Okay, I know I said I hate reviews, but I can’t resist this one. This game is one of my favorites and I just have to gush before I dive into how amazing it is. First, this is one of the best games that I have ever played/run. Second, this game is well designed (by none other than Robert J Schwalb) and it has no real glaring holes. Last, the system is flexible enough to be used in any setting with some minor tweaks. Anyhow, on to the review!
The book opens up in the standard fare, a introduction to what roleplaying is and a brief history of the editions of the game. The next chapter though opens up right to a description of the world of Westeros. It describes the major cities and locations. It also outlines the basics of the world. What being a knight is all about and the Maesters college. The opening, in short is exactly what you expect of it, and everything you really need to get started.
The game rules chapter explains the basics of the Chronicle system. It is a quick run down of how the game works in terms of mechanics. It touches all the bases of the mechanics, excluding combat (which gets it own chapter). This chapter is a good introduction to the game and serves you well when creating your PC, as it explains how die rolling convention is used. This should help you to understand how to roll out your stats and specialties.
The character creation chapter is amazingly well laid out. It describes how each part works with each other, as well as how they relate to the overall character. It starts out with choosing your age. This will determine many of the other factors during creation. You gain an amount of experience based on your age. Buying an ability cost experience based on it’s rating. The younger you are the less experience you gain to spend on abilities. You generally want to start by buying you status.
Next you get a number of experience points to spend on specialties. Specialties are just what they sound like. They are areas that you are exceptionally good at. An example is long blade or spear. Each rank of specialty you take cost 10 XP. Again, the older you are the more XP you get to spend.
You gain a number of destiny points, again based on your age. The younger you are the less that have to be invested in things (therefore you have more to “spend”). Older characters have spent part of their destinies already. They must take flaws as outlined in the chapter. Once you are done spending destiny points you can then gain them back by taking drawbacks. They grant you one destiny point back per one you take.
Before you complete your character you buy your starting gear. You roll a number of dice equal to your status. The total is the total number of Gold Dragons you get to start your career with. After you equip yourself you then calculate your derived stats. After you calculate your stats, you are ready to play the character. That’s not all though! You can create your own house as well.
This is one of the best parts of the game! Your house functions just like a character that everyone can play! The first step is to find out where your house is located. You roll on a table and see what happens. This is the easiest part of the process.
There are seven traits that govern a house. They are Defense, Influence, Lands, Law, Population, Power, and Wealth. Where your house is situated will affect these traits. In order to get your initial stat line for the house you roll 7d6 seven times. You then add in your location modifier. The next step is to determine how old your house is. Again you roll on a table and it tells you how many events happened in the history of your house. The house can be an ancient house all the way to brand spanking new. The events adjust your scores in the traits be either a die roll or a set amount (normally a die roll). The last step for the house is the investment of trait points into holdings.
Holdings are things like castles, roads, rivers, troops and Septs. Each trait gives you particular types of holdings. Influence governs your heirs, power governs banner houses and troops, ect.
The house also gains and loses traits during play using a mechanic called “House Fortune”. This roll is made every so often by the Game Master. The house can also do things like hold tournaments and wage wars. It also can gain traits from either investing Glory or money back into it.
Intrigue and Combat
These chapters are well done, like the rest of the book! The influence chapter goes through how to wage influence combat. It can be done in a few different ways, but in essence it feels the same as regular combat, except you don’t take wounds. If you ever get taken down to zero composure then you get beaten down and do whatever you opponent wants you to do.
Combat is fast and easy to do. You roll your fighting or marksmanship and compare it to your opponents Combat Defense. If you beat it you deal damage equal to your weapon damage. For every raise (3 more than the difficulty) you deal an additional damage. If you ever double your opponents defense you critical him. You check how many sixes are in your pool and do a specific effect based on that number.
The last part of combat, and one I am not as familiar with, is Warfare. It covers how to wage wars, and how characters interact with it. Like I said, I have never played or GMed in a game with it.
I love this game. It is so simple and it is fun. Don’t get attached to your PCs, because just like the books they are expendable. The system is simple, the creation of characters is fun, and the advancement is slow but steady. I would give it a 5/5 for Substance and a 4/5 for Art.