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!
- 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
- 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.
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!!
[5 of 5 Stars!]