Friday, July 10, 2009

Dragon Warriors RPG

In my latest case of "Must Go! Must Buy!" syndrome, I'm picking up the Dragon Warriors RPG, based on the quick start booklet they provided for Free RPG Day, this year. (If you didn't grab it, you can download it here.) My curiosity was piqued based on the freebie, and I've been doing more reading about the game. Interestingly enough, according to old pal Wikipedia, Dragon Warriors was originally released in the 80s in 6 novel sized paperbacks - a very different format compared to the doormat hardbacks and boxed sets that ruled the day then, in the gaming world. The newer Mongoose Publishing releases collect these older materials, and repackage them in more traditional hardback format.

So, what's appealing about the game? It has the old school feel of RuneQuest or Palladium Fantasy, with a more distinctively European bent. Think Brothers Grimm. Think Feudalism. Think Norsemen at the Gates. This isn't the high fantasy of The Forgotten Realms or any of the settings or influences that shaped American RPGs through the 90s (much as I love those games, too). A f'rinstance - the description of The Ogre from the mini-bestiary in the Free RPG Day sample partially reads:

The ogre may be old, but that does not mean it is stupid, and it has fought humans before. It will stay below the bridge, using the stonework as a shield, and making occasional grabs for members of the party from alternate sides of the bridge. When it is completely under the bridge, it cannot be seen or targeted by anyone on the bridge or the road. if it coems under repeated missile or spell-fire and can't work out where its attacker is, it will run away, down the ravine and out of sight.

So, we've been given not a simple set of flavor text or an ecology of this creature, we've been given full scenery, motivations, and characterization. Very impressive stuff.

Along the lines of my previous post about my issues with 4th Edition D&D, my same feelings about rules influencing roleplaying apply here. The rules - at least as sampled in the freebie booklet - seem to suggest a game built around archetypes more akin to Conan, Siegfried, and Lankhmar's denizens than World of Warcraft. [In defense of the great minds behind 4e, Mike Mearls has a good post here about where the inspiration behind the 4e class archetypes came from. Hopefully, more players will explore these inspirations, as they are great - I think the rules at the end of the day just became to WoW-y for a table top game.] The richness and depth of the multi-page description of just the Barbarian class is impressive, and hopefully in the right hands of players will lend itself readily towards the kind of game that I think Dragon Warriors has the potential to be.

Anybody have any experiences playing the game? Any feedback? Anything to expect?


DSuter said...

Dragon Warriors was the first commercial RPG I was exposed to. It would be years later that I heard of D&D. IMO Dragon Warriors outshines the original D&D in both atmosphere and scope. Personally I would remove dwarves and halflings from the game as I'm sure they were add ons put there because that was the 'done thing' at the time.

Tyler said...

Thanks for commenting. I understand that the original was rolled out in several paperback "novel-sized" installations. Were Dwarves and Halflings in one of the supplements released after the original book? The new Mongoose/Flaming Cobra edition only has Dwarves, Halflings, Elves and the like in the mini-Bestiary in the back of the book (haven't gotten any of the additional releases yet). They aren't really woven in to the core of the setting in the book - perhaps again they're "add on's" as you said. Definitely possible to run the game without them being a core part of the game, if you prefer more human-centric dark fantasy.

The more I reexamine the book I'm reminded of the film "Hawk the Slayer". If you haven't seen it, check out the DVD - late 70s or early 80s budget swords and sorcery movie with Jack Palance chewing the scenery to my great delight.