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Thread: Roma Imperious True 20
Friday, 29th August, 2008, 08:08 PM #1
Roma Imperious True 20
Greetings! This is a review of the True20 Roma Imperious by Hinterwelt Enterprises. First, a couple of disclaimers. This is my first review of any Hinterwelt product (my first review of any product in fact!). I had never seen any previous incarnation of Roma Imperious. I purchased this product - it was not supplied for review. I am a huge True20 fan. Okay, now that this is over, on to the review.
Roma Imperious is a True 20 converted version of an existing Hinterwelt setting. The product is 293 pages and is available for $12.99 at RPGnow as of the time of purchase. That's right - 293 pages of product for $12.99. Let me just say that after a thorough examination of the product, this was easily worth twice what they are charging.
Roma Imperious is a real-world alternate history take on the Roman Empire (and the world it exists in) with a good dose of fantasy worked in. I am a fan of using real world flavored cultures in my fantasy RPing. If you are not, this product may not be for you (but keep reading for the True20 stuff you get). I really didn't know what to expect from this product, and had primarily purchased it for the True20 rules, but was very pleased to find a ton of really great setting material. The first 100 pages in fact are centered in on setting material: alternate histories, Latin pronunciation guides, detailed maps, and classic roman art. Most of the first 100 pages centers on the Roman Imperium, with the rest taking a glimpse of the other cultures from around the world. These several page glimpses are quite tantalizing and I wanted to know more about them as well.
On page 100, the True20 Roma rules kick in. These rules were put together by Matthew Kaiser, my favorite True20 author of the True20 Adepts handbook fame. Included are a new Role for Martial Artist (From the Jade Empire naturally), rules for using adepts in Roma with the correct flavor, and background paths for the different roles (from the world, not just Rome). All of these were well done into the True20 mindset. This is True20 at its best, flavor applied, without a ton of crunch - just ways to apply the setting to True20.
On 114 we get a series of pre-generated characters where we see the information from the previous section applied in action. All well done and written up with descriptions that put them into the world. you are not just designing a Warrior in a Roman setting... you are get Praetorian guards, mercators, and druids showing the players how to make characters that are a *part* of the world, not just moving through it. These made for great character templates that players could use to instantly sit down and play... Awesome.
Page 125 we get some new skills and uses for old ones and 130 gives us some new feats. All well done in here, nothing bloated or there for crunches sake. I might have made the coded Messages skill a knowledge skill, but that is a total nitpick - easily done and a matter of personal preference. Some neat feats that reflect the "Roman World" and a first glimpse at the new magic rules are to be found here.
On page 136 we get into the Roma Imperious magic. There are four types types covered: Clerical Magic, Magic Item creation, Chi Magic, and Spell Magic. Let me start by saying that I love the True20 magic system, so I was interested to see what these variants could bring to my game.
Clerical magic is a simple freeform magic system. The player comes up with effects, the Narrator determines difficulty, rolls are made and walaa! This instantly went into my game for a couple of reasons. It is a fast easy alternative to the True20 Magic system. Face it, some players are more casual (my wife comes to mind) and she doesn't want to be bogged down in any more rules than she has to (and True20 isn't that bogged down to begin with). This could be used for either Divine or Arcane style magic if you wanted to. It is just a simple easy system - and my wife took to it instantly. Now keep in mind that a Narrator will have a little more work in coming up with difficulties and such, but a sample chart of effects is provided to help you determine difficulty. This is awesome and allows a simpler way to adjudicate magic.
The Magic Item creation section is short. It is a very basic system for creating Magic Items. Narrators will have to be very involved when players decide to do this. It is tied to one of the Adept variants from an earlier chapter (the Artificer). There could have been more to this section. A lot left to be fleshed out by the Narrator, but it is a good start.
The Chi magic was disappointing to me. Basically, the New Martial Artist Role gets Chi Points to purchase supernatural effects from. Only seven supernatural effects were listed, and some of them were clan specific. The system was fine, but I felt the chi effects could have been expanded upon a great deal more. I have a player interested in a character like this, and am going to have to do some work to add to this. This is pretty much my only issue with the entire product. I almost wish that the Martial Artist and Chin magick had been saved for a fully fleshed out Jade Empire or Near East product.
Finally, the Spell Magic system. This is essentially a spell point system adapted to True20. I am pretty sure I read that the original Roma Imperious ruleset (called Iridium) uses a similar spell point system and that it was converted to maintain the flavor. This is a fully fleshed out spell point system for True20 with a Roman style feel to it. The spell point system seems to be a very good port to True20 and it is very evocative of the setting. If you are looking for a spell point system for True20, these 60 pages will be a great asset.
No setting would be complete without a section of setting specific equipment. All the standard Roman weaponry and armor seem to be present, accounted for, and converted to good effect. A neat discussion of Roman money can be found in this chapter as well. Equipment and prices using Roman coinage is provided as well as a whole bunch of flavor specific magic items covering everything from potions to flying carpets to supernatural weaponry. Another neat part of this chapter is the section hat covers supernatural materials and their properties: Phosphorus, Mercury, etc. Well, well, done.
Page 226 gives us a Roma Bestiary of sorts with the Roma flavored fantastical creatures that inhabit the Roma world. Cyclops, Oriental Devils, Fairies, Harpies, Phoenix, Golems, and Sphinx are but a few of the many creatures included. A nice selection of encounters and beasties. And these just aren't stats - they are accompanied by pages of descriptive text that give us even more insight to the setting. All in all 50 pages of beasties! A+
Finally we are given a 15 page adventure to start ones travels in the Roma Imperious universe. On a lesser product, I dislike having an adventure tacked on as I feel it eats up page space that could have been spent on setting. But this product is so massive and detailed that this is a nice little extra which puts the whole product over the top.
There is also a conversion from Hinterwelt's Iridium system to True 20... and back again…
IN CONCLUSION THEN... This product is simply astounding! In most conversions of settings I have seen, the converted setting suffers. It is missing the critical detail or the rules don't quite fit right. You know the ones I mean - You have seen/read them. You are all excited to see your favorite setting converted and then for some reason, you feel let down. If you are new to the setting, the conversion may turn you off to what might be a great setting. Let me be clear - this is *not* one of those conversions! I had never seen Roma or anything of Hinterwelt's prior to this. If this is a "down-shift" then the original must be an utter masterpiece.
The rules are great. The art is evocative and appropriate. Really good maps and cartography. Setting detail seeps from every corner of this 290+ page beast. You have everything here you need to launch yourself into epic mythical roman fantasy campaigns. Whether you come here for the cool setting, the rules, or the conversion... you get a *ton* of stuff for your measly 13 bucks. I never expected to get half of what I got. It is definitely one of the best RP products I have bought in a long time and sets the bar quite high for other True20 settings... Well done. I will definitely be checking any other True20 Hinterwelt products. Fingers are crossed for some good regional sourcebooks!
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