Going, Going, Agone
Agone is a new roleplaying that has just been translated from French into English from a company called Multisim). What drew me to the game initially was the artwork on the cover of the book and Eminence Grise's (GM's) screen. I also learned later from another booth that games in France will only sell well if the artwork is of superior quality. This is leading at least one games manufacturer to have their next edition designed by their French artist. I was able to pick up the main book and the screen, which included a very nice poster-sized map of the world for just under $50. What happened to the days of $20 games? Oh well, let me tell you about this new game.
Agone (www.agone-rpg.com) is set in the world of Harmundia. The world and all of its creatures were created by the four Muses. The setting and theme for the game and it's world is very Shakespearean in tone. The Muses have long ago left the world and its inhabitants to their own devices. A fifth Muse, one created by the first four now tries to gain control of the world and everyone in it. All manner of humans and non-humans walk the streets.
The non-humans are organized into the four seasons. They are referred to as the Seasonlings, and owe their creation to one of the four ladies of the seasons. These ladies, aren't the Muses, but are creations of the Muses. The conflict in this world comes from the fifth Muse, the Masque. The Masque has been waging a subtle, and sometimes not so subtle war for control of all of Harmundia. So far, his great achievement was the seducing of the Lady of Autumn. Now all Seasonlings of Autumn are also controlled by the Masque.
The rules for the game are pretty standard. They are based off of d10 rolls that are added to a skill or attribute modifier in order to beat a difficulty level set by the GM. Characters are created using a point-buy system rather than rolling dice randomly.
An interesting difference in Agone compared to other games is that the characters are all of middle age. They have spent their lives dedicated to their profession and have risen to the point where they could look forward to a chance to relax. Unfortunately, the characters all carry within them, the Flame of Inspiration. A gift from the Muses. Their flames now call to them to help in the fight against the Masque and bring about the return of the Seasons as well as the Muses.
The game also incorporates penalties, or trade-offs for characters that wish to deal with servants of the Masque or even the demons from the Abyss. The penalties take the form of physical deformities, ability to summon demons, magical gifts, and the like. What a character might end up with is determined by a darkness or perfidy score. The higher the score, the more "gifts" the character will have.
Where the game does make a significant departure from other role-playing games is in the use of magic. There are two basic forms. Magic, as in spells and such, and an Opus, or work of art. The character that wishes to perform feats of magic needs to have a Dancer. The Dancer is a small creature that was once an inspired soul. Depending on the level of control or empathy that a character has with their Dancer controls the power and level of the magics available. The magic wielders are divided into three basic categories. Each one evinces a different relationship with the Dancer. Caring, neutrality and cruelty. One example of this comes with the Invoker who caries his Dancer on a bit of wood around his neck, crucified.
The Opuses (correct Latin pluralization should have been Opi or Opii depending on tense) are created using painting, sculpture, music, or voice. Each area has some subdivisions, as well as being divided by the Season that the Opus reflects. Their effects range from enciting morale through the playing of a drum to creating pocket worlds through painting.
On the whole I would have to say that I wasn't overly impressed with the game. I liked it. It has some really cool concepts that I fully intend to bring over into other games, but I don't see myself ever running a game of this. I plan on picking up at least one or two of the further supplements for this game, so perhaps that might change.
The book was easy enough to read. There were some obvious typos and awkward constructions that one should expect from any translated work. One complaint that I had was the constant reference to creatures and other game specific items that weren't explained for another 20 or more pages. As I mentioned earlier, the mechanics of the game aren't bad. Nothing really nifty neato, but they also didn't make it overly complicated for new players.
In the back of the book is a chart detailing traveling time for characters on foot, horseback etc. I see this question come up a lot in different message boards, so I was actually kind of happy to see it. It may not be earth-shattering, but it is something that different GM's and writers often agonize over.
I would have to say that Agone definitely isn't for every gamer. It is better suited for groups that enjoy more introspective games over combat and physical activity. While I like games of this nature, this one just didn't get me fired up to run it. It's definitely worth the money for a GM that wants to have one more collection of ideas to put on the shelf. It didn't fire me up, but it isn't something that should be avoided.