Mob United Media is ENnie Award winning author Malcolm Sheppard's game design house, but it's not just about him; it features refined designs, owned by their creators. We're beginning our relationship with IPR selling Stew Wilson's game, Æternal Legends. IPR is the only place where you can get the game's PDF (available separately here) FREE when you purchase the print edition.
Here's the blurb:
Magic seethes beneath everyday affairs. Turn a ways, and wander into a Pocket Kingdom where witches and alchemists sell their wares right under the noses of a mundane population. But one person in 20 is Aware, part of the secret lands of magic. Of those, a special few are Legends: epic heroes who fight evil with strength, cunning and raw idealism.
Elf, dwarf, gnome and human Legends use the mystic Spheres to defend their beliefs. Their quests turn them into avatars of magic or send their swords against Da'ath, Lord of the Abyss. Idealism is more than just a buzzword—it's the source of magic. The old traditions of classic fantasy, from the Dark Lord to a hero's quests, burn with new life, bound to the Legend's spiritual journey. Every Legend has a path to enlightenment—and glory. His beliefs (in the form of actual game traits) give him power, whether he honors or betrays them. He moves through secret, strange lands in a modern supernatural setting whose protagonists don't skulk in alleys, but rule entire cities and Ministries of mystic power.
Æternal Legends is a 158 page, complete modern-era RPG. Two or more players need nothing more than a handful of six-sided dice, pencils and paper to play. Combat's quick, but doesn't sacrifice tactical choices for ease of use. Freeform magic and simple spells combine into one flexible, quickly resolved sorcery system. Your character's supernatural Clade combines with her archetypal Spheres to grant distinct superhuman abilities. The game's Ready 2 Run system emphasizes fast character creation, detailed action and enough discretionary "wiggle room" to suit a wide range of campaigns.
Created, written and designed (and importantly, owned) by Stewart Wilson. Core system design and development by Malcolm Sheppard.
There are *lots* of previews, here.
Now, getting past the blurb for a second, I'd like to talk about where the game comes from. The Ready 2 Run system that's the core of the game is about three years old. I originally developed it for my personal games. I wanted a game where:
* I could make pregens very, very fast.
* It would take very little time to describe how the system works. In its current build (the 4th since I started working with it), I've found that the only unusual feature for most people is the injury system, which is derived from spending a long time designing around limited health levels/boxes for my own games and professionally.
* I could have cool action scenes with some crunchy tactics, but not in a way that restricts descriptions. One of R2R's features is that *you* build your actions and attach the label you want instead of being fed a list.
* (Later) Powerful tools for scaling from the smallest to the biggest things around. This isn't a feature in Æternal Legends -- well, it's more accurate to say that the game doesn't need it because there aren't any massive starships or anything. That'll be in the *next* creator-owned game to use the system, Chris Challice's KotHS. When you see that aspect, it should plug into Æternal Legends easily, if you need it for some reason.
It's been through extensive personal playtesting and has also been run by two other groups, and seems to fit the bill. Stew came into the picture because I've know him for a while and he submitted an earlier version of Æternal Legends for the first build of the system. I liked it a lot, so when I started publishing games I contacted him and asked him to do a polished version of the thing. It's his world, my core system, and his themes, my development. A lot of my work with Stew involved identifying intriguing and fun things and asking for more, as well as keeping him focused on the objectives he laid out for himself.
What were those objectives? We've both done WoD work and know where the structure does good work . . . and where the cliches are particularly heavy. Between the original outline, design and development, the game coalesced into something with these aims:
* Traditional fantasy in the modern world. We wanted elves, dwarves and magic swords. We wanted the challenge of *making* these cool through our own efforts, instead of just lettin the motifs do the heavy lifting. In the game, we don't go, "So here are some elves." They get full splat-style treatment just as if they're the new Clan/Tribe/Kith/Whatever you're seeing for the first time. Instead of revisionism for the sake of revisionism, we asked what we could uncover by *celebrating* what these things mean.
* Similarly, we wanted to introduce a certain degree of innocence and idealism. We decided that the kinds of guys we've written about before, the supernatural politicos compromising with their morals, would be the *bad* guys. That's why Stew added Beliefs and why they're where magic comes from, not in the Mage-paradigm sense, but in the right-and-wrong sense. After that, the basic conflicts in the game fell into place and gave us a way to reexamine traditional fantasy heroics as something with moral and (in the setting) cosmic import, in a sort of, "When you meet the Buddha on the road, he sends you to fight a dragon," way. Character classes were subsumed into the quasi-Kaballistic Spheres, where the characters explore the faces of heroism on the way up to Lord Da'ath.
* Finally, we wanted to just admit that the secret-supernatural convention is a ruse, not a simulation. It's a way to have shotgun and sword coolness. We wanted the scope you see in Harry Potter instead of warehouses and penthouse suites. We wanted streets where gnomes sell songs that clean you car. We wanted tax forms for dungeon loot. We wanted you to be able to meet a wizard in a bar to send you on a quest and have it make perfect sense because you're a hero, there are wizards and everybody bloody well knows it. I art-directed a picture for the game that featured a sorcerer giving a kid the power to fly as something representative of everyday wonders -- of a society of wonders.
What we didn't do was aim to be different for the sake of being different. We wanted to find distinctive, fun things in the stuff people have passed over in 30+ years of fantasy gaming. And the funny thing? We did find some things that ended up being kind of different, organically. I think this RPGNet post is a good third party description, especially the last line.