By Anthony “LibrariaNPC” DeMinico, 18 March 2020
Edited 15 April 2020 ; Updated purchase links
Running games with a multiverse is both an amazing experience and horrendously complex. Between all of the “What Ifs” that are utilized in a series like Sliders, all of the time travel hijinks we see in pop culture, and the sheer number of parallel universes in comic books, the multiverse is a strange and wonderful place to have a game.
With that, I’m honestly shocked with how rarely we get to see a multiversal-themed RPG. Sure, I’ve been playing Confluence for a couple years now, but it’s still not exactly common by any stretch of the word.
Which is precisely why, after reading the pitch of Agents of Concordia, I backed it on Kickstarter and excitedly awaited its arrival.
Agents of Concordia (AoC) revolves around Concordia Central Intelligence (CCI), and Agency devoted to protecting the multiverse. Players take the roll of agents of the CCI, working to maintain the peace of the multiverse, so to speak: stop invasions of dangerous creatures, broker peace between arguing factions, explore rumors of ancient magics and relics, and even break up a smuggling ring utilizing stolen technologies. All in a day’s work!
Of course, it’s not that simple. Characters come from a variety of magical, parallel worlds, each with its own culture, peoples, and magics…with the exception of Earth.
The year is 1964, and Earth is the last stop before the end of the Multiverse. It is also the only part of the multiverse without magic, quite literally draining the very magical aether from its residents and visitors. Of course, many “visitors” find ways here for their own gains, whether to escape or to fulfill the desires of their masters to change the multiverse in their favor, or to get whatever is beyond Earth.
This is the world, or rather, the collection of worlds the players take part in. Trust the Agency, trust your training, and go do the best you can.
To be quite honest, I absolutely enjoy this idea. The closest I’ve seen to it, outside of hacks of TORG or various Fate hacks, was with RIFTS. Considering the setting itself is interesting enough to be explored, vague enough to be open, but “strict” enough to be followed is an interesting balance, and I am here for it.
One of the elements I found enjoyable about Agents of Concordia was the selection of races. In addition to the “basic” (and non-magical!) humans, we have a plethora of other races pulled from other inspirations, including vampires (the Lahmia in this multiverse), the faun, goblins (called “Nonsense”), ogres, and even sentient animals (known as “Stewards”).
Thankfully, the interest isn’t only tied to appearances. Each of the races have their own perks, problems, and entire societies based on the world they are from. Ogres, for example, are often trying to do good in the multiverse as they know that their great powers bring madness, and are only alive for a limited time because of it. The other races all have their own collection of details, and it’s rather fun to see where the tropes begin and how fast they get smashed.
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the mechanics. While AoC has an abundance of skills (30 all told), they are readily broken down by the kind of scene they’d be used in (such as infiltration and confrontation). Skills are also rated from 1-3, which determines the number of d12s that are rolled. Keep one die, add your associated stat, compare it to the difficulty, and you’re done! Margins of success add additional effects (damage, helping an ally, etc), but otherwise it’s a relatively simple game.
And the fact we’re seeing d12s solely used nets this book a couple of points in my book.
Finally, there’s the art. While it isn’t as gorgeous as other books, it is consistent, and consistently good. We have detailed characters with interesting designs, scenes that are evocative and worth exploring, and then a couple bits that have something…off. Whether this was on purpose (due to the setting or the creature involved) or just a part of the art budget remains to be seen, but for the most part, I’d put the art in a positive category.
Like many books written by non-native speakers, the language gets a bit rough at times. Some quirks are just that, quirks, and can be easily worked with, such as unexpected italicized text (mostly in the form of parenthetical asides). At some points, the word choice is odd, such as using Support and Cripple as the terms for a flat +3/-3 to a roll. In the worst case, the very flow of the language can be seen as “rather rough” in some spots, in which there isn’t anything inherently wrong grammatically, but rather is something that would grate on a native speaker (short sentences, “odd” word choice or order, etc).
Sadly, this can impact how well rules are explained, and I am uncertain if this is an editing issue (a major issue with most Modiphius titles, sadly) or a linguistic one. I had to read through the Primer (rules intro), as well as parts of character creation and specific rule breakdowns to full understand the mechanics. Either I needed more coffee, or the word choice for the rules needed to be cleaned up a bit before printing, especially with some potentially ill-explained elements (like how many Support/Cripple factors can you add?)
I will say that, from a linguistic standpoint, the book has a much greater care in translation than some other products I’ve reviewed in the past, but it does suffer some hiccups that could be seen as, at the very minimum, distracting to native English speakers.
After reading through, I do have a sinking feeling that the book is a bit incomplete. For example, there are references of how much magic is in the game, and outside of a minor “trick” (think Prestidigitation from D&D), “Ritual Kits” (which allow you to use rituals you know) and using the “Rituals” skill for utilizing elements in Concordia, as well as implementing magic items, we don’t have anything on knowing magic and using it. This is rather odd, considering the above references and how some races, such as the Faun, gain bonuses to using magic, or how the Ogri should be able to quite literally shape reality with their magic.
Hopefully we will see more of the game to remedy this, but for now, there’s just some elements that are lacking with regards to the setting meeting mechanics, as well as mechanics that just aren’t quite where I’d expect them to be.
After researching and progressing as far as my clearance level permitted, I’m going to have to give Agents of Concordia a rather positive 3.5 buns.
The game has a number of great things going for it. It’s condense at under 200 pages, and is still a (mostly) complete system. The mechanics are interesting, especially if you have a soft spot for a d12 as I do, and the setting is rather intriguing, taking the best of MIB, RIFTS, Sliders, and The Librarians into one package.
Sadly, the linguistic quirks do come out at times, and there are some elements I would have expected in the game with the given setting that we just don’t have support for. I think with some polished editing and some elaborated rules, the game could easily climb to a 4 or even 4.5 buns.
If you enjoy the lonely and underloved d12, want a multiversal romp, and can deal with some missing rules, then Agents of Concordia is a must-have. Give it a pass if you don’t like the above and have difficulty filling in linguistic and mechanical gaps.
Agents of Concordia was created by Strangewood Studios, funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign, and distributed by Modiphius. The game was released as a PDF to backers in early January, and is available for pre-order as of April 15, 2020. The physical edition retails at £39.99 GBP (about $49.91 US) and includes the PDF. The PDF is also available as a stand alone product for £14.99 GBP (about $18.71 US).