Rave Reviews for Epic Role Playing
Industry Review of the Game Manual by therpgsite.com: “Holy hell, what a game.”
Industry Review of Rules Manual by enworld.org: “…for some folks it may just be the Holy Grail that they’ve been searching for.”
Industry Review of Book of the Arcane by flamesrising.com: “Overall, I give the Epic Role Playing Book of the Arcane two thumbs up. “
Amazon Review by Adrian Montoya: “4/5 stars: An overall great game. “
Amazon Review by Emile Pollack: “
5/5 stars: All in all, a remarkable game.”
Amazon Review by Brian Kelley: “5/5 stars: Once again, it’s a great system, enjoy it.”
Review by Zachary Houghton, therpgsite.com
Our first in-depth industry review of the Game Manual is in and we couldn’t be more excited. Here are some of the things he had to say:
Holy hell, what a game.
…As for Epic’s Game Manual (which is what this edition is proclaimed to be on the cover) is 303 pages long (not including reference sheets, logs, and character sheets in the back, of which there is a goodly amount), with a color exterior (the original near-watercolor style illustration from the original Rules Manual) and a black-and-white interior. Physically, this is a good-looking book for a black-and-white product, and Dark Matter did take the opportunity to ensure the layout for this product was clean and pleasing overall. I would have liked to see a few more illustrations (more on that later), but overall, the text and organization are very good.
…Epic does not use character classes, such as “Fighter” or “Rogue”. Instead, players choose (or are chosen by) a Guild. Guilds aren’t simply Ye Olde Merchant’s Guild or Thieves’ Guild, but instead organizations often with regional, religious, and/or natural affiliations. I consider this one of the best parts of the game. For example, a player wanting to run a fighter might turn towards the Archers of the Scarlet Mark (mercs), the Constables of Brightwall (lawdogs), or the Cavaliers of the White Lance (courtly warriors). Rogue/thief types might pick the Blades of Ehr or the Counsel Macabre. There are organizations for just about any “class” concept: some loose, some strict, some broadly defined, others narrowly so. Each guild had its own history and circumstances that make it stand out in broad relief against the others. The guilds and occupations are extremely well done, full of life, and brimming with conflict potential. There are nearly 50 Guilds in all, and they are probably my favorite feature of the entire RPG.
…One of the best features of the character creation/occupation section of Epic is the presence of checklists. During every step, there’s a checklist on the page, making sure you’re on track and giving a little more background a precisely why you’re doing what you’re doing. A nice idea, even if character creation is straightforward and isn’t exactly advanced calculus. Not needed for cagey old vets, I suppose, but nice to have if you’re a less experienced gamer. If you really want to create your own professions and disregard the default setting entirely, there’s a good article on Epic’s website for doing just that.
…Now, each Skill has what’s known as Specialties. These are exactly what they say they are, specialties in a skill cluster. So, for example, if I have a Skill Level of 4 in the Military Arts and a Specialty of +1 in Command, when using my Command skill I would add in a bonus of 4 plus 1 to my skill roll. Say I hadn’t purchased that +1 in Command? That’s okay, I still have a 4 from the aforementioned Military Arts Skill it belongs to, which means I can add that 4 to any specialty from that skill subset, be it Command, Tactics, etc. It’s a little like Rolemaster FRP’s skill system, only without all the math. It’s a nice way of diversifying skills between characters.
…With nearly 50 Guilds and Professions in Epic so far, and each of those having one Mastery and one Grandmastery apiece, it’s really a very diverse and fun system. Remember, though, they will cost you, so no character will be unbalanced by having Masteries in every important specialty. Which is good, I think, since most people who become among the best at something don’t often repeat that extreme success in too many other fields.
…It’s actually one of the more efficient and clean ways I’ve seen of keeping track of degrading ability and health through injury. The boxes are right there on the character sheet, though you may want to put a piece of scotch tape over them if you plan on keeping the same character sheet for a while.
…Overall, the rules portion stays very reader-friendly, provides lots of examples and guidance where needed, and presents itself with a refreshing clarity.
…On to the Book of the Arcane, which is a place where Epic really and sincerely shines:
Magic is again by Guild choice, although it’s possible for one to gain some arcane knowledge in their earlier apprenticeship and then totally abandon it for another path. The arcane mechanics in this game are fairly simple. As stated earlier, magic is learned in the form of Skills/Specialties. When one wishes to cast a spell, they basically make a skill check. A power point-type system to indicate magical drain is present in the form of Quintessence Points (QP), which are basically how high your skill is in whatever dominion of magic you’re using.
…Also included are rules for creating new variants, always nice to see. Epic’s magic system might be simple in game mechanic terms, but there are enough variants here to keep magic fiends happy for a good long while.
…This default setting was very enjoyable; human-centric, detailed enough to be interesting without being so heavy-handed that it drowns out free gaming. I will freely admit I have taken several of the aspects of the realm of Rullaea and have added it some of my homebrew worlds as well. Kingdoms, religion, political structure, magic in society, and other aspects are covered nicely. I would recommend that the full Atlas of Elsin is an enjoyable read on its own.
…Ultimately, with so many RPG games and systems out there, you have to ask yourself, “What does this system or game do better or different than the perennial front-runners?” In this case, Epic can boast a killer, unique magic system, an enjoyable, well-considered default setting, and rules that allow for a wide degree of customization while retaining a sense of familiarity and a low learning curve.
With their Game Manual, Dark Matter Studios has made a good RPG more accessible, and I think that can only mean good things for for those wanting to check out a smart, well-built fantasy RPG that brings an awful lot to the table. This game plays like it has undergone severe playtesting, with each section considered, evaluated, and re-considered. It’s a real pleasure to see such a well-crafted game get a new edition that is richly deserved. And while there are some missteps along the way (see, I hadn’t forgot the Bestiary), Epic remains one of my favorite fantasy RPGs of the past few years, and one I hope others take the time to discover in the form of this new volume. In my mind, it’s one of the best “traditional” style RPGs of this past year–mechanically solid, while still possessing enough innovation to make it well worth your while to check out.
Go to therpgsite to read Zachary Houghton’s full review.
Rules Manual Review by Enworld.org
James Hargrove delivered a clear, comprehensive and nuanced stand-alone review of the Epic Rules Manual for enworld.org.
Here are some excerpts from the review about the Rules Manual and Epic RPG’s system:
As a system, the primary design goal of Epic Role Playing is to present a “flexible and open role playing system that fits the needs of gamers” while striking a balance between verisimilitude and playability.
Now, I’ve played a lot of games and fooled about with many a system, but I haven’t ever seen a product with this specific design goal before. As I’m sure you are, I’m used to seeing games shoot for one end of the playability/verisimilitude spectrum or the other, not exploring the middle ground. In this regard, Epic Role Playing may not be unique, but it’s certainly uncommon – Epic doesn’t make you choose between playability or verisimilitude, rather, it gives you both in one package.
This isn’t an easy line to tow, and Epic does have a few rough spots, but ultimately the folks at Dark Matter Studios seem to have nailed it, providing a system that captures both entertaining meta-constructs and a great deal of verisimilitude, while remaining flexible enough to apply to a setting of your choice. Epic Role Playing obviously won’t please everybody (no game system does), but for some folks it may well be the Holy Grail that they’ve been searching for.
About the Production Values:
Overall, I was very impressed with the physical quality of the Epic Role Playing books. The artwork and layout rivals that of much larger publishers and far surpasses that of many small press publishers that I am familiar with. If you need a measuring stick, I feel comfortable saying that the Epic Role Playing rule books are approximately of the same quality as Wizards of the Coast’s early soft-cover class supplements.
About Character Creation:
I like the way that the life path system has been implemented in Epic Role Playing. Unlike some life path systems…, the Epic life path focuses on providing only vital information that could conceivably shape a character’s persona, rather than attempting to facilitate the creation of an entire life story or getting bogged down in setting-specific detail. Extremely flexible, the Epic life path system won’t be at odds with your setting of choice unless it is incredibly alien. I can, for example, easily envision using the Epic life path system to create characters for use in Eberron, Greyhawk, or Harn….
The concept [of Guilds and Professions] is incredibly sensible, providing an explanation for how characters actually acquire their initial professional skills in life and tightly weaving what is an assumed social structure in many fantasy settings into the actual mechanics of Epic. While the way occupations are handled is extremely simple in implementation, the sense of reality that it fosters is disproportionately large by comparison. Color me impressed.
About Tactical Combat:
Overall, as both a fan of verisimilitude and an opponent of complexity for complexity’s sake, I’ve found myself very impressed with the approach that Epic takes to both injury and combat.
Epic Advice for the Game Master:
Covering everything from basic themes and plot point to story pacing (including The Hero’s Journey as postulated by Campbell), as well as more mundane (yet important) topics such as how to believably integrate new characters into a game midstream; this section of Epic Role Playing Rules Manual is written with those earlier mentioned primary focuses of striking a balance between verisimilitude and playability in mind. If striking that balance in your own games is important to you, you really should read at least this much of the Epic Rules Manual, regardless of what system you actually use.
About Epic Warfare:
As a fan of war games, I could probably occupy myself with the Epic warfare rules for hours at a time, as they easily stand on their own as a game. As a roleplayer, I’m thrilled to see a mass combat system that offers me the tactical richness of a war game while remaining simple enough that it won’t intrude upon the roleplaying aspects of a campaign that I choose to implement it in. Chalk this up as another ‘won me over’ feature for Epic.
To Sum Up:
It is a rare product that can successfully strike a balance between verisimilitude and playability, and the Epic Rules Manual is such a product.
Go to enworld.org to read James Hargrove’s full review.
Book of the Arcane Review by Flamesrising.com
James Hargrove continues his in-depth analysis of the Epic Role Playing system with a review of the Book of the Arcane at flamesrising.com. If you’re going to flamesrising.com, just click on the link above and go to the “Reviews” section.
Excerpts from the review:
As a supplement for Epic Role Playing, the Book of the Arcane carries on where the Rules Manual left off, serving up more of the same balance between playability and suspension of disbelief found therein….
Overall, I give the Epic Role Playing Book of the Arcane two thumbs up. Whether you’re looking to add elements of the arcane to your existing Epic campaign or plunder some decidedly different takes on magic for use with another system, the Book of the Arcane has a lot to offer you.
Amazon Review by Adrian Montoya
The EPIC RPG Rules Manual is a functional, easy to read and enjoyable gamebook. The 2d10 mechanics, use of only d10’s, skill based characters (with appropriate profession based meta-talents called “Masteries”) and lifepath driven pc creation, with an eye towards ‘role-playable’ characters over ‘roll-playable’ ones, makes for an overall great game! (4/5 stars).
As a book of variants for EPIC, it is essential for heavy magic campaigns. As a book of ‘magic spells’ for other game systems, it would be a very interesting alternate source and any gamemaster or player with a little skill at converting would find a plethora of refreshing material here! Two ‘arcane’ thumbs up! (5/5 stars)
Once again, I am impressed with the easy-to-read and imaginative writing! This is no mere book of trolls, faeries, unicorns and dragons (although they do have dragons, but presented in a much more ‘naturalistic’ vein). This collection of beasts contains descriptions of creatures ranging from sinister forms of undead and demons that border on nightmares like those from Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser” stories, to bizarre monstrosities and extradimensional entities that don’t conform to reality. In between these extremes are several beasts that form the ‘natural ecology’ of the fantastic world of Eslin. (4/5 stars)
This is the best book of the four (and I like them all!). The setting is not-so-standard fantasy; unique and at the same time familiar in a way that makes you feel comfortable, the world is not too alien or fantastic to get a feel for yet it is a deeper, richer world than most of the settings steeped in ‘elves, wizards and fire-breathing dragons’. (5/5 stars)
Amazon Review by Emile Pollack: 5/5 stars!
I’m coming from a GURPS/Runequest background, but my wife ordered this for me. I was skeptical of a new fantasy RPG, but the rules are very well written and actually make sense. I would recommend players at least pick up the Atlas and Arcane books as well (especially the Atlas!) This is a very solid game that I can’t wait to get a game together for. I hope this turns out to be a sleeper hit. The one drawback I would mention, despite this being a great RPG, is the fact that the supporting books are sold separately. For example, if you want to use the Guilds and Professions of the setting (which I recommend), you need the Atlas of Eslin. The game is set up so it can be a non-magic type, but for magic you need the Arcane book, and so on. (Though the other books are good too, I’d have liked to see them all together–maybe a special edition or something?) Still, especially if you go the used path, its comparable in price to other RPGs, and it is very in-depth. Anyhow, both combat gamers and those who like more subtlety in their actions will find a system to fit them. Combat is especially customizable. All in all, a remarkable game from these guys. Great work!
Amazon Review by Brian P. Kelley
Been playing in this system for four or five years now. Granted, the system has changed some since those days, but the basics are the same. The d10 system is simply better than the more popular d20 floating around these days. The revamped skill system is fantastic. Allowing for character customization not seen in most RPG systems. Unlike most systems each character has the ability to be great right after creation, but leaving plenty of room for enhancement and growth. This guide and the Arcane book are all you really need to get started. The Bestiary is also handy of course. As we play in a different world we haven’t looked at the Atlas so I can’t comment on it as of yet, but given the quality of these other products I recommend it if you don’t have a world you want to incorporate into the system. Once again, its a great system, enjoy it.