I just finished reading my copy of Greg Stolze’s new book by the title of Reign: Enchiridion. I am a fan of Stolze’s which meant I was proud to support during the auction for this particular book. Oh, you can find my name in the acknowledgments section on page 221 if you are curious.
Greg is the pioneer in the field of self-publishing as a method of directly satisfying the fans without need for middle-men. Not only is his marketing an inspiration, his creative writing blows me out of the water. It is a pleasure to recommend this book as an excellent Alternative Game to the Spark RPG.
Most of his books are supported via a method called the ransom model, where fans choose how much they would be willing to pay for a given product. If enough people pledge up to the chosen total, the payments are made and the book is printed. If a fan gives a small amount, they may get a PDF of the product for instance, while a larger amount might give a copy of the printed book or more impressive prizes.
Reign Enchiridion is developed by Arc Dream Publishing and Published by Cubicle 7 Entertainment. The full credits for Writing and Design go to Greg Stolze.
Explanation of The Alternative
Reign is built on the solid ORE (One Roll Engine) system which you may know from “Godlike”, an alternate history superhero game set in World War II. Wikipedia describes the task resolution system in a more concise fashion then I am currently capable of, so I include it here.
The O.R.E. system uses a dice pool of d10s equal to the character’s Stat and Skill similar to that used by Storyteller system, but the method to determine success is different. In the O.R.E. system, success is determined by die result matches, such as a pair of 8s. The Width of a roll, the number of matching dice, determines the speed (and damage, if in combat) of a roll, while the Height of a roll, the face up result on the matched dice, determines how successful an action was and location of a hit in combat. Shorthand notation for writing results is Width x Height, so a pair of 8s would be written 2×8 and three 2s would be written, 3×2. (Wikipedia)
The game is played on two levels simultaneously. The first level of play is that of the character, with personal motivations and trials. The second level of play is that of groups or “companies” which a player may direct. The interface between these two types of games is well detailed and this system allows for kingdom-level action. This fills the same niche as the old Birthright setting for 2nd Edition AD&D, though Reign is a better quality product in my opinion.
The Merits of The Alternative
Reign shares many of the same strengths as Savage Worlds; tactical richness, accounting for unworthy opponents and a tool-box approach which permits for creative setting-building. By contrast, Reign also focuses on encouraging deeper roleplaying with the use of traits called “passions”. Each character can have one of each of the three different varieties of passion; a mission which must be accomplished, a duty which governs your life and a selfish craving which you fall prey to. You receive either a mechanical bonus when you act with your passions, or an equivalent penalty when you act contrary to them. It’s a excellent mechanical support for good roleplaying.
Reign also comes with a series of tools for random generation of characters, of spells and of monsters. These one roll characters, one roll spells and one roll monsters help the game master and a ton of fun to beat.
You might also be pleased to hear that the digest sized softcover book (~230 pages) has a listed price of $9.99 each. You know what I said earlier about the merits of economical, portable and attractive books? This holds true for Reign: Enchiridion as well. I currently have two copies of the book and I am grateful that I have a spare copy to loan out to friends or use in game.
The Merits of Spark RPG
Spark has been designed for somewhat different purposes compared to Reign. A portion of the game system in Spark is inspired by Unknown Armies, one of Greg Stolze’s past masterpieces. By using more free-form skills, there is a bit more room for creativity and no two characters are the same. This allows Spark RPG to be focused on utility across multiple genres, rather than being optimized for a single genre like Reign.
Spark is built on the principle that physical, mental and social tasks are of equal importance. As a result, there is less emphasis on specific combat maneuvers, defensive options or precise definition of harm. Spark generalizes damage, as opposed to Reign which clearly identifies when a character’s left arm is heavily bruised. Personally I think the more generalized approach leads to games that I am more likely to enjoy.
Reign is a captivating game, optimized for telling stories of great deeds in fantasy worlds of your imaginings. It is a game suitable for rich combat, for larger scale strategic pursuits with the company rules and for excellent roleplaying opportunities. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, I recommend picking up a copy or two at Indie Press Revolution, Arc Dream Publishing or your local FLGS. You can also explore some of the free content at the official Reign site and you may choose to pick up the larger main book including the richly detailed world of Heluso and Milonda. If you prefer a more flexible multi-genre accommodating game system with less focus upon physical combat, you may appreciate the Spark RPG. Either way, you will be able to tell compelling stories and enjoy yourselves thoroughly.