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Saturday 11 April 2015

RPGPundit Reviews: Puerta De Ishtar

This is a review of the Spanish-language RPG "Puerta De Ishtar", a new entry in a long list of the truly impressive collection of Spanish-language RPGs out there (alongside really excellent games that most English-language gamers might never have heard of, like Aquelarre, or Capitan Alatriste).
This is a first for me, though, while I own the two other games I mention above, I bought those myself, they weren't sent to me as review copies.  This is the first time I've been sent a Spanish-language game, with the understanding that I'd write an English-language review of it.  And Puerta De Ishtar is a doozy.

So first, this is a hardcover RPG, published by "Otherselves" (I think, the only hint as to the publisher was a little logo on the back cover), written by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona. It's 376 pages, plus character and reference sheets at the back.  It's a spectacularly lovely book: it looks well printed, it has a stunning full-colour painting-style illustration on the cover (of some noble with a Minotaur taskmaster about to whip a rebellious-looking Conan-esque heavily-muscled slave), and the interior is full of fantastic black and white illustrations that serve very well to bring out the "early middle-eastern civilization" aesthetic of the game.  It also comes with a little red ribbon-bookmark, which if you know me is a good way to score an extra-credit point no matter what the book is like. I love me them ribbon-bookmarks.

The name of the book, "La Puerta de Ishtar" would translate literally as "the door of Ishtar", but is probably more poetically translated as "Gate of Ishtar".  The name ought to give away the setting's style: the book describes it as "a world similar to, but at the same time different than, our own world's Near East during the Bronze Age". The world of the setting is described as "mostly savage and unexplored", but in the center of the setting is the "Empire of Akkad", between two great rivers. It is the most powerful civilization in the known world.

The rulers of Akkad are the Awilu, the "first race".  They are human in appearance but are extremely long lived and powerful; this draws a bit from things like the Melniboneans of Moorcock's Elric series, or some wacky (slightly racist) Theosophical ideas from the 19th century.  The lands that are now Akkad were once called Sumer, and were full of city-states that warred with each other, until some 2000 years ago a warlord named Sargon the Alchemist united all the city-states under his iron fist, drove away the Gods themselves, and made himself Emperor of Akkad.  The followers of the old gods fled into the mountains where they built the underground city of Babilonia and sealed it with the Gate of Ishtar.

Sargon's triumph was due to two new slave-races he created with the blood of the god Enlil: the Mushkenu (who are basically humans) and the Wardu (who are basically minotaurs).  Just as the Awilu were once slaves to the powerful gods of Sumer, now the Mushkenu and Wardu are slaves to the Awilu in the new empire.  Now, 2000 years later, Sargon still lives and rules as Emperor and has made sure that any attempt at change is thwarted;  the cities have become dens of corruption and hedonism as the Awilu slip deeper and deeper into decadence, some of them having made secret cults forming pacts with new, Dark Gods from the Stars. Meanwhile, the slave-races continue to toil under the yoke of the Awilu.

Tell me this doesn't sound like a great setting, right?  My only pet peeve with the setup thus far is that the author didn't just choose to run with "human" and "minotaur" and felt the need to replace these with more exotic names, but whatever (I can't be too judgmental about this, when I used Sanskrit names for the races in Arrows of Indra).  Anyways, the whole implication is that the stasis that Akkad has been under, maintained by Sargon's tyranny, cannot hold, and that the setting is ripe with the potential for big upheavals.  Some of the recommended types of adventure/campaign scenarios recommended in the introduction include slaves in an uprising, a party of treasure hunters, a nomad campaign in the wilderlands, a 'palace intrigue' game, conspiracies, or good old fashioned monster-hunting.

The first chapter begins with character creation, and it starts by selecting a race.  There's the Awilu/first-race (who are the nobility of the empire, are decadent, and many are "witches"), the aforementioned humans (who are terribly oppressed) and minotaurs (who are elite slave-warriors, but are enchanted to be unable to disobey their Awilu master; and they are also sterile, created only through alchemy).  But there's also the free human tribe known as the Cimmerians (descendants of a band of human slaves who rebelled and fled from Sargon's control); the Cimmerians are.. well, fuck it, you know what Cimmerians are like. They're like that one famous one, basically. There's also a race of barbarian nomads called the Uridimmu, who are men with Jackal-heads; they are an ancient race, who wander the lands as merchants, mercenaries, or smugglers.  Their race was once much more advanced lone before the Awilu, and some Uridimmu seek the deserts for ancient secrets of their lost civilization, dreaming of someday being able to return to their former glory.
Finally, there's the Merchants of Assur; who are not so much a race as a nationality.  They are from the one city that was not fully conquered by Sargon.  Its god (Ashur, the god of commerce) made a deal with Sargon and the city was made a semi-autonomous part of the empire; Assur's merchant caravan network is vital for the ongoing stability and prosperity of the empire, and thus they are allowed to keep certain freedoms.  So they have a different culture; they are much more egalitarian than the rest of the empire, treating their slaves almost the same as they treat their freemen, and they are master negotiators.
Aside from descriptive and roleplaying qualities, all the races only get a single bonus to one characteristic.  Even the totally non-human races don't seem to get any other particularly special benefits, which seems a little bit odd to me.

There are six "characteristics" in this game: dexterity, strength, intellect, perception, charisma, and will.  For character creation, a player chooses two strong stats, two middle stats, and two weak stats.  They then roll 3d6 in each stat: a strong stat gets to pick the highest of the three dice, a middle stat gets the middle of the three dice, and the weak stat gets the lower of the three dice.  This can mean in theory that a stat chosen as "weak" MIGHT end up being higher than one chosen as 'strong'; for example, if you wanted Strength to be a strong stat but roll 2/1/2, your strength would only be a 2, while if you chose charisma as a weak stat but rolled 4/5/6, your charisma would be a 4.  There's also an optional system for point-buy stat distribution.
Once you've rolled all your stats, you get to pick ONE stat and re-roll it.   After that, you add in your racial bonus (this means that stats will range from 1 to 7; a 7 being possible only if you got a 6 on your racial stat roll).  You also then calculate your hit points (which are 10+strength+will).  The book then provides a list of names, by race, that you can choose from for your character.

After this, the development of characters follows a 'lifepath' route: you start out choosing a skill or two learned in childhood, then a couple in early adulthood, as well as your combat stats (hand to hand, ranged attacks, defense and maneuvering; each of these have 1 point in them and you then divide 10 points between the four, to a maximum of 6 points in any one combat stat). After this, you choose your "crisis point", where you establish a personal motto for your character and his short and long term goal. At each of these stages, you also choose a few character-traits; these are qualities like "intrepid", "stoic", "cruel", "discreet", "optimistic", "prudent", "chaste", "deceitful", etc.  Likewise, in the course of the lifepath you end up creating a connection to two other PCs, the one belonging to the players to your immediate left and immediate right.  There's also optional rules for playing a "witch" character, with the warning that while sorcery is very powerful in the game, it is likely to leave you insane or worse, and that witches are better as NPCs than player characters.
Characters also start with 3 "Character points", which are not initially explained (but turn out to be connected to the Character Traits).  Also, the player chooses some starting equipment; there's no fixed rule for what a PC gets at the start, only that it should be reasonable for their background.

The task resolution system is quite simple at a basic level.  You roll 3d6+characteristic+skill against a DC, which is 13 for an average task.  The GM tells you which characteristic to use for a task, and only one skill can be used to add to the roll, if the player has some skill that could be relevant. Skills in the game are very general, things like "adventurer", "barbarian", "slave", "gladiator", "noble", "fisherman", "torturer", etc., so between that and there being no set rule about what stat must be used for what activity, the idea seems to be that options be very open for what to use to resolve problems.

There are some rules for characters being helped by other PCs, for opposed checks (where the DC for an opposed check is a set amount if the opposition is a mook, or opposed rolls if it's an important NPC or another PC doing the opposing), and for what constitutes "total success" (which is when a PC succeeds on a task by a margin of 6 or more).  It's also stated that failure means that the PC does not obtain their objective, but it is up to the GM to decide how and why (in the example offered, a thief character who fails to pick a lock could fail in the sense that he picks the lock but is found at the same time by guards).
The "character traits" can also affect rolls: if the GM judges that a certain trait would positively affect chances of success, the player gets to roll 4d and keep the best 3.  Conversely, if a trait would negatively affect the chance of success, he'd roll 4d and keep the worst 3.  When the positive trait is used, one Character Point must be spent; likewise, if a negative trait complicates things, one Character Point is gained. In combat, character traits can be used only once each.

Hit Points (that translation may not be very good, the original term is "Aguante", which means 'how much you can stand') are also somewhat covered in the task-resolution section, in that it is explained that you can lose hp due to both physical or mental damage (in this case, hp are a very abstract measurement not just of your physical health but of your physical and mental resistance), and if you get to zero hit points, a character is Exhausted (which increases all difficulty ratings by 2 points). If any further hp damage were taken at that point, a character would then pass to being Injured rather than Exhausted.  Characters can also be Terrified, Ill, or Poisoned, all of which also increase difficulty ratings.
Because hp are highly abstract here, a character who is Exhausted can recover all his hp (and stop being exhausted) after a full night's rest.  Healing herbs and limited rest can also work to heal some but not all hp.  If you are Injured (or Ill, or Poisoned) you do not automatically heal from a night's rest, but only by making a successful Strength check after a certain period of time (variable, based on the nature of the illness, poison, or injury).  Terrified-condition will likely pass after a successful Will check after a certain amount of time. A character who is Injured (or Ill, or Poisoned) who takes hp damage can theoretically die from it, but the GM is given great leeway to determined for themselves whether death should be the result, based on what caused the damage.  It could alternately result in some kind of serious long-term or permanent harm to the PC if the GM judges death should not be the likely outcome.

There's an additional little sub-mechanic called Passion, and another called Determination.  A player character has three uses of each (but can later recover uses):  Passion is when a character uses a supreme effort to overcome a difficulty greater than usual.  He rolls dice as usual, but gets to re-roll and ADD any result of a '6' on the die (that is, 6 plus the new roll).  For as long as he keeps rolling sixes he can keep re-rolling that die.  The player can still fail, of course, but if he fails because he didn't roll a single 6, then the passion point is not lost. Use of Passion must be declared before rolling. Determination is likewise supposed to represent an extreme expression of will, and allows the player to re-roll a result entirely, after rolling. He re-rolls the dice but must keep the new result. Unlike Passion, Determination is spent regardless of how the new roll turns out.

A player can also decide for his character to do a "Heroic Sacrifice", when he absolutely feels he MUST succeed at a given check.  If he declares a Heroic Sacrifice, then he will automatically succeed at what he's attempting to do, but he rolls the check anyways. If he would have succeeded the check regardless, he has survived. If not, he has succeeded the check, but he dies in the effort. This special action can only be done if there's a reasonable explanation as to how he might die in the effort, and it obviously cannot be used for a roll that is already life-or-death (or rather, I'd say it would be pointless to use it for that purpose).

Passion is recovered any time you fail in the use of a positive trait, or any time you can reasonably have your character say his motto. The former seems a little bit bothersome to me, but is forgivable. The latter seems totally corny to me. I don't think I'd want to use that.
You also recover all your passion if you do a heroic sacrifice or fight "to the death" (see below for more info on that) and survive.
Determination is recovered anytime you succeed in the use of a negative trait (which to me is at least a little better than the positive-trait-failure recovery of Passion). Likewise, any time you accomplish one of your listed short-term goals. You recover all your determination if you reach a long-term objective.
At the end of each game session you regain either one Passion or one Determination automatically.
In either case, you can never have more than 3 points of determination.

The combat rules divide conflicts into "skirmishes" and "contentions" (not sure if I can think of a better translation for it than that).  Skirmishes are smaller fights against insignificant opponents, where it's pretty much assumed the PCs will win. In a skirmish the entire fight is resolved at once.  The conflict resolution for skirmishes is extremely similar to my first published RPG, "Forward... to Adventure!".  The PCs add all their best combat skill together, roll 3d6 (only once, not for each character) to add to that total, and the GM applies a modifier (from -4 to +4 in range) to reflect the effectiveness of the combat tactics the PCs had laid out before rolling.  This is compared to 10 + the sum of the "Combat Effectiveness" score of all the opponents.  Based on the range of success or failure, the PCs take damage, which the GM decides how to divide among the players.

A "Contention", on the other hand, is a more detailed melee.  Initiative is rolled for each player, you roll attacks using your combat skills (hand to hand, ranged, defensive or maneuver). Combat rolls are resolved by simple comparison: If the total attack roll (3d6+combat skill) is higher than the defensive roll (3d6+defensive skill, though unimportant NPCs usually just use 10 plus any defense value), then the difference is applied as damage.  To this fairly simple system a number of particular maneuvers are added;  things like an all-out attack, defensive attack, improving position (making a maneuver to gain a superior position and thus a bonus for the rest of the fight), forcing your opponent into an inferior position, disarm, block, interpose, recovery (a maneuver check done to undo the effects of being disarmed or blocked), change weapon, or "take a breath" (which I think should really be called something like "recover ground", because it's actual effect is to let you move without having to do a maneuver check, by giving up the right to attack that round, but enabling you to regain a disarmed weapon, escape immobilization or undo the effects of a disadvantageous position).

During combat, if a character gets to zero hit points they're 'out' of the fight; unless they choose to 'fight to the death', in which case they get half their hit points back, but if in the course of the fight they go back down to 0hp, they're not just out, they're dead. There are also some basic morale rules for NPCs, where morale checks are made when the NPC's group is down to one-quarter or one-half of the party's number.

There are fighting styles/stances too; fighting with only one weapon in hand gives you a +1 to initiative. Characters using two weapons can choose to either add a +1 to attack and -1 to defense or vice-versa. Fighting with weapon and shield gives you +2 to defense but -1 to attack. Fighting with a two-handed weapon gives you +2 to attack and -1 to defense.  Ranged attacks have no modifiers.  Movement is very subjective, a player can move anywhere in the combat area as long as the GM judges it viable. Weapons each have specific bonuses in combat (swords, for example, add +1 to your maneuvers; axes do one point of extra damage, missile weapons give you a bonus to hit against anyone who acts after you in initiative but a penalty to those who act before you).  Armor resists damage but gives you penalties to maneuvering.

Experience points are gained through various ways: if you meet one of your short or long term objectives, if you have acted in the session in accordance with your motto, and if the player feels that they've done a good job.  This last point seems very ill-thought out; whatever the sentiment behind it, the likely result will be that players who are really more self-critical will end up gaining less XP than those players who are just in it for the XP, as by the rules there's nothing to stop them from always giving themselves the point.
XP is also granted when the group collectively decide what was the best moment of the session, and award the player deemed most responsible for that moment an XP point.  Finally, before the next session starts, one player can give a summary of what happened in the previous adventure for an XP point (it should ideally be an opportunity given to a different player each time, taking turns).
Characters can spend XP to improve a characteristic, skill or combat skill. There are certain top limits to each of these.
Over time, players can also choose to change some of their character traits, their motto, and their short/long-term goals, if it makes sense for these to change due to campaign events.

The setting of the game is very much a fantasy-copy of a mythical version of ancient Mesopotamia to a similar degree as how Arrows of Indra is a copy of mythical India. The lands of the setting are largely between two important rivers, and south of mountains.  In the origins of the setting, the gods (the "Anunnaki") created the first race (the Awilu) from the blood of one of the gods that they murdered. The Awilu were originally created to be servants of the gods' needs (because the gods, in spite of being immortal, were the type of beings that still needed to eat and drink and clothe themselves), but in time demanded worship and temples as well.  Thus the first cities were built by the Awilu serving the most powerful of the gods, as centers of worship. These ancient city-states were collectively called Sumer.  The gods used the Awilu as slaves, had them fighting wars over their petty conflicts, etc.  When the Awilu started to rebel, they decided to flood the world to wipe out their creations, but some of them were saved by a particularly kind god, Enki, who created an arc for some of them to escape the doom.

The Awilu eventually grew in numbers again and continued to be the slaves of the gods, through the times of heroes like Gilgamesh, until many thousands of years later in the city of Kish, Sargon the Alchemist rose to power.  He was both a great general and a powerful wizard, and he was determined to overthrow the Anunnaki; calling on another race of gods, the incomprehensible and terrible star-gods known as the Igigu, to help him. One of the Igigu, Shuk-Nippurash, gave Sargon secrets and power that he used to kill one of the foremost gods, Enlil.  He used Enlil's blood to create the human and minotaur slave-races. With the combined aid of his new slave-races, fellow Awilu rebels, and the dark servitors of the Igigu, he began taking one city-state after another.  Soon the gods and their loyal priesthoods were fleeing their cities in advance of Sargon's armies, toward a mountain range in the east called the "Peak of Storms".  There the god Marduk created a door into a mountain through which these refugees fled, sealing this door (the Gate of Ishtar) behind them.  There they built the city of Babylon.

Since that time Sargon, immortal, has ruled over the empire of Akkad.  He has demanded absolute loyalty to himself, and while the Awilu are now free (and their lot much improved) they have only transferred servitude down to the new human and minotaur races. He had the goal also that the Awilu would serve no gods ever again, but that goal has been less successful, as many of the Awilu have formed secret sects worshipping the terrible Igigu.

The book details the importance of family/clan units as well, particularly among the Awilu.  We also get details about the humans and minotaurs and their lives in the empire.  Humans can reproduce normally (though they can't interbreed with Awilu), but minotaurs are sterile, and thus there are relatively very few of them around, they can only be created by alchemy.  Through magic, the minotaurs are bound to obedience to an Awilu owner (which can also be transferred, again through magic); the only minotaurs who are free are those whose masters died without transferring ownership. The Uridimmu are a separate free race but are also often captured for slavery (even Awilu can theoretically be enslaved, though it is rare).

We get details too, on the typical layout of cities in Akkad.  They are largely self-sufficient and still city-states at heart, only bound by the will of Sargon. Every city has a palace, the seat of political power, and a ziggurat, seat of religious power. Each also has a small neighbourhood of nobles, and a much larger set of districts for the slaves, where conditions are of course fairly deplorable. There's also a market and a Karum (a walled-off enclave for foreigners, mostly merchants come to trade). Each city is ruled by an "Ensi" or "Witch-king".
We are told that 90% of all the population of Akkad live "within the walls" of a city-state, which leads one to wonder just what they all eat, given that what description we get of village life outside the cities is that life is unbelievably brutal and it's mostly either military camps or communities of escaped slaves. We are in fact told about the various crops of Akkadia (mainly barley, but also wheat, sesame, fruits, etc), and that they are grown by slaves, but no clues as to just where they are grown.

We're given a lot of detail on cultural life, including the ancient and modern languages (Sumerian and Akkadian), writing (cuneiform), city walls and typical homes, the canals that provide water to the rain-starved lands, domestic animals (again, where are they kept, if everyone lives in the city?), and exotic pets.  Also, food and drink (particularly beer, which is drunk from a straw), manners, the arts, clothing, forges, seals, crystals, night-life, music, sports and games.  The Akkadian army is also detailed: it is mostly human slaves, with minotaur "shock-troops" and Awilu officers, and consists of infantry, charioteers, cavalry, siege forces, and logistical support.
There's also detail on commerce, which is controlled by the commercial city-state of Assur, the only city-state that still has its own god and that controls the caravan trade.  There is no money-economy in the setting, and everything is managed by barter.  However, grain is used as a kind of primitive default-currency. Pieces of silver (not coins) are also sometimes used, by weight measurements called shiklu, for larger purchases.  Full descriptions of the setting's weight and measurement system (as used by the Assurian merchants) is included.

We get more specific details about the most significant localities of Akkad:  Akkad itself, Assur, Dur-Sharrukin (Sargon's personal fortress and summer palace), Eridu the port city, Eshnunna, Kish (where Shuk-Nippurash is worshiped), Lagash the filthy canal-city ruled by the Witch-King Warka the Mask-Bearer, Mari the city of diviners, Nimrud, Niniveh, Nippur the largest of cities with almost a million inhabitants where the cults of one thousand star-gods flourish, Samarra where the insect-god of death Lummu-Kuzazu is worshiped, Sippar that is ruled by the mad alchemist Enmeduranki, Ur the most ancient of cities, and Uruk with its zoo and gladiatorial rings.  There's also details on a number of ruined "lost cities" which can be potential sources of treasure.

The setting chapter ends with a detailed chronology of past events, and a summary for quick reference.

The chapter on the supernatural includes long setting-details on the role of worship, of destiny, mathematics, astronomy and time-keeping, astrology, human ailments, exorcism, herbalism and talismans, demons and the afterlife.  There's also a lengthy section on the god, both the old gods (that were mostly driven away by Sargon), and the star-gods (Daguna, Ishim-Shagshuga, Kogu-shotosshu, Kuthalu, Lummu-Kuzaku, Shuk-Nippurash, and Tiamat).
Witchcraft works as a skill, with levels 1-3 like any other skill, and to cast a spell one need only have the right type of skill at a level equal or superior to the level of the spell.  Each spell also has a description of what is needed to make them function; most of the spells work more as "rituals" than as D&D spells and quite a lot of them involve doing fairly unpleasant things (like torture, animal sacrifice, blood sacrifice, poisoning, and human sacrifice, among others). There's some 21 pages of spells.
There are also magic items, about five pages worth, all of which are good examples and thematic to the setting.  You get things like an amulet that always points your way home, a harp whose playing drives people mad, a dagger with powerful combat bonuses that can also cut through reality itself creating a gateway to the demon realms, a cursed figurine that when placed in the foundations of a new building will cause that structure to be haunted by evil spirits, or a staff that causes storms (among others).

Next up we get a 37-page chapter on the lands beyond the empire of Akkad.  For the reason that this review is already absurdly long, I'm going to be a bit more general in my description here: it includes fairly lengthy descriptions of what's been going on all this time in the underground city of Babylon, and of the Cimmerians (the barbarians who were descended from escaped human slaves).  Then there's shorter descriptions on the desert region, on the lands of the Elamites (who are a distant race of Awilu that ended up becoming a nation of necromancers), of the Hittites (who are distant but powerful Awilu warriors that may end up posing a serious thread to Akkad), and to even more distant places and people (including the Phoenecians, who in this setting are utterly non-human beings without noses or mouths; or a race of distant serpent-men, among others).

(apparently, there is a LOT that modern archaeology doesn't know about the Phoenicians)

There's then a fairly long "what is a DM" and "How to DM" section, including some very basic stuff on how to guide the players through character creation, the themes of the game, etc. etc.
Normally I'd consider this an enormous amount of 'filler', HOWEVER, this might be very slightly more justified than usual on account of it being a Spanish language game, and with the very shaky justification that there's a slightly higher chance that people reading this book will be slightly less likely to be familiar with these concepts than they would be if this was an English-language RPG.  The whole thing is some 27 pages long!  This does include stuff like guidance on how to set up your campaign (including guidelines on different forms of campaigns, including sandbox play), and how to handle adventures.  The only thing that's directly gameable is the page or so of encounter tables.  In any case, thus far it's a single blip of questionable material in a book that has otherwise been very jam packed with good stuff.

You then also get a chapter on NPCs, with guidelines on how to run them (again, directed at more novice GMs), and then statblocks for some common NPCs, like various kinds of human slaves, Awilu nobles, priests and merchants, guards (Awilu, humans, and minotaurs), soldiers, thugs, thieves, bandits, pirates, assassins, bounty-hunters, Cimmerian barbarians (and shamans), Elamites (and Elamite necromancers), Phoenicians (and remember, here "Phoenician" means "psychic mind-controlling monster with no mouths"), Hittites, wind spirits, serpent men, Uridimmu (anubis-guys), terrifying demons (with a random trait for demonic appearances), plus a bunch of animals (dogs, geese, horses, dromedaries, jackals, hyenas, wolves, eagles, bears, lions, serpents and crocodiles) and some giant animals (giant spiders, elephants, saber-toothed tigers).
But this isn't actually the "monster" part. That comes next, and you get all kinds of truly weird Mesopotamian-inspired monsters, including the abomination made from worms, the giant slug that attacks in the night, the lion-men, scorpion-men, a variety of other demons and nasties, all beautifully illustrated by accompanying art.  It's very good stuff.

After that, at the tail end of the book you have a sample adventure, which takes up about 30 pages.  It seems well-written, captures the feel of the game, and includes a city-plan of the city of Kish, which is a nice detail.

At the very end, as a kind of appendix, you get a guide to Akkadian words, a list of academic references (some Spanish, some English), other inspirations (literature, comics, rpgs, movies, music) a reference to the game's web-page (, and thanks. There's also a character sheet and some quick-reference tables at the very end.

So what can we say about Puerta de Ishtar?  In a way, I feel like I'm massively teasing most of you reading this, because those of you who aren't fluent in Spanish will only really be able to imagine having this game.  The fact is, I have to admit it's easily the best Mesopotamian-themed RPG I've ever seen; which may not seem like sufficient praise given how few there are of these. But a more accurate level of praise would be to say it joins games like Qin, Spears of the Dawn, or my own Arrows of Indra, in the ranks of those few RPGs that do "historical fantasy" with a heavy emphasis on getting the "history" part right in the sense of being appropriately evocative.  While there's definitely a Sword & Sorcery vibe here (just like, say, Qin has a Wuxia vibe), this is not a setting that just gives lip service to the setting or bases itself more on cheap stereotypes rather than real detail (just like Qin bases itself on real Chinese history rather than on bad Kung-fu movies).  The system looks fairly good, the production qualities are excellent.  It is proof of the ongoing excellence of Spanish RPG design (joining, as I said at the start of all this, several other truly great Spanish-language RPGs).  It is, in short, one of the great RPGs most of you will never own.

If you do read Spanish well enough to make it worth getting, you should probably check it out.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake


  1. Setting sounds okay but I prefer a generic game where I create the setting myself.

    Mechanics sounded too convoluted for me, but I can't say for sure as the description went on so long my eyes glazed over and I scrolled down to the next section. Maybe it plays better than it reads.

    Of course unless they release this in English it won't matter.

    1. The mechanics are actually a lot easier than you might think they sound. The game itself is not overly complicated. I'd put it in the same complexity level as OSR-D&D.

  2. Man, this sounds excellent... maybe I should finally go an learn Spanish.
    Then again, maybe sending it to you for an English language review (hopefully) portends a translation sometime in the not too distant future?

    1. Apparently yes, the book is being shopped around for a translation deal.

  3. Tanks so much for this -I have ogled this game behind my ignorance of Spanish - i bought the art pack online (drive thru) as it was so awesome what i had seen - i should buy book just for what i can understand like maps. I have run a BRP/RQ/Cthulhu game since early 90s and had considered writing up my 12 inch thick game notes on my game. I always thought as a BRP or GURPS book. Most of it is archeology based from when i was at uni (studying archeology/art/classics), my game is probably alot dryer but has fantasy elements and moment of interacting with last of fractured myths. Lots of fans of game you reviewed read my site and even follow my G+. My links for it here but I think If you look at the visual archive I have built under Image Dumps are a great inspiration and resource - I have a mountain of unscanned documents too and hundreds of maps and images from books and a collection of books comparable to some uni collections. There is also a encyclopedia of the ancient near east with over a dozen volumes on the region from turkey to egypt to iraq with essays on cooking, humour, marriage everything - so much detail. My link here