Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Helvéczia First Impressions, pt. 3


Previously posted at the RPGPUB, collecting here to begin campaign notes.

Finished reading Helvéczia over the past couple evenings. The second half of the book is the Gamemaster's Almanac. This kicks off with a lot of GMing advice. A surprising amount, actually. I can't think of very many RPGs on my shelf that really give much attention to that. Topics include when and how to to use checks, describing the setting, offering the players interesting choices with meaningful consequences, dialogue techniques to improve the game flow, designing adventures in wilderness (including 3 methods of exploration), dungeons, and villages, creating adventure hooks and diabolical plans, and varying the style of play to focus on combat, exploration, intrigue, and so on. It's all good general GMing advice but also does a great deal to illuminate how the author envisages the game running. One thing that is very clear is that Helvéczia is a game that has been played a great deal, as almost every topic discussed seems to draw on his own gaming anecdotes.
After that, Helvéczia offers a short introductory adventure along with notes about running each section. The adventure is a simple affair, easily played in a single session, and the premise is simple enough to insert into the middle of any game where travel is in play and the company need to find a place to rest.
Next up is the Monsters section. There's probably 50 or 60 monsters in the book. Stat blocks are quite simple, as noted in the above example. In the random encounter tables, the monsters are divided into tables as Wild Beasts, The Dead, Devil's Kin, Curiosums, and Wondrous Things, which I think gives a good idea of the sort of stuff adventurers can expect to run into. There are also four tables of encounters with human NPCs of various sorts, and there are probably another 40 or so statblocks provided for all these common types of NPCs. The encounter tables are weighted towards human encounters in more civilized territories, monstrous encounters further in the wilderness.
Where there are Monsters, there is Treasure. Helvéczia's treasures are an odd assortment of curiosities, holy relics, and questionable medicinal sundries. There are magical armours and weapons as well, but they're given only a brief treatment, which might bore some people, but I take to to be that the game is less about kitting out your character.
The last 10 pages of the books are miscellaneous random tables - rare books, wilderness location generation, strange meetings in stagecoaches, and some 800 names to help the GM out.

This is the most I've enjoyed reading an RPG book in quite some time. The game provides such a unique setting in the hobby, I can't really think of anything like it. And the system, although clearly D&D-derived, has been worked into the setting so well. I'm very curious to see how it feels in play, if the combat is as light and swashbuckling as it reads, and if the morality play keeps immersion when struggling with the constant push and pull of heaven and hell.

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