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Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England
 
$19.99
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England
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Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Marcus H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/24/2020 01:44:24

Welcome to the strange and fantastical world of fantasy Dark Ages England. This book is a role-playing exercise to immerse the GM, player, and reader into what it would be like to live in this strange time. While there is magic, myth, and monsters, the most alien aspect of this world is the Church centered society. As in, the highest culture, the greatest learning, and the most advanced technology will be in “ministers”. Living in a stone building was something abbots did to glorify God while King’s palaces were wooden mead halls. My impression of these people is that they were basically land-bound Vikings that worshiped Jesus.

While it is entirely possible to cut out the supernatural elements of this game and run a purely historical game, that cuts out many of my favorite parts of this game. The Roman Caesters and Arxes are an inspired way to re-skin D&D dungeon crawling to fit this setting. Arxes really lend themselves to the dungeon as Mythic Underworld so unique to OSR tradition, but could also be used to plug in some Kelipots from Silent Legions. A good way to get non-history buffs into the setting would be to set up your “Caester-crawl” with a minister safe-zone and have an OSR dungeon crawl with new monsters and treasures.

The bestiary is inspired. A series of monsters are described thematically with the mechanical bones and some specific abilities, but then they are indicated to have “Gifts” in specific spheres like “Might” or “Ruin” or “Forging”. Each sphere has 12 gifts specified mechanically, 8 lesser, and 4 greater. For example, a Draca or Dragon should have gifts in the Ruin, Might, Wisdom, Cursing, or Beguiling categories. As a mighty foe, they are recommended to have at least 3 lesser and 1 greater gift. With 40 lesser gifts to choose from and 20 greater gifts, that is 197,600 mechanically unique combinations of dragon. Godbound’s bestiary had similar flexibility, but this game applied it to more traditional fantasy, which is great. This kind of system really rewards a homebrewing GM, but this bestiary packs enough punch to fill a whole campaign with varied monsters by itself.

On-top of this, you have rules for domain management and mass combat that are fine and adventure generating. The domain rules function, create events, and then quickly get off the table to get back to adventuring. You can flex Lordly might and even be an abbot with lands to manage, but that fun won’t ruin other people’s fun. The mass combat rules give incentive for PCs to act independently and act as battlefield heroes. A lot of other RPG system’s mass combat rules systems suddenly strip your hero of all their abilities and place their fate on a die roll. This game does not do that.

The treasure section is robust for mundane gear and riches and provides loot tables that most OSR games tell us to open up our copy of B/X or the Rules Cyclopedia to reference. I prefer the convenience of these tables being in this book, with this setting’s money, and referencing treasure setting appropriate. This is good. There is enough magic treasure to get you going, but I would need to homebrew more items for an actual full length campaign.

This game is well worth your time even if the initial elevator pitch of “Dark Ages England” does nothing for you.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Aaron F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2020 14:27:24

Wolves of God is something rare in RPGs. It attempts to really immerse the players in the culture and mindset of another time, one quite unlike the industrial modern world of the average RPG player. In this, the only real point of comparison I’m personally familiar with is King of Dragon Pass. I will say upfront that I have only read the rulebook and not yet had a chance to run it. Nonetheless, I am quite impressed with what I have seen so far.

Mechanically, the game uses a familiar OSR framework. It has the same six basic stats you know and love, and a setting-appropriate skill list. Combat proceeds in six-second rounds and uses a D20. As you read though, you start to notice subtle additions. For example: every PC possesses three traits called wyrds, from the word for fate. Two are positive (“Relentless in battle”, “Skillful in Speech”) one is negative (“Quick to Anger”). Players, once and once only, can invoke an appropriate positive wyrs to nullify undesirable results i.e. player who fails a critical speech check might choose to burn “Skillful in Speech”. GMs, on the other hand, can invoke the negative wyrd to make their character’s lives more interesting. Thus, a GM might use “quick to anger” to turn a chance meeting hostile, with potentially tragic consequences. The rules state that no PC will die until he has fulfilled his wyrds. When I read this, I was struck by how such a simple mechanic captures the heroic pessimism of so much dark-ages literature, from Beowulf to the death of Cuchulainn.

It gets better. If you turn to the spell descriptions for the Galdorman, one of the game’s magic using classes, you won’t find fireballs or invisible mage hands. You will find spells for cursing an enemy’s crops, or for preventing a miscarriage. Concerns alien to your average band of dungeon-crawlers perhaps, but near and dear to iron-age peasants. Likewise, the experience system. Players have “shames” and “glories” appropriate to their class. They advance by accruing “glories” and (hopefully) avoiding shames. These shames and glories reflect the character’s role in Anglo-Saxon culture. A saint, for instance, can acquire glory by converting a heathen leader to Christianity, and can acquire shame by wielding heathen magic.

The game provides an abundance of guidance on the social and political life of the period, touching on legal disputes, rulership, organized religion, economics and warfare. Incredibly, it does all this without becoming overwhelming, providing just enough information for players to work with. This leads into my next point: Wolves of God offers the most compelling domain system I’ve seen in a game.

Domain-management can be a tricky thing in RPGs. The business of running an empire can easily overwhelm the business of adventuring, and the perceived need for realism can lead to endless amounts of crunch. Wolves of God gets around this by virtue of the fact that polities in 8th century Britain are very basic. Even a powerful ruler is unlikely to control an area more than a few day’s ride from his home base. Leaders lead by virtue of personal charisma and effectiveness. The apparatus of the state that we take for granted today simply does not exist. Thus, it makes sense for a petty king to be personally involved in solving the problems of a small village of a hundred people. That king’s entire kingdom may contain no more than a dozen such villages, and if he doesn’t deal with the problem himself, probably no one will.

The core of the domain-game here is a simple economic system, allowing the players to calculate their income and expenses based off of lands held and how many retainers they support. This is combined with a domain events table; every season, players calculate their income and expenses and roll on the events table. The events roll then forms the basis of that season’s adventure; players may find themselves fending off raiders from a neighboring lord, or adjudicating a dispute between their vassals, or any other number of things. Thus, the adventure game and the political game are seamlessly integrated. I see a lot of potential here for a strategy-rpg hybrid reminiscent (again) of King of Dragon Pass.

Not everyone will buy in to the premise of the game. The values of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxons were not our own. PCs are assumed to be at least nominally Christian. Female leaders and warriors are not inconceivable, but they are certainly unusual. Slavery is common (though the institution of Thralldom is quite different from the mass racial slavery of the American South). You are of course free to take what you want from this game, but Kevin Crawford presents all the prejudices of the era (correctly, IMHO) without either praise or condemnation.

All in all – if you are interested in something different, and particularly if you consider yourself a history enthusiast, the game is well worth your time and money. I hope to see more games in this vein.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wolves of God: Adventures in Dark Ages England
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Olivier R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/09/2020 10:16:12

When I first saw this, I was not attracted to the theme (Dark Ages England is not my cup of tea and, as a Frenchman, I was quite ignorant of this part of English history). I bought this out of curiosity and because I know the quality of the author's work. It was a discovery. The writing is not dry (as is often the case with historical material). A great job was done to make the rules reflect the setting . Also there is a lot more interesting adventuring in this setting to be done, as it is written, than I would ever have thought possible. Lots of useful ideas in there. This can also be used for your low magic, dark fantasy setting, quite easily. But I'd like to emphasize how the writing made the setting interesting to someone like me who was not attracted to it in the first place. A warning though: as (I think) a homage to Chronica Feudalis, this book is written as if it were a RPG manuscript written by a Saxon monk of the period. I found it great for immersion into the setting, but it might not be to every reader's taste (and it also reflects the prejudices of the time from a Saxon perspective). It might be nice to add supplements covering the Saxon invasion from the Wealh's perspective (and maybe also introduce somehow Arthurian elements) as well as further advancing the timeline as to cover the Danish invasions (this book made me interested by the Last Kingdom TV show, which I love and provides quite a few ideas for a band of adventuring young Saxon PCs). All in all, it's been a blast to read and I hope to play this game one day. 5 stars for me (the pdf is gorgeous). Sorry for my bad English as I am not a native speaker.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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