Greg Stolze’s REIGN

By on 26 January 2010

REIGN expands the frontiers of fantasy gaming by elevating the action to an international stage. Monarchs, mercenaries and merchant princes gamble armies and fortunes to win nations in a rich and vibrant fantasy setting. REIGN’s simple but complete rules model the triumphs and disasters of societies as small as a village or as large as a realm-spanning religion.

With REIGN, your characters can defend threatened nations, bring prosperity to desperate provinces, make laws and perpetuate justice… or, if you prefer, loot conquer and pillage on a vast and awesome scale.

One Roll Does it All
Powered by a fantasy-optimized version of the One Roll Engine (or ORE) popularized by GODLIKE, NEMESIS, and Wild Talents, REIGN can take your characters from beggars to emperors. If you’re already a fan of the ORE, REIGN is familiar (though with a few interesting refinements). If it’s new to you, the ORE resolves events in delicate detail without cumbersome layers of contingent rolls. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can read reviews from Ken Newquist, Wayne Tonjes and a variety of internet customers.

The Personal and the Political
In REIGN, the characters aren’t lone wolf strangers in strange lands, but leaders of communities, and those groups of followers can resolve large-scale conflicts against their rivals. This divide allows players to focus on the story elements they choose. If they don’t care for blow-by-blow combat, they can simply send their army to besiege an enemy stronghold. On the other hand, if they lead the attack in person, they can drastically improve the chances of success… or doom their enterprise through foolish choices. The benefits of ruling are great, but the consequences of failure are drastic.

The group-resolution rules from REIGN are self-contained and modular. It’s a simple matter to stack them on top of any other RPG system. Want a concrete way to model what happens to the city when your superheroes destroy the Cult of Moloch Triumphant? Use REIGN to stat up the city and the cult. Ever wonder who’d win if two rival government conspiraces went head to head? REIGN lets you measure their weaknesses and strengths, then test them against one another. Fantasy kingdoms, cosmic empires and secretive cabals can all be easily managed and modeled with REIGN.

A World Like No Other
The default nations of REIGN are on Heluso and Milonda, a pair of human-shaped continents (or, perhaps, continent-sized humans). An unmoving sun burns above them, dimming every evening and hosting mysterious spirits as curious about mankind as the people below are about them. The massive land-bridge of The Empire spans the sea and casts perpetual shadows on the nations it once ruled. Yet despite the wonders of the world, its rulers care less about the mind-numbing beauties of cylindrical kingdoms and mile high trees. They look upon these anomalies and wonder only how to bend them into service of their own ambition.

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2 Comments

  1. The Strange Dude

    23 February 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Reign is available through lulu (waiting time is about a month) or Leisure games (bit more pricey). It has been written by Greg Stolze who also wrote Unknown Armies and had a hand in Wild Talents. Available in either softback or hardback 363 pages.

    The System

    Reign uses the O.R.E. sytem (One Roll Engine) an intuitive easy to pick up system of mid crunch level (a less detailed free version of O.R.E. can be found here http://arcdream.com/pdf/Nemesis.pdf for FREE!). Rolls are made using a number of d10 equal to the stat plus the skill (with a few modifiers and different dice types to keep things interesting), from this roll you make sets (matching dice) the width of the roll (The number of matching dice) indicates the speed/damage of the action where as the height (the number on the dice) indicates how well you did or where you hit.

    Character creation is easy to handle and offers three ways of doing things
    1) Point buy system
    2) Random One Roll Characters (roll 11 d10 sets give professions waste dice give random life events)
    3) Semi random you can choose to set some of the 11 dice to give you the career you want then roll the rest.

    The company system is prehaps this games biggest selling point as it allows you to model groups from a thieves guild to an empire and allow players to influence the outcome of thier actions.

    Large groups of ‘Unworthy’ opponents are also covered allowing your pc’s to face off against large groups of mooks with no real headache for the GM.

    Combat has options upon options from display kills (which force moral checks on unworthy opponents) to Disfiguring strikes (deliberate facial wounding of your opponent to make them ugly) plus the usual array of disarms, grappling and the like. Combat is however quite deadly a lucky strike can lay low the mightiest fighter.

    The World

    This is a strange one, the world is described as two dead bodies lying in the water (which leads to strange physical phenomena like the sea being at right angles to the ground). The Nations are given short but very informitive sections with each nation having it’s own ‘flavour’. It’s well written and thought out stuff but to be honest I’m more likely to use Reign for other things more on that later.

    Support

    There are already 2 supplements out for Reign which Greg is publishing using the ransom model (He puts up a short description of what’s in the supplement and ransoms it people donate money until the set target is reached at which point it’s made free for anyone to download). The Nemesis system web board also has a forum for the game and plenty of downloads.

    Conclusion

    Reign at heart is a fast easy to use system with some funky ideas and top class writting, but it’s strongest point is it’s adaptability the fact it can be turned to almost anything. The company rules open up this adaptability even more infact my first thoughts on reading it was Rome (the TV series) could be done so well.

    I’d give it a solid 8 out of 10

  2. dr_mitch

    26 January 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Reign is a fantasy RPG in a human-only world- although it is by no means low magic. It has rules for such things as squads of soldiers and large organisations as well as for individual characters.

    The rules can be fairly crunchy, but the crunch is interesting crunch, and many of the more detailed bits are optional.

    The setting is colourful and fairly unique, with plenty of potential adventure hooks. It won’t be to everybody’s taste, but I like it. This is a review of the original Reign RPG, published in 2007. There is also a more recent smaller and cheaper rules-only version (Reign Enchidiron).

    The One Roll Engine
    Reign is based on the one roll engine (ORE)- in which skill checks and so on are rolled with a pool of ten-sided dice, and success depends on looking for matched sets. For the record, the chance of a set is around 50% when rolling four dice.

    This gives a fair amount of information from a single roll. In particular, for each set there are two variables- the width, which determines the speed of an action, and the height, which determines an action’s finesse. So, in a race to do something, the roll with the greatest width wins, with ties determined by height. Some difficult actions might require a certain minimum height to succeed.

    I find the system smooth and elegant with practice, but it is perhaps not the most immediately intuitive- and I have come across a few players who really haven’t taken to it.

    Character Generation
    There are two methods of character generation in Reign. The first is points-based. The second is random. Randomly generated characters are made by rolling a pool of 11d10. Matches determine professions a character has held in the past- typically a character will have had more than one profession.

    The width of a set for a profession governs how experienced and qualified the character is in that profession. Unmatched dice are also used- each such die gives a choice of background events and experiences. All such random characters are generated with the same points total.

    Another option is only partially random; a profession could be chosen by setting some dice first to a given number and rolling the rest. I love random character generation in Reign- when I first got the book I occupied myself by rolling up lots of characters. This might say more about me than I’d like, so I’ll pass on to the next feature of the system.

    Combat
    In combat, the height of a set governs hit location, and width determines both initiative and damage. Generally I dislike hit location rules in combat; the ORE method is the only hit location system I have come across which I do like- and it definitely adds something to combat.

    Combat can be chaotic due to the large numbers of dice on the table and everybody rolling at once. It is important to divide a battle into a number of smaller fights to be able to keep track of things, but once this is done, there is no problem.

    I should also note that Reign has excellent rules for mooks- a group of unworthy opponents rolls a single pool equal to its size (up to a maximum number), and all sets count as potential hits on opponents. A fight between a boss with a large group of minions and a PC group, possibly with followers of their own, proceeds quite rapidly.
    Anyway, combat passes my “30 minute test”- namely that no battle, however complicated, should take for than 30 minutes to resolve. I get bored with fights in RPGs that take any longer.

    Companies
    Larger organisations in Reign are called companies, and are determined by a set of five qualities- Treasure, Sovereignty, Influence, Territory, and Might. A company’s actions are governed by checks involving two of these qualities. For example, a direct attack on another company involves rolling Might+Treasure, and is defended against with a roll of Might+Territory.

    Other actions might increase one of a company’s qualities- either temporarily or permanently. A PC’s actions can give bonuses to a company’s rolls. More interestingly, certain optional special abilities (remember that optional crunch) of characters can directly affect a company’s qualities. Finally, a character can spend experience points on a company he belongs to as well as on himself.

    The Setting
    The Reign setting consists of a number of nations scattered across two continents. A number of nations are described in detail. Examples include a decadent but still dangerous empire, a nation ruled by ascetic warrior-nobles, and a capitalist and expansionist country ruled by competing professional guilds. The nations are given some cultural depth in the book- the beliefs, clothing, and diet of the various nations are described.

    The setting has a pretty wacky cosmology. The continents are shaped like a man and a woman, and the movement of the sun is such that some areas are always in shadow.

    One thing I should also mention (because I really like it) is ghosts. Killing someone who pleads for mercy is likely to lead to the killer being haunted by the ghost of the departed. Ghosts are powerless, but can be seen and heard by all, and have no need to rest. There is no means described in the book to get rid of ghosts. Anyway, the presence of ghosts means opponents in battle who surrender are usually spared. On a gruesome note, there is a good excuse for putting enemies into inescapable death traps.

    Magic
    Magic in Reign is fairly closely tied to the setting. Magic is common, and most spells are routine and safe to use. More powerful spells also exists, but they are limited. Magic is divided into schools- based both on the type of magic and a particular philosophy. For example, the Flame Dancers cast fire magic by dancing. The Ironbone Theocracy frowns upon the use of metal, and have a number of spells affecting the earth, and replicating (or improving upon) the qualities of metal.

    A mage in Reign has two options. Many are dabblers, using magic from several schools. The more devoted might opt to attune. An attuned sorcerer can only use spells from his chosen school, and undergoes a physical transformation. For example, a sorcerer attuned to the Wings of Words school grows wings. The physical transformation is generally beneficial, but often has drawbacks. Further, it can go wrong.

    The most powerful spells of a school are usually only available to attuned sorcerers.

    Summary
    Reign is my favourite fantasy RPG, and is suitable for most settings where the PCs are well above average but still vulnerable. For instance, a typical PC will survive a fight when outnumbered by unworthy opponents, but not if too heavily outnumbered. The game truly excels when the PCs have followers of their own.

    The book is informally but clearly written, and production qualities are decent.

    Score: 9/10

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