An Endzeitgeist.com review
This introduction to the Witcher RPG clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested to be moved up in my queue by my patreon supporters.
We begin this book with a brief, boiled down recap of the world of the Witcher, with the sidebar giving further guidance – in case you were wondering, the very first page has the editorial information on the sides.
These basics out of the way (and they are relevant), we learn how to read the character sheet on one page, before we actually do get sample characters: A witcher, a dwarven criminal, a human mage, a human man-at-arms, an elven bard, a dwarven doctor, and a one-page version of the main game’s lifepath engine – easier to digest, as only the northern realms are covered.
You don’t need to understand ANY rules so far – you can just pick a pregen and be done with it – or you’ll have an understanding of what your character sheet means. Didactically, this sequence is smart….and similarly, the module proceeds to explain the basics of the game: You essentially only need d6s and d10s, and basic terms are properly explained. Yes, this includes stating that the “0” of the d10 is actually a “10” and not a “0”. This section is dense, but it is also rather easy to grasp.
To make a skill check, you roll 1d10 and add the Skill Base – which often can become pretty high! Competence is more important than in your average d20-based game, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The Standard DCs (the pdf probably should note that this stands for “difficulty class”) range from 10 to 30, just fyi. If a character beats the DC, they succeed; if they only roll equal to or less than it, they fail. Opposing checks are opposed rolls, and there are modifiers, which range from mild (+1/-1) to major (+5/-5), and yes, examples are provided.
1s and 10s on skill checks explode: If you roll a 1, you roll again, and subtract the number from the result; if you roll a 10, you get to roll again and add the number – this makes potentially catastrophic failures and legendary luck very much possible, and can make combat etc. rather dangerous. Why? Well, weapons etc. are skills as well!
Saves are handled by rolling 1d10, and trying to roll under the character’s Save value.
The game knows 9 ability scores, called “statistics” in the game’s parlance, which include Intelligence, Reflexes, Dexterity, Body, Speed, Empathy, Craft, Will, and Luck. All statistics and skills are briefly explained.
Combat assumes rounds that take 3 seconds, and you roll 1d10 + Reflex to determine initiative order. You can move up to your Speed statistic per round, and perform a single action – these can be attacks, casting, item, movements or skill uses. Difficult terrain or circumstances instead use the Leap value to determine. Wait, what? Yep, apart from Save, Vigor, Leap, HP, Sta (Stamina) and Rec (Recovery) are derived statistics – if this pdf has a single downside, then it would be that these derived statistics are not explained. That being said, this is probably an intentional decision here.
However, know what this does do? It explains how combat works swiftly and precisely (and yes, you get different attacks (strong/fast), different defensive options, and provides the rules for critical wound healing, as well as a means to do so sans having the doctor pregen in the party. Combat is appropriately gritty, grimy, and lethal – and yes, there are effects, such as burning, bleed, etc.
Magic uses the skill system as well, and magic costs Stamina; additionally, there is the Vigor-threshold – if the total Stamina cost exceeds that number, the mage starts taking serious damage from the destructive magic channeled! The pdf provides the Crafting rules for the items featured by the pregens, and then proceeds to present a page of GM-advice before providing the demo-scenario “Still Waters.” This module takes up a lot of real estate, and justifiably so – it features read-aloud text, has means to solve a lot of issues nonviolently (with the full RPG, you could use the Verbal Combat rules) – it is all about a simple task: Fleeing the Nilfgaardian tide across the Pontar, now that Vizima has fallen. Hah. Simple. Hint: It’s not. Not when scoia’tael and drowner and the massive Ponar are involved. The themes are strong, we get a full-color map (which is 100% player-friendly!!), and better yet, the module actually manages to be nonlinear while indirectly quoting one of the classic Witcher stories. In short: It’s an excellent demo-scenario.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with color-coding for chapters and sidebars used to convey further information. The artworks are top tier; the cartography is nice, if slightly less impressive, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Cody Pondsmith and J Gray deliver one of the best pen and paper RPG demos I’ve seen so far: The rules herein allow you to dip your toes into The Witcher RPG without leaving anything truly out: This is a thoroughly HONEST, condensed version of the game. It does not include every rule, obviously, but it includes everything you need to run the game. And that is awesome. It also does not try to be something it’s not. Know how, quite often, the free offerings for a game tend to be prestige objects, with the proper games falling behind? That’s not the case here. I have the full RPG-book right here, and the Easy Mode provides a reliable means to determine whether the game is for you and your group. I really, really enjoy that.
Oh, and yes, this is FREE. It costs zilch, zero, nada.
That is not only fair, it is awesome. The Witcher RPG’s Easy Mode is an excellent demo of the surprisingly powerful engine of the game – and for what it is, it gets 5 stars + seal of approval. If the game even remotely interests you, I’d suggest downloading this right now.