by Cain.rpgorg in Dec 05,2011

Greg Cristopher, the author of Cascade Failure now gifts us a new (and again, completely free) roleplaying-game, Novarium. In the magic-filled world of Vaena women received the gift of magic, and they turned sexist prejudices upside down. Now, they are the leadersand magicians of the new world.

 Novarium is a new, very unique fantasy RPG written by Greg Cristopher. After his very interesting work we reviewed before, the Cascade Failure Sci-Fi RPG, it seemed natural to check his last work. After reading through the Novarium rulebook, I think it's worth our time.

  It may seems to be an overstatement first to call an RPG unique in the current sea of new games, but I think Novarium is really something you haven't seen before. It's setting and gameplay is maybe has the closest resemblance to Ars Magica, but with a much easier to understand system, and with several interesting twists in the game's background.

Just read the short premise of the RPG :

"The angel Azakriel has visited the humans of this world and given the gift of magic to women, who have in turn reversed the sexism in their society and risen as powerful leaders. This was a last ditch ploy from the heavens to empower the humans to fight against evil, as the demihuman empires had been torn apart through their own greed and hubris."

  So yes, this is a very distinct world, where women rule, man regarded as second-class humans, and the elves are a cursed race of magic-eaters with a bad reputation, while dwarwes (also as a shadow of themselves) are sightly defected and without ambitions. Rampant magic could cause animals to mutate, and dead spirits to become fey, while demons, devils and warlocks try to control and taint every source of magic. In the world every women has the power to use magic, but some of them are even powerful them others, they are the Novaria.

  Players will have multiple characters (mostly two), a Novaria and some support character in most cases. By season to season they have to decide witch character goes on adventuring, while the other character sepnds time with background activities, like crafting, healing, managing business ventures, or magical research.

  Characters have to locate and recover sources of magic, defeat evil creatures and manage their assests. They have to work as a team, as many dangers out there could even end the life of the powerful Novaria, while a devil could endanger a full Novarium (Novarium : a group of Novaria + support cast).

System of the game

  The system of Novarium is pure and simple, and for magic it's quite flexible. Most of the abilities of a character is derived from his base abilities, with several traits (4/character) giving different modifiers and abilities, making the characters much more unique. For combat, there are no hit points : all damage is decreasing base characteristics, and by reaching zero a character die.

  The magic system is based on combining a Method and a Materia to get the desired effect, and rollingwith a couple of difficulty dice against the releavant magic abilities. Basically, anything is possible what the GM allows, as the magic in the game is extremely powerfull. For al Method and Materia there are guidelines to set the difficulty, based on what do you want to effect and how, hovewer the Architect (the Game Master) has  final word. it1s also possible to collect and use "solid" magic, Essence, however it could overload a spell for drastic (often unintended) results.

Final words

I really like Novarium, especially thanks to it's very adaptable magic system. I may even say, that this RPG is even better  written than Cascade Failure, which was also pretty good. The only thing what is not great for my personal taste is the damage system, but I can get over it.

So, thank you Greg again, for your excellent work !

Players interested in Novarium could grab it for free at RPGNow, here. If you are more interested in sci-fi then I recommend to check Cascade Failure here.

Zoltán "Cain" Mészáros

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