Enworld.org Review

Review at Enworld.org by 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.