Last Monday, I played/ran Arcanis for the first time. I have to say, I am amazed by this game. Lets run through it section by section…
Basic Dice Mechanics: A strange hybrid of 4th Ed DnD, Firefly, old school Deadlands, and Shadowrun…That’s not a bad thing…
The basics of the game are roll 2d10(called your “action die”) + an attribute die ( ranging from d4-d12) and add modifiers. That is compared to a static number. It’s that easy/quick. Why 2d10? My best guess is different number generation that I don’t hate. This makes crits harder ( 2 10’s on your d10s), but makes epic fails less (2 1’s on your d10’s). Best part is if you roll the highest numbers on your dice, the dice explode and you add and roll again. This is quite awesome and makes some of the higher number easier to get. It comes off as a mash up of the above systems, but it’s a mash up of the best parts of the above systems.
Combat: I want a battle mat, but might not need one. Also you might need a clock…..
In combat, you use the base mechanic from above and attack three different numbers when you attack. I love attacking static numbers since it makes the game move faster. These three numbers are completely different then fortitude, reflex, and will! (sense my sarcasm) So the fact they changed names doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the rules, but what really makes me happy is the fact that armor doesn’t change you defenses, it give you damage reduction. This is another thing I’ve grown to love in my RPG’s, but you might not.
The game has the standard assortment of spells and powers which we will talk about later. The basics are the are like 4th edition powers that you can change/modify on the fly. This is why you might want a battlemap. It makes life semi easier to keep track of character location.
After you hit or miss, life get really complicated or amazing…Every action you do in combat takes time. Swing a claymore? That will take a long time. Jab with a dagger? That won’t take as long. When you do something, you advance your personal “clock” to a time. When the master clock reaches your time, you get to go again. You get to chose how you move: quick to get across the field fast but provoking attacks of opportunity, slow to avoid attacks, guarded. All of that makes me amazingly happy.
Why does this make me so happy? The clock fixes 4th edition DnD’s powers/spells…
Powers: This does everything right that 4th edition DnD did wrong!
Now, dont get me wrong, I LOVE 4th Edition DnD. Odds are if you are reading this, I play more 4th edition then you do. However, it’s got some problems, and those problems drive people away. A major one is typified by this question “why only one fireball per day?” And the answer to that question is game balance. In Pathfinder/3.5DnD , the wizard only had X number of fireballs per day, so the fighter got to play also. However, in 4th edition, with the encounter structure, the fighter gets X power per day and so does the wizard. That breaks a bit of the game emersion since I don’t believe that hitting so hard would make me unable to hit the same way again when my life is on the line.
So how does this fix the problems? TIME! All actions take time. Hit crazy hard with a power? Adds time to your next hit. Do a charge? Adds time! Want to do a crazy powerful spell? Add more time! You can basically drop a H-bomb on the battle field and go home because your character won’t be acting again for a really long time. Time makes the game balance. The kid with the dagger gets 10 hits to your one, but you make that one hit count.
Martial powers go off quick. You charge move your speed and hit the guy. Not bad, but spells also have a part you decide. To cast a spell you make a few choices. All spells have a default form, but you can add to a casting check to make the spell more powerful. This adds time and a cool down period to the spell as well as making the spell harder to cast, but it adds to the fun of the game. You think you wizard is a bad ass, then up the check needed to make the spell more flashy! I cannot stress how much I LOVE THIS! My players did this, and I did this with my bad guys!
EVEN BETTER, ALL POWERS MIX AND MATCH! This game treats power/spells like Legos. We only played with the quick start guide, but in the guide they tell you how to combine powers with other powers. My martial guy charged into a group of bad guys and then did a crazy swinging maneuver that hit them all. It added a bit of a cool down to the next time he did a power, but he didn’t care, they were all dead! The wizard got the same thing but with spells. Do some math and you can make a force push fireball! All balanced! Everybody is useful, no one gets left out! This is what 4th edition wanted to be.
Monsters: GOD YES MINIONS!
So we played the quick start adventure. It not a brain buster, but it was fun. Go here rescue your friends… Bla Bla Bla. Great for an intro, but not a triumph of literature. However, there were character I loved and monsters that made it worthwhile. Best part is minions are part of this game. I love being able to throw groups of mooks at the PCs and have them get mowed down. Makes my PCs feel like they are badass and I dont have to do crap tons of math. Minions also only have a single clock time, so the game does not bog down while tons of guys on the map.
Out of Combat: Not to bad
The game plays like 4th ed or Pathfinder. There will be as much role-playing as the PCs want. My PCs didn’t want much so they move as quick as they could to combat. It uses the base mechanic above, so its just like 4th ed/Pathfinder. Nothing to crazy here. I need to get the full book and see if there are role-playing powers in it.
Setting: Kind of strange
The setting covers a lot of ground. The characters look like Roman soldiers, but one of the NPCs in the adventure is a guy with a flintlock. Not really sure what’s going on here. I am intrigued, but need to know if this too much of a blender setting where everything is in like the default Pathfinder setting. I like the Pathfinder setting, but adding everything kind of makes nothing stand out. Check the Forgotten Realms for that one.
Living Game: GOD YES!
I love living games like the Living Forgotten Realms and Pathfinder Society. When I run public games, I want to run games that will bring geeks together and this one has most the things I want in one of those. Free adventures? Check. Online Community? Check. Rewards for the DM? CHECK! I need to see if the game has rewards for the player that depend on what they did in the adventure. When I get more games going, I’ll find out as soon as I can.
Final Verdict: BUY THIS ONE!
I love this game. Its 4th edition with everything fixed. I will buy the bas book as soon as I can. You should too. Look for Living Arcanis games as soon as I can at Clem’s Lansing.