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Download Book of the Fantastical (The Everlasting Roleplaying Game) epub

by Steven C. Brown

You live in a fantasy world called 21st century Earth. You are not human; you are one of the ancient people. Your kind built great cities that have never been surpassed long before the world flood mentioned in the Bible. You have survived by blending in with humanity or by living separately from it. For you see, there are plenty of earthly places mere mortals do not know how to find or travel. Just outside the human cities are great castles, vast dungeon complexes, dragon lairs, dwarven subtropolises, aeries of giant eagles, and townships of the elven folk. Some humans, including a society of role-playing gamers, have become real adventurers, joining with elves, faerie, and dwarves on their expeditions. Become an elf, one of the beautiful ones. You can become a Xeysori (technoelf), one of the Dru Galeeth (dark underground dwellers), one of the Karges (elves of fire and steel), one of the Lethquesti (elven nobles), or one of the Valmori (keepers of mythical beasts). You long to be free of your earthly existence, seeking the Bright City of Elanthia, but you have a duty -- you must guard against the Doomlands of the North. Become a dwarf, a fearsome descendent of Neanderthal man. Your people have been long divided since many of your best warriors became agents of the Princes of Fire (chaos) and the Lords of Stone (order). You can join them or serve as one of the Hammerguard, the Or'Valderis, protecting all from those of your people who now serve other causes. Your people have a great advantage; your technology is far superior to that of humankind. Become a faerie, forever trapped in a quixotic reality of your own imagination. You are called "fey" for you are a powerful, extra dimensional force, forever moving toward some metamorphosis into something even beyond faerie understanding. You can be a red cap who slays humans, a storm giant who walks among the storm-filled sky, a banshee who travels the realms of the dead, a faerie knight adventuring for his queen, or anything else you can imagine. Best yet, you can become a dragon, one of the ancient races that fathered the first civilizations, the creators of the dinosaurs, and the destroyers of it all. You can be the most powerful of all the eldritch -- the creature that questers and mythic gods fear. You can walk the earth clothed in human form, but you can dracomorph into your ultra deadly true form when dragon slayers come calling.
Download Book of the Fantastical (The Everlasting Roleplaying Game) epub
ISBN: 188735803X
ISBN13: 978-1887358033
Category: Fantasy
Subcategory: Gaming
Author: Steven C. Brown
Language: English
Publisher: Visionary Entertainment Studio (October 1, 2003)
Pages: 368 pages
ePUB size: 1846 kb
FB2 size: 1989 kb
Rating: 4.7
Votes: 808
Other Formats: lrf lrf lit mbr

This entire product line is heavily inspired by World of Darkness and in my opinion is less fun because of the system and plus the books aren't very well written despite the page count.
I’ve run a campaign of the Everlasting RPG, successful in the most fundamental way: It was fun. The short version of this long review is that there are diamonds in the rough. Focus on the gems, and use your game-mastering skills to compensate for the many flaws. The occasion for this review is that I’m about to start another campaign with it; keep that in mind while you read the bad stuff.
The publisher’s long since defunct, so the 6 rule books are all there’ll ever be, so grab the whole game with no fear it’ll evolve out from under you. It’s essentially complete; hinted supplements would’ve added color and detail, but you can do that yourself. The thing’s written by a White Wolf alumnus who clearly had a difference of opinion about the World of Darkness but liked the basic idea. This is his take on urban fantasy, and on balance I like it better. There are more lights in the darkness, the focus is on playing the good guys, and there’s a brilliantly parsimonious explanation for how magic can be all over the place with nobody noticing.
Reality has layers (like an ogre), the mundane layer and then multiple layers of the reverie. Things in the shallow reverie overlap the mundane, but they look different. So in the mundane layer, you see a homeless guy defending his squat from a pack of feral dogs, but in the reverie, he’s a grail knight protecting the city from demons. The mid-reverie preserves the past – see the rocket’s red glare over Ft. McHenry, catch a live show by the rat pack in Vegas. (This effect explains haunted houses). Further in, the world can be very different; elves might have a primordial forest as their dominion within the deep reverie of a steel-and-concrete city. This is a huge difference from the game’s prototype, the World of Darkness, where every different kind of supernatural being had a different reason why people didn’t know, and its the best part of the game. And as a game-master, it’s a lot of fun to describe the same scene to different players from various reverie perspectives.
If that’s the best, what’s the worst? Organization, or lack thereof. A player guide listing all the character options and a referee guide with all the other rules would have fit the material perfectly, and you’d have 2 books instead of 6. Instead, the 4 “core” books (fantastic, light, spirits, unliving) each repeat the mechanics and give you 4-5 player character races. Theoretically, you can get started playing the game with any one of them, but the races are chosen by theme, not by team. For instance, gargoyles from the book of spirits are likely to work with angels from the book of light, whereas genies from the same book of spirit are likely to work with ghouls from the book of unliving. Again a comparison with the prototype – separate games of the World of Darkness all worked well on their own but combined clumsily; in this game they’re really better together. The other two books are crucial. They clearly don’t have the same production standard, but I’m glad the publisher held on long enough to get ‘em out the door. One of them, the Codex, is a list of character design options, the most important of which are supernatural powers, a list that’s “functional, but joyless” in stark contrast to the rest of the game. The other is the Magician’s Handbook, which finally tells us what’s so special about the Osirian wizards the other books rave over. It’s half-baked, and I get the impression the publisher just wanted to get it out there before the lights went out, as a service to the fans. (Thank you.)
The mechanics are kludgy, basically White Wolf’s system but with 12-sided dice instead of 10-sided, mixed with Champions for pricing of supernatural abilities and for Speed. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you already know these games. First, the basic mechanic is you roll dice equal to your attribute against a target determined by your skill; if you meet that target on any die then in theory you succeed, and if you meet the target on multiple dice you get a higher degree of success. I say “in theory” because there are numerous examples where the degree of success for one or even two dice on target is negligible, and note that under this system, attributes and skills aren’t additive: No amount of expertise will enable a person with an average Intellect attribute (2 dice) to know an obscure fact, not when “obscure” is defined as 3 dice on target. There are half a dozen different attributes that govern mental skills, but only one, Dexterity, for physical feats. That alone makes it disproportionately important, but it also determines your Champions-style Speed, the number of times you can act in a round. Having a high speed is critical to enjoying the game, because during the action scenes, you get to do stuff. Sure, it might fail, but at least you get to try. The guy with Speed 2 will zone out before he ever gets to try anything. Simple fix: Give everyone speed 2, regardless of Dex, but still allow higher speed for characters whose supernatural powers are supposed to make them faster than normal people.
The magic system is even worse. It encourages “spontaneous” casting, but that requires consulting references, doing some math, and typically a bit of debate. It brings the game to a halt. Spells and rituals cost experience points, after you’ve already spent a bunch of points to be good at magic in the first place, sometimes more experience than just buying an equivalent stand-alone supernatural power would cost. I suggest fiddling with spell costs to make them desirable. Unfortunately, there’s very little in the way of sample spells. One good thing about magic is that while every path can do the same things, they’re all good at some and lousy at others, and these modifiers are big enough to matter. Take “Chantways” (for shamans): +3 with nature, -3 with artificial. That’s a difference of 6 in both difficulty (half the range of a 12-sided die) and endurance (about half your typical endurance pool, actually). The shaman is just never gonna try to spoof the electronic security system – his go-to will always be to hit it with perfectly natural lightning. My recommendation is, take a look at what if any magic paths your players choose, and design some spells for them, because it’ll give you the experience so you’ll be able to wing it with NPC spells.
One of the complaints about this system is how pretentious a tone the author takes, trying to portray a fun activity with friends as a religious experience. Hey, why isn’t fun with friends good enough? Well, it’s easy to ignore the hyperbole. A little more awkward is the vocabulary. When the author insists on different words for established gaming concepts, that’s just a nuissance: Legendmaking for storytelling, protagonist for player character. On the other hand, when he uses different words for in-game concepts because there are different cultures in the setting, that’s cool. For instance, gargoyles refer to angels as “worthy servants” in contrast to themselves, the unworthy. (I’m stuck on gargoyles because they’re the most original character concept in the game.)
It’s clear the author’s done a lot of research into mythology, and equally clear that he should’ve done some on political philosophy. His notion of why conflict exists seems to be that some people are evil, and that without evil, everybody would get along. He makes sweeping, blanket statements about whole nations of supernatural beings that have existed for millenia, as if it’s not only angels who lack free will. The Osirians are thousands of human, all-too-human wizards who’ve been reincarnating since ancient Egypt, yet they’re the most “tight-knit” of all the immortals who’ve only had one falling out in 4000 years, even though the leadership is unchanged – you’ll never get a promotion because the boss never dies. The unending, evenly matched war between the dwarves of chaos (capitalism) and law (socialism) is even sillier.
The descriptions of the races are commendably meaty, but not quite as much as they appear at first glance because of tautology. For instance, the author tells us that demons derive pleasure from pain; he tells us 6 times, or about every other page of the demon write-up. Also, given the scope of the setting, even a score of pages can hope but to scratch the surface. The text and stat block for a race don’t always line up; I have pages of house rules now, and half of them are along these lines: “Gargoyles have Immunity (pathogens/suffocation), as described in the text.” The parsimony of the reverie concept is lacking from the races; even as the author notes the similarities between angels, demons, fairies, and djinn, he fails to take it to its logical conclusion.
All the races have characteristic supernatural powers, but player characters start with 30 points to buy individual powers as well. There’s a brief list of sample powers for each race… And half of them cost more than 30! Of the affordable ones, many in the first two books are just stat bonuses, but then the author seemed to realize that was boring, so vampires can have cheap stat bonuses but elves can’t. Most of the races have some internal divisions, and these subgroups often have characteristic powers, but you have to buy these out of your 30 points, and sometimes the power you need in order to define membership in your clan costs more than 30. The same power has different names in the list of sample powers for different races, which is cool for getting into the spirit but lousy for looking up game mechanics. The Codex has all the powers and at this point there’s a weird system, basically like Champions with base cost multiplied for modifiers, but each race has a surcharge. It’s designed to encourage vampires to have death-y powers and angels to have good-y powers and so on, but it’s more kludge and has players asking things like, “Elves are half fairy, so why do I have to pay so much for a power that fairies get cheap?”
Speaking of spending experience points, the game calls out min-maxers but strongly incents them. Costs for starting attributes, skills, and miscellaneous advantages are linear, for instance 30 levels to distribute between various skills, but the cost to raise them later is geometric. Going from zero-to-one or one-to-two is cheap but going from four-to-five is expensive, so when you start improving, you’re better off if you’ve taken a 5 and a 1 instead of a 4 and a 2. That said, it’s kind of a moot point, because except for a little low-hanging fruit, characters are pretty static. If you want that cool 60-point power, you’ll be saving for half a year of weekly sessions at the recommended rate of experience award. Hope your game lasts so long!
Some of the action takes place on other realms like the astral plane or Shardolm (shadow earth where magic is out in the open, sounds like it has a manga feel). The author hints that there are infinite worlds and since he’s already dealing with mythic history, it’s just too much. If there are billions of races, then none of them are very important. Prune the list, and pick one of the main boss bad guys to focus on:
The dragons created nature and then ruled over men, badly, until the men rebelled, under the leadership of the godlings among them. The fleeing dragons swore they’d come back and wreak terrible vengeance on the human race, but allow me to observe that the last time men beat dragons, they did so without the benefit of tanks, battleships, and bombers with nukes. A re-match could play out like a fantasy version of Independence Day.
Demons are born from man’s hate and fear and try to get people to sell their immortal souls for a little temporary help, which the demons will then torture for eternity because inflicting pain is how they get their rocks off. Much like vampires, since they prey in their own way upon humanity, they lose if they win, so the Battle of Good and Evil is never-ending, and the strategy is containment. (There’s a version of demons that haunt dreams, and they can even be part of a dual-PC, even dream haunting a good man, in constant battle for control and when the host is winning, he can use the dream-demon’s power for good. On an individual basis it’s a cool concept but when you think about the bigger picture, nobody would work with these guys.)
Otgon is a sapient alien planet full of Cthulhoid horrors trying to reverse-terraform earth. Everything on earth is food for Otgon, but everything on Otgon is poison for earth. The invasion’s already started and my read on it is, once started it can’t be stopped. So this is a better “big bad” than the other two, right? Depends, might be too dark.
The “shadowlands” are basically Mordor in the reverie of Canada, filled with orcs leavened by all the other evil and shades-of-gray races, working for the Doomlord who plans to invade reality Real Soon Now. Where Otgon’s dark, this one’s cheesy, but that can work for some groups. You’ve got a menu; just don’t try to serve everything at once. And before you introduce the big bad, there’s plenty of room for internal politics between the good and neutral races and plenty of cool places to visit. My last game pretty much died on Otgon, but I had a good run with vampires and genies as more ambiguous enemies before then.
The author favors emotionally-charged language over precision, and he edited the first books himself whereas the later books were rush jobs. The game will pretty much start itself because of all the weirdness, just figuring out what player characters can do and what their factions expect, but then you hit that point where you’ll have to start making decisions about how to use the material, what to flesh out and more importantly what to throw out. The game’s long suit is just that it’s charming, but paradoxically, no one campaign can feature all the things that make it charming.
Game mechanics have a lot of holes and inconsistency in addition to being clunky and not as intuitive as they could have been, but the setting and background information is fantastic (there are flaws, but they are relatively minor when compared to many other RPG's). Note however that the editing and organization was not all that good (a lot of data repeated unnecessarily in each book had they been organized better), but much of the artwork was very fitting. But again, the setting and background information is very good. Be sure to check out the other Everlasting books in the series, as all of them together build off of one another in a positive way (despite there being a lot of needlessly repeated information).
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for something beyond your typical RPG. WOD, D20 players burnt out on the same old same old need to take a look at The Everlasting RPG Series.