Categorized | RPGs

Ignotus Player Guide Review

Posted on May 2, 2005 by Flames

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Ignotus Player’s Guide
Sacred Wolf, Inc.
Creator: Shawn Allbrandt.
Additional Material: Nick Allbrandt and Seth Allbrandt
Editor: William A Rae
Art: Jaime Carrillo
Ignotus requires the D20 Modern Rules.

“Welcome to the end of the world.”

Ignotus is Sacred Wolf’s game of modern horror, in which potent conspiracies exist to render miserable the lives of the ordinary people and dark secrets are revealed to show that man is not alone. In the Ignotus Player’s Guide, all of the information required for players to take part in this darkly present world is provided. From formative experiences to feats and skills, prestige classes to starting occupations, the book lays out in plain terms what is what. The emphasis is primarily on the nitty gritty of gameplay rather than the flavour of the setting and it is sometimes difficult to envisage exactly how characters can be made to come alive.

The first sections concern establishing character formation. In Ignotus, each character suffers from (or, more rarely, benefits from) d4 random traits. These can be quite challenging to play and some of them may put some players off – would you wish to play a victim of sexual abuse? A child prodigy? A witness to a major crime? All of these things are possible and I suspect that in practice most GMs will choose to allow players to select a small number of traits that they feel interested in playing. The experience of the Shutter and the dark Ignotus dimension would be among the more popular traits in this case.

The next section concerns feats, which are mostly divided into two main categories: the first category makes a character a more efficient and competent adventurer and includes such things as combat advantages, vehicle driving and advanced healing. The second category is mostly devoted to a range of arcane skills and competencies. Both psionic abilities and sorcery are possible and indeed seemingly quite common in Ignotus and subsequent sections provide more details of how to go about using these powers. Magical feats include cheating destiny, which is nice, as well as a range of technical improvements to the ways that spells are cast – calmer, fitter, happier spells.

Just as in the Games Master’s Handbook, artwork is noticeable primarily because of its absence. This is particularly evident in the chapter which follows and concerns magical spells. I have often commented that I think too much emphasis is placed on artwork and that a lot of space is wasted on it so I am not going to shed any tears on reading a book that has so little on it. However, I do think that artwork can have a role to play in showing how magic works in this world, what sort of people go on to become wizards and, also, what interesting and unexpected effects might be accomplished by the imaginative use of a spell.

The writing in Ignotus is generally plain and straightforward but for descriptions of spells and their effects it might be insufficient. I can foresee uncertainty and even controversy from interpreting how particular spells work and what they do or do not do. For example, on pages 49-50, the spell ‘Conceal Thoughts’ is described (together with the necessary stats block) in this way: ‘You protect your thoughts from analysis. While the duration lasts, you gain +20 circumstance bonus on Bluff checks against those attempting to discern your true intentions with Sense Motive. You also gain +4 bonus on your saving throw against any power used to read your mind (such as detect thoughts or mind probe).’ What do ‘protect’ and ‘analysis’ mean here? Is this magical? Can it therefore be detected as magical? Are other thoughts substituted or does the concerned person appear to have no thoughts at all? These are questions that appear to be left to the GM to decide, with room for some debate and inconsistency.

Psionic effects and incantations are next described and these too combine some nice ideas with occasional laxity of presentation. Body double (p.56), for example, crates a clone of any individual and “It has the surface mannerisms and personality of the real creature, but its Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores are all 5.’ How could this work in practice? Surely any attempt to fool people would be doomed to failure? However, as a source of organs for sale in the lucrative but illegal kidney market, it must have a future.

The next section is a very brief discussion of some aspects of the use of firearms. Of course, the default setting is America and so there is an unspoken assumption not just that guns are easy to obtain but also that it is perfectly acceptable for people to go around armed and prepared to shoot at the first hint of a psychic manifestation.

Advanced classes are the subject of the next chapter. These include the psion, diviner and shaman. These are fully spelled out in terms of abilities and statistics but the descriptions would have benefited from some context as to what would motivate such classes, what role-playing elements might be common and useful for a starting player and a few role model NPCs to emulate. The prestige classes are next. I particularly enjoyed the Ecstatica, who is a magic-user who draws power from heightened emotions, whether fear, anger, hatred or passion (sounds like an ex-spouse). This would make an excellent enemy figure, whether or not any players get to exploit the possibilities. Imagine the spells that could be cast in the environment of a late train and all the frustration that causes. Other prestige classes include the wastrel, who approaches magic through the medium of technology and the faquir, who has considerable reserves of spiritual power and thus receives guidance from above.

Starting occupations are next and this helps to establish some idea of how the game creator imagines the game is most likely to be structured. Players can choose their characters to be psychics, homeopaths, alchemists or journalists, among other occupations. This suggests that there is likely to be an emphasis in the game on the arcane arts, while the remaining two sections deal with optional combat rules and a spell point system that allows for a more flexible magic system for those who refer that. Presumably this is something that the GM should decide whether or not is possible rather than the player.

As a player’s guide, Ignotus covers most of the points that would be expected but opportunities were missed to enthuse and excite the player. Inexperienced players, in particular, might be excused for being a little unsure as to what to expect or what to do next. Then again, are there still inexperienced players out there these days? It sometimes seems as if the RPG industry consists of a few people writing material for each other in a closed system. Besides which, role playing is such a common activity that few people must be completely unaware of what it means.

Reviewer: John Walsh

New & Used RPGs, fiction and more at Noble Knight Games.

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