Awaken: Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Game – Core Rule Book, Marko M. Sekul and Zoltan Lečei, The Games Collective, H/B – £37.11, PDF £14.84 on Drivethru, 218 pages. http://awakenrpg.net/
Reviewed by Steve Dean
To quote the byline from Drivethru; “Awaken is a tabletop roleplaying game set in a dark, war-ravaged fantasy world heavily influenced by Slavic and Mediterranean folklore, where the forgotten mythologies have resurfaced as Vasalli, powerful humans gifted with abilities capable of changing the course of history.”
Those of you who have been playing RPGs for a while will probably be saying “Oh no, not again!” I have to admit that was my first reaction. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s been done so many times its become something of a cliché. But let’s put that to one side for a moment, after all, very few ideas are original any more. An internet search of almost anything will yield results, no matter how obscure.
Right, let’s get down to it. The cover illustration is excellent, very well done and worthy of any top quality RPG volume. The internal artwork is also very stylish, there’s plenty of it and it’s full colour throughout. After the contents page and some more art, we have the first chapter and the obligatory opening legend (see above).
As this is a self-contained book, there are also chapters describing the world in which the game takes place, covering politics, factions, geography, etc. an explanation of the whole Awakened/Vasalli thing and then we get to the character creation stuff. The Awakened system is fairly rules light, as the idea is to tell your character’s story through Roleplaying, not through extensive charts and tables.
The system uses stats, of course, and a series of ranks based on those stats. Six-sided dice are then used to indicate success and failure and whether that result was very good or very bad, for instance. Critical hits and misses, in effect, but with more range. The system seems to work fine, although the damage system seems unnecessarily complicated. There is lethal and non-lethal damage, but two points of non-lethal damage equals one point of lethal damage, which doesn’t make sense to me, might as well just give the character double the HP and not worry about the rest, particularly in a system like this.
There’s a chapter on GMing next, called Narration here. Although the system itself is good for new players, I don’t think an inexperienced GM would cope very well with it. It’s a bit too vague for that, which is also one of it’s strengths of course. In the hands of an experienced GM the rules would almost fade into the background, leaving the PCs to get on with the adventure.
Finally, we have an example scenario to play through, which is decent enough, and a good introduction to the world, if a little linear.
If I was giving scores I’d say it’s a solid 7/10, and would be a good place to start for someone who hasn’t played RPGs before. The unoriginal premise and the complex health system let it down, as does the actual writing. They did a good job, but it needed a final edit by a native English speaker to correct the mistakes and misused words. For instance, the word “decimate” isn’t a synonym for “annihilate”, then again, many English natives get that one wrong. (look it up if you don’t believe me.)
As a first product, the team have done a good job on this. There’s obviously a lot of work gone into it, and a lot of passion. If they continue to expand their world, fix the language and rework the HP system, I think they’re on to something. I would have no problem recommending this, particularly to new players.