A Preview Review of… Stoneburner!
It’s time for some Canadian Content everyone! Fari RPGs is based out of Quebec, and they’ve been smashing it out of the park routinely since their debut game, Charge! back in 2021. They’re latest game is in alpha level development, and headed to Kickstarter on April 11th, so let’s dive into some pre-release goodness!
Fari RPGs have been a leading indie game developer in the tabletop RPG scene since launch. They’ve combined different formats, access methods, and a succinct, focused writing style and design ethos to produce professional level products at extremely approachable prices. They’ve also maintained a position of supporting the creative community by making their games under Creative Commons licences to be built on and expanded by others.
Stoneburner is their most ambitious game to date, moving away from the more generic types of games produced previously. It has a firm setting, unique threats, and solid conceptualization that places it deep onto the science end of the spectrum of science-fantasy spectrum with well placed and plausible fantasy elements that keep with the tone. The game is rooted in the Breathless System, and currently in alpha level development. Once released, it will be their largest standalone game to date.
Usually for reviews I do a Good, Bad, and Ugly, but this game is in alpha so I don’t think that’s a fair approach as the game is incomplete and unpolished. So instead, lets get into my impressions from the game.
The setting is amazing. The main focus is on the literal hell beast infested mines and beat-up settlement that you, the players, have inherited. Yes, it’s in space, and yes, there’s fire spitting demons. It’s Deadspace, Doom, and a lived-in style sci-fi Alien operation all at once. The universe is big, but the part you’re concerned about is concentrated enough that the game will have legs. It lays out that there’s a whole fantasy being occupied universe out there, but you’re a Dwarf in the Dwarf bit and here’s enough detail to get you excited. This is some quality small-scale world building.
The game mechanics are good. In keeping with previous games developed by Fari RPGs, Stoneburner is a rules lite game designed for fast and flexible play. What’s interesting to see is how they’ve taken aspects from other successful indie games (all listed in the inspiration section) to expand the baseline that Breathless provided. Everything has also been refined to stay on task in such a way that still gives space for the players and GM alike to branch out, which is always good to see.
The layout is great. The game flows naturally from one section to the next and clearly communicates what you need to use each set of mechanics. It’s also easy on the eyes, with clear delineations on each page to break things up into digestible components.
The exploration section is bordering on brilliance, using dice to create a map for each sector exploration. This keeps it fresh, guarantees no two sectors will ever be the same, and the same approach is taken to the demons that infest the place. It’s all random, but owing to the mechanics of the game, the GM can create enemies for the player characters on the fly if desired with no significant slowdown of game play.
To be perfectly honest, my only real concern is that the game does too good a job making you want more. This is the kind of game that either needs expansions or companion games. It has legs of its own, but it also makes you wonder about the rest of the universe in a “Is there an Elfic Clans book?” kind of way.
The other concern I have is that there may be a significant wait for an SRD. This game might have started as Breathless, but it’s a whole other animal at this point and I think creatives at all levels from new to experienced are going to want to build with it. I think the sooner an SRD is out, the harder this game is going to hit.
The impressions I had of this game in no way prepared me for what I was walking into. I knew I could look forward to tight design and good layout, but this game came with so much more. At a proposed 69 pages when complete, it’s looking like a solid game that offers a unique science-fantasy gaming experience. Do I think it’s going to be good? Yes. Am I going to support it? Yes. Absolutely.
Stoneburner has a Kickstarter starting on April 11th, and you can find its co-creators, René-Pier Deshaies-Gélinas and Galen Pejeau on Twitter as @RPDeshaies and @GPejeau.
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