The Deryni Adventure Game Hardcover – December 20, 2005
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- Item Weight : 1.95 pounds
- Hardcover : 256 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1887154094
- ISBN-13 : 978-1887154093
- Dimensions : 8.6 x 1 x 11.1 inches
- Publisher : Grey Ghost Press, Inc. (December 20, 2005)
- Language: : English
Best Sellers Rank:
#3,223,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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While the book us complete in itself I would recommend the purchase of the book Codex Derynianus for those want more exacting detail of Kurtz's lore.
Early chapters of The Deryni Adventure Game introduce the game world, it's religion, and the daily life of those who inhabit The Eleven Kingdoms, with a focus on the lives of those in Gwynned. The descriptions felt like a travelogue, or even an atlas of the region. Since the world is modeled off of our own medieval history, it was interesting, but the prose was a little dry. Compared with EABA's Dark Millennium (also set in Medieval Europe), I found Dark Millennium's descriptions more interesting and engaging.
Character Concepts and Creation take up a large section of the book, no doubt because Deryni games will focus heavily on character interaction (more about that in a bit). The Deryni Adventure Game uses a pretty standard Fudge Fantasy build, with many suggestions for building characters in the Deryni world. The book presents character generation via the Five Point Fudge and Sujective Character Creation methods, with pointers to review the full Fudge rules for other options. There are only two races in the Deryni world: Deryni and humans, so most of the pre-built templates focus on societal ranking (nobility, knights, clergy, and commoners). The traits and skills are also pretty standard, with only a few related to Deryni heritage, or magical sensitivity in humans. The character creation chapters walk through creating "Sendai The Magnificent", a Deryni scholar, which underscores how the Fudge system can be used to create a character. The Deryni Adventure Game web site [...] has character sheets for Sendai, as well as a blank sheet you can print out.
The rules for playing the game follow the character creation chapter, and provide a good introduction to the Fudge system underlying the game. There are plenty of worked examples covering basic narration, opposed and unopposed actions, combat, ranged combat, wounds, and other aspects of role playing. There is also the concept of Fudge Points, which the GM can award for "good roleplaying", that the players can later use to influence rolls , or otherwise influence the play of the game. Next is a minor animal bestiary, and a small bit on falconry. A chapter on advanced rules for Fudge follows, with more "precise" rules for combat, and damage. Also enclosed are rules for combat with animals, and a bit on how the scale of an animal can influence the combat.
The Deryni are inherently magical beings, so the next chapter on magic describes how to handle magic in the setting. The first part of the chapter covers the flavor of magic suitable for the Deryni setting, and what sorts of magic are more appropriate for certain characters than others, and what would be anathema. Next is a list of spells and how magic can be used in combat, and in magical duels. Interestingly enough, humans also can learn and perform magic, though whether they are latent Deryni is up to the Gamemaster.
There is a small chapter on gamemastering with some useful advice on running a role playing game, but the real meat for the Gamemaster is in Stories chapter. With a world like The Eleven Kingdoms, it's difficult to picture just how the characters are supposed to interact with the world. The chapter on Stories provides guidelines for what happens during the three centuries that span the novels, and gives guidance for what sorts of adventures could work in a Deryni-flavored campaign. Unfortunately, the two adventures that follow are pretty standard fare (the first being a "find the heirloom", and the second "is this person a Deryni or not?"). The adventures highlight one of the problems of this book, which I'll mention later. Suffice to say, they're pretty standard fare, and the GM will likely need to create their own adventures to really utilize the material.
The rest of the book is filled out with appendices detailing price lists, a glossary of terms used in the Eleven Kingdoms (handy), several histories and time lines of important events, a calendar of saint days, and a list of places. Also included are notes for converting to D20 (which seem entirely too brief to be usable), and an index of characters from the book, with a short description of the character, and a notation of where the character first appears in the Deryni novels. The descriptions are brief (a few sentences apiece), and none of the characters have any game information associated with them. This also highlights one of the major problems of this book, which is:
What do you do with all of this information?
The Deryni Adventure Game book is chock full of information about the medieval society of the Eleven Kingdoms, but the book suffers from providing lots of little details, and not enough information on how to use the information in a campaign. It's interesting to see how peasants in medieval society live, but there's little a peasant can do in this world outside of menial work. In "The Missing Heirloom" adventure, we have a fully-statted out Lady Fafne D'Ahern, with skills like Needlecraft, Church Etiquette, and Poetry, but the second adventure involving almost guaranteed direct conflict with a powerful character garners no stats at all for Lord Thenial. None. Zero. Worse, none of the characters from the books have any stats associated with them. It's maddening to have a product so closely tied with a literary work, yet the major characters only get passing mention.
The Deryni Adventure Game is an odd duck in the realm of licensed games. I've come to read the Vorkosigan Series and The Dresden Files because of teh strengths of their licensed RPGs. The underlying material was compelling enough that I wanted to read the series. With The Deryni Adventure Game, quite the reverse was true: I felt I had to read the source material in order to understand what was going on in the game. I picked up Deryni Rising, and filled in the blanks that The Deryni Adventure Game lacked. Where the novel was engaging, The Deryni Adventure Game felt more like a guide written with the word count ever present. Frankly, there's a lot of material in this book that could have easily filled a companion piece, leaving room in the main book for a much stronger work.
Overall, I'd recommend The Deryni Adventure Game for folks who are either intimately familiar with the Deryni novels, or wish to play in a medieval world where magic works, but is shunned, and considered blasphemous. Those who aren't as familiar with the Deryni novels may wish to read them before picking up this book, as they will provide much of the flavor the book lacks. GMs will have some excellent ingredients to work with in this world, especially if their players are into intrigue with a fantasy bent, but they'll have to make a lot of their own recipes to make it all work. Would Grey Ghost Press be able to release more material for this series, I think it would be well served with a companion piece like the "Our World" book from The Dresden Files, along with some worked example adventures. It would make an already interesting book a standout in an already crowded fantasy genre.
It has a fair amount of material on Gwynedd, its duchies and cities and ruling dynasty and neighbors. There's also a timeline, a bibliography, and a section listing notable characters from the books in exceedingly scant detail. There's a nice overall map. Plenty of generic medieval illustrations.
However, with the exception of one made-up character used for purposes of showing the PC generation process, there are no statistics on anyone at all, PC or NPC or from the books or otherwise. Admit it--a huge part of the appeal of picking these up is to see the stats assigned to your favorite characters. There's just nothing like that there. And while there is some information on the game world as noted above, there is very little depth, nothing new or fresh, and no insights, period. There is nothing that really suggests that this is a unique world rather than just another cookie-cutter faux-Middle Ages knock-off.
Perhaps more importantly, it is difficult to see how this RPG could possibly work. It uses the Fudge mechanics, which no one in my life has ever played. One of the combat resolution systems (optional, to be sure), is "narrative combat", which verges on diceless and would be threatening to the hardcore gamer who wants to sling a d20 and announce his or her damage. There are no monsters or extraordinary beasts and no divine magic as such, and even the arcane magic is pretty much limited to the Deryni, and they have little of it. So any campaign would basically be about fighters and thieves. And what do they have to fight? Even if they did encounter some foes, Gwynedd and environs are fairly well-settled and have definite social and legal codes that would put a quick end to random swordslingers running the streets in a bloody hackfest. And the book fails to really suggest very much in the way of viable adventure hooks or long-term campaign goals.
The source novels are basically about very high-level political intrigue, religious wrangles, the plight of crypto-Deryni, wars between nations, and romance. None of this really lends itself to standard gaming, and this book just doesn't provide the material to show how to bring Gwynedd to life as an ongoing setting. You would be far better off ordering Ms. Kurtz's Codex and using that stuff to custom-grow your own Gwynedd in a d20 system.