Well, my weekend plans went slightly sideways, but in a good way, when I was offered the advance review copy of ANCIENT WORLDS: ATISI. There are details of the crowd funding campaign for this setting at the end of this post if this whets your appetite.
Forget the impervious castles and the knights in shining armor of a medieval setting. Picture an older world, inspired by writers like Robert Ervin Howard (Conan, especially the Stygian stories), Fritz Leiber (Lankhmar books), Michael Moorcock (Corum series), Poul Anderson (The King of Ys series), Marion Zimmer Bradley (Atlantean series), and Jessica Amanda Salmonson (many short stories, and the fantastic Encyclopedia of Amazons). Think in a grandiose scope, of great cities and monuments overshadowing mortals, reminding them of humanity’s achievements in times past (like the Colossus and the Hanging Gardens), and use such imagery in your games.
Dungeon World is one of the systems I have previously looked at and discarded. I am not a fan of hit points, alignments and levels for characters. I do not like excessive player input in world building and I don’t like fake freedoms. Fake Freedoms are where the game says on one page you can create any fantasy world you like but then on the next page if you want to play a thief you MUST be human or halfling, as if an elf never stole anything(!). Either anything is possible or it isn’t you cannot have both simultaneously.
Ancient Worlds: Atisi by Marcelo Paschoalin is a derived game based upon Dungeon World and is an excellent interpretation.
Ancient Worlds: Atisi is an ancient Egyptian style fantasy world and its reimagining by Marcelo appears rock solid. For a start everyone (PC) is human. That instantly removes one of my gripes about DW. It also gives the game a defined point of view. We now know that the world looks like, we can imagine the people, the modes of dress and even the architecture.
The player races have been replaced by a rich selection of cultural backgrounds. These give varied options for appearance, style of dress, language and options to player moves.
Bonds are a feature in DW that I quite like for bringing characters together. Bonds in Atisi are better. The reason they are better is because they are more interactive or should that be collaborative. In the original you simply insert the name of the character you want to have a bond with. In Atisi bonds you choose your bond and ask which of the characters want to be the bond character. I find this simple change means that your bonds help me define the sort of character I want to play. In vanilla DW your bonds impose things on my character.
Another big gain with defining the setting first and then wrapping DW around it comes with the classes. Not only does Ancient Worlds: Atisi limit the available classes but the moves and advanced moves are tailored to the setting.
Ancient Worlds: Atisi Magic
A key element of any fantasy setting is the way that magic is handled. In Ancient Worlds: Atisi Marcelo has defined distinct limits on magic, it cannot reveal the future, it cannot create energy or matter that does not exist and it cannot make you fly. Within those confines anything is possible but as the text says “Power corrupts. Magical power corrupts magically.” All magic carries a risk of corruption.
Roughly two thirds of the 280 page book is setting information but with the DW culture of asking questions of the players at the end of every section to push you and your group to make the world your own. Included in this setting information are plenty of adventure hooks, creatures in the bestiary, locations to explore and treasures to be found.
All in all I think this is a very good game setting. What I have seen is an Advance Review Copy and not the finished work but it looks extremely good. The only think I would have like to have seen is incorporation of the DW rules themselves. The book sends you to the online SRD site http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com for the game rules. This is fine as Ancient Worlds: Atisi sells itself as an adventure setting for DW but had the rules been rolled into the text then this would have been a fine standalone game. That is not a fault but I think it is a missed opportunity.
Right now you can support Ancient Worlds: Atisi on Indiegogo.com http://bit.ly/atisi it is well worth taking a look.