It seems Greg Saunders is on a roll! He just started a Kickstarter for Esoterica, his newest Open D6-based roleplaying game. The other two, Exilium and Summerland, were finished in early 2017 and 2018 respectively and were pretty successful considering Greg is not an industry titan like Monte Cook. But when it comes to quality Greg’s products are on par with the ones released by major publishers.
So what is Esoterica all about? The Kickstarter page describes it as a tabletop roleplaying game of occult mystery and the quest for power. Characters are so-called Adepts, people who have realized that beyond the mundane world lies a greater reality hidden by the Veil. They have learned to use the powers that permeate through that Veil. But using these powers cause physical corruption. But there are artifacts called soul jars which can protect from the corruption. So all Adepts are in search of these in order to find the power to pierce the Veil and venture into the reality beyond.
The game will be using a simplified version of Open D6, probably based upon Antipaladin’s MiniSix which Greg has used before. What really sets Greg Saunders’ games apart from a lot of the competition is that it’s not just about killing monsters and taking their stuff. His games pose questions about life, about the human condition. Exilium was about guilt and penitence, Summerland was about past deeds which are not only a burden but may shield us from losing ourselves. Esoterica seems to be about power and how it corrupts.
The artwork alone makes me want to back this project (I actually did back it while writing this article) and I am very excited for the final product. If you’re at least remotely interested in what Esoterica is about, you should head over to the Kickstarter project page and check it out!
Summerland has actually been first released about 10 years ago and is IMHO a very intriguing and original post-apocalytic roleplaying game. In Summerland the world has been destroyed by a vast forest which appeared overnight. The Call lured people into the forest, where some slowly lost their will and eventually even forgot that they are human. The player characters are among the few humans able to resist the Call. But this resistance comes at a price – the demons of the past are what shield them but the player characters are also haunted by their past.
Like Exilium, Summerland is not just an adventure game set into an exotic world, it does what all good science fiction does: it asks fundamental questions about the human condition. Both Exilium and Summerland might not be for everyone, but if you don’t mind some philosophy thrown into your games, both games are definitely worth a look.
The 2nd edition will be featuring full-color artwork created by Tithi Luadthong and new game mechanics based on AntiPaladin’s MiniSix. The original Kickstarter goal of £3000 has already been reached after just four days, but if you’re interested you still have about 25 days to decide whether you want to support Greg’s project or not.
It was my original intention to run a session but as it turned out my intended player had run the game before so offered to GM for me. That has to be the best way of testing anything, with an enthusiastic and talented GM to draw you in.
The game was rather stealthy, stealthy, hack and slash but as an intro adventure showed off the skills system quite nicely. The rule book has loads of template PCs to choose but I went for rolling my own PC. In that case the templates served as a model as to what I should be aiming for. All in we were playing the intro scene in less than 30 minutes including a lot of hand holding and explaining the classes, advantages and disadvantages. It is inevitable that if you have the players hundreds of options to customise their characters then it will take time to review them.
I tend to measure every thing in Rolemaster time and it takes me 30 minutes to create a starting character in my preferred (house ruled) version when I know the rules like the back of my hand. Comparing that to 30 minutes for a complete novice and having everything explained and reading every possible advantage and disadvantage shows how much easier WEG is compared to Rolemaster.
The combat system was slightly simpler than the version in the core D6 core system book. There was only one thing that jarred. At one point I was unarmoured when I was attacked. They hit me with a broadsword. I dodged, as you do, but they still hit me. They rolled damage, I rolled my physique. I rolled well, they rolled poorly and I walked away with no damage. I have a problem imagining who that played out for the character. No one has swords bounce off them doing no harm. That certainly is a solid six pack if you ask me!
That niggle aside (and I don’t believe there is a game anywhere that doesn’t have some little weird kink in it) I was suitably impressed. I would definitely like to play this game again in more than a single one shot.
The game system definitely didn’t get in the way of the role playing and once I had come up to speed, knowing where to find the right numbers on the character sheet when called for things were pretty slick.
D6 Fantasy has just been revived and the books are being revised as we speak. For that reason I would be inclined to only buy the PDF so you can get updates as they happen. Buy the printed book now and you are stuck with out of date rules. Definitely worth spending $3 on.
A Roleplaying Games blog
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