Get Ready to Rock and Roll Against the Darkmaster!

Hitting Kickstarter, this new campaign looks to deliver a new tome of high fantasy adventure. Clocking in at over 600 pages of monochrome goodness, you can get your hands on a hardback copy. Why would you be interested? Well read on and find out adventurer!

Mock ups of the front and back (hard)cover – From the art to even the font, I love the ‘feel’

I was drawn to Against the Darkmaster when I clocked some discussion of it over on that there Twitter. The retro or old skool imagery was enough to get me to pry further and I was heartily impressed by both the website and the free quickstart demo available on Drivethrurpg.

Open Ended Games have played a real blinder here in quickly capturing a lot of what drew me into roleplaying decades ago. This isn’t some dusty old rehash though. Instead, think of it more like an old treasure brought out to entice more adventure seekers.

Heavy Metal High Fantasy

With art from the likes of Marcin Scionly and Rich Longmore to name but two, one can tell that this will harbour some superb line drawings and illustrations. But what kind of game are we talking about here. I’d love to be able to come up with a better blurb, but the folks at Open Ended games have nailed it on the head.

Against the Darkmaster is a tabletop pen & paper role-playing game of high fantasy, epic adventures, eldritch magic and bloody combat.
It draws inspiration from the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and Ursula K. Le Guin, Terrys Brooks and Goodkind, and their followers like Weis & Hickman, Jordan, Donaldson and Williams.
Against the Darkmaster is also inspired by the great fantasy movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Think of The Lord of The Rings cartoon from Ralph Bakshi. Think of the heartbreaker movies a whole generation was raised to: Dragonslayer, Krull, Labyrinth, Clash of the Titans, Legend.
Finally, think of Against the Darkmaster as a mix of all the above as seen through the eyes of a heavy metal music fan.

Against the Darkmaster

To me, this evokes those halcyon days of roleplaying summers. I’ve spoken recently of my joy at exploring grim and dark fantasy worlds with the likes of WFRP and Zweihander, it’s imagery like this which brought me into gaming. Before I was able to read and appreciate them, the covers of the fantasy novels in my local library or movies like the aforementioned Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings had the creative juices flowing. Who were these robed wizards and armoured warriors? What evil were the out to wrong? Well you can take the reins and answer those very questions. And if that wasn’t enough inspiration, the curated song list at Open Ended Games sure helps set the mood. For me it was less Stormbringer or Seventh Son and more Scarborough Fair/Canticle. Still, I can now appreciate both…

Mock up of the interior – very promising

The Guts of the System

I haven’t had a chance to bring the sample rules to the table. With that in mind, take the following as my impressions from reading alone. Although my experience with Rolemaster and MiddleEarthRoleplaying (MERP) it’s possible to feel the connection here.

The game is essentially roll d100s and add/subtract modifiers; so crack out the d10s. You start by creating characters through a system of point buy mechanics. Select your kin and class. Set you stats and skills, and then off you go. With twelve different kin, thirteen cultures, and six classes or vocations, there’s more than enough variation to fully customise your characters.

I’ve seen a real drive for inclusivity in games recently and whether intended or not, I approve of terms like ‘kin’ rather than race. Not only does this not carry any negative connotation, but it also, to me at least, feels more literary. Sure, Tolkien might have had the races of men or elves, but there’s more affinity when you have your character kin to the men of the north, or kin to the elves of the woodland realm.

When in doubt, I’d normally bet on the dwarf.

I’ll not dive into a rules review here as you can pick up a free copy of the quickstart via pay what you want. I strongly suggest you give these a try. Between the gorgeous looking art, straightforward system, and lofty storytelling goals, this seems a project to get in on. I know that I’ll be looking to pick up and will no doubt discuss more fully here in the future.

Be sure to drop any comments below or join us over on the Facebook page. You can also see more of my gaming and related chat over @brother_rooster. All the art here has been taken from Open Ended Games.

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