The Alexandrian

Enchanted Worlds Starter Kit - New World GamingIf there is one place where the would-be RPG publisher goes wrong, it is when they think like an amateur instead of a professional.

The amateur is giddy and excited: A labor of love is finally going into print. You’ll see their inability to cope with the realities of publishing in a thousand different ways: Even though it took them two years to finish writing their core rulebook (and they have nothing else ready to go), they’ll include announcements in the back of the book for a new product every month until the end of the year. They’ll start under-capitalized so that, even if they did have material ready to go, they won’t have the money to print it until their print run for the core rulebook sells out. They’ll alienate their customer base by making extravagant claims about their game which only confirm their ignorance of the game market. They’ll publish something with low production values… but then charge the consumer the same price as a product with higher production values.

But there is one mistake that they will make which will put the final kiss of death upon their product: They will fail to take their competition into account.

For example, let’s say you want to create a Tolkienesque fantasy game – elves, dwarves, the whole nine yards. What’s the first thing that should come up on your radar screen?

D&D.

What’s the second thing that should come up on your radar screen?

Earthdawn, Ironclaw, Shards, Ars Magica, Sovereign Stone, Warhammer FRP, Hero Wars, and a dozen other games – major and minor – that fall within the classic fantasy marketplace to one degree or another.

And at that point you should be asking yourself a simple question: Can I offer something that these other games don’t?

For example: Ars Magica (arguably) does magic better than any other game system around. Legend of the Five Rings was an Eastern Fantasy game at a time when there wasn’t any serious competition. Ironclaw is anthropomorphic. Hero Wars has Glorantha. And so forth…

And if Enchanted Worlds possesses a flaw, then this would be it: It’s a game without purpose. Without a niche. Without a role to fulfill.

The boxed set, as a whole, comes across as a slightly amateurish effort, but with a certain amount of quality within those boundaries: A ring-bound booklet, a short introductory adventure, two eight-sided dice, a full-color map, a reference card, and a handful of character sheets.

The main booklet presents both rules and setting information. The rules are difficult to learn and reference because almost every single system is split up – with one half of the system described on an overview page and the other half of the system located later on in the book. Once you get past this odd fact (and the lay-out, which routinely leaves major sub-sections completely unlabeled, mixing dissimilar concepts together into one big lump of text) the system is fairly clean: Point-based character creation, a simple Attribute + Skill incarnation using a 2d8 die roll, and casting spells from a list.

The setting for the game is squeezed into about a dozen pages, and looks the worse for wear: It’s a standard Tolkienesque fantasy settings (elves, dwarves, humans, and the humanoid minions of evil), and the limited information which is provided does little to nothing in helping it stand out from the dozens of other settings out there that look just like it.

There’s a persistent problem with everything in this box: What’s there is fine for as far as it goes… but it doesn’t actually go anywhere in particular. There are at least a half dozen games on the market which do almost exactly what this one does – and do it better.

So I’m left searching for some reason you should buy this game, and I’m afraid I just don’t have one. I’ve seen this game before… only it was in full color and about 200 pages longer.

Ultimately, that’s a problem Enchanted Worlds just can’t live down.

Writers: Matthew Rodgers and Daniel Price
Publisher: New Worlds Gaming
Price: $14.95
Page Count: 40
Product Code: EWRSK1

Originally Posted: 2000/09/05

If I had written this review a couple of years later, I could probably have gotten away with just writing IT’S A FANTASY HEARTBREAKER! in blazing capital letters.

By the time this review rolled around, I was receiving RPG review copies from a number of different sources, including RPGNet, Games Unplugged, and the defunct Gaming Outpost website. Graveyard Greg over at Gaming Outpost contacted me about this Enchanted Worlds Starter Kit, complaining that he couldn’t find anybody who wanted to look at. Could I help him out? I said sure.

About a week later I got a copy of the game in the mail, but it wasn’t from Greg. Instead, Games Unplugged had decided to also throw me a review copy. A week after that I got a second copy, but this one ALSO wasn’t from Greg: New Worlds Gaming had somehow gotten my snail mail address and had sent me a copy directly with a request that I produce a review. (I never actually figured out where they got my address from.) The Gaming Outpost copy showed up shortly thereafter.

So now I had three copies of this shitty game.

I also had an obligation to both Gaming Outpost and Games Unplugged to produce a review of it. Which, after some deliberation, I did: I wrote two completely different reviews (albeit with the same basic conclusion) for two different outlets. You’ve just read the Gaming Outpost review (which actually appeared second). I’ll be posting the Games Unplugged version next week.

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