Get up, eat your breakfast, ride the subway to work, fight some orcs with your enchanted Glock, then return home to your wife, who is an Elven princess. Just another day for an Aeternal Legend.
Aeternal Legends is an RPG by indie publisher Mob United. It takes familiar fantasy tropes like orcs, elves and magic fireballs and lays them over a modern setting with pollution, politics and cable TV. It’s a great idea for an RPG (it’s not a bad idea for a series of novels, either, I hear). Frankly, I’m surprised we don’t see more of these types of RPGs, and I’m really surprised we didn’t see a flood of them in the last five years or so.
In any case, Aeternal Legends takes this solid gold idea and runs with it. The book starts out with a healthy dose of fluff that describes the world, the magical things that exist within it, and which denizens are aware of this secret magic reality. You won’t find a single game mechanic until somewhere past page 40. This is a good approach — you get so hooked on the setting that the mechanics become almost inconsequential. “The combat system is based entirely in giving each other indian rug burns? Ok…” (I’m kidding. Combat is actually noogie-based).
Luckily, the system used here is a good one — lightweight and quick, it uses pools of six-sided dice. The better you are at a certain skill or expertise, the more dice you roll. 1s and 2s count as successes, and you add up the numbers on the success dice (so a 2 is better than a 1). You can choose from your basic fantasy races (humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, orcs, goblins and trolls), each of which represents different aspects of a cosmic dimension that also serves as the source of all magic. Instead of hard-coded classes, you get to pick from a list of different “Expertises” (a word that truly was never meant to have a plural form). You can mix two of these to create a unique character: A gunslinging elf doctor? A gnomish wizard with a marketing degree?
Tactical actions use a points system. Each round, you get a certain number of points to spend based on your character’s Wits score. Different actions cost different numbers of Wits, and you can boost some actions by spending extra Wits. It’s a cool system that rewards characters who put a lot of points into non-physical attributes.
The organization of the sections explaining the actual rules is a little fuzzy — too often, concepts are mentioned before they’re explained fully, so it won’t start to come together until you’re on your second read-through. It’s a simple system to grasp, so this isn’t a huge problem. Some readers may also be put off by the lack of crunch. For instance, the game offers general guidelines for creating magic spells, but only offers actual stats for six spells. The same goes for magical items and creatures. Many players and DMs will appreciate this approach and enjoy creating their own variations, but it does feel a bit scant. I personally would like seeing more concrete examples of the various manifestations of magic in the Aeternal Legends world.
The book is packed with black and white art that has a uniform and distinctive style, and excellently portrays a modern magical world — there’s a certain blend of violence and humor that seems to fit this setting very well. The book is also formatted landscape style, which makes it very well-suited for use as a pdf (since most of us have widescreen monitors or laptops these days). You can score the pdf version or order a paperback copy at lulu.com.