About Orbis Terrarum RPG.
Orbis Terrarum is a game set in a rich, living world and ecology. We like to call the genre 'gritty heroism' - this is low fantasy, not Tolkien, with heroes in the vein of Firefly or Game of Thrones, but also a lot in common with the classic pulp adventures of Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Nifft the Lean, and other heroes of sword and sorcery. We don't have elven kingdoms or dwarven clans, but rather vibrant human cultures and history. Science and magic have equal weight - alchemy and scientific method function alongside each other and compliment the magics of geomancy, earthpower and daemonology.
History is full of the efforts of human cultures, but they are not alone. For centuries men have called creatures from other worlds, from strange spaces and dimensions beyond their own called Pandaemonium, or the Daemon Sea. Some people call them a plague, others servants of the divine: Daemons, Spirits, Gods; it was they that brought about the Fall of the first age, from which mankind is only now recovered.
Although things are often bloodily realistic, both rules and setting allow for heroism as well as grim practicalities. We've an unromantic system rewarding tactical sense, but PCs are tough enough to justify feats of heroism and derring do as well.
Your Character and Métier.
A good character should be like a good pair of shoes: Practical, comfortable, and easy to slip into. And while you might possess several at once, there’s always a special set you like to wear more than most, which you hope will last for years to come.
We don't have character classes. Every skill combination is open to anyone that wants to try it, and your profession is likely to be simply what you're best at! Rather than 'levels', player characters have the option to develop both skills and various kinds of training (speed, toughness etc) continually throughout their play.
Magic, from fiery runes, daemon-summoning, druidism, alchemy, kirurgery (magical surgery, I guess you could call it) and divination are also available to anyone, although we've made sure that there are viable character options for just about any profession - athlete, linguist, healer, huntsman, rogue or scholar (to name but a few).
Sometimes who you are counts for more than all the statistic modifiers and skill points in the world. When that moment comes, you’ll need to know your métier.
Métier is one of our core concepts. It defines the essence of a character beyond mere numbers on a sheet. It’s a short description, distilling their essence down to its essential core: Leonidas is a Fearless Spartan King; Sam Gamgee is a Loyal Hobbit Gardener; Conan is a Savage Cimmerian Warrior (or later a Brooding Aquilonian King)
Basically, métier is an excuse for the Orbis Master to hand out all those bonuses (and occasional complications) they love to use when a player role-plays well, acts in character, or otherwise games in a creative and fun way. It’s used for moments of great need, in high drama and pivotal scenes, but also has some influence in everyday game play.
Métier doesn’t replace the requirement for actual skill or stat rolls, and you can’t write down a number for it - or indeed always rely on its influence. Although it rewards you for playing ‘in character’ with your PC’s theme, it’s not intended to be a ‘law’ that punishes you if you don’t use it... but if you never play to your métier strengths, you’ll simply never see any benefit from it!
Throughout the rule book there are details and guidance on how to use métier in anything from pure combat to social interaction, even scenes and items can sometimes take on the weight of fate and be worthy of a métier all of their own!
All the lands of Men call the world Uma, though there are many meanings of the name. To the Uru, it means simply ‘our place’ while Hutzlunrs and Raphaelians both believe it is the name of the great ship of a sea god, which was turned over to form the land. To the Dromish, it means the number forty-seven, and who knows the reason for that? Pelosians, far more scholarly and sensible, say Uma is simply god's name for the 'Orbis Terrarum' the ‘earthen Sphere’ – mathematically proven to be a globe, surrounded by water, and pressed in by the aether that surrounds the sun and stars.
There are nine major nations, each differing by culture, geography and outlook, They all have a deliberate nod towards historical counterparts (e.g. the Hutzlunr are 'viking' types, whilst the Raphaelians are 'European swashbucklers'). This is intended to allow players to pick up and play without too much reading, allowing them to get the general feel of the culture immediately and enjoy the immersion in the greater detail of the culture at their own pace.
Uma is a wild and largely unexplored world, with trackless depths even in the well-inhabited lands, but man has always been an inquisitive beast, and exploration is one of the great themes of adventure tales and this game.
But behind this young world of adventure and excitement is a deeper truth, the real history of ancient times and how things came to be as they are...
In Orbis we take an unusual approach of presenting not one but several core 'canons'. Each option details things like the true nature of the Gods and the Primes (first men), the real truth regarding Daemons and their plots (if any) and how nations arose and developed as they are. Each of these options blends seamlessly into the recent history of the world, but provide the OM with a choice of 'backstory' and as such help make each game campaign uniquely different from any other.
Ours is a skill based system, mainly using d100 rolls directly reduced by challenge or opponents skill (although we're not prejudiced against any shape of dice and they all get used somewhere - we have 'em, might as well use em!).
Skills are based on a controlling stat and can then be further improved either by adding advancement points to slowly increase the score or by more formal training by adding talent ranks to it.
Ranks themselves also have benefits that affect you at higher steps. For example the Stealth Skill is used to sneak and hide as you would expect, but at Rank 3 you master the art of the ambush, gaining a significant bonus to the chance to surprise enemies and attack before they can defend. Then at Rank 6 you have learnt the arts of the assassin, gaining extra damage and potential levels of success to an attack as well as picking up the basics of disguise.
Magic There are four 'high' and four 'low' magic systems in Orbis, each with unique arcane principles and practices, they are each driven by a specific stat (e.g. Daemonology uses Willpower whilst Geomancy requires Reasoning) and have quite different types of effects.
However Orbis also allows for development and combination of magic, as players and characters increase their understanding, they can begin to experiment with, and discover new ways to apply the principles they know.
Combat is a big part of any tabletop RPG and in Orbis is designed to be fluid and simple to resolve. Weapons have the potential to cause dangerous (sometimes permanent) amounts of damage to any level of opponent, ensuring that combat never becomes a throwaway facet of the game. Immediate benefits for descriptive action and relevant 'use' of a characters métier encourage exciting and 'scene aware' battles.
The Core Book
The Core rule book will be around 300 pages with colour cover art and a colour A3 world Map. The printed internal art will be b/w unless stretch goals allow for a colour upgrade.
It will contain all the game rules you need to run the game, a zoology of common monsters, daemons, and human NPC archetypes, as well as a wealth of detailed setting information, including sample characters and adventure ideas.
It will also contain advice on how to utilise Metier in your campaign, divulge the secrets of magic and how different systems can be combined or adapted by clever PCs and provide several core options for the 'underlying' secrets of the setting and world history.
Where The Money Will Go
Our initial £2000 funding goal will be spent on cover art and several pieces of important internal art (like chapter opening pictures), and on the actual printing of the book. Every extra penny then is going to go into more and better art, as detailed below:
£3000: EXTRA ART(1) + FULL ADVENTURE SCENARIO (PDF).
All chapter front-pages get the same beautifully detailed art penned by Gary Chalk as the chapter 2 and chapter 9 examples. Ollie Cuthbertson creates more amazing animal and Daemon illustrations for us.
PLUS everyone who has pledged at DIGITAL or above receives a 10+ page adventure scenario, including sample characters for quick play.
£4000: EXTRA ART(2) + DETAILED 'NOSTAPYRAX' CITY SETTING (PDF).
All remaining cultures (that haven't already) get a Gary Chalk Illustration, Ollie C brings to life the remaining creatures from the core book,
PLUS everyone who has pledged at DIGITAL or above receives a 20+ page detailed gazetteer of the City of Nostapyrax, including extra character options and a beautiful city map.
£5000: FULL ART + EXPANDED ZOOLOGY (PDF).
All remaining art work is replaced by original works by our two artists,
PLUS everyone who has pledged at DIGITAL or above receives an expanded Zoology (including more Daemons) detailing a further 30 unique beasties.
£6000: TBC, but if we're lucky enough to get up here we'd be looking at things like improving the PDF rewards above to be SOFTCOVER physical copies for those who already have softcover core books, getting a professional WEBSITE up and running so we've somewhere to get a forum up, make announcements and put up a load of free DL stuff. Enhancing SOFTCOVER to HARDCOVER, Oh and the biggie of a new hugely EXPANDED GAZETTEER (and Zoology) book produced to the same high quality as the core book... Anyway we'll put detail about these if we start to near this point... Fingers crossed! ;D
Risks and challenges
There are always unforeseen challenges that can occur with any project, but we have made great effort to reduce the chance of these effecting our target dates.
Firstly the book is already completely written, including layout, artwork (mostly Creative Commons at present) and even contents and appendix! It's been play tested extensively, and we're confidant that we have a polished professional work.
So we're good to go, and will release a complete PDF copy of the core book to everyone whose support level includes it IMMEDIATELY, as soon as the project finishes its funding period (as long as it funds successfully of course!).
After that we will need to look at what our funds have allowed, a lot of our stretch goals are aimed at extra art and obviously if we're lucky enough to get the funds these will take time to do, but in the mean time we will be able to get feedback on the PDF from our supporters and address any questions and take on board any suggestions that arise.
We've already done the sums too, our printer is ready and enthusiastic and has a fairly quick turn around, so we're confident that we will be able to achieve our targets.
All that said, we believe wholeheartedly that open and transparent discourse with our patrons on all aspects of the project is key. We'll keep you continually updated on our progress so you know exactly where we are at, at all times.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
There are five major things that spring to my mind when I think about this question
1. Metier. More than a character class or profession this concept drives through the entire system, a short core description that can influence anything from measured social interaction to the swirling chaos of battle.
2. Classless and levelless system means players can create skilled and competent characters right from the off, without suffering the “level one” syndrome of not being able to do the job you’re supposed to. Stat and Talent training allow further advancement in things like Wound capacity and reaction times, but the measured and gritty system ensures even the most experienced character will still be challenged by multiple assailants and is always in danger of a really lucky shot causing significant injury, so no ignoring peasants with crossbows!
3. Magic has 'scientific' principles and rules. e.g. although outwardly dissimilar all the systems can be combined and amalgamated by clever and skilled practitioners to create new methods, they work alongside the natural laws of physics too.
4. Vibrant Human cultures with a small nod towards real life historical counterparts, makes the setting and cultures easy to dive straight into, allowing the joy of immersion in the detail of the fantasy setting to come at your pace.
5. Optional 'core-canon' histories allow the OM to tailor the setting to his own preference without fear of contradicting current or future releases.
Yep that's right, Gary Chalk (Illustrator of the seminal Lonewolf game books, Talisman board game, and early Warhammer & White Dwarf magazine) is indeed doing a whole bunch of the internal art for us!
His amazingly detailed pictures really help capture the feel of OT, and along with Oliver Cuthbertson's fantastic cover painting (and other internal pieces) will really make this book a quality item!
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