Let me start here. Endless Realms is one of the most gorgeous and intriguing RPGs I’ve read in I don’t know how long. I found myself working through the rulebook extra slowly, savouring every word of lore. There’s a lot of lore. There’s more Lore here than a Noonien Soong nightmare. (Terrible, joke. Not sorry.)
The first time I encountered Lunar Games and Endless Realms was in the dealer hall at a major convention. The banners showing off art samples drew me in, amidst a veritable sea of con-goers. By the time the next convention I saw them at had come around, they had added a nearly life-sized Fungloi statue to the display. (What’s a Funloi? You’ll have to wait for my Creature Compendium review for that.) I digress, shortly after my first encounter, they were launching their Kickstarter campaign, which I obviously wrote a CrowdFUNding Spotlight on. As a reviewer, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to be able to follow up on a campaign that I’ve spotlighted. So I followed along in their Facebook group, marveling at the community that had evolved, and the creators’ interactions with the people in that community. Then, one day, a knock on the door heralded the arrival of my books.
The book starts as most RPGs do, with a brief intro to roleplaying games, followed by a brief overview chapter of the setting, and character creation with notes pointing to the later chapters to read up on the in-depth information needed for each step of the process. Eventually, there will be some pre-generated characters and a random character generator on the games’ website, but as I write this there is only a placeholder page for all of that.
The first step is choosing your Race and Adventurer Class, the details of which take up the next two chapters, and around half the total page count of the rulebook. In the second chapter each of the nine races gets a four-page spread of stats, background story, and even a phonological notation of the proper pronunciation (if you’re one of the few people who can understand those). One of the best things is that the different histories all intertwine with one another to create an intricate tapestry of this universe. Probably one of the enjoyable summaries was actually the Humans. Most games either intentionally avoid humans altogether, or they are a default race. Obviously, there are humans here. Why wouldn’t there be? The Humans in Endless Realms aren’t a default. They have a history and a reason for being in this realm, just like every other race.
Chapter three walks players through the different Adventurer Classes available to them. Like most games, any race can be any class, however, unlike many games, we are treated to an exceptional description of the not only the class but it’s history. Those histories often involve the specific races that brought a given class into the modern world.
Classes are broken up into two main types. Skill-Based Classes, that focus on physical actions to define them, and Spell-Based Classes, that bring magic and the supernatural to the game table. Regardless of the type of Class, they are all similarly structured. For example, within any given class, players will have to choose a Class Path. These Paths are called something different within each Class, but they all function to narrow the scope of a character for a more distinct roleplaying experience. They are very much not the same thing, but it functions somewhat as Alignments do in other games. Character interactions may vary heavily depending on the character’s Path as much as anything else.
There are ten possible Classes to choose from, and they are all fascinating in their own way. The Skill Based classes are, to a certain extent, variations of the classes that most people have seen before. There are simply only so many variants on physical, genre-themed, templates. There is simply no way to escape this. 1000 monkeys on 1000 typewriters will eventually not only write Shakespeare, but also every possible character type. Even with that said, the Skill Based Classes still manage to be presented in a unique, diverse, and interesting form.
When you start moving into Spell Based Classes, things can become less stereotypical. There is (arguably) no real-world magic. With proper training, any real-life person can shoot an arrow or swing a sword, but no one can learn to simply create an illusion with a movement, or summon a spirit weapon from another reality. The opportunities to create something wonderful, something literally full of wonder, are endless. Even though some of the Spell Based Classes do have parallels in other games, they are distant parallels at best. Each Class accesses different types of magic in very different ways. Every Class has its own unique spells and methods of invoking those spells, and there are exactly two spells that can be used by more than one Class. Despite the variety, there is still a standard table for the number and level of spells any character can use to keep play balanced. For the record, the Skill Based Classes are equally unique in their options, with only slightly more Universal Skills available.
Chapter 4 finishes off on the character creation process and explains how players can develop their own Skills and Spells. Chapter 5 breaks down the Core Rules and Mechanics, with Chapter 6 focusing on Combat. Chapter 7 looks at Death and Dangers that Adventurers may encounter during the game.
There were a lot of moments in this book where I would just stop. Re-read something, and my mind would just go walkabout for a while. Chapter 7 had one of those moments as I was reading the section on Tackling and Charging, as well as Collisions with Stationary Subjects and Objects. Between that and a few other things, a good GM could build a whole sports based adventure. The perfect thing to play when your group is not watching the championship game of whatever sport happens to be in season.
Chapter 9 is all about Items and Equipment and the book closes out with Chapter 10 on Imbued Items (aka magical items). The last two paragraphs are written in roughly proportional length to the amount of time I actually spent reading those chapters compared to the chapters before them.
You might also have noticed that I skipped Chapter 8. That’s because I skipped Chapter 8. Chapter 8 is all About The Universe. There is already so much amazing worldbuilding throughout the first few chapters, that I knew if I wanted to get this review written, I would have to avoid that Dengu hole until later. But I am super excited to dig into it.
I can’t gush about this game enough. Coming up in the near future I’ll be looking at the Creature Compendium and a bit later the next Kickstarter they have planned. Who knows, I might even dig into some of the fun stuff they have available on DriveThruRPG.com