The book opens with a brief overview of the eight ages of the history of the world, Ela’Tain. The information in there was very brief and hardly relevant to learning the system. It was also poorly written. Sure, the grammar and spelling were correct, but the ideas behind the different ages are very sophomoric and had no real unique twist to them. I would have loved to have seen the same background done with something that intrigued me into wondering how the world was unique.
Following the brief history lesson came an even shorter description of the races. All of the generic races in most fantasy systems were present along with a few others. The few others were interesting enough to keep me engaged and made me want to keep reading.
Next was brief overview of the classes, and they were all the generic types. Each time a hint of uniqueness filtered into the text, it was stolen from me by the repeated use of the words, “the system will be revealed, when the full game is released.” What I was really looking for, apparently, has not been written yet. I hope they pull off what they are going for in the final print because the taster given to me in the free book is quite bland.
Once world, races and classes were established, the next part of the book explained stats, skills, combat, experience points and a brief bit about magic. The information here was quite confusing because of a basic RPG mechanic that the authors seem to be missing. Everywhere in the book, they claim that 2d10 results in a number between 1 and 100. The de facto “2d10” in role playing is two ten-sided dice rolled and added together for a range of numbers between 2 and 20. It took several reads of the rule system to figure out that where they stated “2d10” they really meant “d100” or “d%”. This is something I hope they rectify in the final book before going to print.
Halfway through the book, the adventure “Trail to Esavar” began. On the right-hand side of the first page of the adventure was a text box that grabbed my attention. There I found the following words:
Hero’s Bane can be a brutal system where any character can die in almost any encounter. Be kind to your players. Instead of killing them in the very first fight with a critical hit, make them lose consciousness and let them be revived. If you kill the characters too fast, the players will not have a good time. Dying in a random encounter can be disheartening and it is up to you, the GM, to make the game enjoyable.
This is where I stopped reading the book.
If they know it’s not fun to die in random encounters because of a single set of unlucky rolls, then they should change the system to not allow this to happen, or make the odds of it happening so very rare that the event will become a story for the players and GM to tell for the rest of their role playing days. A base system that allows for random death is a poor system. Again, I hope this is something that is fixed between the free version and the final version of the game.
Grade: C — I know this may sound like a harsh review, but I’m just being honest with you about what I see in the book. This is Claymore Entertainment’s first effort at creating a role playing game, and I applaud them for their efforts thus far. I just hope they pour many hours of play testing into the game and fix some of the core problems that I saw with the free version of the game. Good luck to Claymore and their team of developers. I hope to see a quality game come out of their efforts.