Okay, so I was supposed to do a write-up of
The Secret of Zir'An
, but I've decided against it. Because I only own the physical edition of the book and don't have access to a scanner, my review would be very sparse on the art, and there's no way I'm buying the PDF of the game at the price it's going for. Also, there's not much I would've gotten out of the game besides what was already discussed in this thread: it's the perfect example of an early aughts heartbreaker with an insistence on making up its own vocabulary, a system with some interesting quirks but ultimately nothing to write home about, and a setting that is full of great ideas but sadly not fleshed out very much.
Thankfully, I just picked up the perfect game for doing a write-up on this weekend: Astraterra .
A bit of history: Astraterra is a Finnish role-playing game specifically aimed at kids who are new to role-playing games. Originally crowdfunded in June 2014 the game was released in Ropecon (the biggest Finnish RPG convention) that very same year in July. The game is currently available only in Finnish, but an English translation is to be released during this very year!
Speaking of the English translation, since I'm going from the Finnish edition I'll be pretty much translating all the vocabulary and concepts of the game. Since the translation process of the game is still ongoing, I have absolutely no way of knowing whether the translations I have to offer will in any way match the decisions made by the game's translators.
Before I get into the actual review, here's a quick overview: Astraterra is very clearly in the science fantasy genre. There's no actual magic in the game's setting, but the technological wonders of the setting (as well as the technologies left behind by the Ancients) serve the purpose of magic in the game's setting. The setting is essentially a world destroyed in a cataclysm a long time ago, the floating remnants of the world orbiting a whirling vortex in the center of the world.
Oh, hey, they have the English map available on their website already!
Travel between the floating islands is conducted either through airships (because of course) or teleportals, which are exactly what it says on the tin: the teleportals are gates made by the highly technologically advanced Ancients that in the old days formed a network for travel. While some of the teleportals are in active use, a number remain inactive, the means to activating them unknown and their destinations a mystery. The heroes (the game's term for PC) of the game are explorers, sent to investigate what mysteries lie behind the inactive teleportals.
By the way, the thing that sold me on this game was definitely the art. Just look at it!
So, Astraterra is much more about exploration than beating people up, and while the game does have rules for combat character death doesn't happen at zero HP (called Guts in Astraterra) but instead your character loses their nerve and runs away or goes and hides behind a corner. The same also applies to the heroes fighting monsters: dropping a monster to zero Guts does not mean that you've killed the monster, it might mean that you've forced the monster to retreat or go into hiding, or maybe made them faint. Great care is taken by the game to make sure that combat isn't deadly and graphic.
As far as the system goes, Astraterra only makes use of good old six-sided dice in a system that is actually shades of the system used by Burning Wheel, Mouse Guard and Torchbearer: that is, you have a dice pool equal to your skill, any roll of 1, 2 or 3 is a failure (or a "dud" as the game calls them; another way in which the game is similar to the aforementioned games, as it even has its own vocabulary for failures), while a 4, 5 or a 6 is a success. However, a minor difference from the above is that sixes always explode in Astraterra, giving you a success but also allowing you to roll another die to see if you get another success, which in the aforementioned games is only something that happens under some special circumstances. Also, for dice pools of size five or higher the player is allowed to convert dice to automatic successes at a price of 1 success per two dice.
So, you roll, compare your number of successes to the obstacle of the roll, if you exceed the obstacle you succeed! This is pretty much the basic mechanic of the game, but it is expanded upon in some of the other rules of the game.
Next time I'll begin my look at Astraterra in earnest with a look at character creation. It's very simple, quick and stream-lined, as befits an RPG meant mostly at kids.