Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking into the Darkness

The Void 

A new RPG that I picked up recently was The Void from WildFire, makers of Cthulutech. I haven’t had much dealings with this company before. Cthulutech sounds like something I’d enjoy but overall I haven’t taken the time to look at it. Though if it’s anything like The Void I think I’d enjoy it.

The Void takes a path that I haven’t seen to often from an RPG, in that they have a creative community thing going on. The core rule book is free on DriveThru, with the option of paying for it at the amount you feel is appropriate for the work. Fans of the game are also encouraged to build on what’s in the core book and provide additional material for the game, and if it’s good enough be published by WildFire.

But lets talk about the game. The game is survival horror in space. So if you love Lovecraft you’re likely to like this game. But it also borrows from such classics as Event Horizon. But you could do a Resident Evil in space type thing with it. Or even a looming Mass Effect style Reaper threat. It’s really up to you. I think there is a lot of potential with Saturn revolution themed game.

Storyline wise the Earth has expanded to the stars. There is some kind of human presence on every planet in the solar system, and a bit beyond as well. Well not Pluto. Humanities exploration of the solar system has drawn the attention of an ancient being. A star is on a course towards Earth called the Cthonian Star. Strange and ancient creatures are awakening or in some cases arriving to prepare the solar system for it’s new masters.

All of this is being kept away from the greater populace of course. And that job falls to the PC’s. You play as Wardens, agents of the UWC, tasked with investigating strange things and then … killing them. Oh also covering that shit up. So it’s kinda like being a Man in Black, only in space.

The mechanics are fairly straight forward. If you’ve played the New World of Darkness or Shadowrun then you’re already familiar with how the dice are going to work. You create a dice pool from your attribute and skill and score success on a 5 or 6. Depending on how hard the task is will determine how many success you need to succeed. You also have advantages and talents that could affect the outcome of your roll.

Combat is fairly straight forward. You roll your attack dice pool and the defender rolls a defense dice pool. Bonus success adds to your damage roll. In regards to damage you also have armor that can subtract from the amount of damage you take. Though the more damage you take the less effective it will become overall. And of course you will start to incur dice penalties when you take to much damage.

There are no character classes in this game. Instead you are given 3 templates. You have the Enforcer, which is your typical front line solider type. You have the Investigator which does all the snooping around. Then you have the Researcher who is the science techie guy/medic. Instead of having money characters have wealth, a personal wealth and then your sponsors wealth. You also gain bonuses based on where you come from, getting the chance to choose from a list of planets or colonies throughout the solar system

There are also two pools which can affect the outcome of the game. You have a Fate dice, which allows you to avoid certain doom! There is also a Tension pool which is spent as a group. It can be spent on a variety of things to do such as re-rolls, getting a hint from the GM or buying an additional Fate point for someone who is really really having a bad day.  The trick however with Tension dice is that Tension dice spent by the players are given to the GM who can then use them for nefarious deeds.

On the plus side the game doesn’t take long to get into. One of the first few chapters has an adventure designed for both the players and the GM to learn as they go. The book is also filled to the brim with helpful side bars that sum up the contents of that particular section for quick and easy reference.

All in all if you’re familiar with most games the learning curve on this one isn’t going to be bad. And if you’re not well it won’t be that hard to pick up and go.

One of the strongest points for this game (at least for me) was the diversity in the setting. The 4 PC’s provided for the adventure hailed from different places and had a nice variety in ethnicity. You had an African, Chinese, German and Latina. The fiction that helped set the mood for the game also used a varied cast of characters that made the setting pop and come alive for me in a way that few games do currently.

On the flipside however I did find some things lacking. The book is small, and only has three monsters. I know there is a Monsters book available but the game makes frequent references to a lot of things that go bump in the night and it would have been nice to have a bit more offered. It is a cheap book, but you can’t really describe that many creatures and not really provide more meat for the PC’s to kill and investigate.

Speaking of PC’s there are only three options. Rules are provided to do a template less character but the game seems heavily geared towards using the templates. This should be remedied when the Advanced Players Guide comes out, but for now it feels like a weak spot in the game. I think The Void would have benefited heavily from maybe one to two more Warden templates. I would have likely broken the Researcher into perhaps two templates, one that is more book wormy and one that is more science techie. And perhaps an infiltrator styled template that could be used to do some deep cover work really well.

GM side I was a little bit disappointed with the magic section. I would have preferred a bit more meat to this section too. With luck there will be some additional work put into it in future books. It’s workable, just rules light. As a GM I kinda like my magic to be a bit more rules heavy than what is offered.

Overall though this is a game worth getting. You can’t argue with the price. And it has a lot of themes and places to go. You could do some nice horror style Firefly for instance. With the government theme you could also kick it old school with some space X Files. The politics behind the UWC, Earth and her colonies also leaves plenty of room for more mundane type adventures. And this point bears repeating, the game has a very nice support of minorities and people of color. You see it in the artwork and the stories and it’s something that is praise worthy in any company you find it in.

So I give this game 4 Fro’s out of 5 (I really need an icon for such things!). The game is straight forward and fast to get into. The setting is very interesting. The starter adventure makes it possible for both GM and player to learn as you go. Lack of character options and monsters aside this isn’t a game I feel you should pass on.

P.S. This setting needs psionics. Just saying, it would rule!

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