Sword of Cepheus

What is old school?

  • Imagine, you would like to play a fantasy game where the characters are the heroes, but not that kind of heroes who win in hand-to-hand combat against hordes of ogres and trolls. But the kind of heroes that use their cleverness and cunning. Heroes that might have a home and a job, in a fantasy world that has a bit of magic but also has more mundane traits.
  • Imagine that rpg has very simple rules. Just roll 2d6 and check the result for any task. The character sheet is not more than a few lines of simple text.  Not four sheets of paper, but something that you could take with you on a credit card size piece of paper.
  • Imagine, that you would not start adventuring as a young adolescent, but as someone who has live a life for 30 or 40 years and is on that epic quest of his life now.

Sword of Cepheus

That game for me is Sword of Cepheus. It is built on the established Cepheus Light rules engine that itself emulates a more streamlined version of the original Traveller game. It will be a not a 300 pages tome of intricate details, but rather a quick and fun way to play. The game uses the typical life path character generation, i.e. you not only roll for the attribute values but also for the career, skills and possessions of the character.
Omer Golan-Joel and his coauthors have made a beautiful game here that I had the honor and pleasure to playtest. I can’t wait for the game to be released.
Allow me to share my impression based on the playtest which isn’t the final version of the game, yet.

  1. It feels more real, because danger is less abstract. Being hit with a sword is really threatening, because it may very well take a character out. He or she likely will not die on the spot as in simpler hit-point based system, but the changes for passing out because of damage is high enough. Wounds also don’t just heal that quickly.
  2. I like that armor is reducing damage. Yes, there are many arguments that have been had whether armor should make a person harder to hit. But it feels more rewarding to a player, when the armor reduces that two or three critical points that made the difference between life and death.
  3. Magic is rare and has potentially devastating consequences for the magician if done incorrectly. 
  4. Characters are in general more ordinary people and not superheroes. That fits to it feeling more real.
  5. If you really want superheroes than there are optional rules for that as well.
  6. Character progression is less about boosting stats, but more about acquiring status, influence and wealth. There are rules for trade and hirelings.

To put it in another way: maybe some of you remember how playing the Keep on the Borderlands felt in the day. Sword of Cepheus manages to produce that kind of feeling for me. I can explore a new world with it, which is fascinating, yet dangerous.

For more info, see the old announcement from January http://spacecockroach.blogspot.com/2019/01/announcing-sword-of-cepheus.html

I will update the link, to the full announcement when the game is officially released.

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