Artesia RPG- looking deeper

March 9, 2008

So two seperate friends of mine are interested in playing- mostly because we’re all fans of the comics.  So I’m looking closer at the rules this time, trying to figure out how to make this happen, and it’s revealing some interesting stuff about the game.

Runequest all over it

It’s pretty easy to see the Glorantha/Runequest imprint all over the game, from the comics, the setting, the mechanical crunchy bits.  If you talk to Mark Smylie, the author of the comic and game, he’ll also confirm that he played a lot of Runequest back in the day.   The game as a whole feels very much as if someone updated RQ for the 90’s, which, makes sense because it’s using the Fuzion Mechanics which saw their heyday around then.

Who can play this

The game is very clearly intended for one of two types of groups.  Either deep rules heads who can (as a group) track the various subsystems, or people who are fudgy with the rules most of the time and only focus on a couple of systems to remain accurate to.  I’m not sure which kind of group Mark plays with, though it’d be interesting to find out, especially regarding playtesting.

Because it’s Fuzion based, the basic concepts are not hard.  It’s that each subsystem is a moderately crunchy affair- and together, you have to track: combat, relationships, emotional bindings, 22 Tarot based subsystems, multiple types of magic, Gifts (advantages), etc.   It’s a lot.

Neat stuff

The biggest thing that stands out to me is the Tarot based advancement systems, which, basically encourage you to fulfill archetypes.  This could swing straight Sim or it could swing Nar, depending on your style of play.  The biggest thing is that doing -anything- is almost guaranteed to make your character advance somehow.

The second thing I find super interesting is the relationship and emotional binding rules- these seem like they’ll play a bit like Riddle of Steel’s Spiritual Attributes or Burning Wheel’s Belief system.   I think though, I’d probably want to track them on index cards or something easier to handle than letting them get lost in the masstext that is the character sheet.

Combat has some interesting strategic choices built into it.  Though Dex is the “fallback” attribute of choice, depending on what attributes you have strong, you have a variety of strategies ranging from “Technique” based attacks to “Perception” for aimed attacks.  So it’s not completely loaded to -one build wins them all-.

Longer term, there’s cool stuff like playing out your hero’s journey to the underworld after you die as well as being able to pump up your bloodline so if you play your children, they get better stats, etc.


The biggest concern is that this is one of those huge toolbox games that has all the tools there if you know what you want to do AND how to select within what will work.  Though many traditional rpgs fall in that category, don’t think that’s a small thing.

This is where the RQ influence is not so grand.  I remember playing RQ (I don’t remember which edition) once, and it was short lived- all of our characters were mismatched because you randomly rolled up all your cultures and professions.   It was even more mismatched than the standard D&D party.  Artesia certainly says, “Pick or roll”, but the question is, why would you roll everything, and how could you make it work especially within a context like the comics give?

I’m thinking an important part is to pick the important stuff- like culture and social level, and then you can choose to roll stuff.  Otherwise, it’s hard to say how a bandit, a craftsman, a hermit and a Lady of the House all end up crossing paths, when they come from 4 different countries.   Much less what kind of story/situation/conflict you can pull from that without reaching.

My second concern is the crunch, as mentioned.

Third, the book could be better organized, there are some key parts that are in weird places, stuff like “Oh, yeah, if your parents die, then you get inheritance” in this small box kind of off by tables.  These kind of things make me want to write a reference sheet for -every- subsystem in the book, and that’s more work than I want to do.

For me and my friends

The other thing, these friends?  They’re non-gamers.  They don’t quite get how crunchy this game IS.  I’m thinking I can have them help with the Tarot XP stuff, but everything else?  It’ll be walking them through it, each time.

I’m going to focus on the Tarot, Relationships, and Emotional Bindings stuff, so I’ll photocopy those tables, but the rest of the tables in the game?  I’m just going to have to bypass them, and use a standardized +/- 2/4/6/8 progression that seems to go with a lot of them.  Otherwise my head will explode.

It would be good to also try this game with a bunch of mechanics monkey players and see how the full thing runs, but this is what I’ll have to settle for.

Second, we’re going to just use the Daradjan culture as the focus, because it’s the main focus in the comics, and that makes it a lot easier to deal with.  I’d like to tie in the mystical aspects, which I’ll have to think of in terms of situation, etc.

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