Ain't no party like a gettin' old party 'cause a gettin' old party stops when you die.
Anyway, I'm running Night's Black Agents later, but I have a bit of time now.
The Game: Undiscovered: The Quest for Adventure
The Publisher: Eilfin Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: More than I'd like with fantasy heartbreakers, none with this particular one
Books Required: Just the one.
There are really a lot of games like this, games that assume you've only played D&D, but you have played D&D, and set themselves up to compare to D&D. I'll show you what I mean.
See that? It's a skill-based game, not a class based. That sets it apart from other games. Well...no. It sets it apart from class-based games, which really means, in this context, "Look, we're not D&D." But like, what if I told you that even in (hang on) 2001 when this game came out, there were plenty of games on the market that didn't "base" characters on their capabilities, but rather on their role in the story? Yeah, mind blown. And besides, it's still level-based, which is much bigger indicator (IMO) of how the game works than class vs. skill.
Anydangway. This game takes place in Arkhas, but all I know about it before we get into system stuff is that "monsters lurk there." Um, OK. There's a chapter on the history of Arkhas at the very end of the book, but it starts out in prehistory, I think. I can't imagine there's a lot of compelling setting info; if the setting was interesting they'd lead with it. Presumably this is just another D&D clone (though, of course, it's "skill-based" rather than "class-based."
OK, well, the first thing I do is choose race. One thing I will give this game, the races are kind of interesting. Sure, there are humans (who aren't described as "diverse" or "adaptable" in the initial blurb! Huzzah!) and elves and dwarves, but the dwarves all have a random earth-based superpower and some of the elves are "start elves." That's pretty exciting.
I think, though, that I want to be a duster. Dusters are these weird reptile-people that live in the desert and can turn into a big ol' snake and (depending on subspecies) a drake or an amphiptere (like a winged serpent). That sounds fun, actually, so I'll do that, making me a plains duster.
Wow, there's a lot of shit here. I can turn into a brown grass snake or an amphiptere (see below), I can fly in amphiptere form, though not for very long, I can camouflage myself with a turn of concentration, I can see in the dark, and my eyes are this cool gold color.
Oh, wait, lemme do height and weight real quick. These folks are pretty short; my character is 4'8". In snake form he's...good lord, height + 2d4 inches? At minimum he's 58" long, which is a pretty big snake. Well, I'll say he's 60", or 5'. That's large. I'm my usual "humanoid" size in amphiptere form, which means I'm pretty small as dragon-things go. Seriously, picture that thing in the illustration but it's not even 5 feet nose to tail. SCREEEK. Aw. So cute.
Anywho. The book tells me I have to roll for age and money randomly, so sure, lemme dice out my dice. My age is 25 +2d10. I roll 10, so I'm 35. Old age is 250 + d100; not sure why I'd need that, but sure. Oof, 8. I guess I'm old at 258? I get 6d6 gold pieces. 17. Yeah, that's my usual dice luck.
OK, so on to Attributes, I guess. Two methods for distributing scores - I can spend 400 points or I can roll 5d10 for each of them. I think, lord help me, I'll do the point distribution thing today rather than trusting luck.
There are 8 Attributes (Strength, Endurance, Intelligence, Spirit, Agility, Dexterity, Charm, and Luck). If I were to split my 400 points evenly I'd get a 50 in each of them, but the mins and maxes probably play into this. Oh, wait, that would be fine, because the mins are down around 20 at the highest and the maxes are 60 at the lowest. But let's say I don't want to do that.
See, one thing about class-less systems that I don't like - they don't give you a sense of how to build characters in a setting with no...real setting. Well, let's assume my little duster guy is somewhat roguish and might want to steal some shit (seems about right for lucky-but-not-charming guy that turn into a snake). I figure that means I want high AGL and DEX, but the rest of it isn't as important.
Let's arrange Attributes this way:
That's 400. Now, I get to roll a d10 for each one add a modifier (can be a bonus or a subtraction). OK, then. This ends up with...
Well, definitely played to my strengths, there. I'm not real lucky as dusters go, though. I copy my scores onto the sheet and note all the little derived traits (including Life Points, which is half my END plus a d8, which sucks). My Luck score isn't high enough that I get random bonuses, but it's also not low enough that I get random penalties, either, so that's nice.
Some other character bits: I decide I'm left-handed (why not, I'm a snake, seems kinda ssssssinisssster), I become middle-aged at 140, which, like, would never happen in a real game so why bother, I'll take an alignment of -1. That's kinda on the "evil" side, but like, I'm a thief, so I figure I'd err more towards selfish.
Charm ratings guide your personality, with higher ratings leaning more friendly and gregarious and lower ratings leaning more dour. I...have some issues with this, not least of which "that's not how any of this works," but I do think it's nice to have a this rating translate to RPing in some way. Anyway my Charm rating is pretty low, so I'll say my duster is sullen and quiet and...not grouchy, but wary. I think he gets a lot more outgoing in amphiptere form.
I speak Duster, and if I have skill points to cover it, I should learn Common. Grumble grumble stupid language systems in RPGs.
OK, now I get 100 points for Skills. Skills are divided into three groups. Group A (Power Skills) include combat skills but also spells and psionics; I can spend a maximum of 80 points here. Group B (Percentile Skills) are more general Skills, while group C (Enhancers) look more like proficiencies from D&D, I guess? I gotta dig into this a little more.
All right. There are charts, and they're actually pretty easy to follow. Thank goodness for that. I'll just list the shit I want.
Circle Knife (Small weapon) 3: 7 points
Dagger (Throwing Weapon) 3: 7 points
Blind-siding 1: 4 points
Buckler Fighting 2: 3 points
Parrying 2: 4 points
Rolling 2: 2 points
Common 5: 5 points
Balance 3: 3 points
Concealing 4: 4 points
Quick Hands 3: 6 points
Picking Locks 3: 6 points
Shadow Walking 3: 4 points
Hiding 3: 4 points
Stealth 4: 10 points
Scaling Walls 3: 6 points
Information Gathering 4: 4 points
Direction Knowledge 4: 4 points
Observation 4: 4 points
Weapons Training 3 points
Dodging 3 points
Poison 1: 7 points
OK, and normally I would figure out scores for all these things, but like...I don't wanna. I also don't want to shop. I know I want a circle knife and a couple of throwing daggers, a buckler and some loose-fitting robes and a pack (I have to get nekkid to take on snake form, so I need clothes that I can shuck easily).
I need a name. No idea about how the duster language works (see, this is the kind of thing I'd include in a fantasy game). Without delving too deep into phonology, I'll name him Sayth (that last sound is voiced; the /th/ is the sound from "the" not "breath").
Sayth is smart, but not smart for a duster. He's pretty gifted at stealing shit, though, and he's developing his ability to gather info and choose targets. He hooked up with another duster (a desert duster) for a while who taught him poisons, but he hasn't made a lot of study of it because he thinks he'd rather be a thief than an assassin. Of course, you go where the money is, right?
When Sayth takes his amphiptere form, he's bright and beautiful and loud and cheerful, and flies and swoops and glides. In duster and snake form, he's quiet and paranoid and grouchy. He's not sure what makes the difference and he isn't sure how to do that introspection.
And I think that does it, because I don't feel like doing the boring bits.