Oz: Dark & Terrible Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (ECE1001)
by S. Alexander Gentry
Review by Drew Bittner
Emerald City Expeditions Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 0615363504
Date: 31 October 2010 List Price $39.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
It's a land wracked by an decades-old cold war between a steampunk-powered ruler and his two magic-wielding allies against two witches who rule mighty realms of their own. You are an Outsider, brought here for a second chance at life--but whose side will you choose? Welcome to Oz...
In Oz: Dark and Terrible, you and your friends might play the part of newcomers to the Land of Oz. But this is an Oz unlike any you've ever seen. The Wizard is a genius steampunk engineer who has ruled the Emerald City for decades, only to undergo a bizarre transformation in order to continue existing. The Witches of East and West wage a war of terror, sabotage and border skirmishes, yet cannot advance beyond a certain point, where magic and technology are balanced.
You might also play a resident of the Emerald City or one of the four great realms, be it human (the most populous "race"), an Anidum (a human soul animating an otherwise-inanimate body, like the Scarecrow), an Animal (an evolved beast capable of thought, like the Cowardly Lion), an Automaton (like Tik-Tok), or even a Tin Man (a cyborg agent of the Wizard's secret police, like the Tin Woodman). There are plenty of possibilities here for gamers to stretch their imaginations and creativity.
The game mechanics will be familiar to fans of systems like GURPS or Hero System; character creation is point-based, with templates and package deals already set up to assist novice players. Gameplay moves well, with actions and combat in particular being less math-heavy than many other comparable systems.
The book features a history of Oz that encompasses several millennia, detailing the discovery of Oz by a group of Atlantean survivors, the long rule of Ozma, the Witches' Coup, the arrival of the Wizard and many other events of great interest. Enough detail is given to hint at roleplaying in these historical eras, though the game seems meant to begin now, with the Ozian calendar caught up to 2010. There is also a lovely detachable map of Oz in the back of the book, along with pages meant to be copied for characters and so on.
Campaign creation is perhaps the only area where the corebook is seriously lacking. Game masters eager to set up an Oz game are given a framework--that of directing "seasons" of a serialized adventure, broken down into Scenes, Episodes, and so forth, with Actors (the players) engaging in adventures. However, there is a lack of "adventure seeds" which might be used as the basis for an adventure. Future releases will certainly address this, one expects. The setting offers plenty of potential for adventure but the GM must develop that largely on his own. Still, this is a task most GMs are used to handling.
If your game group is looking for something different, particularly in the realm of steampunk vs. magic, Oz: Dark and Terrible may be exactly what you want.
Side note: You can order the game directly from the publisher.