Reviewed By Joseph Teller
Originally Published in Interregnum APA
Dragon Storm is a new roleplaying game, designed in the form of a card game. We got our cards at Arisia from Robin Wood (and she signed a number of the cards for us) who is the primary artist on the game.
The art on the game is wonderful, pertinent and helps folks with better understanding the nature of what they are dealing with.
The starter decks cost $10, and include enough cards for a player to create a character and enough cards for a GM to make a sample scenario or two. Supplemental card sets (Boosters) add more options, and expand the GM tools for setting up a longer term campaign.
The rules for the game are included, and consist of 4 pages (on 2 double sided sheets) for the Player and 4 seperate pages for the GM. They outline the basic mechanics of character creation (basically a constructed method using the cards to define attributes, background, Flaws, Anchors (skills & abilities) and equipment). A character sheet is generated to supplement the cards information and to deal with temporary conditions (like wounds, food, water etc).
The worldbase associated with the game is very loose fantasy. It is a world of shapeshifters. Human werewolves, dwarven gargoyles, human dragons and elven unicorns. They use their powers and abilities to battle powerful enemies and to save the world from Dragon Storms. Generally they are referred to as 'stormlanders'.
Basically the Stormlanders are mostly European Middle Ages styled peasants, ruled by nobles who spend all their time fighting for control of the Stormland city-states.
Dragon Storms are tempests of wild magic that ruin crops, level homes and cause the tox a disease that twists the body and soul. When caught in the open by a storm young adults sometimes transform into shape shifters. Elves become unicorns, dwarves become gargoyles, and a human might become a werewolf or a dragon. Shapeshifters are generally feared by the peasants, often driven from their homes. Some are taken in by a mentor, and may be trained to become a Valarian Champion.
Additionally you have wizards, witches, shamans and evil necromancers. Necromancers can drain shape shifters of their magics, to fuel toxic spells. Necromancers appear to be the enemy of everyone, except maybe orcs, who are adapted to surviving in the wastelands that their toxic spells create.
The background, in my opinion, is one of the flaws of the game. Its just not explained out enough. There is supposed to be a newsletter associated with the game to expand the background info (which you can get for free by mailing in gold points, that is proof of purchase markers from the card sets) but we have yet to receive an issue, and we got the cards originally in January.
The game seems like a good introductory point for someone new to the roleplaying concept, but it is a bit heavy on the combat emphasis. It also is heavy on the 'random terrain' concept for laying out adventures. The GM designs encounter stacks on an adventure map and basically runs the situations based on a strict order of play:
1. Terrain movement 2. Exploration 3. Daily Upkeep 4. Run Encounters 5. Acquire Loot 6. RepeatAlthough not all encounters are combat related, enough are to give it hack-n-slash feel. Multiplayer play is possible, but you need to make bigger and bigger encounter stacks, and characters more or less have to stay together as they move from terrain to terrain in their wanderings, hoping to gain experience and the notice of a mentor. (Not much is presented by the way about mentors and Valarian Champions, so I can't say really much about them - they appear to be a rather ephemeral goal within the game).
The combat mechanics appear to be reasonable, but limited, and obviously dice heavy in their results.
Card distribution was good and lived up to expectations in both the basic decks and the boosters (we obtained a number of starters and an entire box of boosters for our review considerations).
Overall I think the game would be a nice introductory tool for folks who have little or no gaming experience or for a GM who doesn't want to spend too much time on running a one-shot game for a bunch of friends that only get together now and then. The low cost and quality artwork are definite high points, and an experienced GM could use the game system and its basic methods, but would want to reflesh the gameworld to fit their style and probably eliminate the board-game aspects of the random terrain and strict action order. The concept of placing character elements on cards (Flaws, Anchors, backgrounds etc) is a nice one, but more variety is needed. An optional set of blank cards for GM innovation would also be a good addition.