Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone

By on 27 January 2009

Hellas is available as a pdf (which seems to eat adobe alive on anything but a monster PC) or a very attractive landscape format hardback book. Right from the outset it looks like a quality effort and I should hope so too, it cost me £30 here in the UK, which is right at the top end of my budget when it comes to RPG’s! For the money you get a well bound 330 odd pages in full colour throughout with some very evocative illustrations. Khepera Publishing have lavished a lot of attention on this game and it shows.

Hellas uses the Omnisystem – previously seen in Talislanta 4th Edition. I admit to never having seen this before but it seems like a quick and easy system, only using 1d20 for practically everything as far as I can tell. To resolve any action add your characters skill + relevent attribute, adjust with any GM set modifiers and add the roll of a d20. Results of 11 or higher result in success, 20 or more is a critical. If you get 6-10 you have a partial success and less than 0 is a critical failure. The only aspect of this system that doesn’t feel totally “natural” to me is defending in combat. If you want to parry or dodge an attack then you have to declare this before your opponent rolls to hit. In this case the defender uses the attackers skill rating as the modifier to his roll – if the defender succeeds then there’s no need for the attacker to roll – he’s already missed!
The magic/psychic (here called Dynamism) uses the same system but here there is no list of powers or spells as found in most RPG’s, instead there are a broad range of power types – Attack, Illusion and Shield amongst others. Rules are given for each type of power or mode and the description of how each power works/physical effects are left to the pc. It all looks quite easy in the book but I can imagine that some players may have trouble with the total freedom allowed here – probably best to leave this to NPC’s in con games?

There’s lots of “fluff” and background information in Hellas, ranging from descriptions of the major planets in the system to a full timeline. Although Hellas is quite obviously “Greeks in Space” it isn’t based on our galaxy and has sevseral differences – the major pantheon have all been renamed slightly for one, but there are also several similarities – Spartans are obsessed with warfare and don’t get on well with Athenians for example. I found some of the terminology used to be quite confusing, there’s different areas in the galaxy that I assume are modelled on real Greek city states, and the book seems to take the assumption that you know what the author is talking about when it mentions Boetian Leagues and other factions. Most of this does become apparent when you’ve read all of the background section but it’s initially confusing (although if you’re an expert on classical Greece then you’ll probably spot all the references very quickly). There’s a lot of info to take in here – several playable player races (some of which are refreshingly original – to me at least) and different bad guys to take on – the basic premise of the game is that the Hellenes (the basic human race) have been the dominant space faring race in the galaxy for 2000 years, over time they have fought and conquered several races although there main foes have always been the Zorans (think Persians) and the Atlanteans (who were originally Hellenes but were ostracised many years ago and defeated in a massive civil war. They were thought long gone but now they are back – and they’re very angry)

There is also a metaplot that stretches over 100 years – although it isn’t a constrictive one at all, it’s a metaplot in the same sense that Pendragon has a metaplot, ie there’s a set timeframe where the action takes place but it’s entirely up to you as a GM or group of players how much influence you actually have on this plot, and generational play is encouraged. If you’re not playing the grandson of you first character by the end of the campaign then you just aren’t getting epic enough! The PC’s are definately the movers and shakers in this universe if they want to be. There are also lots of scenario seeds and a few full adventures included in the book that are linked into quite a nice starting campaign.

Throughout the book the author’s manage to evoke a really good feel for the setting – there’s some excellent fiction at the start of every chapter and adventure ideas spring from most of the pages. Character creation is especially evocative, it uses a lifepath system a bit like that found in Traveller (although you can’t die in character gen here) but so far every character I’ve tried to make has been interesting and one I ould like to play as.

There’s also good support for the GM, ranging from the adventures I mentioned earlier to an excellent system for creating adversaries and new monsters as well as rules for how PC’s can influence the development of planets and star systems.

Also worthy of a mention is the Hellas website, where the author’s are quite active and seem to show a high level of customer support. Also a free quickstart version is available here which includes a scenario and some pre-gens which show off some of the playable races.

All in all I’m very impressed and will definately be keeping an eye out for future supplements.

Reviewed by Jez Grey

About Guest Reviewer

Guest isn’t a real person, but this review has been written by one (a real person that is). They kindly submitted it for publication here. Their details are contained in the body of the review.

2 Comments

  1. Michael Fiegel

    28 January 2009 at 8:23 am

    Thanks for the kind review! We hope to have our first supplement available by Origins, in June. And we are working on a low-res version of the PDF to help with the eating of the Adobe. Chomp.

  2. Jerry D. Grayson

    28 January 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Wow,

    Thank you for the kind words. Its much appreciated

    Jerry

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