I have had a bit of a fascination with card deck vs dice based rpgs for the last year. There is a rather strange game called ABS12 (A Basic System 12) which is all based around d12 rolls. D12s give a relatively large number of possible outcomes without having to have a bell curve of probabilities. Another consequence of this is that you can play the game by drawing cards from a standard deck of playing cards. The ace, 2-10, hack, queen, king give 13 outcomes. Discard the Kings and you have a pack of d12 rolls.
ABS12 is a very strange minimalist system. I helped with the play testing and I cannot say I particularly like it. Characters have just a single stat and everything is derived from that. You need a lot of imagination to play the game. If you are familiar with solo role playing then it is a perfectly viable writing aid. Ken Wickham, the author, shared several of his solo adventures. Check out his World of the Fifth Sun blog for more.
While I am not really keen on ABS12 the idea of using a pack of playing cards as part of the game engine does appeal.
As you may know from my review of Kobold Quarterly #21, I am out of the loop when it comes to Open Design. I’ve been asked to review the Pathfinder edition of the Midgard Bestiary, developed by Adam Daigle, which counts as my first exposure to the setting. That puts a great deal of responsibility on the book.
Gazing Into the Abyss
What do you do when you find yourself confronted with a book of monsters? I imagine, like me, your first reaction is to flip through it and see if anything catches your eye. If art is important in any RPG book, it is most important in a bestiary.
Immediately the alseid grabs my attention. It is like a centaur, but instead of human and horse, the combination is elf and stag. Springing up out of his long hair are a pair of antlers. Baba Yaga’s horsemen are the first “monsters” in color I encounter. Most of the bestiary is sepia pages and black-and-white artwork. The splashes of full-color artwork are nice.
I dislike the blood hag and broodiken. Their appearance does not inspire me and I know I will give them a pass. Fortunately there are many other monsters whose appearance delights me: Bone collector, cavelight moss, dire weasel, salt golem. The list goes on. The Bestiary passes the first trial.
One thing I wish were present in the book, and all monster books in general, is an artist credit for each entry written along the side margin or some other unobtrusive place. This makes it easier to look up a particular artist’s other work when you like what you see. The pieces aren’t always signed, initialed, or otherwise marked.
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