Monday, October 19, 2009

Quite Distracted By: Engines & Empires

[The title is meant to indicate that this is the first in a series, as I fully anticipate becoming quite distracted on many occasions]

Engines & Empires is supplement to, or a setting for, or perhaps a spin-off from Labyrinth Lord, the retro-clone of the 1981 Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons game (that was a bit of a mouthful). It is intended to facilitate play in a gaslight fantasy setting, rather than the quasi-medieval setting of the base game. Frankly, I am surprised at how much I am liking it.

I first became aware of E&E (I won't bother to explain what that stands for) about a year ago when a free Basic Set was made available for download at Lulu. It was, I think, the first non-Goblinoid Games product for LL (I won't explain that one either). I was underwhelmed. It seemed to me a kind of neat idea that was kind of okay, but really nothing worth writing home about...or even writing a blog about. The authour said that the Basic game was just there to introduce the game and the the "real" game would appear and really make it sing. I promptly forgot about it.

A recent thread at reminded me of the game and I learned that the Campaign Compendium had been released (also a free download from Lulu). I downloaded it, saw that it was over 200 pages, and put it aside. But today, something prompted me to print out the first 60 pages and take a look (I can't read these things on the screen and I'm fortunate to have an office where I a printer). My reaction this time was quite different. Although there are a number of mechanical quirks that I like, what really hit me was that this release (quite unlike the first) had PLAY ME! oozing out of it. The very first character class, the Boxer, immediately gave me character ideas. That's a good thing.

Of course, there are already things that I would change, but that is not a real complaint (since I change something in everything). For example, the game is supposed to be set in a world that sort of mimics Victorian Europe, but where the various faerie races live in the open, controlling the north of the continent and they are not diminishing. At all. That's neat and all, but I really think it would be a heck of a lot more fun to play in the real world (or some version of it). You just can't beat the flavour of Victorian London with a made-up analog.

I intend to write an actual review of this once I finish it and process it a bit more. But quite distracted by it right now.


  1. By amazing coincidence, I downloaded the free E&E pdf just last week, and after a quick skim through it, decided to order a hardcopy from Lulu today.

    My impression is very favourable so far, but I haven't gone through it very carefully yet (waiting for the actual book to arrive first). It strikes me as what that crpg Arcanum should have been, put into a proper RPG format (I loved the 'idea' behind Arcanum, but didn't care for the execution).

    I'm very tempted to run it next time I get to do some tabletop gaming.

    "What would be neat in this option is that the dungeons could be entrances to faerie. I can see the subway tunnels and sewers of Dickensian London all turning out to lead into Faery..."

    Perhaps a Victorian version of Gaiman's Neverwhere? :D

  2. I'm very tempted to run it next time I get to do some tabletop gaming.

    Me too, which is annoying since I should be play-testing Under the Dying Sun. :)

    I actually haven't the foggiest idea what the computer game Arcanum was; when people talk about it, I always think that they are talking about The Arcanum rpg from Bard Games.

    I also must admit that I haven't read Neverwhere: I have kind of a low tolerance for Gaiman's writing even though I always like his ideas.

    But what seemed cool to me was that Victorian London has these mazes of back-alleys and slums that would make excellent 1str level dungeons. Then, you could climb down into the sewers and subway tunnels, and from there, enter the Mythic Underworld.