Kickstarting Kromore 2154: Steampunk & Space Opera fuse into a Mind-Blowing RPG Setting

Making mash-ups of genres seems to have become the new paradigm in the role-playing game industry. Where once, long ago, it was deemed an oddity to stray from a game's designated Sci-Fi or Heroic Fantasy genre niche, RP game players now revel in cross-genres settings and game systems. And many Indie Publishers strive to conceive the next big “thing” in role-playing, inventing new combinations of genres to amuse, amaze, and astound the RPG community of fans.
RAEX Games is in the last couple weeks of their Kickstarter Campaign for their own genre-bending setting and game system they hope to present to the community of tabletop gamers everywhere. Kromore 2154 is a world setting which mixes elements of Steampunk, Cybertech, Space Opera, and even High Fantasy into a strange new world of adventure possibilities. Powered with the R.A.EX game engine, Kromore 2154 might very well be the next big “thing” – of course, all that depends on how big of a kick it gets from its Kickstarter drive.

Kromore 2154

  • Designers: T. Julian Bell
  • Illustrators: Kyle Thelen, Christopher Balaskas, Adam Lau, Laura Galli, Lorenzo Massaro
  • Publisher: RAEX Games
  • Year: 2013
  • Media: PDF (293 pages)
  • Price: TBA (Full color PDF available for a $20.00 Kickstarter Pledge)


Kromore 2154
is a role-playing game setting which combines elements of Victorian-era steampunk, sci-fi space opera, and heroic fantasy. This setting uses the R.A.EX. game system (Role-playing Adventure Experience) by RAEX Games, and includes all the rules for character creation and development, as well as a skill and combat system. The setting book also includes details about the world Kromore, its history, geography, and factions, and includes maps of the world in various points along the historical timeline. The author also includes equipment, vehicle rules, and a magic system, and information about NPCs, alien races, monsters, and much more.


Production Quality


[Reviewer’s Note: As the PDF of Kromore 2154 that I received was a playtest copy, I will not be able to accurately gauge and judge the layout format or editorial choices made in the final release. However, there are facets of the production quality which I can discuss as part of this pre-release review.]

The overall quality of Kromore 2154 is very good, containing some brilliant writing from its author describing not merely a setting, but also an entire game system tailored to the world of Kromore. The character and combat rules are laid out in a logical and easy-to-comprehend fashion, as is the setting content. I was a bit bothered by the fact that setting information appeared near the end of the book, and some of it would have been helpful prior to the character generation rules, but again, this is not the finished edition of the book.

Overall, the artwork in Kromore 2154 is very good, although a bit sparse in the playtest copy used for my review. Some examples of the illustrations, both sketches and color depictions, can be viewed here on the Kickstarter site. Kromore 2154’s cartography is also very good, and I like that the author provided maps of the world during its heroic fantasy era, its Steampunk era, and the “modern” era, all along the long timeline of Kromore’s history. Personally, I think this demonstrates a certain flexibility in the setting and the game rules to handle different genres equally well. Not to mention provides the possibility of some interesting time-traveling adventures in the world of Kromore.


Tales of Steam, Tech, & Magic


Although the playtest version of Kromore 2154 I received was not precisely the complete and final version of the setting, it nevertheless provides ample material to create characters and play the game system. The FAQ provided with the review copy states that once the Kickstarter campaign is successful, the final edition of the book is due out in the 1st Quarter of 2014.



As a quick synopsis, the Kromore world setting is a planet far removed from Earth, where humans fled in exodus to seek refuge from alien conquerors. However, Kromore was an inhabited world by another alien species, and over the long history since humans arrived and remade their civilization, other aliens have made the planet their home. In the course of the setting’s more than 5000 year long timeline, there are eras which are High Fantasy in nature, some that are Victorian Steampunk, and the latest era which is the rise of space opera level technology. The setting’s most recent timeline encompasses the struggle between a nation seeking to advance and take advantage of powerful technologies (The Kalin Parlimentary Order or K.P.O.) and Steam Rebels who use Steampunk era technology to fight to keep retain their independence.

The character generation system is quite interesting, using a point system to buy up five attributes, but with several other figured characteristics which are determined by attribute choice. Unlike many RPGs, the R.A.EX system attributes are actually just the raw attribute modifier, and range from 0 to 6. Attributes include Muscle (MUS), Agility (AGI), Intellect (INT), Charisma (CHA), and Soul (SOUL).

There are four species for choice of character races: Humans, Laerish, Ferrian, and Gyxan. While the last three are alien races (although the Laerish sound a whole lot like fantasy dwarves) with unique ability score, defense, and other adjustments, humans have none of these, but do have skill bonuses instead. To determine these bonuses, humans can come from eleven different regions and city-states around Kromore, with each imparting different skill bonuses.

What I thought made the character generation truly interesting was the use of a setting-specific flowchart to determine a character’s background. By moving through this background flowchart, a player can make choices which will determine their character’s skill bonuses, starting cash bonuses, and what professions (i.e. classes) they are best suited to pursue. Likewise, the professions use a flowchart-like progression, although it might be likened to specialization “trees” often found in PC games and MMOs. There are more than 20 profession trees, and each one has Tiers and side branches called Nodes offering abilities as a character progresses along them. As a character levels, they gain the opportunity to choose a new Tier or Node with each level, as well as . This allows for the creation of some very unique character types, and even two characters following the same profession will likely be quite different over time.

The R.A.EX combat system has a few superficial similarities to d20 OGL, but has many unique qualities of its own. The system uses 5-second combat rounds, initiative, and attack and defense circumstance bonuses depending on what actions the character takes. Actions are based upon spending three points per combat round, with complex actions requiring the expenditure of 2 and 3 points to complete. The system uses a grid for resolving combat, and facing is a factor when using minis or pogs. And it uses a Life Point system for measuring overall damage to a character or creature, but also has a hit location system combined with a trauma system to create a more realistic feel to injuries. Armor and shields, as well as some abilities, provide damage reduction to avoid injury, and

There are also fantasy elements in Kromore 2154, and these involve the inclusion of a magic system, and a pantheon of gods – both human and alien. And along with magic and fantastical deities, there are potions, magic items, and unique artifacts which appear on Kromore. Magic is frowned upon by the K.P.O. and they have an ongoing inquisition to express their displeasure for magic-wielding characters. Magic takes two forms: Innate Magic and Realm Magic. Innate magic are mystical powers of an almost psionic nature, which come naturally from the bloodlines of certain families. Realm magic is a studied art, allowing the practitioner to reach into parallel Kromorian timelines, and pull in energy which can be crafted into a variety of effects. Of course, Realm Magic has the possibility of opening a tear in the fabric of reality, through which alien, demonic, and monstrous creatures might come into the world. Many fantastic creatures including undead, dragons, werewolves, and other monsters have their origin from these rents in the fabric of the universe.

Because the timeline of the setting in Kromore 2154 is so long and encompasses so many different eras (i.e. genres), the gear and equipment list is frankly quite remarkable in the book. Armors range from varieties of cloth and leather to high tech or steam-powered metal fighting suits, and alien armor. Weapons also have a broad technological range, from flintlocks to hand guns, and steampunk hand cannons and disruptor pistols. Plus there is a wide assortment of low-tech melee weapons to choose among, offering daggers to two-handed swords; battle axes to sword canes.

For characters wishing to have unique gear, there is a crafting system to modify existing weapons, armor and gear by high tech, steam tech, or magic. There are many modifications which can be applied to gear, from bonuses to special effects, and it has limits set by cost, time, skill, and availability of materials.

Cyber gear is also available in the game, as are a wide range mundane adventuring gear – much of the latter appropriate to high fantasy, steampunk, or high tech, or all three.

The author also provided a massive array of vehicles, encompassing low tech, steam tech, and high tech types. Varieties of sailing ships, air ships, trains, and tanks are all available for the characters to purchase (or steal), and they are also modifiable through a crafting system. Vehicle combat rules are also built into the system, so that steam-cannon bearing airships can mix it up with their high tech counterparts, offering all sorts of challenges for player-characters to overcome.


Overall Score
: 4.25 out of 5.0


Conclusions


If the title of this review was an insufficient indicator, I will say outright that Kromore 2154 is a mind-blowingly cool RPG product. I fell in love with the setting almost instantly, and was able to see so much potential for a campaign consisting of intricate political plots, delve style adventures, or military conquests – or all three at the same time! I like the R.A.EX. rules system as well, and think that it does indeed have the potential to work in a wide range of RPG genres, and still has the flexibility to be “house-ruled” to meet the needs and styles of any particular gaming group.

There are only 9 days left in the Kromore 2154 Kickstarter Campaign, and they will need some help to reach their goal before the time is up. I certainly would invite any gamer reading this to consider becoming a Kromore 2154 patron – I think there’s something quite special about this new game setting/system, and I think it will have appeal to many RPG fans out there in our community.

Special Thanks
: I would like to thank the team at RAEX Games for the opportunity to review their new product, and wish them the best of luck getting Kromore 2154 out to the tabletop gaming community.

Editorial Note
: This Reviewer received a complimentary playtest copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 4.0
  • - Design: 4.0 (Excellent and imaginative writing; layout not factored in due to review of playtest copy)
  • - Illustrations: 4.0 (Spectacular art; very cool maps; hoping the final version has even more art in it!)
  • Content: 4.25
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Massively crunchy; cool game system rules; rules integrated well with setting)
  • - Fluff: 4.0 (Tons of fluff; very fascinating and unique setting; character gen pulls players into the world)
  • Value: 4.5 (It’s a lot of game in one package. The Full-Color PDF is available for a $20.00 Kickstarter Pledge!)
 

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