Everway is published by Wizards of the Coast and is heralded by them as being a 'Visionary Roleplaying Game' designed by Jonathan Tweet. It retails for $35 in a boxed edition that contains three paper books (Playing Guide of 162 pages; Gamemastering Guide of 64 pages; and the Guide to the Fortune Deck of 14 pages), a 36 card 'fortune deck', a 90 card 'vision deck', 6 'quest cards' (for the sample scenario) and 4 'source cards', 2 maps, 10 pregenerated characters, 10 full color blank character sheets and 1 Black and White blank character sheet all in a sturdy plastic tray.
The production values are quite high, though the artwork varies it is generally good to excellent. Everway has a slick, professional look, what you would expect from WOC.
Everway, from an overview, is intended to be a bridge between regular roleplaying games and 'Free form' systems. It also attempts to draw in the collector card market by making visionary cards are an expandable option that can be bought in 'booster packs'. Availability of these and of the game itself are currently fairly light (we had to special order our copy of the game) in the Boston Area at present, probably because of the high price tag and the source company name (Some places are leary of WOC products beyond MTG).
It also, evidently was designed with some intent to draw in a new market for the game, that of the New Age religious movements. This is obvious from the card imagery (primarily draw from American Indian, Neo-pagan, Aztec, Egyptian and New Age in general), the classic elemental concepts and astrology and the fortune deck itself, a 36 card varient Tarot deck of Major Arcana.
Even the product's customer survey card addresses this - asking if the game was bought in a New Age store, whether the person uses Tarot, owns decks and if so how many decks they own. On the other hand, according to some of their folks on the InterNet they fell down in this direction as they couldn't evidently connect very well with the sorts of folks who supply New Age and Occult stores.
After reading thru the rules, I will warn you right now that I do not care for many features and aspects of the game. Like many of the games that try this bridge (ex: Theatrix, Amber etc) of a non-dice based free form resolution system, it falls flat in the player aspects. Conflict resolution and action resolution is based on Drama, Karma and fortune, but in actuality all three factors appear to be justification for GM fiat. The GM decides the plot and in the end the GM enforces the plot. Karma is a fancy term for comparing the characters 4 (and only 4) attributes and 4 Skill specialties to the challenge or opposition, and Fortune is the GM's interpetation of what the card from the Fortune deck means and how it influences the drama and karma, if any.
No matter how you cut it, it takes control, choices and influence away from the players. The given scenario is linear, and primarily force-fed to end with the result it started with planned on. Additionally this scenario a villain 'The Awakener' who has the power of being unkillable, and to be able to kill characters simply by snapping his fingers (I kid you not!). Since this scenario is pushed as a prime example of a scenario for the game, it will influence first time GMs and any supplemental material that is produced for the game.
The background of the world isn't bad (its a multi-dimensional setting) but lacks depth on purpose, obviously to produce lots more supplemental material to be sold.
Player characters feel shallow and incomplete, and the design method is lacking on many levels. Too much is left up to GM fiat here again, and if the GM doesn't like your character they can change it on you (according to the rules) on a whim to make their chosen plot work. As a player I would run, not walk, away from this game. As a GM I find the material lacking, and too much placed in my hands and away from my players.
Note that there has been some major discussions of some of the reviews that have been posted on the InterNet regarding the game, both pro and con. I could have included a lot more detailed complaints for the cards, scenario plan etc then I have, but I decided that we want to be sure to actually make deadline this time, and thus a brief review here is best.
The idea of a card resolution system or a card system that influences character background design is a good idea. Everway just isn't the sort of implementation of the concept that works, in my opinion. It has spurred me into working on one that does work, for my own entertainment and that of my players, but otherwise this is mostly a wasted $35 on our part.
Will Everway Survive? It is as this writing, unknown. Any company
picking it up will have to deal with the fact that its a very expensive
game to produce. Maybe someone will be able to do so and get the
mechanics updated to deal with the flaws. Or maybe those folks who
are so fanatical about the 'diceless gaming' concept will rally around
the game and breathe life into it as it is.
I've come to the conclusion, after veiwing this and several other
'diceless' games, that the diceless games are a special niche, and
not the same as a normal roleplaying game. They may work for some
people out there, but for myself it takes too much away from the
player and places too much responsibility and power within the
hands of the GM. As a GM, Player and Game Designer I find that for
me a diceless game is a dead end.
Follow Up Since This Review:
A few months have passed since I wrote this review, and Wizards of The Coast has shut down its Roleplaying Division. We've since sold our copy of the game to a friend, and hope that he can get more use out of the game then I did.
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Will Everway Survive? It is as this writing, unknown. Any company picking it up will have to deal with the fact that its a very expensive game to produce. Maybe someone will be able to do so and get the mechanics updated to deal with the flaws. Or maybe those folks who are so fanatical about the 'diceless gaming' concept will rally around the game and breathe life into it as it is.
I've come to the conclusion, after veiwing this and several other 'diceless' games, that the diceless games are a special niche, and not the same as a normal roleplaying game. They may work for some people out there, but for myself it takes too much away from the player and places too much responsibility and power within the hands of the GM. As a GM, Player and Game Designer I find that for me a diceless game is a dead end.