unlike (say) traveller, as the characters can be epic beings, this is less of a problem than in everyman style games such as (say) traveller).  I do note that the system is also easily played as that rarest of things, an everyman (ie non fantastic) semi -historic human centric fantasy role playing game. 

It also differs quite a bit from OD&D by being very cleanly written and well organized.  It has an excellent index, fer crimminys sake - that alone makes me love it.

It does lack Thieves (Boooooooo!) , so normally that would be a big minus for me, but the fighter class is much more of a S&S genre style dangerous dude/adventurer, so most of the things a thief do are in there -and the rest fall into the very micro d20 style minimal but inclusive skill system.  So, I'm sure the authors will be delighted to hear that I'll forgive them for ditching thieves.

 Combat is  of mild complexity -somewhere between ODD & ADD, quick, allows decent player input and tactics and playable with reasonably non ruleslawyery non munchkiny players who realize that they can play the Advanced Squad Leader Fantasy RPG if they want serious crunch in combat.   It makes the point that the rules are to manage combat situations, not recreate real life; a useful distinction, I think, as long as one doesn't veer into GNS theory.

It has monsters, magic and some good campaign advice; a three point alignment and some great period (free ) art from medieval and reniassance illustrations - a style that I just happen to love, so caveat emptor if you are looking for rich modern warhammer/D&D4e style graphics. 

 The rules set is long enough to be reasonably complete but short enough to read in a hurry. The systems reflect the consistent mechanism focus of the OGL/d20/3E family of games without bogging down in detail.  It is 65 pages long, of which 20 are the real rules, with the rest being spell descriptions, monsters and campaign advice. 

I'll probably use it for my long planned Landsknecht campaign (aka Flesh and Blood) or an outremere 13th century knights (aka Sir Pagan) and Saracens setting.  Or maybe a non-epic 5th century briton campaign (aka everybody dies and the Saxons cheer).

As far as I'm concerned, this is exactly what the OSRs post clone focus is and should be -exploring where the original play and rules styles might have gone other than to AD&D.  Well done !  This knocks it out of the park.  STOP READING BLOGS AND GO GET IT NOW


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful review Doc, much appreciated.


Anonymous said...

I just love this game. It begs to be played and played!

garrisonjames said...

Sounds interesting and very much like something that we ought to check out. Thanks!