HC SVNT Dracones sounds as exotic as it does a mouthful; take that as a sign of things to come.
This is a post-human RPG. It’s the future, the humans are gone and only anthropomorphic animals, known as Vectors, remain. Creator Pierce Fraser opens by defining the theme of the game and it’s about humanity.
I liked HSD but only after I’d given up on it twice, wanted to transport myself to a future in which a sexy catgirl could read me the third revised version of the rule book and I even tried reading the book backwards.
I think backwards reading is the most important challenge you’ll face with HSD. It’s clear this game is part of a vast universe and backstory created by Pierce and it is equally clear the game is desperate to tell you all about the awesome. The mistake, I think, it makes is by presenting this as a story and asking you to read through the history of the world before persuading you should care about it. 29 pages in and I’m still catching up with what happened.
As I struggled through Dracones on the first read I was strongly reminded of Mutant Year Zero and how incredibly different it was. In Mutant Year Zero you know you’re playing a mutant and you know life is going to be very interesting. The game goes their first, it gets you engaged in the new possibilities of the world and actively holds back the “how we got there” part for later.
My attempt of a summary is this; the corporation(s) seize control of Mars and shrug off political control there, the governments of Earth ban the technology to create these anthros and so it ends up on Mars and leads to war.
I think I’ve an itching to play a furry RPG and I think HSD would be perfect for it. This is a game that travels from a fast paced tabletop situation to one that can be used in the bulletin boards where furry RPGs lurk online. In that respect; HSD has clearly worked on me. I’ve read it all now. I get it. I like it. I can see what can be done with it and the stories that can be told. I’m just not sure I could persuade anyone else to read all 292 pages.
The Furry Future
HC SVNT Dracones picks up in a world where the people have no history, no culture, no lore… they only know that the humans generally fought among themselves and messed up so badly that they’re no longer around.
This does not make Vectors pacifists, far from it, but it does set an alarming shadow over the intergalactic world. There are spaceships, pirates, planets and corporations with their own determined agendas. Due to the science behind the Vectors some of these humanoids have mixed animal attributes; looks like a bipedal lion but has wings, for example. This is an exotic future.
The enemies are my favourite offering in the book. This may because they provide the only juxtaposition in which to measure the “normal” Vectors against. Whatever the Vector PCs are; they aren’t Vitae Demons, Transcendent Manifestation, Whispers or Palemen.
The Mechanics don’t pop out of the book at you. You need to be reading carefully to spot them. Roll the dice from the stat column, roll as many as you have in the right trait, add your proficiency bonus and if anyone of those rolls meet or exceed 8 then you’ve met with success.
HSD keeps things simple. We might have a range of character options and all sorts of possible Vector-animal types, spaceships, melee and ranged energy weapons but they’re all pretty much safely wrapped up in the mechanism above. I think this is exactly right for the expected audience.
Presentation and format
This is a long book and shouldn’t get any longer. That said; there needs to be more spacing and more sectioning. This won’t be an easy book to quickly look stats up in as a reading quest awaits. I suspect the solution is straight forward as it is brutal; cut junks of text and win clarity through sub-chapters.
I began my HC SVNT Dracones encounter by liking the interesting fonts and colour choice. That’s not how I ended as I finished my second read though. A colourful book is great but the weird “double letter” blue font takes its toll.
A stat block needs to be invented for the enemies. Just listing the attributes in a column may indicate how gracefully precise the attribute system is but looks weird.
What stands out, again and again, as impressive is the art. A game like this demands to be visual – and it is. You’re not left wondering what the Vectors look like. You’re not restricted by dominant art either. You’re shown enough to get a clear idea and fire the imagination. The enemies our Vectors might face are, once again, my favourite part of the layout. These are some nasty looking, rather scary, baddies.
I wanted to like HC SVNT Dracones. That’s why I gave it plenty of time, that’s why I read it twice before even mucking around with paper encounters to test the system or creating test characters. If I hadn’t have given the game as much time as I did I’m not sure I would have liked it. As it happens, HSD was given enough time with and I do like it.
Overall? HC SVNT Dracones gets my cautious vote. I only want to play the game with people already familiar with the system, though. I really want there to be a thriving community for online roleplay for this game as I’m sure that’ll be great fun.
My copy of HC SVNT Dracones was provided for review. The RPG is available at Drivethru RPG in PDF for just $3 at the time of writing and in hardback for a lot more.