The book opens with a broad sweep of the history of the land. A long time - a thousand years or more - ago, the gods lived in peace and prosperity amongst mortals, with magic and learning flowing freely and animals also living in peace. Unfortunately that didn't last, due rather predictably to the gods squabbling and spoiling it all for everyone. When the brawling stopped, most of the gods were either dead or had departed, leaving mortals to fend for themselves. A few hung around hoping to be worshipped but in the main mortals relied on military might to decide matters of rulership and even righteousness. The land is now fragmented, with islands of civilisation separated by wild lands where bandits and monsters hold sway. People rely on Adventuring Companies (guess who?) to bridge these gaps and protect those who would travel. There are also plenty of ruins filled with relics of happier times to loot. What more could one want for an adventure setting?
A character, that's what, so the next part of the book explains how to go about making one. It's recommended that you use The Basic Fantasy Role-playing Game ruleset, which is available as a free download, written with 'old style rules' play in mind, and also suitable for introducing younger players to role-playing. The instructions for rolling up a character are beautifully clear. To start with, get a piece of paper and a pencil. Roll 4d6 dropping the lowest die and adding the rest up to generate your ability scores. Next you choose a genus and class, making sure you meet any prerequisites for them in terms of ability scores. Of course, there is a bit more detail than that, but not much, and everything is made clear, although you do need to read through the final steps of character creation before you find out what a 'genus' is let alone what you can choose!
The genus (pl. genera) is the equivalent of race in most games. These ones draw on the history outlined earlier, and are groups who took different paths during the squabble of the gods but all are based on normal mortals, except Wildfolk who are descendants of mating between humans and animals, which was considered normal in ancient times. They are Abyss-Kissed, Human, Spellscorched and Wildfolk.
Next, the classes: Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User and Thief. In general, once chosen you have to stick to your class, only Spellscorched are permitted to be combination classed, and then only Fighter/Magic-User or Magic-User/Thief are allowed. Genus also affects class choices, some genera are limited in the choices they can make. Money and equipment lists round out this section, so by now the character is just about fully equipped and ready to go...
... unless, of course, they wish to wield magic. There's a comprehensive section for both Clerics and Magic-Users, with spell lists for both and a massive alphabetical list of spells with full details of how that spell is cast and what happens when it is. Both game mechanical and flavour aspects are handled clearly.
This magic section consumes much of the rest of the book, but there's space to explain what dungeon and wilderness adventuring is all about; along with a section on hirelings and services, as well as that all-important matter of combat. This section explains how combat is conducted, what your character can do, and includes things like turning undead as well as actual brawling. And that's it. Short and sweet, and notable for the clarity of explanation. Off you go and enjoy adventuring!
Return to Odysseys and Overlords Player's Guide page.
Reviewed: 20 May 2019