Game: En Ferreus Veritas
Publisher: Heyoka Studios
Review Dated: 7th, December 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
“Heyoka Studios rejects all claims of liability associated with acts performed after you read this book. We have no liability for acts performed with, but not limited to, this book, knives, bats, home made PVC claymores, those shuriken you buy from Army/Navy stores, beer bottles, tequila, freaky German porn, bowling shoes, Apple Quadras, the Accursed Temple of Cazic Thule, flying monkeys, coconut Zingers, the truth about the grassy knoll, duct tape, or hamsters.”
This seems like such an import disclaimer that I just had to begin the review with it too!
En Ferreus Vertias is about rapiers. If you need to be told that that’s a type of sword then it might not be the best PDF for you. Mind you, I can’t think of a better introduction to roleplaying friendly rapiers than En Ferrus Vertitas either, so let’s say that the PDF is suitable for every level of experience; it’s just up to you have the interest.
It’s misleading (and wrong) to write off En Ferrus Vertias as a PDF just about rapiers too. There’s a wider scope to the supplement than that. Rapiers are the inspiration for the product but the supplement opens up to include fantasy cities, whole realms, melee styles, spells and psionics too. If you’re a psionics fan and find yourself muttering that all too often the d20 supplements forget entirely about you then you’ll be pleased to see stats for psionic rapiers here.
En Ferreus Veritas starts as it means to go on. We get an accurate and researched introduction to the history of rapiers but it is a succinct account and one written for roleplayers wanting to know only what they need to know for their game. As the download quickly tours the Spanish, Italian and French styles we learn which one was concerned with dodging and which one favoured parrying. Importantly, we learn why the styles evolved this way. Since roleplaying worlds typically don’t mimic Earth history very well – what with monsters and magic – En Ferreus Veritas rather sagely introduces the made up Annwvyn and Moldovian styles. Annwvyan is based on a fairy-real British Isle style, where the canons of the Royal Navy didn’t make fencing obsolete. The Moldovian style puts you in good stead against vampires and werewolves. Fancy having a cross build into the hilt of your rapier or a silver tip? Learn the Moldovian style. Later on in the supplement we’re actually given world information about Moldovia and Annwvyn.
Can you tell your forte from your fuller? No? It might be rather embarrassing the next time you’re playing a fighter and an NPC cautions that your fuller is choked. My what? There’s a very brief but effective summary of the parts of a rapier and I really wish I’d read it before my noble fencing game came to a close. Damn.
Once you know all that you need to know about the different parts of the sword you can come look at custom swords, magic and psionic rapiers with fresh eyes. If the rapier is made up of so many different bits and each bit has a separate function and use then that opens up a whole new world of possibilities. That’s just what happens here. It’s no longer just important to have an especially pointed tip or a slyly sharpened edge, you’ll want your basket guard and annellets to be better than your opponents’ too. Magic weapons are thankfully much more entertaining than just +2 damage with +1 random elemental effect. We’ve the likes of the Queen’s Defenders, the magical rapiers given to the fairy queen of Annwyn’s personal guard (and lovers) and skittish blades that extend an aura of nervousness!
En Ferreus Veritas goes on to look at the drop-in-and-play cities of Castille and Ventia. We get the nations of Gascon, Annwvyn and Moldovia. Some gamers might not like the fact that they’re subtly modified real-Earth names – but I do. There are just a few pages for each setting, enough to give a flavour to the place, suggest some suitable plot hooks (which typically involve fencing and rapiers) and, of course, supply some fencing style information about each. It doesn’t take much to rile me with massive sidesteps like this; I’ll claim “filler” at the drop of the hat. But not here, although these locations aren’t 100% on topic I’m entirely mollified by the foreshadowing and I feel that they do enhance and improve the PDF. And prestige classes. They’re always popular. En Ferreus Vertias squeezes in some short prestige class for each location. We’re there is a fencing style there are people who have mastered it.
Fear not. If you couldn’t care less about pre-made settings, especially just to benefit from made-up fighting styles then perhaps the cut and thrust of d20 feats are more to your taste. Whereas I do like to poke fun at the system and point out that it seems almost illegal to carry the d20 logo without introducing some new feats I will admit that they fit En Ferreus Veritas rather well. The “Half Circular Parry” feat might seem rather redundant without a special rapier focus in your game but its ideal for this PDF. If you pull it off you’ve earned yourself another riposte. I think feats like this bring back tactics and strategy to one-on-one fights and I that’s just what I want for a duel.
There are even new spells and psionics here. It is only a 53-paged PDF. As you’ll have come to expect these new additions are built around a fencing focus. Spells like Dramatic Dodge actually lower the combatant’s own BAB but allows her to channel the points into damage reduction. A lunge rips a hole in the short or cuts off a lock of hair – that’s the thing, a dramatic dodge. Just combine this paragraph with the one above; a half circular parry earns a riposte, which forces a Dramatic Dodge (and a splash of magic). Ooo. We’ll be fighting on tables or swinging from chandlers next.
Heyoka Studios aren’t quite the household name (gamer household, that is) that some PDF publishers have managed to become. Give them time. Quirky but practical products like En Ferreus Veritas will catch people’s eye and hold their attention. It is a niche product but in many ways it seems bigger than the niche. It’s one of those rare gaming accessories that you’ll buy for one thing (rapiers, in this case) and find yourself using rather more than you expected.