New Horizon: A Dark Fantasy Adventure by Flail Snail
Once more unto the breachOriginal SA post
I have been informed that it's now October and thus time to do horrifying things.
New Horizon Part 1: Once more unto the breach
If you're a somewhat regular reader, you may have seen my coverage of Knights & Legends. This is the designer's second try. The original K&L has been removed from online distribution for an eventual reworking to "Ludens 2.0", the system backing New Horizon. Like our last go round, there will be regressive and/or gross content. As before, pairs of quotation marks will generally denote small snippets of text pulled directly from the book, formatting, capitalization, punctuation and all.
Everything you see in these updates will be typed by hand. We are assured that this is a feature and not a bug, because the table of contents that lists only chapter titles and page numbers is more than enough to find your way around. Who needs text search or copy/paste in 2019?
So what should you expect from this freshly redesigned core system? Severed limbs. Impairing debilities and illnesses. Parry and counter systems. A family tree. Levels and equipment statistics. Exciting and unique new enemies like goblins, ghouls, and succubi. Standard game mechanics that were not present in the first game. The family tree could be interesting. I mean, it isn't really, but it could have been. We'll get to that.
If you happen to have run through the story of Knights & Legends, New Horizon takes place 50 years after that. I have no desire to retread that ground and the only existing reviews seem to be on RPG Geek so head over there if you're curious. There's a bit of text here discussing the formation of the new nation of Etheros. Its description is stuck after the introduction and not in the world nations chapter for reasons. Sir Calban's (a plot armor dude from one of the previous adventures) wife who does not deserve a name "was chosen to rule as sovereign queen; Under others." I'm not quite sure what that means. Is the sovereign queen subordinate to others? Is this a fucked up way of saying she was the first but there have been others since? I could see it going either way.
Following that are some gaming guidelines. You know what? Here you go. Have an image.
I think I sort of implied last time that the published adventures were a bit railroady, to put it lightly. This time we've got an Adventure Teller, multiple Custom Actors, and etiquette rules that are player-facing only. I think it speaks for itself.
After those guidelines, we see the standard section that outlines what you need. Luckily, there are only two things - a set of polyhedrals and a black-and-white printer. You use the printer to print off exactly four character sheets. Rounding out the "How to Play" section is a recommendation to take a 15 minute break per hour and a few paragraphs under a "Freedom of Choice" heading. Those are a bit interesting - the players may make choices that detract from the story so you should modify the story to keep it on track.
That apparently takes us through the first four entries in the ToC - Introduction, Story, Concept, and How to Play. The only header that is present in the entire book seems to be "Introduction". If there are weird typesetting people in the audience, Introduction would be like a \chapter in LaTeX while Concept (see the image above for reference) would be more like a \subsection and Story would just go unmarked. So finding things may be a bit less of a treat than I was promised.
I'm going to skip character creation and talk about nations now because that makes the most sense. Nations are sandwiched smack dab between races and the family tree system. In short - go read the Knights & Legends entry in the archive. Here are the differences - an apocalypse seems to have happened and worms are no longer present in the list of fauna per nation. The Vancroft leader has changed, now being some dude with the unfortunate name of Marcus Sextus. Kenjiwah is still ruled by the dude that you were forced to kill in one of the old adventurers. And Khimesh is even more than it was last time, adding the capture of two orcish children as gifts to a king of one of the several kingdoms of white dudes. Said king was disgusted by those beasts so they're slaves now.
That takes us up to page 7 and the start of character creation. We'll cover that all on its own. I promise, more backwards thinking will be coming soon.
Who are you? Who who, who who?Original SA post
New Horizon Part 2: Who are you? Who who, who who?
I hope you're ready for this.
Despite the previous section ending off with the text "Next, is the character creation tutorial.", we don't really start off with one. We get a definition for CA, a few of the steps we'll take when we create our character (but not the first, notably, just a few steps from somewhere in the middle of the process), and text that is trying to be profound or flowery but comes off as broken. I don't want to highlight all of the writing issues because that would involve . I'll do one more just to reiterate what you'd be dealing with if you were reading this book.
Health & Wellness posted:
Just like any living being, a CA, will be prone to feel, hunger, pain, thirst, and in some occasions, vulnerable to impairing illnesses and diseases.
Some more serious conditions, could even provoke loss of a limb, or death. There will be situations when you should use persuasion, instead of force.
A battle wound could become infected and evolve into a health risk, debilitating many key stats.
First, it's depressing me that this is getting easier to read.
Second, there aren't rules for any of this. There are effects - each race has a line talking about meals and liters of water per day - but that's about it unless those effects are applied on your first day of fasting. No time period after which starvation or dehydration set in. Nothing I've seen regarding actually catching the diseases enumerated later in the book. Keep in mind not being able to do a text search is a feature, so it's not like I can just Ctrl+F "Hepatitis V" (yes, really).
But that's neither here nor there. Let's create a character. Ready for some more ?
"In New Horizon, both genders of all races, share neutral stats. But don't worry! That neutrality will be adjusted once you pick a class." . . . "Each race, possess male and female characteristics. That's how the ezorian gods wished them to be."
Moving on. Before we can name our character, we need to pick a race. Enumerating this weird take at nutrition is not compelling so let's snip those unless we see something fun. The races we can choose from are human, dwarf (which, just like in Knights & Legends, benefits from "ticker" skin), elf, orc, and the brand new valkin (or Homo-Angeli, as the text points out). That last is represented by an uncomfortably busty lady. We learn that elves turn into trees when they die but you can delay that using an herbal concoction for some reason.
Let's go with female orc. We take additional damage from fire and lightning sources. We don't need to drink much and we can withstand bacterial infections and parasitic diseases but we require at least three kilograms of meat a day. We write down 5 for our stats and circle 1 for our level. We need a name and I know just where to get one - the official character creation supplement. Picking the only orcish name from the list, our name is Sha'Quita. We can choose to be from any nation but I'll go with Khimesh because that's the arid home that our savage race hails from.
Now we need to fill out our family tree. We do so by rolling 1d6 for the one stat that we'll inherit from each of our parents - Str for men and Wis for women. I got 6 and 5, but we have to subtract 1 from each because that'll totally protect us from an infinitely rising stat boost.
Religion doesn't matter too much mechanically so we'll pick "ancient gods". Moral Code seems to be an open-ended text box so I'm going with "fuck you, pay me".
Classes and occupations give a stat increase equal to their level and nothing else so choosing what you want is fairly straightforward. At level 1, we can choose between the warrior, hunter, and shaman classes and farmer, fisher, and bartender occupations. Going first in combat is probably good so I'm going to try for a bit of system mastery and choose hunter for our class and bartender for our occupation for a grand total of +2 Spd. Our status as a bartender grants us some amount of income as well (in w/K$, which I'm assuming means "weeks per Kesc"; higher-level occupations have bigger numbers, which seems like a massive downgrade). I'll be sure to note this at the end. Should we gain some levels, we may need to pay to go to Shinobi School or whatever to gain access to that class.
We seem to start off with one skill. At level 1, we can choose between pierce, fireball, and heal. These each cost 2 AP to use and we coincidentally begin with 2 AP. We're going with heal because healing half of your HP every three turns sounds neat. We need to pay for access to higher-level skills once they become available.
And now, every gamer's favorite section - playing dress-up. There's a short list of combined arms/armor and another list of "secondary gear". We haven't been given money yet and the sample character has written three things down so we'll do similar. Sha'Quita is equipped with chainmail, leather armor, and an axe, for a grand total of +2 End, -1 Spd, and +1 Str.
After equipment are a few other item lists. The inventory system is weird, to put it lightly. It's like Minecraft but your inventory is limited to three stacks of three. The sample character bought a selection of potions and ended up with $25 of his $500. Let's just keep our money because none of it is priced.
If we had chosen a bow (or we were level three and thus had access to a flintlock), we'd need to buy a "Steel Arrow Quiver" or a "Lead Pallets" and keep that item in our fourth "special item" slot. Since we don't have one of those, we could instead buy something like a firebomb, lantern, or bear trap. I don't know how much they cost.
Sha'Quita will eventually receive a title for her actions. Titles provide a bonus to influencing someone if titles mean something to them. This amounts to a +1 or +2 depending on the rarity of the title and it seems like you can only have one "active" at a time. Despite us not actually beginning our quest, we seem to start with the title of Adventurer.
Finally, the second most important number in a game that only has combat rules - hit points. We start with 50 and then add 2d20. in Sha'Quita's case, we end up with 82.
With that, we've reached the end of character creation and we definitely have a collection of numbers.
Sha'Quita the female orc hunter is of fit build with brown hair, green skin, and black hair. She forces people to call her "Adventurer".
She claims to be a bartender but doesn't seem to ever do any bartending. Every 40 weeks, a kesc appears in her coinpurse.
She is always seen wearing chainmail and leather armor while hefting an axe threateningly. If she could use her healing arts to prolong the suffering of her enemies, she would. The ezorian gods seem to only allow her to use those arts on allies, however, which is the sole reason that she took up worshiping the old dead gods out of spite.
Following character creation is a bit on combat. I can't bear to write more so we'll put that off for now.
Beating things up and other activitiesOriginal SA post
New Horizon Part 3: Beating things up and other activities
Last time we figured up what all of our numbery things were. Now we're going to determine how to use them. But first, I must admit to making a giant mistake when creating our character. We can't be female. Given the absence of a blank printable family tree form and the placement of Str and Wis next to various boxes in the image below, I have to assume that men go on the left side and women go on the right. I'll also make a note now about Bloodline X-factor. It's not mentioned in the text and you pass on the relevant modifier from your parent without modification so I guess it's just vestigial text.
This wouldn't be the first time I made a mistake - I purchased this product, after all. Change a few adjectives on the blurb from the last update. Choose new pronouns. The sole orc name remains Sha'Quita so that can stay.
Combat is simple. Roll 1d4 + Spd (>= 9) if you want to run away. Compare Spd to determine who goes first. Roll 1d8 + Str for physical attacks or + Wis for magical. Subtract the target's End or Spi (physical/magical, respectively) and you get how much damage the target takes.
You start with half of your AP and spend them to use skills. These hit automatically, which is making the 2d20 fireball look pretty nice. But then you look at our hit point total and realize that Sha'Quita can heal 41.5 damage pretty much at-will. After being spent, AP come back one per turn up to your max.
That's it for basic combat. If you want to break out the advanced combat rules, there are a handful.
Selective targeting allows you to target one of four body parts to inflict some kind of effect instead of dealing damage. I suspect these exist to expand the number of polyhedrals used - you roll a d12 to target the head, d8 for torso, d4 for hands, and d10 for legs. You don't add anything to the die roll and you have to beat a threshold so it's pure chance.
Dodge is mostly useless. You can try to dodge any physical attack using this bit of language: "the blow can be evaded by rolling 1d6, and nailing a result that added to the character's SPD, will equal 11, or greater." Roundabout way of saying 1d6 + Spd >= 11. Look back at Sha'Quita's stats. He's got a Spd of 6, 7 if he removes his armor. His speed is absolutely maxed at first level. If you had not done the dumb thing I did with my class/occupation choice, you could be rocking a 4 and have absolutely no chance or a 5 and succeed only on a 6. I guess it's a free action so no harm in trying.
Alternately, we could try parrying. We're too low level to actually have a shield, though. Assuming we had one, we'd take another hit to Spd. You can only attempt to parry if your Spd score is higher than your attacker's. The slowest thing in the bestiary has a Spd of 5. This includes a dwarf in full plate armor and a giant metal shield. You do the deed by rolling 1d6 + Spd and trying to get at least 10. Sha'Quita could do it with some difficulty using his new modified Spd of 5 or 6 but a less optimal speedyboi would stand no chance. After a successful parry, you counter with 1d8 damage. You don't add your Str to this. It's unclear if the opponent subtracts their End.
There is one final section tangentially related to inflicting damage. New Horizon devotes an entire page to destroying items. Again, it's pure chance. Roll the dice you're told to (none for clay, 1d10 for wood, 1d10+1d20 for iron, and 3d20 for steel) and compare against some number (null, 10, 30, or 50). Succeed or (at the AT's decision, I guess) break your weapon.
Between combat rules and the enemy list is a description of travel and the world map. I refer you to the last game for the map - it's the same sort of thing. I did want to mention this bit of inanity, however - "It's recommended, players use metric and imperial systems, to navigate the world, including the universal compass directions." Cool. Use one of the measurement systems everyone knows, not Castilian or Talmudic.
I'm not going to cover every enemy in the list but I will say there's an inkling of a neat idea. The various entries show how large the relevant enemy is compared to the sample character. This can be good, bad, or ugly. I'll let you decide. Pardon the document overlay.
One of my biggest complaints are with the gigant and fire drake. "Save or die" sucks. These two take it a step farther, skipping the save bit. The fire drake has an ability that allows it to pay 9 AP to roll 5d20. If it gets two 20s, it instantly kills someone. The gigant has a similar ability with one minor exception. Get three 20s and cause a TPK. Actual phrasing there. "(Causes TPK)". Why you would intentionally add a thing into your game whereby a random roll of the dice means literally start over with new characters, I don't know.
You can use the creatures present in this section as random encounters. This could really do with an example as I find it to be completely unusable at the table. When reading the following quote, just keep in mind that all of the enemies fall into one of the enumerated buckets.
Recommended Appearance Ratio
Common: 2 in 3 battles
Uncommon: 1 in 5 battles
Rare: 1 in 10 battles
Legendary: 1 in 20 battles
I suppose if you do the math to turn those all into a "x in 20" scale, you get somewhere in the vicinity of a d20 roll.
And now you know every single mechanical thing in the game. That's a good stopping point and takes us up to page 87. The remaining 73-ish pages are world history and the three-act campaign. I have yet to decide how to cover them. There are definitely bits throughout that I'd love to tell you about.
History and a bit of adventuringOriginal SA post
New Horizon Part 4: History and a bit of adventuring
Now that we're getting into some real IP-heavy stuff, I'll refrain from posting large blocks of text. Right off the bat, however, I want to share a bit of text regarding Valery. She was the tutorial character in the original Knights & Legends. Turns out she was more than met the eye. She founded the monolithic church that most people are a part of 350 years ago and then vanished. But not really. She reappeared a year after the last campaign ended, calling herself Omega-V. She was branded a god but that apparently warrants only this footnote.
From here on out, pretty much all of the text is read-aloud. You're here at x o'clock. You see some stuff. You go over there at y o'clock. A pretty white lady with red hair asks you to buy some bread [buy, decline, shop around]. The campaign itself is laid out sort of like an open-world JRPG. Do a bunch of questy stuff. Once you complete it, you're free to fuck about until you want to continue with more questy stuff.
Real heavy stuff. We open on a bustling tavern at 17:50, focusing on the tavern wench wandering about with her breasts almost popping out. Really.
We discover one of New Horizon's big innovations here, the Spontaneous Event. That makes them sound neat, as if they're little vignettes you can drop into various places. Here, however, Spontaneous Event basically means "something happens and the players can react". There are three of them before the party tucks in for the night - someone accidentally spills beer and you can decide if you assault and murder a black guy, a wench gets pulled around by her right arm "in what looks like to be a complete uncalled for jest" and you can play the hero or ignore it, and some dude offers you a coin for the drink that you supposedly bought him, which you can deny.
Our first sidequest involves getting some harpy talons and bonemeal. This quest shows off the author's love for repeat phrases - "That's when you accidentally step on what appears to be, harpy dung! That's when, you hear a very loud shriek from the top of the cliffs to your right," and two paragraphs later, "That's when you spot one of the harpies". We've also forgotten what we murdered some number of harpies for. Our final blow knocks off some of their pinions, which we gather to complete half of our quest. That just leaves the bonemeal, which is daunting "sense" the merchant asked us to take it from some undead. After a grueling battle with the English language, we re-slay the skeleton of a humanoid warrior and pull off its right feet.
We discover our first real quest - emigrate to another nation and find the king's missing wife and child. Keeping in mind the read-aloud states that we've all got 600 kescs and the fare for the boat ride is 300, we decide instead to do a bit of ocean travel by way of grandad's rotten old rowboat because we're poor. This works. We arrive tomorrow morning, greeted by some mourning mist. You narrowly avoid some unidentified floaty light things.
There's another black guy we can pry at for information. He's super fat and his "overweight takes its tows on his body". I'm not going to be talking about every single bullet point but I wanted to call out this one now. Skin color isn't mentioned pretty much at all, except for when you're not supposed to like the person (they're black unless the person is royalty) or you're supposed to find them attractive (they're a redheaded white lady). This happens a few times.
The quest comes to a close with everyone safe and happy. *ding*, we can now use shields and maybe choose a new class and occupation.
We're asked to head out to a different nation and offered a sum of coin. This is where we're introduced to an old Knights & Legends staple - responses that lead to consequences no one in their right mind could have guessed. This one - "you're camping; you should set a watch." If you set a watch, you get to fight three skeleton knights. If you don't set a watch, the skeleton knight thing doesn't happen and you all contract influenza instead.
Turns out you're going to overthrow the dude you helped last time. But first, an angry black man with a nappy afro that you can placate by maybe killing his wife if she's cheating on him. She is! With that other black guy we don't like! You can blackmail them for cash or kill them for less cash.
Skip a bunch of pages of read-aloud. You kill or incapacitate the queen, a level 3 stabby lady, and decide to bring her with you. The dude you're with converses with the king in text that's identical to read-aloud ("Sidney, then lashes out! You filthy dog, you aren't fit to be king! After I kill you I'll deal with your heir.") before killing the guy in an epic play-by-play fight that you can't interact with.
You feel guilty about the heir maybe dying so you take a vacation to experience therapeutic massages (and maybe bring some girls home) in Kenjiwah.
We learn that the floaty orb things are aliens from Xanadu, our moon. We get to fight a group of them now.
Luckily the Xanadulian Spitzfraun is just reminiscent of Monte Cook's Nibovian Wives, meaning you probably don't have to have sex with them and create the progeny that will become YOUR DOOM.
We're not pretending we're not in Japan anymore as there are geishas all over the place. First order of business, you can buy a standard massage or a happy time special.
You run into a geisha immediately afterward who is exactly as offensive a stereotype as you might be thinking.
Harol, are you hear to fight in the tournament? You have big long sword! Uhh, makes me very happy to see so many foreigners in our tiny little country!
She then drops her robe to reveal an even thinner robe, unties her hair, and then asks you to go in the water with her. If your character is single, maybe this is your chance!
You quickly discover your quest for the chapter - four nubile ladies, Fukimi, Saori, Naomi, and Fook-Yu, are going to be forced into marriage with Oroshi Nabunga and two are prepared to commit harakiri tonight. So being the valiant invaders you are, you go kill him and steal his sword. At this point, the four women are objects for you to do with as you please. You could pawn them off as farmhands or you could settle down with them. Beware! They'll take a quarter of your income (and that will rise to half if they have a child).
Just kidding. I mean, that all does happen, but the real final quest involves heading out to the middle of nowhere because some lady (probably an attractive white lady with red hair) asks you. When you get there, she requests that you kill a death knight and head through a portal to the abyssal plane where you eventually choose to slay a blood dragon. You came all this way so you do it despite her saying she can't pay you. And without prompting, you take the dragon's nine pound blood clot. You can use this to interact with a new NPC that's so powerful he can paralyze you if you even think about attacking. He can make you one of three potions that increases your stats using that clot, I suppose setting you up for the expansion campaign.
The stats for the death knight, blood dragon, Pointed Moon Lady, and assorted enemies that you encounter aren't present in the list of enemies we covered last time. They're just kind of in the vicinity of where they appear in the campaign.
Kredits (no, really)
The author claims to have run an in-depth playtesting campaign with many people who asked to help. Presented here are three playtesters, one of whom is the author himself.
I think I've probably made my feelings abundantly clear on this game. If anything, I've been more polite than some of the only other reviews you might locate. The language used makes it hard to talk about and you might look at my comments in this update regarding black people and the Japan expy and think I'm exaggerating a bit, but I'm really not.
So, a question to the peanut gallery. There are thirteen free supplemental items for this game and more are coming out all the time. Do you want to hear about ezo-latin food? How about stealing breastmilk from babies? The author's apotheosis? They're all one page, I believe, so there might be one more update in me if people want more.
Supplemental supplementalOriginal SA post
New Horizon Part 5: Supplemental supplemental
As of writing this update, there are 16 separate free/PWYW titles associated with New Horizon. I'm going to lump them together as best I can.
Additionally, all of the "add stuff" supplements contain three items. That makes discussion of the individual supplements difficult but, given they're all free/PWYW, there shouldn't be too many complaints.
Four supplements add a selection of regional dishes. All of them are priced somewhat exorbitantly given we gained 50 Currency Units when we risked life and limb to gather harpy talons/pinions and skeleton right feet.
Food has a name (like chimeric sirloin, direwolf beef, and lomo saltado), a price, an effect (END +1, +50% more elemental spell damage, heal 1d4 per turn), and a duration.
The Ezo-Latin supplement in this category is one of the few that contains an image. That image was modified for use in marketing material to have a throbbing buttock. Real classy.
Three are regional "landscapes". The politest description I can give is "Wurm Online screenshot run through an mspaint filter". It's unclear to me how to use these.
... Player Options?
Six could generously be described as containing play options.
We've got a few mystic runes. If I had to pick a favorite, wreathing your physical attacks with fire could be neat.
One supplement contains "forbidden spells". They all summon various creatures to fight by your side for three turns.
If you're a particularly rude and/or crude individual, Nasty Habits would be invaluable. You could read a quote about flatulence that probably makes more sense in Brazilian Portuguese, learn that shitting where you sleep probably gives you fireskin, and discover that stealing "liquid gold" from a lactating woman boosts all of your stats. You can only do this once ever. And then a pithy and inappropriate "Got milk?"
There's an NPC creator. Roll 1d6 per column - name, gender, personality, body, country, and race. This is where we discovered Sha'Quita.
The final two are labeled "Trending Personalities". I feel like the first is meant to represent the game's author and the second is meant to be representative of reviewers of his game. I hope people don't think I'm overstepping by declaring these "completely worthless" - they each consist of three words with definitions that are so incorrect it's not funny.
So the author.
A natural leader, has the solution for most problems right away.
Above everyone else, a narcissist loves to play god, some even believe to be gods themselves.
Conquistadors are natural seducers. They love to brag about past spoils, and impress the opposite sex.
And everyone who has reviewed the game online thus far.
They love to dramatically complain and make a big deal of small things.
Harlots are flirtatious and inviting. They opt for less conventional ways of seduction to get what they want.
Machos behave like hotheaded, indomitable beasts. They will only listen to their mamma.
Finally, there are three quests. I'm not going to duplicate any of the maps here. They're free. Go look them up if you dare.
The Labyrinth of BiYatt
We've begun with the number inflation. You've been asked to go kill a snake demon with stats higher than an entire party of people who can very likely one-shot people with a 5d20 attack. You get 600 Currency Units.
The Cult of Chuchuluh
You're tasked with killing a false deity. The image is of a drooling face and the stats are so low the target shouldn't be a challenge to a party. Another not-so-subtle reference?
The Narcissist & The Peasant
Felix, the narcissistic creator of Ezora, has descended and wants to make the world whole. Will you kill him or join him?
Felix the Demi God Type-F has 999 HP, no weaknesses, and all skills and spells. Should you kill him, you get 9999 Currency Units.
Subtlety is for harlots, I guess.
There we have it. All 16 supplements. I'm sure more will be added this week - Narcissist came out on Oct 11 and the three landscapes came out today, Oct 13.
My take on the thought of a competent game designer regularly releasing little additions for free? Fucking awesome.
My take on finally sitting down and reading through all of these? I have regrets. I could have spent this time reading anything else given this game has a roughly 0% chance of reaching a table I'm at unless we decide to do some weird MST3K-RPG thing. I hope you enjoyed it, at least. I will not be covering the inevitable supplements that will keep coming out.