Ergodika, the Science Fantasy Role Playing Game

Ergodika, the Science Fantasy Role Playing Game

From: Abbadon, Inc
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Ergodika, the Science Fantasy Role Playing Game is a new Role Playing Game Core Rulebook from Abbadon, Inc..

Upon receiving Ergodika for review, I had to convince myself not to judge a book by its cover.  From the upfront appearance, it looks like something I could throw together at Kinko’s.  But, in some cases, a game is not always good because someone has put it in a nice cover and binding.  So going in, I made an effort to read the book with an open mind.  

When I read a role playing game core rule book, it should be a smooth ride into the universe it is presenting.  While reading Ergodika, I felt like I was hitting road bump after road bump.  I found myself saying “What??” and “Why did they do that?” a lot, but I tried to remain open-minded.  I wanted to base my judgment and review on their opening claims: 

From the Introduction, page 1: “If another role playing game is to be thrust upon the gaming public it should possess three characteristics: adaptability, simplicity and playability.”

First off, Ergodika is the universe where the planet Cortex exists.  It was once a world of men and technology that engulfed itself in a global nuclear war.  From the ashes arose magic, dwarves, troglodytes, and centaurs (although this is not explained in detail).  My first thought was that it reminded me of the world from the classic cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian. The background itself leaves a lot of flexibility in the background for the GM or players to fill in their own background…perhaps too much.  It is quite apparent this is a world of magic, because the world concept would not hold up to natural laws.  The nuclear war was so severe that it “cracked” the world.  I am not sure if it’s intended or by accident but from the somewhat rudimentary sketches of the world map, the world of Cortex simply looks like a brain – or what they call a floating “boxing glove”. Setting that disbelief aside and still trying to remain open-minded, I looked further into the book as it delved into character creation.  The game has 6 races – humans, Vikings, Troglodytes, Dwarves, Sylphs, and Centaurs.  Why they are not in alphabetical order, I don’t know. But this list hit on a pet-peeve of mine – the use of a culture as a race.  Why make ‘Vikings’ a race?  Why not make it a culture within the human race?  If you want a big warrior type race, why call it Vikings when it alludes to a human culture?  I don’t know, but I dealt with it. The other races are pretty self-explanatory except maybe the Troglodytes and the Sylph.  The Trogs are subterranean lizard men and Sylph are humanoid avians – bird creatures.  Interesting but nothing overly inspiring.

Careers or Professions are the classes of this system and it takes the approach that certain races can be certain classes, like old D&D used to.  Centaurs apparently can not be Warriors or Rogues.  Troglodytes can’t be Diplomats or Scientists. Understandable to some degree, I suppose, but I take to the philosophy behind d20 preferred classes – anyone should be able to do anything, but their race might not be inherently adept at certain things.  This game doesn’t take to that philosophy. Classes include Warrior, Rogue, Guide, Scientist, Mystic, and Diplomat.  Each has a set of artifacts or items they can use and can not use.  Again, this is another limiting factor to make things simple that does not necessarily make sense.

The characters are measured in ranks from 1 to 6, which basically equates to levels.  Each level has its own designation for each class – like a rank 4 Warrior is a centurion or captain; a  rank 3 Rogue is a bushwacker.  Interesting, and somewhat inspiring, the system is basic and simple, holding true to at least one of its introductory claims.

 Finally, the book gets into ability scores, which one would expect first, but in this case comes after the section on classes.  Using a 2d6 roll and a table, a player determines his ability scores.  There is a scale like in d20 for modifiers based on the final score. There are six attributes and one measure of wounds. 

The Skills are limited to six basic skills. One merit is that the skill system is an open-ended system where one roles 2d6 and adds the appropriate skill rank and ability score modifier. However, as I read further, the roll is not always a 2d6 roll, and is actually determined by the skill and the race the player is playing. Some races are better at skills than others and this is represented in each skill description with  what each race has to roll for that skill.  Fortunately, there are only six skills.  I am not sure how I feel about that, and I find myself wondering about balance – did the authors balance it out or did he arbitrarily decide some races are better than others in certain skills.  I feel that this would only come apparent through playing.

From the last page: “ We have produced a realistic, affordable, playable science-fantasy game that does not require three bulky books to play”

The Combat system is based on action points. Every character gets at least 1 and probably more, to spend on actions.  All actions require a certain number of actions points.  In a 12 second combat round, the player is limited by these action points as to what they can do.  Attacks, for example, costs  2 actions points.  Another pet-peeve of mine is the insistence of approaching combat assuming you are going to use miniatures every time.  The Combat ‘section’ starts out with the recommendation of using miniatures.  So everything is put in terms of spaces and squares.  I prefer to do it in meters and convert that to the square scale I like.

Also, as logic would dictate, one would expect the first thing discussed when discussing combat is initiative, but in fact it is not discussed until later, after some weapons are discussed and how an attack is determined.  Then suddenly, we’re talking about Proficiencies in certain types of weaponries – which should have been discussed and defined earlier in Skills but was not. This is where I realized the book had some organizational problems.

There is no true Magic system or spells in this game, even though it claims to be a game where magic and technology meet.  The only magic in the game (aside from the magic that is holding the planet together) is held within items called relics – in other words technological items so advanced they are indistinguishable from magic.  

There is also a short list of creatures, a section on vehicle combat, and a list of artifacts like tanks, grenades and other firearms.  The books ends with optional rules on critical hits and additional creatures.  Seeming out of place within the appendix, a single page on experience and advancement is found, explaining how to advance one’s character in this world.  I found myself disinterested by this time and moved on.

In conclusion, I found myself hard pressed to find a reason to like or buy this game.  The book is poorly organized, the concepts poorly conceived, the book poorly put together, and the art, in general, is poor.  I sincerely hope this is a labor of love for the authors (whose names I could not find), because I don’t see this making any money.  If it is a labor of love, then I have the utmost respect for the creators because it shows their passion for gaming.  But if they expected to make money by being an alternative to the “3-bulky book game,” I think they are in for a rude awakening.

As for its claims, it does accomplish them to some degree.  Adaptability – well, I am not sure why I would want to adapt anything to it, but I suppose it is possible.  Simplicity – yep, it’s simple.  Playable – something this simple is playable, but I still have to ask why would I want to play it.

For more details on Abbadon, Inc. and their new Role Playing Game Core Rulebook “Ergodika, the Science Fantasy Role Playing Game” check them out at their website, and at all of your local game stores.

Ergodika, the Science Fantasy Role Playing Game
From: Abbadon, Inc.
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Core Rulebook
Written by: (unknown)
Game Design by: (unknown)
Developed by: (unknown)
Cover Art by: (unknown)
Additional Art by: Josh Mayers and Kevin Cayolle
Number of Pages: 96
Retail Price: $ 14.95
Item Number: Type Manufacture’s Item Number
ISBN: (unknown)

Reviewed by: Ron McClung