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Awaken - Core Rulebook
[978-1-944413-51-4]
$19.99
Publisher: The Games Collective
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2017 20:48:46

I'm pretty disappointed. What billed itself as "Slavic-inspired story-oriented gaming" turned out to be ...

(a) The protagonists are just Exalted. There's a Light God and a Dark God, and the intermediaries between the Light God and the people have divine gifts. They died out long ago, and now suddenly people are being awakened as these intermediaries-come-again.

(b) It reads as typical fantasy. There's a Good God and a Bad God and one wanted to lift people up and the other wanted nameless slaves and then there was a war and the Bad God got chained in the earth and the Good God eventually got sad and stopped talking to folk. There are some Slavic names attached to stuff, but it all feels like a re-trod of stuff that's already been visited and re-visited. Maybe I just missed something? I admit, once I read the intro mythology and looked over the mechanics I pretty much checked out.

(b)(2) I didn't get a good sense of place/flavor from it. It reads to me like fairly typical fantasy fare: there are cities without the technological/economic justification for cities, wine and taverns, etc. The "Gift" (the miraculous powers of the protagonists) were likewise pretty standard fare: for instance, the Body Gifts are superior constitution (straight up con buff, basically), regeneration (heal self once/hr); bone spike (wolverine claws); superior senses (really vague benefits of "clearly sensing details up to 100 ft away"); and body knowledge (a mish-mash of stuff, from rank 1's "stabilize the dying" to rank 3's "put them to sleep").

(c) The System section is 95% Storyteller and 5% PbtA. You roll attribute+skill with d6s, and count up your successes. If you fail because the GM upped the difficulty to require more successes, you get your task resolution but "not the way you wanted." There's nothing in here about snowballing, soft vs. hard moves, or any other PbtA stuff, so it's just a hunch that that's the inspiration behind "succeeded but not how you wanted."

Unlike PbtA, it goes back to the storyteller sim roots, hard: there's a bunch of different combinations of attribute+skill, or something close to it,to make sure there's always some skill check you can be forced to do, and difficulty of rolls is about simulationism, not fictional consequences (there's a Lifting roll, for pete's sake, for anything >half your weight that needs to be lifted quickly). And "Dramatic Failures" make a come-back, something I've never missed since, in combination with "skill check everything," they have a special ability to allow rolls to stop a story in its tracks.

(d) It's pretty. I like the art.

(e) It reads poorly. Some of it reads like translation artifacts, but other bits just read like bad editing. Or, good editing on top of a base of bad writing? I mean, check out page 10, in the intro. In the span of three short paragraphs it jumps from third person sweeping historical view, to a first-person "I appear to be in some particular location witnessing some historical event", back to third-person but this time on a personal scale, witnessing the here-to-fore un-introduced "Yessen murmuring to himself." Two paragraphs later we jumped back to sweeping, historical scale. I haven't seen anything bad enough to prevent comprehension, but it happens just often enough to knock me off stride.

The issue here is that if the system is Storyteller, the protagonists are Exalted, the setting is typical euro-ish fantasy, and the magic system is - if I had to summarize it - "simplified Exalted 1e", uh... what's the selling point here? I would've enjoyed it on a really strong Slavic setting alone, and ripped the rest of the stuff out for DW or Godbound if need be, but it's not even useful as inspiration for a setting.



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Awaken - Core Rulebook
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