Yesterday my friend Alex ran a piece on his blog about Dariel Quiogue’ Gods of Gondwane, and I realized I have never reviewed this small, fun independent roleplaying game. And really, can we ignore a game that is pitched to us as
Think Spartacus meets Flash Gordon in The Land That Time Forgot
So, let’s get a look at this baby.
Gods of Gondwane is a slim indie game presented as a 46 pages pdf file you can get from free through DriveThruRPG.
The game runs on Dariel’s own VIVID System, which is a nice balance (to me, at least) of crunch and freeform. Players get to draw up a character assigning a number of dice to non-list, open descriptors: your character can get, say, three dice in “Self-taught fringe scientist” and four dice in “with a passion for outdoor activities”… and that’s what you’ll use as the core for your playing. The character is then rounded up with attributes, knacks, hooks, but everything’s pretty open-ended.
This can be (and is) a lot of fun, but you also run the risk of having players trying to hack the system to their advantage. Players are like that.
Gameplay is again nicely balanced between crunchy-ness and a more narrative/improvisational style, and allows for different styles of gaming.
I like that.
As for the setting, and without giving away any secrets…
A mysterious race is conducting experiments on humans, snatching test subjects from various times and places, and bringing them back to the Jurassic.
The captives are used to set up experimental societies, that are blasted off the map when the experiment (whatever its nature and purpose) fails.
This creates the world of Gondwane, dotted with strange eccentric kingdoms and nations at war, and strewn with the remains of the canceled experiments – lost cities, ancient artifacts, a handful of strange and possibly dangerous survivors.
And dinosaurs – because hey, this is the Jurassic!
The characters are people from these mostly Bronze Age nations, the occasional modern man snatched through the Bermuda Triangle, and maybe a survivor or two of the previous cycles. They are footloose in a world of jungles and monsters, ancient mysteries and mad gods.
This IS fun.
The game mentions (among others) E.R. Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter (that actually DID write a series set in a place called Gondwane) as sources of inspiration, together with old movies like Worlords of Atlantis, or Mike Grell’s excellent Warlord comics.
The background is deep enough to set the game in motion, but also sketchy enough to provide ample maneuvering space for game masters to develop their own material and their own places and people. A number of adventure themes are provided, together with a short introductory scenario.
It’s a small, fun project, and worthy of a try – even just reading the handbook is a great source of ideas and projects.
Check it out.