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Jackals: Bronze Age Fantasy Roleplaying
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2021 12:42:17

This is the game that I have always wanted, but never thought that I would actually be able to obtain or play.

I know that sounds rather hyperbolic, (and it is), but the honest truth is that so few fantasy Roleplaying games break away from the classical Medieval or Medieval adjacent setting styles that it can feel like a slog trying to find something that captures the feeling of a different age of our own history. While those firmly planted in the Sword & Sorcery genre are often little more than specific affectations of Conan or other Howard works. That is not intended as a slam or a form of disrespect on those games at all, I enjoy those a great deal. However, It seems rarer and rarer to me personally that things beyond those sources are used for inspiration.

This is not a concern with Jackals in my humble opinion.

Jackals is a Roleplaying game that is inspired by classical Bronze Age societies, cultures, and tales. In particular those of the ancient near east. Taking cue from sources like Homer’s The Iliad, The Torah/Old Testament, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and other tales of Bronze Age and before era peoples and places within our history. What you get is a world dripping with the all important feeling of history, lore and depth. Combine that with the classical Sword & Sorcery aspects of a realm of perilous danger and adventure, of the Forces of Law and Chaos working against each other, and nestled within its own Fantasy realm of Bronze and you have a recipe for excitement that screams to the Heavens its rallying cry of sheer gripping wonder.

In terms of system, Jackals utilizes a simple and easy to comprehend and utilize D100 system modeled on the 2nd Open Quest SRD. Meaning the overall rules are easy to understand. On top of that Jackals introduces what it calls the Clash Mechanics for combat, and I have to admit that this is something I wish more people would steal or iterate on for their own games. In my opinion the Clash system makes combat gripping and engaging in a way that few others actually manage to uphold. From my experience there are a whole host of games that claim to be cinematic in their scope and action, but still manage to be either cumbersome or very static in terms of how things actually handle at the table. Even just watching Jackals in play from the various sessions/videos is engaging in a way that I couldn't have thought possible. All as characters clash against one another in contests of action where the victor is the one that deals their damage. A system that to me evokes the best aspects of those classic duels found in movies and stories, where two warriors bear all their weight and skill behind their attacks. It also provides a robust yet functionally simple method of tactical play at the table and allows caster like characters an opportunity to not feel as if they are left in the dust or high and dry with wasted turns even if their spells don’t go off, but still makes sure everyone feels useful at the table through the use of initiative "slots" as opposed to static sequential order, with other uses for clash points to allow those power attacks and multi opponent hitting swings.

However, combat is not the only aspect of the mechanics that stood out to me. No adventurer can wander the War roads forever, and the game not only acknowledges this, but has systems built into it to handle that. With renown mechanics that deal with how the world perceives the characters and their deeds, and also how chaos begins to seek out these more renowned individuals to make an example out of. To actions taken to strengthen bonds of connection with places across the Zaharets through Seasonal Actions, as well as mechanics to handle retirement of characters should they survive their journeys and the almost inevitable scars they are likely to endure along the way: physical, mental, and emotional- with mechanics to deal with physical scars, and corruption.

I rarely write reviews for anything. Mostly because I always feel that my words will not encapsulate what it is I really want to say. Every so often though something comes along that calls me to action, and Jackals is it. I love this game. Pure and simple. As soon as I purchased it I wanted to sit down and play. I bought the PDF copy first and within less than a week of ownership I turned around and bought a physical copy because I needed to hold this book in my hands. Never before have I so quickly went from PDF to physical without some sort of crowdfunding involved. I cannot wait to start up games of my own of Jackals.

I hope to see you out on the War Road some day.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Jackals: Bronze Age Fantasy Roleplaying
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Swordmage, A True Arcane Half-Caster for 5e
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/04/2018 15:24:56

I will admit that I am a personal fan of the current somewhat "minimalist" approach that the Fifth edition of the worlds most popular roleplaying game has taken to adding core content. "Why add a whole new class to the mix, when a new Archetype would fit the mold/favor well enough?" Is a question that I myself have asked numerous times for various other products. And it is with that general mindset that I approached the official inclusion of the Eldritch Knight and Bladesinger (official Archtypes for Fighters and Wizards, respectively), with a sense of thankful appreciation. Fun, and interesting takes on he clasical Mage-knight style characters from fiction without adding excessive amounts of tailored rules, and new potentially unbalancing elements. And truth be told I was happy to leave it at that.

Until, I'm happy to say, that I managed to stumble across this particular product.

The Arcane-Warrior type is always a fun archetype to play with in Heroic games of Fantasy Fiction. That odd, yet mysterious force that so adeptly combines the might of magic, with the flair of close combat. Of warriors with enchanted blades and strong armor, striding forth to call upon the powers of magic itself. As expressed above, I was content and happy enough with the presented Archtypes for the Eldritch Knight and the Bladesinger from official Wizards products, as they capture the relative flavors of all of the ideas above and meld them quiet happily with already existing core content. So, to be honest, I was a little skeptical of an unofficial class for such a potent and powerful form of character concept.

Reading it however, completely changed my mind on the subject I am very happy to say! The class is presented stunningly. With all of the detail and flair that I would expect from a Wizards product. Of course the layout of the actual document mirrors and copies the layout structure of the Players Handbook in a very reverential, and pleasing way. However the strong, yet simple mechanics are the most important facet of this product. The Class breaths with a sense of wonder and power that I would expect from such a type that attempts to infuse arcane power with martial might, and yet does not feel at all overly bulky or cumbersome to approach. The actual mechanics presented avoid unnecessary power creep or unnecessary power bloating, and sticks to the excitingly simple, yet robust flavor that such a magical knight attempts to invoke. Nothing in this feels out of place to me, or- more importantly- nothing within the text appears to attempt to do or add too much to the formula to make it too busy or muddled. Nothing irks me more than when someone attempts to create a whole new class, (usually with entirely good and interesting intentions mind you!), and what they really end up doing is creating a class that embodies every odd nook and cranny they can think of without sticking to their intended theme or concept as well as they thought/intended. The Swordmage avoids that issue entirely, combining the core, strong theme, and enhances it with flavorful and strong, but not game bending mechanics.

Not to mention most importantly: This product is FREE! I have graciously, and quiet willingly, given money for products of less quality- both in layout/presentation and in content, and yet this product is quiet graciously free of charge. How stunning is that?

This class would be a welcome addition to my table for players looking to scratch a particular itch should I be running a game. Or on the flip side I would hold no shame, or hesitation in bringing this product to a potential Gamemaster’s table and telling them “So, I had this idea for a sorcerer-knight...”.

Overall this is a wonderful product and I can’t say enough good things about it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Swordmage, A True Arcane Half-Caster for 5e
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Cards on the Table
Publisher: Chaosium
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2017 00:44:47

I would like to think that in a given moment I can be clever enough to pull out opportunities and consequences... However, so often it seems that your in the moment dealing with risks that you weren't expecting, stumbling all the way through trying to come up with something to provide the player to make that risk interesting. To give them consequences that are more varied than the standard wound, or any sort of interesting opportunity.

And for that reason alone this product is worth every cent that it asks for in my humble opinion. Not only that, but I would have actually gladly spent more for this tool. My lack of good spending sense aside though, this products does something very excellent and succint, in that it boils consequences and opportunities into categories in order to inspire you to determine what they actually mean as you encounter the situation, leaving you with all of the pieces you need to funnel your creativity into for each scene. The benefit that comes with this approach is that it is succinct enough to give a very considerably clear concept for consequences and opportunities without feeling like there is too many fiddly options to pick from that can cause unnecessary analysis paralysis.

As I normally play online these days, most of what I use this document for is inspiration, and actually don't get a lot of use for the actual cards. That aspect aside though, they make a wonderful resource to springboard the imagination at the table, an$ to make things more dynamic, and yet keep them straightforward for play.

I normally don't write reviews for products, but the quality and value that this product provides was compelling enough for me to write this up. If you play 7th Sea and find yourself needing more options for how to formulate opportunities and risks, then this product is certainly helpul!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cards on the Table
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Age of Arthur
Publisher: Wordplay Games
by Robert N. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2014 22:35:46

I have always loved Arthurian myth. The stories of Arthur and the knights of the round table have inspired me in one way or another since I was young. Although these tales have influenced me, I am also not overly aware, nor as well read as I should probably be to claim the intense wonderment that I just exposed a mere sentence ago. And yet, none of that really seems to matter with this product. Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing book filled with a wonderful world of warriors, adventure, and even a little magic; but at the same time it is not so heavily glued to the mythological fancy of Arthurian legend. It is instead a fascinating look at the potential aspects of Arthur, in a potential time period, where he could have existed. A fascinating web of historical accuracy, uncompromising historical liberties, (normally where magic, and other such elements are concerned), and wild imagination spurring wonder, all within the package of a couple hundred pages.

With that in mind on to the product itself...

While I think the pages can at times appear a bit busy, and a little bit like great walls of text, which in their own right can hinder the actual reading experience, these elements in no way hinder the experience of the product itself. The attention to detail, both with the Fate system used, as well with the historical and mythical elements described within the book show that the authors had an intense passion for the system and the the world that they described for the audience. The sheer volume of ideas, historical context, woven mythologies, and pure wonder at the more involved, and in-depth, sections of the book really get one more in the mood to play this than some of the other books I have read.

There is so much, and so little, that I can actually say as a result. It bears repeating that this book, in my more than humble opinion as a fan of RPG's, and a fan of the subject matter at hand; is that Age of Arthur, does everything that I think a book of its caliber should do: explain the rules in a way that is clear and understandable, present a world in which to inhabit or give the building blocks to build one's own world, and finally to infuse the imagination of those that read it with the desire to play the game as published. I think that Age of Arthur his all three of these points dead on. As far as I am concerned I will be hooked on this for some time to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Age of Arthur
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