העמותה למשחקי תפקידים בישראל (אתר היסטורי)Orkworld: Review / יוסי גורביץ - העמותה למשחקי תפקידים בישראל (אתר היסטורי)
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Orkworld: Review / יוסי גורביץ

Orkworld: Review

ORKWORLD
Fantasy Roleplaying Game
Written by John Wick, illustrated by Thomas Denmark
300+ pgs., color cover, B&W inner illustration + one color plate.
*****
Price: 25$, unavailable in Israel as far as I know.

Orkworld is an excellent game. I write this with dismay, because after reading this book, the only original fantasy RPG I've read in years, I realized fantasy gaming is not for me. But more on that, later. The facts first.

Orkworld looks at a fantasy world from the view point of an Ork – you know, the smelly, brutish beasts who go at 50 XP a piece? Except they ain't, and they don't. Wick has created a captivating world and an alluring race.

Actually, he did it they way anthropologists study a culture: he studied the language, and climbed up from there. Practically every part of Ork civilization is described: what they eat, how they dress, their tribal framework, their weapons, beliefs, their funeral rites – the works. And he managed to make it a living culture.

Several important facts: Orks have a tribal society, centered around the Dowmga, the mother of the tribe; Ork society is matriarchal. Orks don't have a concept of pregnancy – babies come from the Goddess, and the mother is blessed by her. Orks also have a limited photosynthesis ability, which helps them survive the harsh weather of their world (which lasts for two thirds of the year). An important concept in their culture is that of Trouble; every Ork has his Trouble, which he cannot avoid, which he must carry – and he'll often need the aid of his tribe to do so.

Orkish society is a warrior society, and the main characters played are those of thraka (warriors) and tala (bards who sing of the heroics of those warriors). Oh, and Orks eat their dead. They believe eating body parts of a dead warrior will grant them some of his wisdom or prowess. The Orks are beset by enemies: pseudo-Roman humans (who, I suspect, owe a lot to Gladiator); gloomy, dour, and greedy dwarves (who have a good reason to be gloomy and dour); and monstrous, alien, deadly elves, busy plotting against each other and against the known universe. The halflings of this universe seem to have been wiped out by the humans. The Orks see all of them, naturally, as monsters. Other monsters include dragons, trolls, and giants.

Wick dives into Ork culture, and he drags you with him. Of special importance is a whole chapter, dedicated to telling the Orkish tales. It's good storytelling, for starters, and it helps deliver home the feeling of a tribe, sitting around a fire, and telling tales. Ork culture is richer than I can describe – Wick had written a whole book, after all, and I'm just writing a review.

And now, the game side. Characters are created as a part of a Household, not as individual characters. The players have a number of points to spend on both characters and Household. This is an interesting concept, which reminds me of Ars Magica's covenants and Conspiracy X's cells. It seems to work; characters are not created in a void, but rather as part of a group (a concept I find endearing, given the lack of rationale behind many player characters group). The mechanics are simple and generally unobtrusive.

In short, it's the best, most original fantasy game I've seen since I first read Ars Magica in 1994. It is, to date, Wick's magnum opus: better than Legend of the Five Rings, certainly better than 7th Sea.

But (of course there is a but. Don't tell me you didn't see this one coming): it may not be the game for me. Let me explain.

The book I read was lent to me by a friend. The binding is loose, so I was careful with it – only read it when lying down, not when I was sitting. And, four hours into the book, I wanted to get a smoke. I got up, picked a contemporary book, and went out. For less than an hour.

But that short period ruined Orkworld for me. The chapter I read was dealing with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellite states. And when I finished my pipe, closed the book, and went back to Orkworld, my sense of wonder vanished. I realized that, even though this is the best detailed work of fantasy I've read in almost a decade, it is mere fantasy; and as such, it will always be less true, less detailed, less alive than modern games – my particular genre.

This book – for all the wrong reasons – has left me with a lingering taste of ashes. It's probably my final farewell to the "normal" fantasy genre (I still run Ars Magica). But this is not likely to happen to you: you are not a pedantic historian with an eye for detail. In short, this is in all likelihood my problem, not yours.

To sum up: buy this game. We need games like it against the rising tide of generic, D&Dish fantasy. Wick delivers the goods; there's nothing like this book on the market.

פורסם ב6 במאי 2009 בקטגוריה סקירות על-ידי jerusalem | לתגובות - בפורום | Tags: ,

 

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