From the Ashes of War – A Review of Warpland

Warpland

Author: Gavriel Quiroga
Page Count: 154
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $8
Print – $35

 

From the ashes of a war with no winner rises Warpland. An ancient conflict between the Eloi and Morlock left both societies lost to time. The land was forever altered by the “Great War,” warping the natural order, and yet life continues to thrive once again. The cities and towns of man began anew in this new twisted landscape. The past lingers on with its technological relics and areas of strange forces. The ravaged land of yesterday is the Warpland of today.

Note: Gavriel Quiroga provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. If you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review, please visit our Product Review Request page.

Warpland is a roleplaying game set in a post-apocalypse setting with a set of minimalistic game mechanics. Warpland’s charm comes from its sandbox setting and random events and encounter tables. It delivers inspirational descriptions and illustrations in which Gamemasters can wield to create their own stories.

Character Creation

Character creation in Warpland is simple and easy. Characters have four abilities: Agility, Might, Lore, and Wits. Agility measures a character’s grace and balance as well as their adeptness with ranged weapons. Might denotes the character strength and is used for melee combat, health, and resistance to toxins. Lore is the knowledge and wisdom of a character. It is also a key attribute that affects other aspects of the character and gameplay. Wits define a character’s alertness and sociability with its peers.

Attributes range from 5 (poor) to 10 (excellent) and are allocated as the player wishes within the scope of the rules. But before any points are distributed, players are first asked to conceptualizes their characters. They do this by giving their characters a name and describing their appearance. Players then choose a personality flaw for their characters that will be used by the Gamemaster later in the game. Players may come up with their own flaws or choose from a list provided. After this, players may populate their character’s attributes by spending eight points among the four attributes: attributes start at 5.

Characters with Lore values greater than five receive one skill for each point over. Warpland features fifteen skills presented as occupations. Each skill is broad in its scope, covering general talents that fall within that profession. Skills also contain special abilities unique to that skill. For example, the Warlock skill provides a character with the ability to cast spells, referred to as Gifts from the Void; a list of sixteen Gifts from the Void (spells) is provided. Characters can choose up to five skills if they max out their Lore Attribute.

Players then create backgrounds by rolling on the Background Table containing twenty events to complicate their existence and for a gamemaster to exploit. Players may opt to create their own with their Gamemaster’s approval.

Warpland is human-centric. There are no demi-humans, but mutations are common in a world warped by the “Great War.” Players have the option to play as mutants. Mutant characters begin with three mutations, which may be beneficial or a hindrance depending on the random mutation charts used. There are twenty mutations and flaws a character may possess.

The final step is to roll a character’s wealth and purchase equipment. Some equipment is provided for free with skills. The equipment section offers a wide range of simple iron melee and ranged weapons and armor found in most low-tech fantasy settings. There is also an extensive range of general goods, foods, clothing, and fantastical beasts of burden for purchase. In addition to the above, this section provides the Gamemaster with a couple of random tables. They included items one can steal from a commoner or wealthy individual, herbal concoctions, psychoactive, and a table of oddities to introduce into the game.

Game Mechanics

Warpland uses skill Tests with difficulty modifiers ranging from +1 (easy) to -3 (almost impossible) as its game mechanic. 2d6 are used for Test resolution; any result equal to or less than denotes success. Any success equal to or greater than 8 is a critical success, which adds special effects in combat that increase the severity of the attack. When double ones (snake eyes) or double sixes (boxcars) are rolled, complications arise. Double ones are ruled as actions that barely succeed, whereas double sixes are a complete failure. Both are subject to complications. Losing one’s footing or dropping a held item is an example of a complication. A d6 random table aids the Gamemaster in determining the outcome.

Combat

Combat begins with a Wits Test to establish the characters’ initiative order, with those passing going before the enemy and those failing going after. In Warpland, only players roll dice in combat. When an enemy attacks a character, the character must test their Dodge (Agility attribute) to avoid taking damage.

Damage is calculated differently for characters and foes. Character’s deal damage equals the highest die rolled in their melee or ranged test plus any additional bonuses from the weapon used. On the other hand, characters are dealt damage after failing a dodge test. The amount taken is equal to the difference between the total dodge result and a character’s Agility score plus any modifiers for the weapon used by the foe.

Damaged characters suffer penalty modifiers when they reach Wounded (lost half of their hp) and Heavy Wounded (one hit point remaining). Character’s with no hit points are Incapacitated and will die in d6 rounds if not attended to. A character’s hits points are equal to their Might attribute. Characters recover one hit point with a night of restful sleep.

Willpower – a player’s advantage

Players have an advantage; they can spend Willpower points, a commodity derived by their character’s Lore attribute, to reroll a single die if announced before rolling the dice. Willpower is also used to test a character’s control over their character’s flaw, mind-affecting magics, and fear. Spent Willpower replenishes at the rate of one per night’s rest. If a character runs out of Willpower, they suffer a -1 penalty until they regain at least one.

Warpland

Warpland consists of sixteen unique locations. Warpland consists of sixteen unique locations. With no roads or paths to follow, travel between locations is slow, and travelers can easily lose their way. Not to mention, traveling between locations is downright dangerous. Locations feature simple descriptions of the area, and most have random charts with major and minor events to add to a Gamemaster’s story.

A nicely illustrated map highlights points of interest. There is Arkanar, home of the ancient Eloi, one of the warring tribes in the “Great War”.  Now desolate, its treasures lie among its ruins protected by deadly machines and strange creatures. To its north is Lagash, a crumbling city ruled by mutants. To Arkanar’s south, is Abraeas a small outpost for mutants, explorers, and the like. To the distant southeast lies Sunno. Sunno is made up of farming villages and small towns surrounding the Citadel, a large city filled with thieves. To its west is swampland known as the Grunge, which is ruled by The Iron Lords, a small military organization. To the Citadel’s north is a vast mountain range known as the Wurmspine. It is home to the Skull Riders, a group of marauding tribes. West of the mountain range is the Uncanny Valley, where fierce barbarians live. To its north are the murky waters of The Brown. North of the Wurmspine is Slaughter, a gathering place for merchants to trade with the surrounding inhabitants. To the far east is Obsidia, a volcanic landscape. To its north is Noch, a bleak region devoid of pity and kindness. To Obsidia’s far south is Zur, the merchant hub for the region. Farther east of Obsidia is the Sulphurous, a  sea of yellowish-green waters. Finally, to the far north and central to all is Doomgape. An area warped and torn by what is referred to as The Void.

The Void

The Void is a dark force with primordial beings springing forth to tempt man with power and corruption. Demons, masses of flesh-eating worms, gigantic monstrous flying creatures of nightmare, and other abominations spew out. They seek to infect man with their evil ways known as Taints. It is no wonder the religions of Warpland are filled with nihilistic doomsday cults.

Within the society of Warpland are numerous organizations and religious groups that characters can align themselves with. An organization known as The Tenet believes in strict adherence to a set of principles that will return the True Light to the land. Temples of the True Light, which most common folks follow, worship the True Light and is complementary to The Tenet. The Scourges renounce the knowledge of the past and organize public fire ceremonies to rid themselves of the knowledge of the past so that its evils will not bring about another “Great War.” The Brotherhood of Whispers sells secrets to whomever for profit. The Legion is an independent mercenary force loyal to the highest bidder. The last group is The Society of Technocracy who searches and studies the knowledge of the past.

The Aether

The Great War between the Eloi and Morlock caused more than simple destruction. From the war sprang a corruption of nature. The sky, referred to as the Aether, no longer shines the true light. Fragments of crystal shards from the Eloi war machines pollute the sky, warping the light, breeding convoluted growth, and altering all living things. Every 1d6 days, the Aether condition changes and affects all of Warpland. There are 12 conditions of the Aether provided. Some conditions bring about Maelstroms, atmospheric conditions of warp energies that rain down and mutate those caught in their paths.

Artifacts

The threats to humankind in Warpland are as deadly as the land. The remnants of past technologies and corrupt fauna are a constant threat. Warpland provides ancient Eloi technologies to add to your game and a bestial collection to use them on. The ancient technologies include advanced weaponry and equipment like plasma rifles and force fields. Each requires a Lore Test to use. A failed test may mutate a character and render the item useless. Artifacts from the Eloi require crystal shards to power them, giving them limited use.

Gamemaster Section

Three introductory adventures follow a page of helpful game mastering tips. Each adventure comes with five pre-generated characters and a tie-in to Neurocity. Neurocity is an adjacent roleplaying game about a technology city produced by Warpland’s authors. The introductory adventures are no more than two pages in length, with adventure hooks and a basic outline of the events to occur. Gamemasters will need to flesh out the details themselves or improvised their way through.

Final Thoughts

With Warpland’s minimally fleshed-out rules and setting, it is easy to pick up and run. The setting requires a Gamemaster with good improvisation skills or time to develop as needed. The world setting is very light, and imagery drives a good portion of inspiration. Warpland features fantastic artwork and an inspiring layout, harkening back to the cutting-edge design of the early 90s propagated by David Carson of Ray Gun magazine. It is similar to the layout style of the roleplaying game Mörk Borg, but not nearly as extreme. Its bold design choices with color, typefaces, and type sizes make this rulebook stand out. Warpland’s physical booklet, which I highly recommend over the PDF, is square in shape. Roughly eight and a half inches square, Warpland’s softcover book cradles nicely in one’s hand. Its imagery comes alive so much more than the PDF.

Not sure this game is for you? Take a look at the rules for yourself. A free downloadable PDF is available on DrivethruRPG entitled Warpland: The Forbidden Book of Tangible Reality. It is a skinny (5-1/8″W x 8-1/2″H), no cover, 23-page, black and white document with the rules for players or Gamemasters to use as a table reference. It contains no art or additional information. It lacks skill descriptions, so it is not a substitute for the main rulebook. It has the game’s mechanics, character creation, equipment charts, Gifts from the Void, mutations, and taint effects. Design-wise it could have been laid out better. Everything but the equipment tables has been reformated into two very slim columns with justified type, causing excessive spacing between words. A single-column layout would have presented better. A physical version is available for purchase for $2.50 plus shipping on DrivethruRPG. The physical copy feels nice in the hands, and unlike the PDF, it features a full-color cover. 

If you are the type of Gamemaster who enjoys partially defined post-apocalyptic settings with charts randomly adding to your stories, Warpland is the right choice for you. Its base mechanic is simple enough to be substituted for another if one wishes. Its unusual size and look are sure to stand out on your shelf. Warpland is a fun read and a visual experience to be had.

~Stephen Pennisi

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