Review: Warriors & Warlocks
Ok, I lied about Tunnels & Masterminds. Except I’m holding in my virtual hands something that is, in many ways, just that very thing: an unholy mixture of Mutants & Masterminds and a kickass awesome fantasy role-playing game. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Warriors & Warlocks.
Let’s start with just the facts, ma’am. It’s 145 pages long, costs $16.95 and available right now as a pdf from all the usual places you get pdfs from. It’ll be available in Real Dead Tree format in a few weeks time from all the places you get get dead trees from too. You need a copy of Mutants & Masterminds to play. The pdf version of that is just twenty bucks meaning the whole package is half the price of the D&D Core Rules bundle. Does that mean it’s half the value? Oh Gods no.
Look, this is hard for me. It’s really, really difficult to write about Mutants & Masterminds without sounding like some raving fanboi who wants you all to stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, rush out, buy it and play M&M instead of those other, inferior, games you’re currently playing. So I’ll try to remain calm. Cool, even. If this comes across that I’m in anyway unenthused about the product, or it’s underwhelming, trust me. I’m raving on the inside, ok?
Warriors & Warlocks deals with the fantasy genre as seen through the eyes of comicbooks. It’s role-playing in the world of Conan the Cimmerian, Red Sonja, Elric, Beowulf, Slaine and even Prince Valiant. If it’s made the transition from black and white text to four-colour panels you’ll find it here. This puts it at a slight tangent to 4e D&D. Whereas Wizard’s baby has morphed from being “a fantasy role-playing game” into “the D&D role-playing game” where Dungeons & Dragons is a whole sub-genre unto itself, W&W is the real deal. It’s literate D&D. It’s a role-playing game that clearly loves, supports and pays homage to the great authors of the fantasy genre instead of trying to shove them under the carpet and forge ahead down an Intellectual Property fuelled road.
Damn, it’s even got Conan on the cover. What more do you want?
This is a very rule-lite supplement – in fact it’s more of a genre book in that it goes into detail about the history and common tropes of the setting while providing pre-stated heroes and villains along the way. More on those in a mo’. If you were expecting a book full of rules that turn Mutants & Masterminds into a fantasy rpg you’re going to be disappointed. I’ve said it many times already: M&M is a stunningly good generic system that merely pretends to be a superhero rpg (like Clark Kent in reverse, kinda). It doesn’t need ‘more rules’ to be able to handle any setting you throw at it. In that regard, W&W is somewhat reminiscent of the old GURPS supplements of yore.
It does add two new skills – Gambling and Navigation – to the mix, and suggests new uses for the existing ones. There’s also a lot of new Feats too which better reflect the tropes and fighting styles found in fantasy. My own favourite is Oathbound. This gives a +1 to Aid Another when helping folks who share your allegiance, and a +1 attack bonus against opponents who oppose your allegiance. Flavourful, and usable in and out of combat. I love it!
Ok. I’m teasing you. You want to know about character generation, right? Oh boy.
W&W suggests three possible starting points for the game. There’s Power Level 6, 8, or 10. PL6 is what it calls “Heroic”, though that’s not to be confused with 4e D&D’s Heroic Tier. This is starting point if you want to run a low-level, street-level campaign where gritty realism is the order of the day. I’d say it’s roughly comparable to low level 3rd Edition D&D. PL8 is “Cinematic”. This is firmly 4e D&D power level, and ideal if you want to game in a style akin to action movies. Finally, there’s PL10 (the superhero norm in M&M), “Epic”. Our heroes are demigods and archmages who wander the worlds righting wrongs on a massive scale. Think of it as 4e D&D’s later levels and you won’t be far wrong.
I’d expected the chapter on character generation to provide a few pointers in the right direction, offer up a grab-bag of Archetypes and set you on your merry way. Which it does, but it also provides much, much more. One of M&M’s (many) strengths is that character creation can be as flexible as you want it. At the one end of the scale you could just take a pre-built Archetype, scribble your name on the top of the sheet and start playing immediately. Or you could take the Archetype and use it as a base, juggling a few points around to fine tune the concept. Right at the other end of the scale you have a completely blank sheet and freedom to do whatever you want (and the GM allows). Unlike D&D where it’s a pregen OR blank sheet, M&M is a sliding scale.
Let’s say you’re generating a character for Warriors & Warlocks for a Power Level 6 game. you’ve got 90 points to spend, and fancy playing a Scout of some kind. W&W provides a whole range of templates that are essentially pre-built packages with the points cost worked out. You could take one (or more) of them, tweak it a little and still have lots of points to spend fine-tuning your character. Or you could ignore the templates completely and create your own unique, one-of-a-kind character. Or your own race. Or organisation. Or anything.
Here’s the Racial Templates:
- Beastkin (Aquatic, Avian, Feline, Lupine, Reptilian, Ursine)
- Living Construct
- True Shapeshifter
As you can see, there’s a cheeky nod to 4e D&D in that list with the Celestial, Infernal, Fey, Wilder and Living Construct templates :D Some of the templates are designed to be mixed-and-matched to create half-breeds. There’s no reason why you couldn’t create a Fey Elf (*cough* Eladrin *cough*), Infernal Gnome or (my own personal favourite) a Celestial Living Construct. Take Bestial on it’s own and you’ve got your Half-Orc, or add it to another racial template for extra fun (Bestial Ursine Beastkin, anyone?). As everything it’s points-based it doesn’t matter whether all of the races balance with each other as the cost comes from your fixed pot of points. Take an expensive race (the Living Construct weighs in at 33 points) and you’ll just have fewer points for other things. That’s a fair price to pay.
I’ll stop there. Review, Part Deux, coming soon!
BUY THIS BOOK!