Friday, June 8, 2012 at 1:19PM
Alright, so we recently got a new edition of A Song of Fire and Ice RPG: Game Of Thrones Edition. Being a fan, and a gamer, naturally I picked up a copy the minute I saw it on our shelves. I'll admit freely that I didn't truly expect it to be much, I was mostly just curious, and buying it out of a loyalty to the franchise in general. And because I had dreams of roleplaying Sean Bean wielding a greatsword, but that's neither here nor there. That night when I got home, it was late, so I got ready for bed, turned on my nightstand lamp, and cracked it open, expecting to fall asleep with the book on my face after about three minutes. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I decided that, if I was going to fall asleep reading it anyway, I should at least find out the basic mechanics of the game, so I have something solid to work with when I begin reading flavor text. Now most people do this by going to the combat chapter, or rules chapter, but me, I'm a character player. I flipped straight to character creation rules to see what was up. I found that the game mechanics were really simple and streamlined. For fans of Shadowrun or, even better, West End Games Star Wars, this game uses the same basic core mechanic. Roll an amount of six-sided dice equal to your skill in any given task, add up the results against a target number, and hopefully beat it. Okay, nothing to write home about, but man I LOVED old Shadowrun and WEG Star Wars, so I was more than okay with this.
It wasn't until I started seeing advantages, disadvantages, and expanded creation rules that I was really hooked, though. I was disappointed at first, though. The rules state that everyone plays members of the same house, one which they create together when they make their characters. WHAT? I can't play Sean Bean of House Stark chasing after flaxen haired Lannisters with Ice raised high?! Well... I don't know if I can play this game now. But I kept with it. Kept reading.
I'm glad I did. I got into the House creation rules, and this is where this game shines. It's a cooperative system where all the players come together to imagine who the House is. Who leads it? Who's the Lord's wife? His children? Do the players want to take on the role of heirs? That costs them character points at creation. What kind of holdings does the house have? What kind of wealth are they sitting on? How do they make that wealth? What kind of military might are they capable of mustering and how well trained and equipped are their soldiers? Heck, if you can't come up with a House motto or Coat of Arms, there's extensive tables to help guide you, with some notes on authentic heraldry used in dark ages Europe. You can roll randomly, or you can just pick and choose, using the table solely for inspiration. At this point... My Mind = Blown.
All of this is built using a point system, to keep things balanced. There are rules for rolling randomly to generate aspects, but the core of it is point buy. There are ways to make your house start better than most, but it costs, both the House, and the players. You're not going to come into the game with Lannister money to throw around, and you're not going to be the ruling house of the entire North. Not yet, at least. Not without having that wealth, but no holdings and no heirs, or influence. Not without having all that land be nothing but frozen tundra, unable to produce crops, and being overrun by criminals and murderers. But, as the characters advance, they can donate their assets, and their personal victories, to the House, granting it more resources, and prestige. It's a game of intrigue and influence, and the rules reflect this without being too gimmicky or coming across like they were ripped out of a board game and thrown into an RPG.
The best part, though, in all honesty? All of this House creation stuff... You can literally use this for ANY game you might play. Playing D&D or Pathfinder? Well, the nobility of the city the PCs are terrorizing have their own intrigues playing out, and you can help define each player with these House rules. Playing Shadowrun or some other futuristic/cyberpunk game? Use the House rules for a frame work to build a budding young Corp, on it's way to becoming a Megacorp giant. Sci-Fi? Well, perhaps your universe is ruled by a series of alliances, federations, or guilds all vying for power, and resources in the expanse of space. You can create them all with these rules. So. Frakkin'. Cool.
By the time I got done reading all of this, I looked up and realized that the dim blue light of sunrise was coming in through the curtains of my bedroom, and it was coming up on 6:30 in the morning. I hadn't even realized I had been reading this book all night long. It was just chock full of history, both of the Seven Kingdoms, and real life western Europe. Even if you've never picked up A Game Of Thrones, or any of the other books in the series, you can come into this game with just this book and learn so very much about the world that you'll find yourself completely immersed. You just might even find yourself going out to pick up the books, or the DVD set of the first season.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that this game is great. The book is amazing, even if you only want to use it for source reference, or as a supplement to another game you might be playing/running. At 49.95, it's money well spent, trust me. You won't be disappointed. When you play A Song of Fire And Ice RPG: Game Of Thrones Edition, you don't win or die. You just win.