The Upwind Quickstart Primer begins by giving a brief overview of the setting, the characters you'll play, and the game system itself - and then goes into more detail about all of them, in particular the game mechanics which are quite original and intriguing. The setting is also fantastical and imaginative, which is reflected in the art (although some is rather too cartoonish for the images the text conjures up).
The setting is also original, involving the remnants of a broken world floating through the ether. Brave souls - like the Explorer Knights that your characters are assumed to be - sail through the ether visiting these floating islands. Unfamiliar with the movie references given, it calls up to my mind the various kingdoms within Ming's Empire in the Flash Gordon movies. Somewhere down in the depths, the Children of the Dark work their wicked ways; while everyone tries to scavenge ancient technology.
Next comes a detailed explanation of the original game system called Q - for 'quantum', based on the concept that die-rolling is an incremental process, whereas here a single decision point has a major effect on the course of the plot. Put simply, when a pivotal point is reached, play is halted while the GM and the key player engage in a process in which both propose an outcome and then bid for it using playing cards in a system based on character abilities. I think the discussion would have been clearer if the character abilities had been explained first (but I am told that they are in the full rulebook!), but with a bit of flipping to and fro it soon becomes clear although even at this 'primer' level the system is complex with a range of options to take into account. Once an outcome has been decided upon, play continues and the chosen outcome put into effect. It makes for an interesting and powerful way of influencing the course of events, but is distruptive to the flow of the game as you have to stop and get the cards out at what is, by it's very nature, a moment of high drama in the game.
This is followed by a more extensive outline of the campaign setting. The Light and the Dark, the Masters of the Wind, the Downfall, the Kin... each is explained and its place laid out. It's clear that to get the most out of this game, everyone has to be familiar with the setting and its nuances as it is radically different from any ordinary fantasy world. It all makes for fascinating reading. This section also explains the nature of Explorer Knights' Guild, the organisation that player-characters are part of. As potenial knights are chosen for their physical and mental prowess, and their capacity to wield 'Potential', the magic that is woven into the very fabric of the setting, they are quite exceptional people before they even start.
Finally, there's an introductory scenario, Bait and Switch. Pre-generated characters are available from the Biohazard website, as there is little information on characters here... indeed, the actual character sheets are quite difficult to figure out until you have got your head around the Q system as most notations refer to the complex card-selections required. The adventure itself is quite fun, involving a clever deception in an attempt to trap a pirate, and provides a good introduction to both setting and game mechanics, with likely points and suggested stakes for each play of cards laid out clearly.
Overall, this is an intriguing introduction to an innovative and truly fantastic game. The Q game mechanic offers an unusual melding of role-playing and story-game - some folk may find its disruptive nature off-putting, others will relish the sweeping influence that they can wield over events.
Return to Upwind Quickstart Primer page.
Reviewed: 13 August 2017