Author Topic: Ehdrigohr: fantasy roleplaying in a world of Native legend and traditions  (Read 5480 times)

Jace911

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I just stumbled across this gem after listening to the One-Shot cast play a demo AP run by the creator, and I'm absolutely devouring it. It's a fantasy role-playing game built from the ground up from a basis of North American native folklore and mythology rather than the usual European perspective; the end result is a setting that captures the classic feel of your standard western D&D power fantasy without falling into the usual cliches of knights and dragons, elves and dwarves, and wizards and necromancers.

What I think I like most about it is how it veers away from the usual epic fantasy standards where the heroes are heroic because they're good at fighting monsters--there are monsters that need fighting, but there's also a lot of emphasis on being in harmony with your surroundings and achieving understanding rather than simply brute forcing your way through a problem. The most illustrative example of this that I can think of is the episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender where Aang comes across a village being besieged by an angry spirit. Whereas your standard D&D party would start sharpening swords, Aang realizes that the spirit is upset because its forest was burned down, and he calms it by pointing out the acorns that will one day grow into trees and rebuild the forest. This is the sort of approach Ehdrigohr encourages its players to adopt to many situations.

Another aspect that piqued my interest was the emphasis placed on mental health and the dangers of depression; people who become overwhelmed with sorrow are actually in danger of wasting away into nothingness if they aren't cared for and looked after, and the current state of the world (Recovering from the latest of several periodic apocalypses brought about by kaiju/Great Old Ones/demons) is the result of one of the pantheon members accidentally staring into the abyss and discovering Sorrow as an emotional concept, which led to her corruption and fall when the other deities didn't know how to help her.

Aside from that it's just a pretty solid and interesting fantasy setting that draws inspiration from a number of native cultures from around the world. There aren't any "races" other than humans, but the humans are divided into diverse peoples with varying degrees of unifying/separate beliefs and traditions. My favorite are probably the Urali of the north, who are evocative of Inuit peoples--because the main setting monster ("Shivers") can only survive in the darkness, when the sun goes down for nearly a month in the arctic tundra Shivers come pouring down towards the plains and are only stopped by an army of Urali and volunteers from all over the world. Second for me would probably be the Beyduun, desert-dwellers who have eschewed the use of "Mysteries" (Magic) in favor of alchemy and contraptions and have built a clockwork empire in the southern wastelands.

On the mechanical front it's a FATE Core game with the usual tweaks and minor changes intended to fit the spirit of the game--combat is a bit more lethal, and the skill list is more granular (Weapons are divided into melee/ranged, which are again divided into weapon types, and there are more social skills). One thing that stands out as interesting to me is the aspect list: characters have a Core Aspect (Who their character is), a Culture Aspect (Which group of people they come from), and six Winter Aspects. In Ehdrigohr, night and other times and places of darkness belong to the Shivers--basically dark spirits leftover from the apocalypse who only exist to destroy man. During the day they shrivel and die in the sun, but at night they emerge to threaten travelers in the wilderness and prey on undefended villages and towns. During the Winter the days are shorter and the nights are longer, so surviving a Winter is a big deal and people's lives are measured as such. Because of this, the aspects reflecting your character's life story are all about significant Winters that they survived: childhood, adolescence, their first adventure, the first time their Mysteries (Magic) manifested, and their Nightmare: a dark moment from their past where they came face-to-face with the Shivers and were left physically or emotionally scarred by the experience.

My only real complaint with the game is that the cultures based off non-North American native traditions are a bit stereotypical--there's an evil empire of not-Aztecs who worship the Woes (Aforementioned kaiju/great old ones) and sacrifice slaves to them--but this is more or less balanced out by the rest of them. There are some editing and spelling errors here and there, but not enough to annoy me and I'm pretty sticky about that sort of thing. It's $10 on DriveThruRPG for the pdf, well worth the buy in my opinion, and you can get a starting adventure called "Red Dogs, Hungry Dreams" for five bucks as well. I sincerely hope more people buy it, because this is the kind of content I really want to see more of in the RPG industry rather than the tired old "primitive native" tropes.

Some more resources:

This American Indian Dungeons and Dragons lets you weave powerful stories--An article by a Native American tabletop gamer on Ehdrigohr's mythology and how it handles its native influences
One-Shot Ehdrigohr episodes

Alethea

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This is definitely on mt to-buy list on DriveThruRPG
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smalltowncinema

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I don't know... Jokerman font  ;)

Jace911

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I don't know... Jokerman font  ;)

Thankfully it's more or less limited to the book title and a couple of headings. If even 1% of this book was written in Jokerman I would be singing a very different tune. That tune would sound remarkably similar to screaming.

Also, something interesting I've realized while going through the mechanics: Allen Turner mentioned that the idea for this game originated when he was running D&D for Native kids as a counseling strategy, and with that in mind I can definitely see some D&DNA mixed in with the usual FATE mechanics.

Weapon skills are broken down into Melee and Ranged, and each of those are then broken down into types. So instead of taking Weapons (Melee) you would take Weapons (Sword) or Weapons (Bow) for each type you want to wield effectively, rather than the FATE standard where a character with Weapons +4 is pretty much a master of every implement of war ever constructed by man. If you want a character who is an all-around weapon master like a D&D fighter then you need to invest a good portion of your character pyramid into Weapon skills. I was skeptical about this at first, but after making a few test characters and going over the rules a bit more I think it was the right move. Ehdrigohr is a game about narrative and story and FATE is suited to that, but it's also a bit more down to Earth than your usual D&D power fantasy--Turner cites Chronicles of the Black Company as one of the influences. Splitting the skill apart also helps with differentiating characters--in classic FATE a party might have the guy who's really good with Weapons or Guns (Or just Fight), but in this everyone can have a category of Weapons at Great and still feel distinct.

Mysteries (Magic) are the same way: the game breaks them down into four Schools (Elements, Natures, Essentials, Principles) which each have four Paths, and when taking a Mysteries skill you have to specify which Path you're trained in. Elements are Earth/Fire/Water/Air and are your typical Avatar benders, Natures are Body/Mind/Spirit/Soul and are sort of adept/psionic abilities, Essentials are Weave/Moment/Space/Truth and are honest-to-God reality manipulation, and Principles are Life/Love/Honor/Destiny. Principles are the hardest to define as a group because they're kind of all over: Life is mostly about healing and protective spells, Love gives you social boosts and lets you control animals, Honor lets you establish "vows", "oaths", "compulsions", etc that people are compelled to follow, and Destiny is just straight-up fate sorcery where you push odds one way or the other (Mechanically you give people boosts or penalties on their rolls).

There's enough meat with each School and Path mechanically and lore-wise that it seems you can make a character entirely geared around one Path (As far as magic is concerned) and not have to worry about being a one-trick pony. You could have a Katara-style water witch, a time wizard, a beast tamer, a fate weaver, a mind-over-matter kung-fu monk who can karate chop stones in half, etc etc. Just like with Weapons above, this means you can have an entire party of magic users and yet avoid the overlap of two Sorcerers elbowing each other for the spotlight.

There are also Traditions, which basically act like Permissions from Wild Talents; if you want to be able to use the Mysteries you need to choose either Ecclesiastic Order (Magic school), Mystics (Obi-Wan mentor), Solitaries (Self-taught), Warrior Society (Swordmages), Eclectic (Picked up this and that here and there), Dynasts (Magic bloodline), and Makers (Artificers with magic gadgets). Your Tradition has some effect on how many Mysteries you can wield and how well you can wield them--for example, a Dynast character is so powerful in 1-2 Mysteries that they don't even have to roll to activate them, but it's almost impossible for them to learn anything else. By contrast a Maker character can't use the Mysteries unless they imbue a contraption with the power they want, and they need a contraption for every effect they want to recreate (Attack, Defend, Overcome, Gain the Advantage). So you could be jumped by bandits on the road, only to whip out your clockwork Iron Man repulsor gauntlet and set them on fire.

Finally comes the big question: do Mysteries make martial characters completely irrelevant as in certain editions of D&D? I would say no, firstly just because of how FATE mechanics work and secondly because using Mysteries in the first place is a bit of a gamble if you don't know what you're doing. If you botch a roll hard enough you can fuck up bad and have the spell backfire on you regardless of what school or Path you're using. Rolled a -4 to summon water for an attack? Everyone gets the Aspect "Dehydrated" because you accidentally sucked all the moisture out of the air, or you accidentally started a firestorm instead of just setting that Shiver on fire. This is actually one of the main reasons that the Beyduun (Steampunk Arabs) stopped using Mysteries and turned to Alchemy and Contraption; they felt like gunpowder was more stable and reliable than Mysteries. :V

So yeah, a surprising amount of complexity from a FATE game. I'm really digging it.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2016, 06:58:13 PM by Jace911 »