For tabletop gamers, finding a new system to use in your role-playing sessions can be an interesting prospect. Firstly, you must consider the sheer number of different systems available to use, how difficult they’re going to be to understand for you and your fellow players. Secondly, you have to try and find a system that will fit well with the type and style of game you’re trying to run. Lastly, you need to try and figure out if the system that you’ve stumbled across is actually any good.
As if all of that wasn’t enough to be going on with, you then need to either write a campaign or at the very least buy a campaign book and read the entire thing until you know it well enough to run it. Sometimes this last step can be more important than the days or weeks you’ve actually spent trying to find a system in the first place. All of this is part of the reason that the more popular role-playing systems tend to stay so beloved, in a much similar way to MMOs. You play because everyone else in your group plays, and you stick with the system unless someone else suggests the entire group switches for a test game of some kind. With that in mind, let’s take a look at Rebirth: RPG.
Rebirth is an interesting RPG from a lore standpoint because every character and player in it is already dead. Well, almost every character, anyway. It takes place in a world where civilization was once controlled by a massive theocratic regime headed by a sanctimonious prophet who even has kings and governments under his control. The rich were given many privileges while the serfs and peasants were downtrodden and controlled.
Fed up with the way things were, seven necromancers performed a septuple sacrifice to summon a demon, each taking a part of its flesh to be given deadly powers. Once this was done, they embarked on a campaign of destruction which left all but a very few dead, and they each resurrected a nation to call their own.
Another interesting fact about Rebirth is the fact that there is no good or evil, at least not in the traditional sense. You don’t have to pick out an alignment during character creation and then stick to that alignment as you play through the game. Instead, you pick from one of the seven cities, which not only dictates the sort of post-apocalyptic society you live in but also which classes are available to you.
The attribute system is an interesting one, and it has you picking from three attribute trees: body, mind and spirit. Each of these has three separate attributes which cover force, intuition and endurance. For each tree you pick the most important, the second most important and the least important, then you roll skill scores for each tree depending on how highly you prioritized them.
This means that you get a character who has a major focus in one of three areas, each with an attribute which governs force, intuition and endurance within those areas. As you can probably tell, this would mean that the force attribute for the body would be strength, governing how physically strong a person is, whereas the force attribute for the mind is will, denoting how strong-willed a character is, etc, etc. This system has its advantages and disadvantages, mainly that while the system does allow for a huge diversity of character types, it is also a bit much to wrap your mind around.
You also have to create your own weapon, which is an interesting feature that is very different from what’s on offer in most other RPG systems. Usually you just choose your weapon from a list of starting equipment, but here you actually have to choose everything about your weapon, from the material used to make it down to the size of the weapon you use. The type of damage you do with the weapon can have different effects as well, not to mention the fact that you can change the type of damage you are doing by using the weapon in different ways.
Obviously, this is an RPG system that prides itself on being a game which manages to stand out from the crowd, and the class system is no exception to that. Instead of a simple list of a few classes you get to choose from, you’re presented with two starter classes for each city and then two advanced classes that you can progress into after gaining enough experience. This leaves you with a total of 28 options by the end of your character’s progression.
At first this number is a little overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting to play the game. When you go into creating your first character, it is not enough that you have to pick from a list of classes that you have no mental shorthand to understand, you also then have to try and understand which of the secondary advanced classes will be a good end point for your character to turn into. In reality, the starter classes are relatively broad, meaning that you don’t get locked into a path you don’t want to early on, but the advanced classes are still very numerous considering that you have to know where you plan on ending up before you pick a starting class.
At least the class skills are interesting. It must have been a pretty rare feature for an RPG to include an ability such as the bard ability which allows him to draw attention to himself in a crowd or to make one hell of an entrance. These abilities are very specific and in most RPGs would have been over designed right out of the game, but it is really nice to see this sort of character build being catered to.
When it comes to character creation, it isn’t just the classes that can get a little confusing. The game uses a percentile system for all its skill checks and attack rolls, basically meaning that you roll a D10 and a D100 (that’s two 10-sided dice, one with extra zeroes, for the uninitiated) and using the number out of 100% to see if you’ve succeeded or not. While this is pretty easy to understand in theory, it doesn’t work out so well on paper.
There are two different formulae for working out your attack value and your defense value, and they are not particularly easy to understand. Firstly, you must figure out you/your target’s defense score, which then becomes part of the formula for the attack score. Then you figure out the attack score to see if you have succeeded in attacking, then roll your damage for your weapon.
This might not seem too complicated from the outset, but it is definitely not explained well enough within the book itself. This comes to a head when you’re presented with the example character sheets. During pre-playtesting it seemed like no matter what we did, we couldn’t arrive at the same figures that were put down for most of the characters.
Balance and mechanics issues aside, the playtest still didn’t perform too well. We were using a short campaign supplied by the creators of the book, which was supposed to be a decent introduction to the world and setting of the game, as well as a way to provide the players with a decent amount of diverse opportunities in which to use their different skills.
In reality, we found that the mechanics were far too complicated and that it would have taken us far too long to fully understand them. On top of that, the campaign itself didn’t seem to do a good job of introducing the world or the game rules. It was pretty damn short, and there seemed to be very little in the way of wiggle room around the various problems the players faced, at least not in ways that were intuitive enough to figure out.
Like we said above, the mechanics and the campaign are clunky, which is a real shame because the world that this game builds and even the class system that it uses are overloaded with potential. The world the game is set in is incredibly unique, and the potential to take the world and make some amazing campaign settings from it is immeasurable. With a decent overhaul to some of the inner workings, this game could actually turn out to be one of the best RPGs out there, if only because it has a gameworld that is incredibly easy to get behind.
NOTE: We have recently been informed that the game is getting some video tutorials which will serve to clarify some of the more complicated elements during character creation and gameplay. So watch this space for a link when they’re done.
UPDATE: As promised the new tutorials are now out and you can find them here