Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A bat'leth under the aviator jacket is the new katana in the trenchcoat.

I still don't know the secret, so don't ask.See the guy in the background of that cover, the one with the aviator gear, the double-barreled pistol, and the weird blade? I played that dude on Sunday. It was Stuart's turn to GM at our local Run Club, and he chose as his game The Secret of Zir'An. Kathleen was a mysterious Runecaster and gambler, complete with derringer up the sleeve. Dave played an ogre in a tuxedo wielding the world's largest meat cleaver. And Doug's PC was a stripper ninja who, contrary to all sanity, was not a lesbian. We fought shadowy menaces threatening a gigantic magical airplane/cruise ship. The Hounds of Tindalos made a guest appearance. It was a pretty rockin' time.

There's a lot of good things to be said about Zir'An. The setting is a magical neo-pulp sort of affair, kinda like Eberron with all the D&D-isms removed. The combat system was a crunchy yet fairly intuitive exercise in tactical resource management, but done in a way totally different from most such games I've encountered. Iron Gauntlets has a similar approach, but Zir'An's method is much more polished. I'd love it if publisher Paragon Games took the combat section of their so-called Finesse System and used it to power a setting with a shallower learning curve, something straightforward like action spies or dracula punchers.

Because one of the downer things to Zir'An is what I sometimes call the Double Whammy. In order to get your money's worth out of this game you need to understand a fairly heavy (albeit cool-looking) Setting as well as learning a new, idiosyncratic, medium-to-heavy System. I just don't have much time for that sort of thing anymore. Also counting against Zir'An is an unecessarily convoluted chargen section and an overly long skill list. Doug commented "This is the kind of game that probably deserves a second edition, but nowadays it probably won't get it." I tend to agree. A lot of the game could use some streamlining and the setting information (noting that I haven't read it all, just flipped through) looks like it could use the services of an editor who isn't already enamored of the world of Zir'An.

Still, nothing in the game text prevented us from having a good time. We laughed. We rolled some dice. We blew some shit up. That's my idea of a good Sunday afternoon.