Product– Emergence Roleplaying Game
System– Emergence RPG
TL;DR– A bit of Hero, Eberron, and Shadowrun all together. 85%
Basics-Man is not alone in the universe, but he’s still the worst thing out there. In Emergence, mankind has discovered a stone allowing us to travel to another world, Stargate style. There we meet elves, dwarves, and orcs and begin to treat them poorly leading to a war cumulating in the other races destroying our gate home. Now a portion of mankind lives on this world in relative peace over 100 years later. Players take the role of one of the people in this brave new world which features a combination of magic, technology, and a fusion of the two.
Mechanics or Crunch-HOLY COW THIS IS A CRUNCHY SYSTEM! That is by no means bad. But, if you were looking for Fate or Fiasco levels of rule complexity, then look elsewhere. The book clocks in at over 300 pages, so this system has some serious meat on its bones. Let’s go over the highlights:
Races-First thing I noticed about this system’s mechanics is the way you build your character. It’s a standard build point system, but the races are much different. When you create your character, you get four race build points. Each race has abilities that cost between one to three build points, so if you wanted to play a quarter human, quarter dwarf (on my mother’s side), quarter elf ( on my father’s side), and quarter orc (don’t ask), then you can! I think that’s pretty cool.
Character Generation-Characters start by selecting a background that will give them default stats, building your race, and then spending 100 build points to make whatever kind of character they want. I always love any system that allows for that much customization, but it does slow down character generation. Also, the BEST part of these build points is build points are the generic points used for experience points. And, post character generation build point spending is exactly equal to during character generation build point spending. I HATE systems that change the rules for that after character generation!
Talents and Combat-Another option that characters have are talents. Talents are like feats that give the character better abilities. You have to meet requirements to buy a talent, but they do give the character that little bit more. Also, the talents are designed like trees with multiple levels for your character to take and specialize in. Talents handle several different aspects of this game ranging from a multiple shots with a bow to magic spells. And, these talents and some action in combat burn stamina. Stamina represents your character being more winded and worn down. You only have so much stamina, so you have to be smart when you use these points. And since your spells use stamina, you have a system that includes “cast till you pass out” mechanics which always makes me happy!
Base Mechanic-This system uses a fairly simple mechanic of 3d6 + ability + skill ranks vs. a static number for most rolls and tests. I love systems that use multiple dice as it makes a nice bell curve, so all numbers have a meaning! I’ve written about how much I love this before, so I’m pretty happy to see this appear again.
Health and Damage-Something I really love in a RPG is conditions tracks. This game has four different health ranges. As your character is damaged, you lose hit points from the left most track. When on track is empty, you lost some abilities or now have penalties to some actions. This neatly solves the “more than none, ready to run” problem I see all too often in games like Pathfinder and DnD.
Tools, Armor, spells, items, weapons, cybernetic body parts-This game has a lot of toys for the average player to look over. The rules give you options for running just a crazy spell tattooed shaman to being a mostly robotic cyber-knight with a shotgun. The book has a ton of player options ground to cover, but it does it well.
Monsters-Something that kind of annoyed me was the lack of monsters in this book. The back of the book does introduce a few monsters of a few different types as well as comprehensive rules on how to make more. The rules to make your own monsters are well done, but I, as the GM, have to put that much more time into this game ahead of the game. Adding in more monsters would really help this book.
Mechanics Summary-The rules might be thick, but the base idea is a quick one that you can learn in 10 minutes. This book is crunchier then a box of broken glass, but that doesn’t make the system bad. Don’t get his one if you want Fate levels of rules, but if you want a very solid rules system that give you a lot of room to build and play, get this game. 4.5/5
Theme or Fluff-This book has a lot of stories in it. A world where man has only existed for less than 150 years and where he’s the bad guy from the start is an interesting place to start a setting. Each race and their cities get a bit of a section in the opening chapter of the book. This system is most definitely a mix between the dragonpunk of Eberron and the cyberpunk of Shadowrun. I would have liked a few more story ideas as the world and its different environs are well described, but not as many ideas are given to the GM to start the game. It’s not hard to make up your own ideas, but giving a jump start to the GM is always appreciated. 4.25/5
Execution-I liked this book, but it does shave its flaws with the two main ones being recycled art and “textbook problem”. The book does recycle a lot of its art. I know the company is a smaller one, but the same few art assets are reused several times throughout the book. Again, it’s not the worst thing, but it always annoys me a little. The much bigger problem is the “text book problem.” This book has a LOT of ground to cover providing rules ranging from spells to shotguns powered by magic as well as introducing a whole new setting. The opening chapter reads just like an atlas/guide book giving all kinds of important stats and short introductions to each section of the world. The rules sections are dominated by two column pages of black text on a blue/white background. Those pages tend to drag on a bit as there are several of them in a row. The pages do introduce several important things, but page after page of the same layout does get a bet daunting to read. More tables for rules and color art would really help this book be that much better. It’s just that dense! 4/5
Summary-This is a good book if you like crunch. The world itself is nothing to sneeze at, but I would like some more example problems to face to help me design adventures for my players to go on. However, the mechanics of the rules are amazingly well done, and I think the mechanics are the star of this book. It has a lot of the things that really make me happy when I read a rules set. To really make this game a grand slam, I’d like a small book on threats to the world, a GM screen to keep all the mechanics straight, and a monster book to give me some foes to throw at the PCs in a hurry. But even without those tools, this is a great game that reminds me of other great systems like Shadowrun, 3.5e Eberron, and the Hero System. 85%
Discloser- I was provided a review copy of this game. I have not been paid or compensated in any other way.