Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: Odysseys & Overlords

Odysseys & Overlords is a new Old-School setting and rules system from Travis Legge and Aegis Studios.  Travis has an impressive bibliography with over 400 publications on DriveThruRPG.  So when I saw these were out I jumped on them as soon as I saw they were published.  I also admit I was drawn in with the Dean Spencer art.

Odysseys & Overlords uses Basic Fantasy as it's ruleset and I think that is a good idea. Of all the clones out there BF is one of the more flexible and easily approachable to new gamers.  If you are using a Basic-era ruleset of your own then it will work with that.  For example, while reading up for this review I compared and contrasted these rules to rules in Labyrinth Lord and Blueholme.  I found no issues.

Odysseys & Overlords Player's Guide
PDF. 56 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
The Player's guide has what you should expect a Player's Guide to have.  Here you get a bit of background on the campaign world of the O&O game.  It's fine, as far as these things go, but I have no emotional investment in it.  It does help situate some of the game-design choices and that is nice.  Still, I see a campaign guide or gazetteer sometime in the future.  Since this is a Basic-era OSR game based on Basic Fantasy races and classes are separate. With this, we get some new races, called genus in this book (a more apt name really).   We get Abyss-kissed, which are like other games' Tieflings though more in-line with this game's mythos. Spellscorched, which cover the same niche as elves only here children of the gods.  Wild folk, humanoids with animal traits and blood. And garden variety humans.  No elves, dwarves or halflings here and that is great by me! (Note: they also do not appear in the Monsters section of the Game Master's book)
Classes include the favorites of Clerics, Fighters, Magic-users and Thieves and also adds another take on the Bard class.  Might need to give that one a try sometime.  Bards do not have spells but do have songs they can learn for different in-game effects.
Additionally, there is a section on equipment. I'll be honest, I don't pay much attention to equipment lists anymore. I have so many games with so much equipment that if I need to find something I am sure I have it OR I can just make it up on the spot.
Spells follow next.   Spells for both clerics and magic-users only go to 6th level.  Personally, I still like my magic-users to have more spellcasting power than clerics and would have liked to see magic-user spells go to at least 7th level.  All the expected suspects are here. 
We get some adventuring rules and finally some combat rules.
The layout and art is really good and has a solid old-school feel. The book just looks nice and fills you with all sorts of old-school nostalgia.  I do wish the book though offered some more new unique classes to go along with the new unique races.   A little more on the world background as it applies to the characters would also have been nice.
There is a character sheet at the end of the book. You can also get the character sheet here for free.

Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
PDF. 63 pages, color cover, b&w interior.
This book covers a bit of material not found in the Player's guide. 
Again we get some great Dean Spenser cover art and again we get the same overview of the campaign world.
We get into a section on various encounter areas, including my favorite, Urban Encounters.   Tips on dealing with players, hopeless characters, and weapon and armor restrictions.
There is also a good section on XP advancement and narrative advancement, which has come to be called "milestone" advancement in D&D 4 and 5.  It provides some nice balance. I am using both types in different games and it has the effect of taking the focus away from combat and more onto role-playing for Narrative/Milestone advancement. 
Magical research into new spells and new magic items are also discussed.
There is a monster section following the discussion on dungeons and wilderness exploring.  The problem I have with the monsters here is that you are directed to use Basic Fantasy there are not any new monsters.  Nearly all, save for two, can be found in what I would call the "common canon" of the OSR.  There was a real chance here to set this book apart from others with some new and unique monsters, or at least some rare ones.  It is too bad this chance was not taken.
Magic items follow next. A good variety here, but again I would have liked something unique to this world to stand out.
We end with the Kingdoms.  Ah! now here is the new and unique material I was hoping for.  There is a good amount here to work with without being overly detailed.   The descriptions are good, but a map, even a rough one, would have been great.  Tip: Can't afford a good cartographer?  Scribble one out and call it "an adventures map found in a dragon horde". 
Interestingly enough, there are maps in the books from Dyson Logos, but that causes an awkward mix of the OGL and Creative Commons Licences that I have been told to avoid doing.  Hope this works for them!
I think there is something here to the world put forth, I just would have liked to have seen more of it.

I have not picked up many of the adventures yet, but here is one.

Temple of the Harpies
PDF. 14 pages, color cover, b&w interior, two maps
This adventure is a pretty straightforward affair that can be run in a long afternoon. Designed for four to six characters of 2nd to 3rd level, the character must retrieve a missing child, defeat harpies, kobolds, and an ancient curse and not awaken an army of undead. Suitable for any OSR game or really any d20 based fantasy game with tweaks.  This one also includes some new monsters, which I always like.


I think there is a lot of potential with this line and would like to see more.



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