Saturday, December 05, 2009

Review: World of Onn, Supplement I

Good Evening, All:

This is a quick review of the World of Onn: Supplement I, by Jim Bobb of Fantasy Adventures Studio. This review is based on the Print-On-Demand version of the product. The World of Onn: Supplement I book, which I will abbreviate for the rest of this review as WO:Sup1, is compatible with the Swords & Wizardry Core Rules.

In Print-On-Demand format, WO:Sup1 is a standard-sized softcover RPG text. Its black cover and white lettering are very simple and understated. The line art used for the front cover image is a bit pixelated, but captures the flavor of the early editions of "the World's Most Popular Roleplaying Game" that Swords & Wizardry was created to emulate. The text on the back cover is large and easy to read, offering a description of the contents of the book: expanded character abilities, new sub-classes, new items, new spells, new monsters, some combat variations, and a World of Onn gazetteer. That's a lot to pack in 146 pages, but I think it does a pretty good job of it.

Kimberly Nicholson did the cover art and all of the interior black-and-white line art, keeping a consistent "old school" flavor to the artwork throughout the book. Her work comes across as a talented amateur, but she's got a lot more talent than I could hope to show. The art fits the flavor of the book very well, and like many of the older edition books, there are numerous pictures of busty women scantily clad, so I have to give the book props for that.

Although the book has 146 pages, four are basically the title page and table of contents, two contain the legal text and the last page is blank. The rest is all Open Game Content, and there's a lot of great content there. The text is easy to read, and well presented. I had no problems reading it, at all.

After the obligatory introduction page, the author wastes no time in jumping into the rules he wants to present. We start off with the Characters chapter and ability scores. Ability scores are further defined than in Swords & Wizardry (S&W), offering additional modifiers and clarifications that lend themselves to a simplified AD&D 1st Edition feel in some ways. Although the stat breakdown is based on four-point spreads instead of the bell curve of the S&W optional rules, I did like the effort put in here. I may borrow some of this for my own S&W variant, but really, it's for those that want a simple 1E flavor to their characters. System shock is back, and the number of languages you can speak are defined now.

Character races have been separated from class, and a new consistent rule for level limits for non-humans based on your class's prime requisite stats is introduced that I really like. The races of WO:Sup1 include the common races of men, dwarves, elves, and halflings, as well as new races (inspired by newer editions, it would appear) such as the forged ones, giantkin, tigrans and trollkin. I like the flavor of the newer races, and in general, their abilities seem somewhat reasonable when compared to the original races. (They may be a little more powerful than the average, but not nearly as bad as other examples of these concepts that I've seen.)

The character classes of this book include re-writes of the three primary classes of S&W (Fighting-Man, Cleric and Magic-User), as well as six new sub-classes, two for each of the main classes. These are Druids and Shao Disciples (for Cleric), Divine Champions and Rangers (for Fighting-Man) and Illusionists and Bard (for Magic-Users). In each case, the classes typically have a nubmer of new abilities they can gain over the course of their adventuring career. For example, Fighting-Men now start with Weapon Mastery, and gain Combat Options (much like MyD20 Lite's Talents in concept and execution). The Magic-User gains spell research and item creation abilities. The Bard has bardic lore, bardic luck (an inspirational ability), spells, the ability to decipher script and a stronghold at higher levels. The list goes on. I like many of the options presented here, and I will likely integrate some of them into my own growing Player's Guide.

In addition to new special abilities, each class is defined with three new saving throw types based on 3E's save categories: Ego (Will), Dodge (Reflex) and Toughness (Fortitude). This is a bit confusing at first, as these columns aren't explained until you get to the saving throws section under Combat, but those who have read MyD20 already know that's a direction I went as well, so I like it.

The Equipment chapter is short, but contains a large variety of weapons and armor types, as well as more items available for purchase. I particularly liked the three adventurer's pack options.

After that, we come to the Magic section. Here, we are treated to some clarification on spellcasting that brings magic closer to that simplified 1E feel, and then cover spelllists and spells for each of the spellcasting classes. Within each class, spells are listed alphabetically, without regard for level.

A two page section introduces the continuous initiative system, which pretty much starts you out on a particular number and then you simply add your next initiative roll to your current score to get the next place on the initiative ladder you go. There are no circular rounds. Taking faster actions means you get to do more in a combat than taking slower actions.

The Combat chapter offers a good number of clarifications that bring the game closer to that simplified 1E feel I'd noticed before. All in all, I like the clarifications. The concept that a critical fumble gives all enemies within melee attack range a free attack against you is cool, and one that I will probably introduce into my games. Another interesting twist I noticed was that, with no Rogue class in the game, there's a rule that basically gives everyone the ability to backstab. As I said, there's some neat stuff there.

A two page section on Playing the Game introduces rules to let characters make listening checks to hear noises, detect traps and secret doors, and heal others a little (1d3) after combat by bandaging them up, as well as clarifying the power of wishes.

Monsters is our next stop. At nine pages and over twenty monsters, there's some neat new stuff in here, included a lower HD minotaur species that could have been a character race, dragons of Onn, some new elemental types, forged ones and mek stats, and even a Shifter Cat that resembles a certain miniature I have of a panther-like creature with tentacles popping out of its shoulders. I definitely liked seeing that in the list.

Twenty-two pages of treasure really help to integrate the new spells, classes and races into a World of Onn game. I liked flipping through this part and reading some of the new things I found within this section. The Elemental Armor is pretty cool, as are the Elemental Weapons, and some of the new miscellaneous items. I'm going to have a lot of fun raiding this section.

After magic, we finally get to see a two-page hex map of the World of Onn on pp. 120-121, and we're off into the world of Onn. The history section is a page and a half, and then there's half a page on altering Onn to make it your own game. There are both steampunk meks and black powder weapons by default in the Onn setting, but the Referee is encouraged to make changes if they feel the need. Six pages cover the list of lands, which are short and succinct but very well written, with lots of adventure ideas in them. (Of course, there's the ubiquitous Great Kingdom among the entries, probably a tribute to the old kingdom of the same name shared by both Greyhawk and Blackmoor back in the day.)

The Appendices of WO:Sup1 are interesting and varied. There's a one-page synopsis of the deities of the World of Onn, followed by a one-page appendix on golemcraft. After that, we spend two pages on rules for enchanting magic items, and three pages on familiars. Finally, there are three pages on strongholds and followers, including a table for each major class in regards to the type of followers a character of that class might attract, at least in terms of numbers and levels.

Whew, that's a lot to pack into one book!

My Thoughts
All in all, I really like the flavor of this book. If I weren't writing my own S&W variant, I'd be using this book for my next D&D-based game. There's a lot of good meat in there, and it's very well integrated with itself. I definitely consider it a quality effort. As it is, I know I'm going to be raiding it for a few things here and there.

It does have a few downfalls, but these are minor. The art, as I've mentioned, does have an amateurish quality to it. I like it, but there are some that might not. While I like a lot of what's in the supplement, I don't like some of the things: I think the Continuous Initiative Cycle is an interesting idea, but I don't want to use it in my game. It just doesn't appeal to me. Also, I don't like mechs and such in my fantasy. That's one of the reasons I didn't get into Eberron back in the day. I don't mind black powder weapons, though.

There may be those that may feel that twenty pages or so out of 146 is too little for a world setting. I like the way it was handled, but I think I would have enjoyed more information regarding the setting. I thought I was getting a bit more of that when I picked out the book. Still, that being said, I really like what I got, so I'm still glad I picked this one up.

All in all, I'd have to rate this product as an 8 out of 10.

Now that you've heard what I have to say, what do you think of the book? Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know, and if you liked the review, I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on that, too.

With Regards,

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