Ring Side Report- Black Void Quick Start Rules

Product– Black Void Quick Start Rules

System-Black Void

Producer– Christoffer Sevaldsen

Price– $12 here on kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/68133405/black-void-rpg

TL; DR-The D12 DOESN’T cry itself to sleep! 90%

Basics-.Welcome to Llyhn the eternal!  In the Black Void, characters survive in a world where giant almost black holes, the Black Voids of the title, opened up around Babylon and swallowed the chunks of the world whole, dragging men and women off screaming into the darkness.  After some time and much loss of life, humans found themselves in Llyhn, the eternal city, where inhuman masters rule. Will you survive in this world where you are far from home as characters scrabble in the dirt in this fantasy Middle Eastern RPG?

Base Mechanics- This game uses a d12 as its primary die.  Characters add either their traits and/or abilities to the roll hoping to reach a 7, the normal success roll that can vary quite a bit depending on the complexity of the action.  It’s a pretty simple system that makes me think a bit of other roll to a set number games like Savage Worlds.

Stats-  Your stats in this game are called traits which are Agility, Awareness, Stamina, Strength, Intellect, Manipulation, Presence, and Willpower.  When you build a character, you get 24 points to buy your traits at a one for one basis. All of them start at one and none can be greater than six at character generation.  When you use your traits, you take the trait minus three to determine the modifier you get for your rolls. Also, for every three points in a trait, you can buy a talent for another three points.  Think of talents like feats in DnD-they give you bonuses and abilities that normally you would not have and you have to take them as you grow in power. This game is classless, so these are ways to build to something you want to be in the world.  You can also spend points on background abilities like your caste, the ability to access blood magic, or to even not be completely human. All of these things act like feats as well with character buying new ranks in blood magic, different background abilities, and new abilities if you are a half-breed.

Blood Magic- Magic in this game looks more ritual based than the snappy magic of DnD.  The quick start guide presents Blood Rituals where a character can sacrifice a creature to gain a bonus or a boon.  These boons provide different powers and abilities that a character can use in the next 12 hours ranging from a simple reroll to gaining different talents.  The skills for blood magic are gained during character generation and bought using a character’s trait pool.

Skills– Your skills in this game are called abilities.  You start the game with 24 ability points that you spend on a 1 for 1 basis.  Your skills start at below 0, then 0, and finally you can spend points up to 3, so 3 ranks in a skill costs you 4 ability points.  The modifier is -3 for no ranks, then 0 for 0, and up to +3 for 3 ranks. Unlike games like Pathfinder and DnD, some abilities are tied to multiple traits, so a character might be doing an Athletics roll, but use Stamina instead of Strength if the character was testing their endurance instead of testing their physical prowess.

Combat and Initiative-Combat runs how you would expect, with a few differences.  Players roll a d12 and add their agility talent as normal for rolling for initiative.  Then on a character’s turn, a character chooses one action that can range from attacks, reacting to attacks, or simply moving.  The standard value of 7 is used for attacks unless a character took an action to change it or react with a character adding their Strength or Agility trait and their weapon skill to the attack roll.  If the attacker hits, then the attacker rolls damage with damage dice ranging from a d4 to a d12, the hit character reduces the damage by their armor value, and then the turn moves to the next character.  Characters have conditions depending on their hit point total with the more banged up a character is, the character gains more penalties to their rolls.

Health and Sanity-  The game has some simple rules for character generation of hit points and sanity.  Characters have health points that are determined by rolling a d12 for each Stamina Trait.  This game also has some slight Lovecraft elements as characters will encounter horrors beyond time and space surviving in their new home.  A character’s sanity points are determined by rolling a d12 for each Willpower point their have. When a character encounters a horror they roll a d12 and add their Willpower modifier aiming for a number depending on the creature.  If they fail, they lose sanity points. Sanity point loss has penalties associated with it just like health point loss as the character will gain madness conditions. Sanity can be regained through time and rest just like health points.

Character Advancement-  Characters advance in a few ways.  First, the normal experience points are gained.  Characters spend these to advance traits and abilities according a table in the book.  Characters can also advance in Wastah and Enlightenment. Enlightenment is how a character understands the Void and the cosmos as a whole, kind of like getting the rule book to the universe.  As a character becomes more enlightened, they might gain new abilities, attributes, and talents. Wastah is much more simple-it’s a character’s social rank. As you adventure, you gain prestige that makes you more important.  The caste system in this world is rigid, but if you save the leadership of the city enough times, then even the lowliest street rat might become something impressive with ranks unlocking new patrons, facilities, funding, or a whole host of other options.

Ok, that’s how to play.  Now what do I think!

Theme or Fluff-This is honestly the high point of the book.  You feel like you’re in the City of Brass with powerful elemental lords using humans as playthings.  It’s pre-Islam middle eastern fantasy with bits of Lovecraft thrown in. I don’t see enough middle eastern themes in fantasy aside from fantasy Egypt, so this is a good welcome change!  I like the work this book builds as the characters scrabble to survive in a supernatural world full of horrors post magic apocalypse on Earth. That is all good! Better, none of this feels racist.  It’s easy to just make some stereotypes and run with that as a game. This book feels like it’s trying to make the world stand out and be much more than some simple stereotypes with new races and creatures that rule the eternal city.  That makes this an even better place to play instead of just a blatant copy of folklore. 5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-This game has novel mechanics that I like, but there are a few things that catch my attention.  The d12 based system is something unique that I really like. I don’t see that die used too much, and it takes center stage here.  The bonuses are something that catch my attention. They seem somewhat inconsistent with trait rolls being the trait minus three while ability rolls are -3 for no ranks but one rank is considered a zero in the skill and all other ranks result in continued bonuses, so four ranks is a +3.  That’s not horrible, it’s makes sense from a numbers perspective to make the math of a d12 only system work, but the flow feels off. If you play, it’s going to work. But, it’s a slight barrier to entry. My other major issue is the combat action economy. One day I will learn to just stop being angry about being able to move or attack in a turn, but not today!  Again, it makes sense from a system perspective, but I never feel right only being able to run up to take a hit to the face. It will emphasize the role ranged combat plays. The thing I do like is the amount of tables the game has. As you go crazy, critically hit an enemy, or simply screw up an attack, you roll on tables. Random event tables are always a great way to throw fun into a system and it takes pressure off the GM to always come up with fair, random events that the players experience when stuff goes really well or really badly.  Overall, it’s a good system that I personally have a few issues with, but you may absolutely enjoy. 4/5

Execution– The book is laid out well, but I have a few minor issues.  Tables interrupt the text, and that is good because it reduces eye strain, but the text begins above the table in the next column, instead of the same column below the text.  I don’t know why, but I kept trying to read below the column and getting mixed up. This isn’t always consistent and might be changed in the final book. It’s not a big thing, but it threw me.  I’d like the text a bit larger and maybe the gray background of the book doesn’t make the black text pop as much. Minor problems, but some things I noticed. But, the book does have nice art that interrupts the text to keep me engaged, and the rules are written well enough that I can easily read what is going on and get running the game quickly.  Also, as a guy who reads tables for a living, the tables are well laid out and make me not hate reading. 4.5/5

Summary-This looks like a fun game that I have a few minor reservations with.  I love the setting. This is fantasy middle east, but not simply a copy/paste of some folklore.  It has its own unique spin that I really want to see played out, and the world here is honestly the largest draw to this book.  The system works well, but I have a few minor gripes. I want to play the d12 based system some more, and once I get past my walk-or-attack aversion, I think I will enjoy this a lot more.  The book is done well, but a little more consistency in the layout and possibly a slight change in background color might help. Even with those slight issues, this book looks good. I know I’m in.  Its 400+ pages of a whole new novel RPG PDF for about $12 bucks. Thanks a great value for something that is whole cloth new. Some established RPG books charge that much for 30 page supplement. And this thing is scheduled to come out in September of this year, meaning this thing is probably done already.  So, I’m in! I can’t wait to read this new setting with a new system from a new creator. Go give this one a look. 90%

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