Yes, I know, it's rude to point fun at other games when reviewing a game, but I couldn't resist. This is a sort of joint review of Crimson Exodus and Trauma, focusing on the former but basically the reasons you should just go ahead and buy both. Crimson Exodus is a game published by Radical Approach, a company whose forum is hosted on this very board. It is there first game, using a brand new system called the DICE system. Trauma is a companion book to it that adds more detail to the damage system.
The book begins with an introduction to the game, an introduction to role playing and the general themes of the game; the world is mostly pretty realistic, but some people are destined for greater things (the PCs, for instance). It also talks about the responsibilities for the players and the GMs, including the idea that the players ought to control friendly NPCs in combat; an approach I've never actually seen before, but that I think could work quite well.
After that, we have the Peoples of the setting; essentially the playable races. These include descriptions of their default attributes, available starting gear, possible occupations that they may have had before starting play and a fair bit of fluff about each race. These include racist elves who ran a tyranical empire for what they saw as the greater good, the Toth, who are basically hobbits who worship serpents, practice the dark arts and used to run an empire before the elves game along, isolationist dwarves, some of whom are still enslaved to the elves, a few varieties of human, including the Elnar, who are remeniscent of Numinorians of Tolkien's work, orcs, and their Senshoul slaves who basically run the tribes.
Next up, character creation. This works as one might expect of a decent fantasy game, with the addition of a few mechanics from FATE. Now I'll be honest; I'm not a huge fan of FATE. It's far too loose and wibbly for me, and has far too many abstractions for my taste. The thing I do like, however, is how FATE points may be used by players to give bonuses to their rolls, provided that the aspect they're triggering applies to the scene. In this game, we have Triggers and Trigger Ammo; Triggers are basically a couple of personality traits and some long term goals - one of which must run counter to at least one of the other two, which allows for some degree of conflict, while Trigger Ammo is the pool of points the players - and occasionally the GM - spend to influence the way the game is going. Among other things, these triggers allow for some degree of plot armour; an important thing for GMs who don't like killing off player characters, but who like to have a system as potentially lethal as this one. Trigger Ammo may influence the die roll, and may also be spent to make damage less severe, or to remove the long term effects of an injury.
After that, we have Paths. Paths are sorta-kinda like classes, except not. Where a class enforces a character archetype by restricting any activities outside of that archetype's purview, Paths in this game simply give extra stuff in line with those archetypes. A character following The Way of the Warrior, for example, may well be just as sneaky as the thief, and may well even know a spell or two, but he gets additional stuff to do with fighting with a weapon. Also, there is no Sneak Attack for the Rogue Path; just things that make a Rogue slightly better at archetypal Rogue stuff. The last bit of character creation involves skills. There aren't many skills, but there are many specialisations within those skills. Also, in order to increase a skill beyond certain milestones, more specialisations must be purchased.
After character creation, we have the equipment lists; they're fairly standard, with all the usual stuff. There is one interesting thing though - no horses. They're replaced by Ka; reptilian mounts imported by the elves. After that, we have the core game mechanic; that of scaling dice. You see, the way the die rolls work is fairly simple; the attribute determines the number of dice, the skill determines the type of die (attribue rolls use a d10; skills go from d4 to d12, with specialities granting a bonus die) and the highest die rolled determines the result. So far, so simple. But you can also scale the roll up or down before rolling; reducing the number of dice in order to roll larger dice, or increasing the number of dice, but rolling smaller ones. This means that someone with a high attribute but a lower skill might be able to achieve something greater by reducing the number of dice he rolls in order for a shot at a higher result, or someone with a high skill might roll lesser dice in order for a more average result. This seems to work fairly well, though I've not tried it in play, and solves the problem of the professional screwing up every other job based on random chance.
Following this, we have combat. Combat works quite well; there are a few ideas I recognise from D&D, if I'm honest; readying actions (holding actions in this game) and attacks of opportunity (called interrupts here). And that's where all comparisons with D&D end, because combat here is an entirely different beast. First of all, everybody gets two actions per round, with each round lasting around three seconds. Second, defending against an attack requires the use of one of those actions; if you defend, the attack is an opposed roll; if not, the difficulty of the attack roll is a 2 (or 4 for ranged attacks). Also, in some circumstances, if you successfully defend an attack, you may immediately retaliate with an attack of your own. Oh, and remember how I said that Rogues don't get any sneak attack stuff? That's because if an enemy is unaware of your presence, or otherwise completely helpless, you may simply declare the location of the hit and deal the maximum possible damage with that attack. The combat is fairly tactical, with plenty of options that make even a one on one melee fight interesting to watch, but what really makes this game special is how the damage works.
Damage, you see, is done differently from any other game out there, with the closest that comes to mind being The Riddle of Steel. Simply put, each hit causes a wound, and each wound has a level, from 1 to 5 (Superficial, Nasty, Grievous, Grim and Mortal), that determines not only how it affects you in combat, but any long term or even permanent repercussions from that injury. Each weapon has a specific wound level that it deals, with some weapons, such as axes and maces, based on strength, and others, such as daggers and swords, with a set wound rating. This wound is then dealt to a specific location, applies a penalty for the remainder of the combat, and isn't looked at again until after the fight ends. At that point, we have what is called Post Trauma, and this is where the Trauma companion book kicks in.
You see, if I'm completely honest, I don't much like the default method of determining Post Trauma in the core book. You randomly determine bleeding, broken bones and internal trauma for each wound, based on the type of wound and severity, and then the GM decides, based on location and the above, what the wound actually was. I don't much like this, because you can end up with Mortal wounds that are actually fairly unlikely to cause any long term problems once they've finished healing. Fotunately, we also have the Trauma book, which details, with medical accuracy, exactly what a wound did. Allow me to explain. Let's say you are dealt a Grim wound to the arm. We roll the dice three times based on the type of damage (crushing, slashing or piercing) and think of something that makes sense. Thing is, there's not much that makes sense if you somehow manage to roll that there's no significant bleeding, broken bones or internal trauma.
In the Trauma book, you roll on one table, and this tells you what has happened, and any possible repercussions. Let's say, we roll a d6 on this table, and it was a crushing wound. We get a 4, which means we get this description during the fight: "Crushing blow to the upper arm lands with a satisfying crack.", and then after the fight, we discover that not only is the arm broken, but there's also some nerve damage that, without magical healing, basically means that arm is now permanently useless. It won't kill you, but the damage is pretty much permanent. This, incidentally, is where plot armour comes in - if you have two triggers that apply to the situation, you may spend two trigger ammo to basically ignore this result. Obviously this system would be cumbersome if used for every single blow dealt, so it is generally only worried about for important NPCs and the player characters; a grim or mortal wound is considered to be a killing blow against an NPC unless the PCs wish to aid them.
Unlike the standard model of a character being perfectly fine until they suddenly fall over, this system makes it far easier for a player character to be taken out of a fight, but in most cases far harder to actually be killed off. On the other hand, it gives permanent consequences to each injury, which makes fighting something that should only be done when there's a good reason for it, rather than the first tool in every party's arsenal. Incidentally, there's also a free PDF on the Radical Approach website that details how to use the Trauma book with other systems. It's worth taking a look at, if only for ideas on how to make combat in your games more interesting.
So, that's combat out of the way; next up, we have Magic. Magic is split into three types; Witchcraft, which is where the major form of magical healing comes from but requires blood sacrifice from a live donor, Sorcery, which is control over the elements (no fireballs from thin air, but you can light fuel and manipulate already lit fire, or cause lightning strikes and the like), and the Dark Arts, which essentially involves sacrificing a little bit of your soul each time you do it. There's also a form of healing in here, but it's rather addictive and reduces the effectiveness of non-magical healing. They each have their uses and their dangers, and while all are powerful, none are enough by themselves to make the rest of the party useless.
There's also an introductory adventure that's pretty decent. I won't describe it, because that might spoil the surprise for some people, but it's certainly pretty good. Finally, we have some more detail about the setting. Again, most of it is quite interesting, and the information gives plenty of plot hooks for any GM who wishes to use it.
All in all, this is a pretty decent system with some pretty decent ideas, that just happens to have a very good combat system and my favourite damage system ever. Also, the damage system may sound cumbersome, but look at it this way: my RoleMaster GM has basically rewritten the RoleMaster combat system in order to use this, because it's far more streamlined and yet allows for all the brutality and interesting wound descriptions of the RoleMaster crit tables. Sure, that's not much of an endorsement, but when we used it a few weeks back for a proper fight, we found that combat ran faster than in D&D, and the aftermath was about the same as after a fight in D&D.
All told, the core rulebook has its problems; I'm not a huge fan of the order in which information is presented and the default Post Trauma system isn't especially good. That being said, the Trauma companion book is only a fiver as a PDF, as are the core rules, and between the two they are the best tenner I ever spent, on a game I may never actually get to play.
- Thanks: 2 given/6 received
Who is online
Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest