To be honest, I did not purchase Giantlands with high hopes. At $130 plus shipping my expectations were severely muted. That being said, I can honestly say, the editing is, by far, better than any of the peeks we've had of various TSR3 products that have not been released yet. Surely, not a high bar to meet, but one that has been met and exceeded.
Now, on to the cover of Volume 1 of Three Booklets, Spirits Guide. Yes, I know that looks awkward, but there it is.
Giantlands: Science Fantasy Roleplaying Game Playable with Pen, Paper, Dice & Masks
Maybe it's just me, but we never played with masks back in the day OR today (but occasionally we did play with hand puppets, like the Rocky & Bullwinkle Game from TSR). This makes it seem like masks are expected to be used as part of gameplay. It should be noted that masks are NOT included in the box, but pencils are, as well as dice and some tokens.
At first glance, the art looks above average to pretty damn good. Jeff Dee did some interior art, and the other artists did fine jobs overall.
We start with the description of the 5th Age. If you've played an RPG with a default setting before, you probably already know much of the script.
This is followed by the section The Fun of Roleplaying. If this is your first RPG, do read it. Also, my sympathies, as this should likely not be your first RPG. That applies to MOST RPGs. It's not a knock on Giantlands specifically, just a general note.
Definition of Terms comes next. At four pages, it does a decent job of defining terms used in RPGs in general and Giantlands in particular.
Core Guidelines is the next page and really feels like it could have been included with The Fun of Roleplaying Section. Again, as a gamer, this section can likely be ignored by most.
The What Do You Need Section ("the following is a list of what is needed for a game of Giantlands") is where I find myself blinking and shaking my head. Spirits (players), Spirit Keeper (GM), Dice, Sigil Coins (tokens of a sort. Four are included in the box, but you could substitute coins), Pencil (the cover says "pen", but that's nitpicking), Paper, Imagination, Lusory Attitude (basically the ability to immerse yourself in the game - yeah, Gygaxian word) and lastly Masks and Costumes.
Now, let's pull that last piece out on its own.
Masks and Costumes
Masks are a way to help us stay safe while stepping even more out of our everyday selves and into other roles. Decorate your mask with Sigils, human or animal features, or anything else that makes you feel more like your character. Costumes of any kind also help us and others to imagine more deeply and suspend disbelief in the fantasy
Does the above paragraph make anyone else cringe? It certainly makes me cringe. Needless to say, no masks or costumes are included with Giantlands but they are included in the What Do You Need Section of the rulebook.
Now, I'm not saying that an RPG with masks and costumes can't work, but marketing such to old-school gamers is likely the wrong market to aim for.
But wait! There's more on Costumes and Masks a few pages later.
Costume and mask creation is an important part of playing Giantlands.
We strongly and sincerely suggest you craft your own.
Playing dress-up is great fun, but it comes with game benefits too. The costume rules state that if you wear a mask, you may add +5 to each of your Ability scores. If you wear a full-body costume, you can add +10 to each Ability score.
I'm an adult. I don't play dress-up.
But it seems as though Costumes and Masks are NOT required to play Giantlands, just highly beneficial with in-game bonuses that literally make no sense.
"Hey, bring blue dice to my game table and I'll make sure you get +1 hit for the rest of the session" is not the way to design a game.
Damn, where was I?
Oh yes, the Play of the Game Section. This is another section that makes me scratch my head, specifically Step Three. Actually, everything from Step Three on. Fuckit, there's too much to type. Here's the page for review purposes only:
There is no sample adventure in the box (and I just confirmed that Volume 2, the Keepers Guide, lacks such). It appears that the assumption is that the Spirit Keeper will know how to design an adventure for Giantlands, but the rules thus far seem to be directed at players new to RPGs in general.
How do you NOT include a sample adventure for a totally new game system? Even a free one on the website would suffice. From what I can tell, the only download on the WFD website is for a Giantlands character sheet. At 2 bucks, BTW.
K, I'm burned out.
Tomorrow Night on the Talking Crit LiveStream, we'll do a Giantlands Session Zero - Character Generation. At first glance, it doesn't seem all that balanced, but maybe that's where the "old school" aspect comes into the ruleset.