By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 04 September 2019
During the 80’s and 90’s, there was something almost magical about being a kid on Saturday mornings. No school, no job, no major responsibilities; just a bowl of cereal and the amazing list of Saturday morning cartoons.
If there was some way to bottle that and sell it, there are a number of us nostalgia-driven people that would buy it up in a heartbeat. While this isn’t entirely possible, some have tried in their own ways.
When my friend Geoff pitched his concept of Warriors of Eternity to some of the locals, I was a bit skeptical. An RPG that can capture the feeling of 80’s Saturday morning cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, and Thundercats is a rather tall order, but doing so with an old school game feel and incorporating a number of quality of life improvements we’ve seen in the gaming industry seemed nigh impossible.
Now that I have my hands on the official quickstart for Warriors of Eternity (WoE), I think it’s time to see if I’m eating crow.
Writer’s Note: I have been tasked with being the editor for this current iteration of the quickstart, and have been part of a number of playtest discussions with Geoff regarding this game. This has no direct influence on the review and associated ratings provided below.
WoE is offered as a literal Old School Revival: a classic style of RPG inspired by games of the 80’s, with a focus on the cartoons of that same era.
You play as a Warrior of Eternity, an individual gifted with amazing powers and tasked with keeping the peace in the world of Eternity. Draw your Sword of Power, builds amazing Gadgets, and cast powerful spells as you fight evil and save the world from those who would destroy it.
==What You Get==
In it’s current form, the quickstart for WoE is about 64 pages. Within those pages, you are given nearly everything you need to get started and, arguably, run a full-length campaign: a blurb about the setting, a set of five classes, spells, special abilities, progression, and all of the mechanics you need to keep the game going.
Mechanically, the game is heavily inspired by older iterations of Dungeons and Dragons (which would make this an OSR title), but it includes elements of newer games to apply a certain degree of narrative to the game, as well as make the game more approachable and user-friendly for new RPG players and old hands alike.
As I am wont to do: the artwork in the book is wonderful. While everything is black and white, it encapsulates the motifs of the game: heroic antics, impossible technologies, and wondrous creatures. The artists Geoff selected for this absolutely captured the feel of both 80’s games and the cartoons of the 80’s, and the quality is much higher than I would expect for a new indie title.
Mechanically speaking, this game is solid. By using elements of classic RPGs, we are able to focus on a simple and direct roll mechanic: roll a d20, add your mods, beat your target number. That’s it. It simply took the best parts of the d20 system, threw them into a game that feels like classic D&D, and let it loose.
Of course, a simple roll mechanic does not a good game make. What I truly love is the progression mechanic.
Instead of gaining experience points by slaying monsters and clearing dungeons, characters in WoE gain their power via the Bonds they form with those around them. By using a set of predetermined Prompts (or by creating your own!), the players expand on their connection with the denizens of Eternity, investing themselves in the story and the world they are actively a part of. This not only creates an investment for the players, but it gives other benefits such as expanding storylines, promotes non-combat activities, and giving the GM direction regarding where you, as a player, want the game to go.
Bond Points are then spent in a number of ways: they can immediately raise your Power Points (see below), gain powerful familiars, companions, or vehicles, or they can be spent to level up your character to unlock more abilities and unleash your true potential.
The game also captures that feeling of “Being Heroic” rather well for an OSR-based game. Every player has a number of Power Points they have available, as well as a number of ways to use them: Wizards and Mystics are able to cast powerful spells with the use of Power Points (and still have smaller, versatile spells they may cast for free!), Guardians have ways to bring out the potential of the Sword of Power, and the Agents and Tinkers utilize technologies in various ways to assist them. Characters also have a decent number of hit points to ensure they don’t fall to their death immediately from a weak hit, as well as abilities to increase their chances of survival or effectiveness.
The game brings in a number of “new school” elements to bring new life to the OSR. Yes, we have a newer approach to progression, but we also see an open approach to races, a level-based point-buy mechanic, temporary point pools, and the disconnect between characters and the gear they carry (with the exception of the Guardians and their Swords of Power, of course). Really, gear is just there for specific special effects, and all weapons fall into Light, Medium, or Heavy damage bands to mek things simple (and avoid the “BEST WEAPON!” arguments). In all honesty, I sincerely enjoy building a character and not struggling over the feeling of playing my gear or my stats instead of an actual person, and I can’t help but praise that.
Finally, this “quickstart” is rather complete when you get down to it. The rules provided will get your character from level one through level ten (the “retirement” range), has a collection of spells and powers, and a number of options ready to go. It’s more of a beta launch than a quickstart, which means you will be getting plenty of mileage.
If you believed that being a part of the team would influence the review, then you clearly don’t know my reviews very well.
For starters, WoE has some layout concerns, as there’s an overabundance of empty space that has little rhyme or reason for it, especially in the earlier portions of the book. It feels as though there should have been something there, such as filler art or an expanded section, but instead it’s just…there. It’s a bit distracting for someone with an eye for it, but for most, it may be a non-issue.
On a personal level, there’s some odd bits of number crunching that I haven’t quite understood. For example, spell ranges and durations all have rather odd number systems for them, such as 33 feet or 96 minutes, which I feel makes the game a little harder to hack and grok due to the lack of open methodology here. Numbers are also a concern with long-term balancing, as the point-buy elements may skew the power level of the game over the long term (but as this is still an early release, I could be proven wrong).
I’m also of the opinion that this shouldn’t be considered a “Quickstart,” but rather a “Test Drive” or even an open beta.
As it stands, even with how “full” this feels, the game is incomplete. While you have all of the mechanics to really drive your way to the Epic Level range (in this case, level 10), there’s a few things that feel “missing.” Spell descriptions are bland and mechanically heavy, not granting any nuance to how they fit into the game or, in some cases, how they even look when cast. While there’s a collection of wonderfully pun-driven monsters, I’m not sure if they are able to cover the same range provided for the PCs (PCs can reach level 10; the strongest provided monster is equivalent to level 6). Overall, it just feels like it’s a lack of substance for a complete game.
Even if you don’t look at the “completeness” side of things, the title lacks some of the elements of a traditional quickstart. Namely, we do not have many details about the setting, we are lacking an included adventure, and we are missing tips on creating an adventure. This makes it a bit misleading for anyone looking at it from the outside, and as the support system isn’t quite there, it may be a turnoff for some.
I think if it is called what it is, a beta ruleset, we could sidestep a part of this.
That said, Geoff has informed me that this isn’t the end for WoE, as he is still mapping out more art, scheduling more playtests (with multiple sessions this weekend), and continuing to write more rules and source material. Some of these concerns may be nixed in the very near future, but I would be remiss if I wasn’t grading based on what I have on hand.
While I am a bit torn on it, I will be giving this current iteration of Warriors of Eternity 3.5 buns. I hold the expectation of it earning 4 or even 4.5 buns after the next couple of updates (which are already in the works, and a Day One Patch is live), but it is unfair to grade on future iterations without having them in hand just yet.
Warriors of Eternity is a surprising breath of fresh air in the OSR community. It balances the feelings of nostalgia and whimsy with the heroic motifs of the 80’s while maintaining an old school gaming feel. In short, the game is a well thought out title that is approachable, easy to grasp, and most importantly, fun.
Sadly, the current document suffers from a lack of identity between a quickstart and a beta release, which makes branding a bit of a concern. The game may also be a bit odd to grasp due to the incomplete nature of some of the mechanics, but some of this is to be alleviated over the next few iterations.
Warriors of Eternity is written by Geoffrey Cullop, the man behind Fish In The Pot. It is currently available on a Pay What You Want basis on itch.io, will be coming to DriveThruRPG in the near future, and has a Kickstarter that is currently in the works. Be sure to follow along, because this looks like a fun game to watch!