Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Bethorm - first impressions of the rules

Today I had a day off from work, and unusual for me, I managed to plow through a lot of the rules, and made my first character. Here are some impressions.

After my first positive post about the weird creatures finally being illustrated, it's natural to start off with the visuals. The book is set in two columns, a constant flow of text and the font is sans serif. I'm really not friends with that choice. But, what is worse is the fact that the sections flow into each other. Section 3 is Character Generation, but after all the 3.1 and 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 sections which sometimes feel very cluttered and chopped up, you will find yourself in 4 and 4.1 and 4.1.1 etc without noticing! Add to this the fact that some things are referenced out of order and I find the organization to be less friendly that it should be. Some page breaks would have been nice.

Here it's worth diving into a few facts about how the book is organized. Before you get as far as character generation, you will have read sections on how to set up a typical campaign and a time line of the world. Then you come to making your character, which starts with clan and lineage before you get to anything else. Here you not only get the to the point step by step procedure, you also get an explanation of what a clan is, how the work and interact. This is interesting.

It's clear that Jeff has focused on making the setting become clear and understandable by integrating it into the teaching of the rules. I think this is a very good idea for a setting like Tekumel. It really works. Reading through it, you get a good idea of lot of Tekumel concepts and how they relate to a thing you can grasp, the character. It might make the book be a bit wordy when referencing, but as a starter game for Tekumel this is the way to go. Good thinking! I really like that.

So, the rules and procedures then. Here I found Bethorm to be a bit puzzling. Actually, it made me think a bit of Palladium. Now, I know Palladium Books has got a reputation, but I do not make the comparison with the intention of doing that connection. It's just that the wall of text, interspersed with line art, feels very much like a book from Palladium. Also, there are abilities, calculated abilities which generate points, long list of skills which seems to be a bit odd in its focus and lots of modifiers and fiddly bits. Basically, it feels very old school, and not in the rules lite variety that has become the flavour of choice in OSR circles.

You will do some calculations, and thumbing back and forth in the rules while doing your character, and running a grapple or a called shot will make you break out the rules and do some thinking before you move on. That's how these rules come across. In theory it looks easy, just roll low on 2d10 and doubles are good/bad crits. Simple, if it weren't for all the details. The proof of the pudding will be trying it at the table, I guess.

Next I'll post my thoughts on the character generation, how it works and what it emphasize.
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