Thursday, April 01, 2010

Review: World of Onn Core Rules...

Good Morning, All:

Back in December, I wrote a review of the World of Onn: Supplement I, by James E. Bobb of Fantasy Adventures Studios. Since then, Fantasy Adventure Studios has released an updated version entitled World of Onn: Core Rules, which contains additional campaign setting material as well as a complete rules system based on Swords & Wizardry for running games in the World of Onn. This is a review of the World of Onn: Core Rules. In the interests of full disclosure, I received a free copy of the PDF for review purposes. As this product shares a lot in common with the original Supplement One, I am going to mostly report on the differences, in terms of content.

The PDF itself is 230 pages long, which is 84 pages more than the original supplement. The World of Onn Core Rules has a black front cover with white lettering and line art by Kimberly Nicholson that beautifully captures the fantasy flavor of the game. Once again, 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 has improved from the first supplement, with a slight change in style that translates into a stronger "Old School" appearance. Some of the images are recycled from the original supplement, so you can see the improvements between the older images and newer ones. I would like to give props to Kimberly for her ever-improving skills.

Although the PDF has 230 pages, nine are basically the front cover, back cover, title page, table of contents, legal text and one blank page. The rest is released as Open Game Content, and once again, 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.

The author begins this book with a foreword, an explanation that, in his exuberance to get the original Supplement One out, he felt that he left some elements out that he later wished he could include. This product is an effort to create a more rounded introduction to the World of Onn, and also integrate his rules modifications with the existing Swords & Wizardy rules so that Referees would only need the one book to run games in this setting. Let's see how his book measures up to his purpose here.

After a brief introduction to roleplaying in general and dice, then dove into ability scores. Nothing new beyond what was covered in Supplement One here, but then we dive into races. Character races have been separated from class, and includes the common races of men, dwarves, elves, and halflings, as well as the Supplement One races of forged ones, giantkin, tigrans and trollkin. Also, this book introduces the endu (minotaurs), gnomes and gnolls, further expanding on options for character development.

The character classes of this book re-writes and reorganizes the nine classes/subclasses presented in Supplement One, and introduces a new character class as well, the Spellblade (a magic-user/fighting-man combination class that's very well executed, in my opinion). Bards are in a class by themselves instead of being a sub-class of Magic-User as per Supplement One, and the Spellblade falls under Warriors. I've noticed that the number of Fighting-Man Combat Options has increased, with some nice additions. In addition, the many options of Supplement One are repeated here. As I've said before, I like many of the options presented in this section, and feel that it creates a good flavor for gaming.

The section on equipment has been greatly expanded from Supplement One, with plent of detail on the items listed.

After that, we enter the section entitled "Playing the Game." Here, we find the rules on experience points and levels, hirelings, time and the adventurer, encounters, reactions, fleeing and escape.

Combat is next, and this section does a great job of integrating Swords & Wizardry with the material from Supplement One. The intiative system I had problems with in Supplement One, the Continuous Initiative System, has been moved to an optional rule in the appendices, giving way to a more traditionally inspired initiative system based on a blend of 3E and 1E rules. The combat options have been expanded, keeping the flavor of a rules-light game but covering elements that sometimes come up with people having previous exposure to more complex rules systems.

The Magic section is next, and it covers all the bases very well. I have noticed that there are a handful of new spells, even beyond those introduced in Supplement One. All are well written and do not appear to duplicate existing spell functionality. In addition, some spells have gained new functionality. For example, the curative spells now cover some of the conditions that systems like 3E address with restoration spells, keeping the number of spells low while improving the usability of existing spells. I think that some of these changes are quite innovative, and wish I'd thought of them myself before releasing the MyD20 Lite Player's Guide. The addition of a 4th level Magic-User spell Turn Undead was sheer genius.

That ends the Player's Section. The Referee's Section is next, and starts with some basic advice in a chapter entitled "Referee Information A to Z." Here, we find general information on designing an adventure, creating a campaign, extended ability scores, anti-clerics, bonus spells optional rules, conditional states, a simple task/skill resolution system, traps and hazards, damage reduction, more on awarding experience points, more information on hit dice and hit points, illusions, natural healing, raising the dead, summoning spells, weapon and armor proficiency, and adjudicating wishes.

Monsters is our next stop. There are 48 pages of monsters (about 206 of them, all told) in this tome, including the monsters from Supplement One and Swords & Wizardry. In addition, I saw a few more, including the Doom Orb (a replacement for the Beholder, I'm sure) and a few others that looked new to me. Following the monster descriptions themselves, there are rules for creating your own monsters, as well as world-specific encounter tables that take advantage of all the monsters described in World of Onn Core Rules (except for dragons, which are noted as needing to be placed by the Referee at their whim, not that of a random table).

Twenty-two pages of treasure really help to integrate the new spells, classes and races into a World of Onn game. I honestly couldn't tell you if anything new was added here, beyond items that built on the newly added elements to World of Onn Core Rules that were not found in Supplement One. However, I still like this section as much as I did in Supplement One.

From there, we dive directly into the World of Onn. The history section and maps for Ossus do not appear to have changed much from Supplement One, but after that, we get into the more specific campaign setting information. The lands of Ossus represent much of the same material we saw in Supplement One. However, that is followed by a section on the lands of Var-Ultar, including a new map and four more pages of kingdoms and locales. Like the rest of the book, this section is short and succinct but very well written, with lots of adventure ideas packed in the pages.

The Appendices of World of Onn Core Rules are interesting and varied. There's a one-page synopsis of the deities of the World of Onn, followed by three pages of optional character creation rules, including such concepts as multiclassing, race as class, and an extended skill system. After that, we spend two pages on golemcraft, two pages on rules for enchanting magic items, and two pages on familiars. There's one page on strongholds and followers, two pages on the continuous initiative system, one page on special materials, two great pages on random dungeons and finally a page on random wilderness generation.

As you can see, there's a lot to this book.

My Thoughts
All in all, I really like the flavor of the World of Onn Core Rules. Like Supplement One, there's a lot of good stuff in here, that's well integrated throughout and looks like a lot of fun to run and play. The World of Onn Core Rules definitely steps up here, with improved art and better organization than Supplement One. I really believe the author delivers on his intent here, presenting a well-rounded world setting and rules system that could easily support gaming just using the one book itself.

If you already have Supplement One, you can get by with the original supplement and Swords & Wizardry itself. However, if you haven't picked up Supplement One, or if you're just a collector like I am, I'd strongly urge you to consider World of Onn Core Rules over the original Supplement.

That all being said, I'd have to rate this product as an 8.5 out of 10.

So, for those of you who have picked up this book yourselves, what do you think of the book? As always, please feel free to leave a comment, and if you liked the review, I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts on that, too.

With Warm Regards,

1 comment:

James Bobb said...

Flynn, thank you for your thorough and honest review!