Publisher: Fantasy Makers Industries
Review Dated: 22nd, February 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 30
Average Score: 6.00
Legends of Kralis Review
I am new to the world of writing reviews, at least writing reviews on role-playing games. Yet, I am very excited to write my first review on role-playing games and hope to do more in the future. First, let me state that I was an on-again-off-again playtester for Fantasy Makers Industries, LLC (also known as FMI).
I became involved with the company at two separate points during the creation of what would become Legends of Kralis. During my first encounter with the company I was playtesting another form of the current game: RealmQuest, which I am sad to say was very, very much like a set of house-rules that were created either for Palladium of AD&D 2 Edition, perhaps both, I was not impressed with this version and having other things to do informed the author of this, wished him luck and abandoned by playtesting with the company.
At first glance, RealmQuest (the name by the way was a throwback to the 80’s and rabid fan-boys obviously) was a hybrid of the Basic Role-Playing Game, Palladium and AD&D, a truly horrible combination of houserules. The system was nonsense and did not flow very easily.
Nearly a year later, after having not heard a word from FMI nor of the game, I was contacted by FMI again to playtest a newer version of the game, now called Legends of Kralis and “driven” by the Talarius Gaming System. Shrugging I agreed to take a look at this version, I was expecting nothing but a few minor adjustments and was ready for a let down, yet again. However, with what can only be considered a miracle, a moment of fate or perhaps even karma, the original version, well most of it as I was told, was lost when the author’s hard drive crashed. I was also informed that the creative team went through a kind of “depression” (I would say more of a re-focusing) for six months. On the other end of this “re-focusing” came the game now called Legends of Kralis. I was surprised. The game had taken a 180-degree turn. The game was smoother, the mechanics meshed seamlessly, and the overall feel for the game was no longer one of a “rabid fan boy wanna be” but had grown into its own.
Legends of Kralis is at its heart a fantasy genre role-playing game. Yet there are strong streaks of science-fiction within it and thus appears to be more a Sci-Fantasy than just a fantasy role-playing game such as Palladium, Castle & Crusaders, 3rd Edition D&D or other such games. It contains elements such as Abilities that are like powers, super-heroic in nature which gives the game a feel that it could be a fantasy super-hero game.
There are also strong elements of mecha-like beings, creatures, war machines and other machines that would be seen more common in a science-fiction game than a straight fantasy game. There are great airships, hot air balloons, gliders, submarines, and a whole host of other machines.
The game is also one of high fantasy and it makes no attempts to hide this fact. As such it allows players, all players if they desire, to wield incredible powers of magic, divine gifts, and psionics, often which come at a very dear cost to the character. It is more than just a few dragons, or fairies, or orcs running around, with the Abilities and Skills the high fantasy flavor is predominate.
As a long time reader of RPG.net, it would be remiss of me not to touch on the concept of the Fantasy Heartbreaker that has been used by many to steer or bash authors that create fantasy games as a nothing more then a continued brutalization of Tolkien. I am not going to delve into this quagmire of definitions and arguments, as that is an article for someone else to write at some other time. I note this point, only because I believe that while Legends of Kralis is a fantasy game that uses archetypes and personages that reflect fantasy, I do not think that Legends of Kralis is a Fantasy Heartbreaker as defined by Ron Edwards.
As I have initially stated, I was not impressed with the game that I had playtested and was reluctant to playtest the “newer” version of the game later. I was dreading the fact of seeing the game in that state (which by the way could be labeled a Fantasy Heartbreaker) attempt to be published, however, with a hardcopy in my hands of Legends of Kralis, I can say that I am impressed. It has great layout, great black and white line art, it flows nicely with a great appendix and a great table of contents.
The book is laid out in a solid, flowing manner allowing for easy reading, quick reference and allows for a player to take the character sheet and move from chapter 1 to chapter 3 and fill out the whole character sheet something that will take the first time player/reader to do in about 30 minutes. More experienced players will be able to create a character in about 15 minutes. The author has all he can do to make this as easy on those that play as possible from character sheet samples, a character sheet map, and numerous “Levi’s Notes for Bishop” spread through the first three chapters and introduction. If you are expecting to open the book and just have a character drop into your lap you will be disappointed as this is not a quick-lite rules system.
This game is filled with rules, yet it is an intuitive one that allows for quick play, something that I (and I suspect others) always enjoy. With these rules a player is not bound by classes or rules only their imagination. There is nothing that a player cannot do in this game and can be accomplished by a player through character growth.
I am pleased to have been a part of this playtesting, at least in this current form.
It has been oft remarked that a game’s mechanic is not as important setting. To a great many this may be true, yet to myself (and again I suspect numerous others), and obviously the author this is not necessarily true. The Talarius Gaming System, also known as the TGS, mechanic has a lot of crunch to it and that is something that I really enjoyed about this version. The TGS, and thus LoK, is a detailed system that attempts to avoid argument and attempts to answer any questions that arise in play by being explicit in the rules themselves.
The basic mechanic is intuitive: roll beneath your skill score to beat a Target Success number or TS; or beat an opposed roll by doing the same. This is done through the use of 2-d10 to emulate a score of 01-00, which is often referred to as a d100 within the game. Many individuals will likely be rubbed the wrong way with this as they feel that the term d100 and the use of 2d10 to immolate it is absurd. The concept of rolling below your skill in order to beat a TS might be seen as counter-intuitive. I disagree. In order to get a specific number you must either roll-over or roll under a skill score in order to do so, some games do this with Skill Score + Die Roll, the TGS does this with just a die roll and rolling low is always better.
The entire TGS is built on this concept and is integrated into everything that a player rolls for. Like any new game that you are learning to play not all dice mechanics are “intuitive” until you understand how they work. Again, the author has done all he can to make this understandable through the use of an example right off the introduction:
“The Talarius System’s core mechanic is used to resolve actions within the game. The mechanic enables fast, intuitive play. Any time you want your character to attempt an action that has a chance of failure, you, as the player, work with the Game Master to do the following:
1) Determine the number of successes (Target Successes or TS) required to perform a task
2) Determine your final skill score relevant to the task, including any modifiers.
3) Roll a d100.
4) Tally 1 Success for every 10 points (or fraction thereof) that your d100 roll is under your skill score.
5) If your Total Number of Successes meets OR exceeds the TS, you have performed the task successfully.
For Example: The Game Master determines that the TS is 3 to climb a slippery mountainside. The character’s relevant skill is Climbing (63) with a +10 modifier for rope. The final skill score is 73. The player rolls d100 and gets a 42. Tally successes beginning with 42 (inclusive, remember!):
The character has achieved four successes, and can scale the wall without much difficulty, since the TS was only 3. ” Legends of Kralis; Introduction pg II
Another aspect of this game is the use of ranks. Granted some will see “levels” instead, and essentially they are the same. In Legends of Kralis, ranks are used primarily as a way to judge one characters rank to that of another and against monsters that a party or character may be going up against. Ranks are not necessary, the author has stated this often, but are there to ease the growth of characters and to give a linear show of progression for a character.
As I stated ranks are not necessary and while there are a number of bonuses that a character receives upon reaching a new rank, this can be accomplished by the game master awarding a bonuses when he feels that characters have achieved important goals or have accomplished certain tasks.
The most important aspect of the game, when dealing with character growth, is the use of Merit Points. Like experience points in other games, merit points are used to show the character progression. However, unlike other games merit points are used to purchase abilities and pay for the cost of being a specific character. Each ability costs a certain amount of merit, when a player takes a specific ability he must then achieve enough merit to “pay off” the purchase of the ability, in some cases this is as low as 50 merit points in others as much as 1750. This merit cost for the ability is added with the rank merit that a character must gain in order to gain a new rank. Merit is achieved through the defeat of monsters, however, the greatest amount given is to players that achieve specific events, these can be anything from a GM established goal to that of completing a mission in a specific way to achieving goals set by the players themselves.
Most characters must always gain 1000 merit points to achieve a new rank and in doing so gain access to several rank bonuses. These rank bonuses include shedding insanity points, increase temptation or redemption points, increase their health or fatigue, or gain new skills. Merit is also important to creating high ranked characters. Instead of making a 15th rank character you must make a character using merit points, such as 20,000; 50,000, or even 100,000 merit points. This is done because not all characters are going to purchase abilities every rank, and those that do my purchase the same abilities over and over again. Thus all characters are equal in power because they were all created using the same number of merit points.
Finally, the die mechanic uses a partial success system that emulates multiple success system combined with a classless system it allows for unlimited character growth. It allows the use of multiple successes through the use of a single (2-d10) die roll. This is efficient as it does away with multiple dice pools nor rolling multiple different die to determine results. This is a “single-die” mechanic, or rather a single roll mechanic that requires the use of 2-d10 to determine any result. If you are interested Kaplow Games offers a double-d10 die, they are lightweight and durable, if a bit large and would be put to a lot of use with this system.
Legends of Kralis, and indeed the TGS, is a classless system. Because of this the author has chosen to give players many choices in playing different races to compensate for this. To this end FMI has created the races to act like classes in a sense, meaning that as a player you choose to be a specific race like you would choose to be a class. Each race requires that you achieve merit points to acquire a new rank. Each race comes with a description, features as well as traits that act like race based abilities. These include abilities such as Battle Leader, Attack Coordination, Flight, Invisibility, and other abilities that are unique to the race. Many of the races are divided into sub-races, meaning that you just do not play an aelwyn, you play a Shire Kin, or Briar Kin, etc., that that have sub-races list the most prevalent of sub-race to be played.
Racial features gives bonuses to the race by adjusting attribute scores, and indicate free racial skills (which start out higher than other skills).
Chapter One – Races includes a base of fifteen races: Acires, Aelwyn, Ba-liyan, Centaur, Dwarves, Elves, Firbogs, Gnomes, Humans, Jakara, Kanus, Manax, Minotaurs, Sprites and Trolls. While the races include the archetypes common in most fantasy games there are more than a few new and unique races, a majority of which are animporphic. An interesting theme seems to have rolled out of the authors mind (one that I have not yet asked about), it seems that all the playable races in LoK and in the forthcoming Talarius Beastiary are unique aspects of man from the bestial to the sublime, from the deep thinking philosophical side to the uncaring, unthinking side. I am not sure if this was the intent or something of happenstance, in either case they all appear to represent some form of man as they do in the mythologies or stories from which they were drawn.
Chapter Two – Character Creation is where you get the meat on the bones of your character. There are eight attributes along with health, fatigue, and defenses. While I am not a big fan of numerous attributes, I am not a big find of only two or three attributes. However, the use of eight attributes within LoK fits the bill for this game perfectly as all the attributes are used in skills as well as prerequisites for abilities.
It is at this point, the arranging of the attributes, that there is a bit of an inconvenience, nothing major mind you. In chapter one we find that each of the races comes with attribute modifiers. In chapter two we begin to apply those modifiers, I would have liked to have had all the modifiers from chapter one in this one location. However, like I have stated this is only a minor inconvenience as writing down the modifiers on another sheet resolves this issue.
All stats for characters are based on size. To this are added the racial attribute modifiers as well as 200 points, which are spread among all eight of the attributes. The stats presented are for small, medium and large, and reflect the ideas that small creatures are faster, larger creatures are stronger and medium creatures are the average. The attributes are divided into two major categories: Physical and Mental. Strength, Stamina, Agility and Perception make up the Physical Attributes, while Intelligence, Wits, Willpower and Charisma make up the Mental Attributes. Only the stats for Physical Attributes are different for each of the sizes, ranging from 40 to 60. The Mental Attributes are all set at 50 and represent the fact that all beings have the same mental capacity. The chapter also includes Philosophies.
Some readers and those that simply glance at the game will likely say its just another form of alignment like that of Palladium or even Dungeons and Dragons. They would be wrong. The only thing that philosophies have in common with alignments is that the both have evil, good and neutral in the terminology, after that there is nothing similar between them. A character’s philosophy “describes the basic approach for their behavior. It is not a rigid set of inviolate rules, but too many transgressions can have dangerous consequences.” Philosophies are “tracked” through redemption and temptation points. These points indicate in which direction a characters morality is heading. More Redemption Points than Temptation Points, you are in the realm of good. More Temptation Points than Redemption Points your in the realm of evil. Low points in either is often indicative of a neutral view on the world and it is the most common type of philosophy. Most beings and creatures turn out to be nothing more than Neutral in their thinking even though they may have periods where they are doing good or evil.
Most beginning characters do not have points in either redemption and temptation points, this depends on whether the character is good, evil or neutral. However, if the GM sees fit he can give characters a number of points in either Redemption or Temptation, to instill a greater sense of good vs. evil condition. Philosophies are in no means are a static number, a condition or way of thinking; players are not constrained to being good or evil, unless they choose to be. Many times a character can perform an evil act of heinous proportions and yet remain neutral and still follow a deity of good.
Chapter Three – Character Skills and Abilities, is the second longest chapter and contains the most detail. When first creating a character this chapter can be daunting, with all the various skills and abilities. The opening of the chapter deals with how skills and abilities work. As one of the longest chapters, the author has made it as easy as possible to navigate. Both the skills section and ability section have indexes as well as “A Word On” that gives players an idea of what skills and abilities they may want to have. The ability index gives the player all the necessary information to choose an ability without reading the full effect of the ability.
In most any game the largest number of rules for role-playing come into play during a combat scenario. As much as we might wish that we could go through a combat scenario without rules, arguments and questions will arise just as children playing cops and robbers will argue without defined rules: “Got ya! No ya didn’t! Yes, I did!” Chapter 4 – Combat breaks down all the various rules and concepts that might be needed when dealing with such a detailed concept like combat.
An important concept to that of combat is the use of Action Points. Similar in fashion to the action points within the PC game Fallout, action points are used by characters in order to perform action such as attacking, casting spells, performing some skills, and moving. Every creature in the game has a base of six action points. Smaller creatures can perform more actions during a turn than larger creatures; however, all creatures cast spells, use psionic powers and call upon divine powers at the same rate.
Combat in LoK, as well as within all games from FMI, is deadly and quick. This is made possible through the use of the partial success system that is implemented within the core of the TGS. When a character attacks or defends they must roll beneath their WeaponCraft skill or their Physical Defense. Those that attack set the TS (Target Success) that the defender must beat in order to avoid all damage.
However, any successes that a defender gets from their roll are subtracted from the attackers total. For example, character A is attacking character B. Character “A” has a WeaponCraft skill of 84 and rolls a 30 on 2-d10. He has gained 5 successes. Character “B” has a Physical Defense of 68 and rolls a 36. He gains 4 successes, leaving only 1 total success to do damage with. With the total number of successes determined the attacker multiplies this by the base damage of the attack or weapon. In this example, character “A” was using a longsword that does four points of damage and with only 1 success does four points of damage to character “B”.
The magic within LoK comes in two flavors, three if you count divine powers. As a spellcster, which anyone can become to any degree they like, you are able to use two different types of magical systems. There is Static Magic that uses canned spells, readily available for anyone to use, but especially for those that lack the desire to be an elementalist. Then there is Elemental Magic which is discussed in only two pages and is the free-form magical system akin to the magic in Mage: The Ascension. Static Magic and Elemental Magic work in the same way as do all skills within LoK. In order to cast a spell you must successfully meet or beat a TS (Target Success) for the spell. Once you have done this you then pay Fatigue Points to power the spell and thus cast it. The differences between Static and Elemental magic are huge yet neither ask the player to carry spellbooks around in order to cast their spells. In order to cast spells of various types players must take the ability: Arcane Touch, each time they wish to use a different element.
In Static Magic there are lists of spells that are broken down into six elements of power: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, Spirit and Essence. There is also a combination of elements that are opposed to each other called Amalgam Spells. Each of the elements of powers are further broke down into three different categories such as defensive, offensive, utility, animation, alteration, etc. Each of these categories has five spells so there are fifteen spells per element. Those that choose to use static magic are constrained to use the spells with very little alteration. Finally, those that use static magic can eventually use amalgam spells by having two opposing elements in their repertoire.
A player that decides to become an Elementalist has greater flexibility, but sacrifices ease of use for this. With elementalism a character creates his spells on the fly. Need an air bridge, use air; need a fiery ball of death, use fire; need to summon a fire elemental, you are going to need spirit and fire to summon it. Each of these requires the player to create the spell using set parameters: Elemental Cost, Range Cost, Area of Effect Cost, Duration, Intensity, and Damage Effect Cost. These all add up to give a player a TS and Fatigue Cost for the spell.
The other form of magic as some will call it is the use of Divine Powers. Divine Powers are those gifted from the deities that priests follow and they come in two forms: Vested and Bestowed. Vested powers are those that are chosen by the players and are powers that are related to the character’s philosophy. Bestowed powers are those signature powers that mark the chosen as a servant of their specific deity. No chosen may have more than four (4) Bestowed Powers from one deity, and they can never be replaced by different ones. Vested powers are the easiest to call forth and cost the player very little in comparison to the bestowed powers, but require the use of Divine Knowledge in order to meet or beat a TS. Bestowed powers, which are directly from the deity the player has chosen to follow, are extremely powerful and cost the player a great deal to use. This cost ranges from greater fatigue costs to insanity points to loss of health to loss of successes on skills for sometime. Unlike vested powers, which require the player to beat a TS, bestowed powers are summoned through the character and just happen.
Finally, listed within the chapter of magic, psionics are yet another way for players to alter their surroundings and play with the minds of others. Psionics require the use of Psicraft and act just like all skills: meet or beat a TS. With psionics players are limited to only having 4 powers for every 50 points they have in Psicraft, however, players are allowed to Harvest powers from others they come in contact with. These harvested powers are randomly determined and are made up of four powers. These harvested powers can either be stored within a gem or used immediately. In this way a player is really never without all the powers that he could need or possible use.
One last note that must be addressed about magic in LoK is in regards to that of the naming conventions that LoK attributes to its spells, divine powers and psionic powers. Many of the names will appear to be familiar with those that have played games such as D&D, Palladium and others, these include fireball, wall of stone, and others. I have no problem with these as I see it there are so many ways that you can name a fireball a fireball.
Game Masters Section
The book, at least that which has rules, ends with Chapter Seven – Game Masters Section. This chapter is a compact chapter that contains a lot of detail on various subjects from player characters, to heroic luck, to the SIS, to dealing with wealth, followers, NPCs, poison, assassination, and finally ending with a large section on magical items. As there is a great deal within the chapter I am going to focus on Heroic Luck, the Social Interaction System (SIS) and magical items.
First introduced in chapter 1, Heroic Luck are points that characters big with. These points are generally used to allow characters to re-roll failed checks. When a character does this the player must take the second roll, even if it is worse. Heroic Luck is not just for allowing for re-rolls of failed checks, using various amounts of heroic luck allows players to alter the game in various ways. Heroic Luck can also be used by the players to control more of the campaign and the game. By sacrificing a number of Heroic Luck a character may be able to find an impossible to locate hidden door that can be used to escape a deadly situation, or completely ignore the effects of a specific damage or ability.
In role-playing games you tend to have players that are exceptional players: creative, inventive, and out going. However, there are those players that are very exceptional players and not so exceptional players that are just not extroverted. In LoK this is discussed through the use of the Social Interaction System. It is more a discussion on the use of social skills in the same way that all other skills are used: meet or beat a TS or beat an opposed roll. What is great about this is that it gives examples and actually pushes the GM and players alike to think like their characters. If players can suggest strategies for combat such as ambushes, flanking maneuvers and the like, these same concepts should be used in social interactions. LoK integrates the Social Interaction System directly into the game through the use of social skills such as Lie, Convince, Confuse, Debate, and Skepticism. The rules suggest that when one of the social skills is used, the GM should determine a difficulty and make a skill roll immediately and instead of using the results of this skill roll to determine the success or failure of the attempt, but to base the tone of the conversation and the initial reaction of the NPC on social roll.
All in all the use of the system is a very strong point of the game as it takes the two dynamics of role playing and roll-playing and creates a system that allows players to role play their characters with solid understanding of failure or success.
Finally, on my agenda was to look at the magical item section for LoK. What the author has created is a unique and interesting way of handling magical items, both creating them and use of them. There are three types of magical items: Spellbound, Enchanted and Arcane. Spellbound items are just that, items that have either have only one use (potions, salves, dusts, etc) or can only be used once per day. Spellbound items can be created fairly easy through the use of the spells Gird Object and Permanent.
Spellbound items are limited to only the use of the spells and divine powers that are presented in Chapter 5.
The second types of magical items are Enchanted Items.
These are items that combine the use of the spells and powers, but also a number of bonuses that include bonus successes, attribute bonuses, action point bonuses, skill bonuses, and a number of other bonuses. These items are not as numerous as spellbound items but are far more accessible than those of the arcane type.
Arcane magical items are the most powerful of all the items. They are divided into lesser, greater and superior arcanes. Each type of arcane has a number of Weird Abilities: lesser have 3, greater have 6 and superior have 9. Arcane items have enchantment bonuses as well as specific weird abilities. Unlike spellbound and enchanted items, arcane items require the use of merit points in order to use or gain new weird abilities. Because of this arcane items change their powers from user to user as each has spent specific amounts of merit and time with the item.
There are 34 different arcane abilities that have various weird ranks (explained in a moment).
The arcane abilities range from Ability Power (the magical ability to allow users to use any one of the various Abilities presented in Chapter 3) to Bane to Defense to Element Control to Resistances (and Protections) to various other forms, as well as holy and unholy abilities. Every arcane ability requires the user to spend 350 merit points per rank to gain the use of a new ability that can be randomly chosen or chosen by the GM.
Creating magical items (other than spellbound items) are done through the use of weird ranks. They help determine the cost, the length of time it takes, and the health that it takes to create the item. Health?! Yes, health all arcane items and enchanted items take certain amounts of health to empower the items. Here is the kicker, the health points that are used do not necessarily have to be those of the player. Can you say sacrifice? I got all goose-bumpy when I had a vision of a warlock with cages filled with other creatures and beasties and sucking the life from them in a Princess Bride kinda way.
This book is a solid read, its pages are filled with great information and are extremely detailed. There is art on nearly every page of the book including a number of pieces by Jeff Perryman called Dungeon Notes (which are extremely funny and add a great flavor to the whole game). The rules are extremely solid and run smoothly.
There is something in here for everyone from fantasy to science fiction. It comes with a very detailed index, a solid table of contents and there is no getting lost in the book, as every page has a page title on the bottom next to the page number.
All-in-all Legend of Kralis is a well written, well laid out book that will appeal to those that enjoy d100 based systems and is easily used by both veterans and new gamers that want to learn a new system. It is currently available as a PDF download for 10.00 and Print on Demand for 20.00. The hard back release has yet to be determined.