Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Expo Awards Day 5 - River of Heaven

The next game in the awards is River of Heaven, written by John Ossoway and published by D101 Games.

Set in the 28th century, it’s about the ongoing story of humanities struggle to find their place amongst the stars.  The system is not far removed from BRP, with options to generate characters using points based generation as well as random generation, and a wealth of character options, special abilities, enhancements and other goodies to take on the merry jaunt through the stars.

The book is mostly about the rules of the universe, there are separate sections for characters, weapons, enhancements, vehicles and starships, so many that you would not be likely to need to make a rule up for any given situation.  With so much space devoted to the rules of the game, you’d expect that comparatively little would be given over to the background of the world that the characters find themselves in.  However, this game makes sure that you have absolutely everything you need, from NPC stats to vehicle build rules, to the nature of what worlds are out there, where you’ll find them and what you’ll find on them.

While it’s good to have all the information that you need for a universe to hand, beyond a few pages of adventure hooks, there wasn’t any part of it that hinted at a bigger picture, nothing that drew the judges in to want to play in that world.  For the experienced GM’s, the amount of information and background presented made it very easy to build games and make them compelling, but for the beginners, something to get them into the game beyond the few pages of plot hooks would have been very appreciated.

In a recurring theme through most of this years entries, there isn’t much in the way of artwork in the book, layout is excellent and the binding of the books is very good, but most of the pages are taken up in large amounts of text.  Given the way the book is presented, indicating that you can and will find absolutely anything out there, the lack of visual specifics doesn’t hamper the feel of the setting as much as some thought it might.

And with that, to the Judges comments

The writings good, there’s plenty of atmosphere here but it has the feel of a menu driven universe rather than a living breathing construct...

Liked a lot of the ideas presented, there’s the feel of Iain M Banks culture to it and it wouldn’t take much work to make a good campaign...

It’s presented very much like a working universe, rather than something where space ships and ray guns are special things, it feels like you need to work for your place in the game, rather than being something special, and that by itself makes it stand out from other games...