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Vulcania The Role-Playing Game
Publisher: GearGames
by Johan J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/01/2022 07:40:41

Summary: Italian steampunk game with a fast, intuitive D12 system that tries to emulate the great action adventure movies on the silver screen and their equivalent anime epics. We love it!

Plus

  • D12 system is fast, deadly, and supports telling the story.
  • Combat is grid-based and tactical, with a wealth of gear and abilities.
  • Pulpy, steampunk world supported by great anime art and setting material.
  • Perfect for steampunk Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Firefly, or Sherlock Holmes style games

Minus

  • Could use a FAQ for some rules questions.
  • Grammar is good but not perfect in the English version. Works fine and is better than mine, but could probably have used a native English proofreader.

Other note This game is VERY South European. Some of you, like my Swedish group, will love it. It gleefully disregards or ejects many concepts found in modern American RPGs (sandbox settings without metaplot or defined histories, deconstruction of tropes, large dice pools, modern politics, etc.). It has a fast, single-roll, single-dice system. The setting employs tropes liberally. The book clearly explains the setting and its secrets. Vulcania wants you to have fun inbetween chasing sky pirates and uncovering dark secrets. It's the Star Wars of 1977 rather than the Ad Astra of 2019.

Much longer review for bored people My group has had a lot of fun playing Symbaroum, CoC, and D&D 5e Eberron for a while, but we've been looking for something new. Out of sheer luck I stumbled onto Vulcania which for some reason has gotten very little attention. The more I read about the game, the more I liked it. I ended up buying the entire physical bundle (core book, maps, dice, tokens, and GM screen) and received pdfs from the publishers. I figured, if I like the game, we'd run it. If we didn't, I could salvage many parts for D&D Eberron. As it turns out we love the game! Vulcania is an Italian steampunk game set in the northern hemisphere of an Earth-sized planet, consisting mostly of water and several diverse island-continent-countries. Thanks to the industrial revolution sparked by the discovery of vulcanic energy, airships and steamships enabled these countries to suddenly interact. The result was a devastating war. A peace was secured, but in the wake of the great war and revolutions, organized crime, sinister conspiracies, and mad scientists flourish. It's a pulpy, fantasy 1920's-1930's setting and the perfect time for the PCs to enter the story!

Vulcania aims to strike a balance between adventure and drama, between action and comedy. The authors list inspirations ranging from Star Wars and Indiana Jones, to Steamboy and Sherlock Holmes, and I think those inspirations can be felt strongly in the game. One reason is that the resolution system (20 pages) is very fast, with single D12 rolls that also generate tiered successes or tiered damage numbers. Many adversaries (86 pages) can be taken out with 1-2 hits in the same way you'd see with Indiana Jones battling nazis, but if you're not smart and careful they can take you out quickly as well. Outside combat, it works smoothly. You'd think this quick, deadly system would be coupled with a narrative, theater of the mind-type combat system, too. Instead, while it can be played narratively, the default is using battlemaps with focus on maneuvering and exploiting your environment. There are tons of skills (26 pages), arts (24 pages) and gear (66 pages) that help to flesh out combat. It's a very different beast, but it reminds me a tiny bit of the Spanish wargame Infinity.

Our experience so far has been that it works much better than we expected and we're having a ton of fun. However, we'd like an FAQ clearing up some issues. For example, there's a disengage action but no opportunity attacks. And airship combat is a bit tricky. As such, I'm not sure I'd recommend this to a completely new GM even if the Narrator section is pretty good.

Setting-wise, my first impression was "steampunk with sterotypical fantasy versions of our world". For example, Mostucaal is a Wild West + Mexico hybrid, while Nuugard are a Norse/Germanic hybrid. But the more we dug into it, the more details and backstory and depth we found. The narrator + setting chapters combined add up to 102 pages, which I think offered everything we needed to run campaigns anywhere we want in Vulcania. Unlike many games right now, Vulcania is not "wordy", instead stating clearly how things are in the world. Not meaning any offense, but I could see Modiphius or Onyx Path easily writing 3-400 pages with the same amount of detail.

Long story short, this game caught me/us completely off guard but we're having a ton of fun. We're a big group with 6 players, so the system is a godsend. We also have diverse political views and demanding jobs, so having something that's pure pulpy steampunk fun is greatly appreciated. Highly recommended!!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vulcania The Role-Playing Game
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Dread Metrol: Into the Mists - An Eberron / Ravenloft Crossover
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Johan J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/03/2021 06:44:29

I cannot for the life of me understand the high ratings for this book. Is it only because Keith Baker has his name attached to it? I will try a more critical and hopefully honest review from someone who is both a fan of Keith and Eberron as a whole.

THE GOOD

  • Great setting idea. Mixing Cyre with Ravenloft is a stroke of genius.
  • Some very interesting new monsters.
  • Clear layout.

THE BAD

  • The entire setting is woefully underwritten, poorly developed, and lacking in detail. The districts and spires (vermishards) come across as stereotypical and painted with a very broad brush. Nowhere do you get the feeling this was a metropolis to make Galifar proud.
  • Only three houses matter, and they can be summed up as "cyborgs, monster breeding, and nasty food"
  • The main villain is painfully shallow. On the scale of Eberron horrors, nothing she has done warrants getting a whole metropolis sucked into Ravenloft. Nor is the way to save the city anything but Harlequin-novel tropes.
  • There are no big reveals. No "wow!" moments. No earth shattering secrets. No true terrors. What you read in the summary is literally the entire book, with all secrets handwaved or reduced to generic die roll tables.
  • To some extent, it reminds me of the worst of Numenera, where things are introduced, pronounced as "weird", then left to DM fiat. Again and again and again. This is the same, but with the overexplanation of "hey guys, this is supposed to be scary, but you decide how and why!"
  • Almost all monsters are low level and relatively harmless. Dark Sun 2e, this is not.
  • Stereotypical adventure. Railroady. Predictable. Could have been set anywhere.
  • Finally, and this is the big one: the book is SO WORDY! It introduces the main villain, then repeats the same information over and over and over again. It introduces the city being attacked every night and supplies running out, then repeats that sentence 50 times. It says Cannith makes scary grafts, then repeats that sentence 50 times. The entire book could be shortened to 20-25 pages, including the adventures, without any problem.

THE UGLY

  • The art and maps range from OK to things looking like Deviantart fan art. And far, far too few images of Metrol, too many ugly portraits. The head of Cannith in particular looks like an bastardized version of Dragon Age's Iron Bull.

Summary. There is nothing here that a remotely competent DM familiar with Eberron OR Raveloft couldn't do better. I will still run a campaign set in Dread Metrol because the setting idea is so cool, but aside from the monsters, I will jetison this entire book.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dread Metrol: Into the Mists - An Eberron / Ravenloft Crossover
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