Lone Wolf: Simplicity & Nostalgia

Book_of_Kai_TrainingI haven’t finished reading the Lone Wolf Adventure Game yet, but I’m more than halfway through.

The game boils down into three books at heart, with various other components like pre-generated characters, tokens, combat tables and a randomiser. I have read the Book of Kai Legends, which contains two adventures. I’m most of the way through the Book of Kai Wisdom, which handles the mechanics of the game and some background material. The last volume – the Book of Kai Training – deals with character generation, so Wisdom and Training equates (almost) to GM and player-focussed books. In truth, only the Legends book really has a GM only slant, as if the players read it the events in the adventure won’t come as such a challenge.

I have read reviews that note the adherence to the basic stats – COMBAT SKILL and ENDURANCE – and randomiser – a chart of numbers between 0 to 9 that you select with a coin flip – feels like not much has happened between solo books and this spangly boxed set. Mongoose did a Lone Wolf game that didn’t feel like much of a change from the solo books, so is this just more of the same?

Well, the game includes Initiate and Master-level materials – and the former probably doesn’t swerve too far away from the core concepts of the solo books. The Master-level adds WILLPOWER and DEFENCE as extra values, and with those applies extra layers of complexity around fighting techniques, armour and also considers the application of skills. The remit of LWAG – and I feel quite rightly – should be to attract potential players of all abilities with the very real possibility that some will not have played any roleplaying games before.

I noted one reviewer mention their love of the background material. I’m a big fan also. From my brief conversation with Joe Dever at UK Games Expo, he has a genuine love for the game, too. I went quite a way down the pledge list on the Kickstarter for LWAG because of that love – and I can see that over time the potential of the game will expand.

In many respects, I can feel something like Dragon Age herein. When you got Set 1 of that game, you had the core mechanics, a pile of background material, character generation and an adventure, with some scattered plot seeds for more. I have a great deal of love for Dragon Age – and I liked the approach Green Ronin took. Given the love Cubicle 7 has lavished on the material presentation of LWAG and the direct involvement of Joe Dever throughout, I have high hopes.

I can also see a lot of potential here as a simple story-focussed game, with no little consideration for a balance of game style. Yes, you have the simplicity of just a few character abilities, but the skills and disciplines of the Kai have a similar feel to the traits in modern game systems that allow you to achieve tasks without a dice roll. The game isn’t languishing in the nostalgia of the past. I can see a balance here between drawing in the newcomers and satisfying those looking for something more. I can also feel a game with the open potential for you to adopt, adapt and improve – as many other games do to a greater or lesser extent.

I look to run the introductory adventure this weekend and have enjoyed the process of absorbing the content of the game. A review will be forthcoming, somewhere on the Interweb, when I’m done. In the meantime, I have been preparing one or two items to aid in the easy progression of the game – like creating Technique Cards for combat.

technique-cards-shield-dance

I also plan to pull out a few counters to better identify players Engaged in combat or who have already dealt damage. LWAG uses a combat chart that means a fast enemy can drag you into combat and challenge you to deal damage – or elect to hold that potential for later. You can inflict damage but once and when you’ve done so you can do no more that round. I think it would be handy to have some markers on the table to show when the damage has been committed; after which the character must battle with the main aim not to get hurt. I may raid my copy of 3rd edition Talisman (?) for some of those cone shaped counters used to track ability scores.

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