Welcome to The Indie Game Shelf! Every post in this series will highlight a distinct tiny press roleplaying game to showcase the wide selection of games offered. No matter whether you are new to the hobby and searching to see what’s out there or you are a veteran gamer searching for anything new, I hope The Indie Game Shelf usually holds anything entertaining and new for you to love!
Unity by Anson Tran and Zensara Studios is a GMed fantasy roleplaying game created for three or far more players (which includes a Game Master) to expertise adventure in an apocalyptic fantasy setting. The game book includes not only lots of setting history, but also a generous portion of quick fiction to aid communicate the really feel of the globe. The book also functions lots of wonderful complete colour artwork by Nguyen Dang Hoang Tri and Raph Lomotan and is worth flipping via for that alone.
The guidelines structure of the game evokes the conventional college of RPG design and style, but it also tends to make use of some modern day components and streamlining procedures for a far more cinematic really feel. Even though not, strictly speaking, a d20-primarily based program, the guidelines are nonetheless constructed about the conventional polyhedral dice set, and the mechanisms will be familiar adequate to any one versed in d20-primarily based games.
Rather than the game becoming narrowly focused on telling a distinct story, Unity alternatively presents a detailed setting with a wealthy history. The text gives some suggestions for tone and theme, but the game otherwise delivers an open invitation for a selection of play designs and narratives.
The setting of the game is the titular globe of Unity, identified to its denizens as a single continent bracketed by two oceans, themselves bordered by a (therefore far) impenetrable wall of storms and whirlpools. In addition, the globe of Unity shares space with the Drift, a spiritual plane fed by the psychic and emotional experiences of the inhabitants of Unity. The history of Unity is 1 largely punctuated by the principal gods of the globe (the Skyfather and the Ivory Queen) screwing up the globe by making intelligent life on it. Get prepared for a tale.
The gods very first produced the Valla, lengthy-lived collectivists psychically linked collectively by Spirit Stones embedded in their foreheads. Unsatisfied with the Valla’s eventual lack of ambition to spread across the globe, even so, the gods then produced the Furians, volcano-born craftspeople and warriors. After the Valla and the Furians settled into peaceful trade relations, the gods attempted once again to produce persons who would finish the job of populating the globe. The third try, the Humans, have been created quick-lived and vulnerable in an try to motivate them to thrive, which seemed to do the trick. Lacking the elder races’ divine physiological blessings, Humans discovered to harness sources and create technologies, which place them on far more equal footing with the other individuals. Sooner or later, as takes place, absolutely everyone went to war with each and every other.
The two gods, displeased by this improvement, reacted in distinct techniques. The Skyfather disappeared and headed off to components unknown. The Ivory Queen, encouraged by a whispered voice from someplace beyond the void, decided to populate the globe with horrible monsters to give all 3 races a prevalent enemy to fight against. At very first, this enemy, the Crimson Horde, did also fantastic a job, practically finishing off each and every of the earlier peoples. But in the finish the Valla, Furians, and Humans banded collectively and drove the Horde out of civilized lands. This unification ultimately seemed like what the gods wanted, as it led to a Golden Age. Having said that, the Young children of Unity sooner or later turned their could possibly against the gods themselves and killed the Ivory Queen.
This act of deicide brought on the Skyfather to return…and return angry. Raging at what the Young children of Unity had completed, he smote the globe and broke it. The spiritual realm of the Drift, which had been amassing terrible psychic energies not only from the persons warring amongst each and every other, but now also against the Horde, cracked open and spilled onto the globe of Unity in what came to be identified as the Terrific Calamity. Demons poured forth from the Drift, the dead on Unity rose from their graves, the technological automata the Humans had produced as labor-saving devices awakened to sentience and revolted, and the globe filled with corruption and blight. In addition, all 3 Young children of Unity have been divinely cursed: the Valla lost their collective psychic hyperlink, the inner strength of the Furians was twisted into uncontrollable rage, and a quantity of Humans inherited a supernatural illness named the Phage which eventually resulted in the formation of an added subrace, the Afflicted.
It is into this globe that the characters are thrust to commence their story. The globe has been torn apart, actually and figuratively, by the Terrific Calamity. I get in touch with this apocalyptic rather than post-apocalyptic mainly because the protagonists, like the societies of the globe at big, are nevertheless attempting to come across their way in this new and harmful scenario. The globe is wounded, but not dead. Dangers abound, but the persons attempting to survive nevertheless have access to martial could possibly, mystical powers, and magical technologies. A lot has gone poorly for the globe, but a lot of hope remains. The game can be played to concentrate on the struggle of physical survival, but it also tends to make space for the quest for an exploration of greater lands as effectively as the examination of moral believed and quandaries.
In terms of genre markers and tropes, the game draws from a selection of traditions. The way the game is presented tends to make it look primarily based mainly on familiar fantasy tips: wonderful peoples and creatures, gods and magic, epic tales of fantastic and evil, and the like. There are, even so, also sturdy components of horror presented, especially cosmic horror, existential horror, and physique horror. I quit just quick of calling the game dark fantasy or fantasy horror…though only just. The components are present, but it does not really feel like the action-oriented game is strongly pushing a worry-primarily based tone that I associate with the horror genre. In addition, the Afflicted function mechanical physique component replacements or augmentations reminiscent of a game revolving about cybernetics, and some of the magical technologies offered involves gigantic war engines identified as Titan Rigs for that dash of mecha aesthetic. There’s a lot going on in this game!
The guidelines and structure of mechanics in Unity are at minimum reminiscent of conventional design and style. Characters are defined by the mixture of quite a few components: Race (1 of the 3 Young children of Unity races or the Afflicted), Class, 4 Attributes (May possibly, Agility, Thoughts, and Presence), and 3 Core Paths (pretty freeform backgrounds that take the spot of a ability list). In addition, a character’s Class confers Attributes, Perks, and Powers which are the principal pieces that differentiate Classes from 1 an additional and which let characters engage with the guidelines with far more than the core resolution rolls.
The principal resolution mechanic is a 2d10 + modifiers roll vs. a target quantity. The modifiers involve an Attack Rating and/or Defense Rating for combat rolls or Attribute and Core Path modifiers for ability checks. There is also a Advantage/Hindrance mechanic which involves an added die to the pool which will either aid (preserve highest) or hinder (preserve lowest) the outcome of the roll, as proper. Rolling doubles in combat introduces added rewards, and rolling double tens is the equivalent of a vital hit (resulting in added harm). The target quantity is typically an opponents Defense or Attack Rating (in combat) or a quantity primarily based on the difficulty of the challenge (for ability checks).
Combat is primarily based on rounds, as in numerous conventional styles, but the turns inside the rounds are group-primarily based such that all the player characters act collectively, and then the GM-controlled characters act collectively. Initiative is mainly decided narratively, even though below particular situations it can be altered in the very first round by ability checks. There is a familiar action economy per turn, with 1 each and every of distinct categories of actions offered (Typical, Movement, Fast, and the like).
Departing from a far more familiar trad structure, Class Powers are largely fueled by an economy of energy points particularly flavored to each and every Class. For instance, Dreadnought Powers are fueled by May possibly, although Phantom Powers are fueled by Guile. The points are flavored differently for each and every Class, but the mechanics are largely the very same. Some Classes even use two distinct energy point economies, and this is only 1 variety of economy utilised in the game.
Gear is hugely abstracted, divided into Necessities (which are spent for the duration of rest and recovery periods) and Gear (which represent the things of adventuring tools and comparable offered to the characters). There is a player-facing narrative currency named Spark Points (which are earned for descriptive prose and spent on mechanical bonuses to rolls) as effectively as a GM-controlled narrative currency named Ruin (accumulated by the passage of time and a variety of character actions and spent by the GM on complications or to energy opponent powers). Distance and position in combat are abstracted as effectively for a far more fluid and cinematic strategy than presented by grid-primarily based maps. There is a conventional hit point track, and loss of all hit points leads to a death save mechanic named Fading.
There are numerous other game mechanics, some of a far more conventional bent and some far more indie. There is a entire guidelines section for piloting a Titan Rig, which is a cooperative achievement-collecting workout for the complete celebration. A session zero (pre-story collaborative character creation session) is explicitly encouraged in the game. The “failing forward” approach is also explicit in the guidelines, as a failed combat roll benefits in the player picking out regardless of whether the attack misses or offers some harm although opening up the character to a counter-attack.
Lastly, I’d like to note that this game is very best enjoyed with lots of pre-game discussion about tone and content material, and (as with all games) I can not advocate adequate the use of security tools in play. There is considerably in the setting that can simply lead to problematic content material at your table, and it is worth taking that below advisement ahead of diving in with each feet. The Afflicted in distinct can simply strike notes of ableism if not handled with care. In addition, there could be troubling cultural components present in, not just the history, but the present day of the playable peoples, like slavery and ritual suicide. It is explicit that component of the game is the examination of moral choices and believed, but the game delivers some tips that players could not be prepared to take on in play, and there are no warnings in the text to let you know. Proceed with understanding and care for your fellow players.
Unity is offered for buy in print and PDF from the Zensara Studios on-line shop. Mechanically, this game is not only reminiscent of mid-to-late editions of Dungeons & Dragons, but some design and style components (like Core Paths) also remind me strongly of 13th Age (1 of my private favorites in the fantasy d20-primarily based space). Thematically, Unity falls someplace for me in the neighborhood among Shadow of the Demon Lord and Numenera, a sort of mashup of fantasy horror and science fantasy.
If you have got anything on your shelf you want to advocate as effectively, let us know in the comments section beneath. Let’s fill our shelves collectively!
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