Saturday, 23 August 2014

First Impressions: Fluxborn Part 1

Fluxborn is the recently released first product from Cycpops!. It is available on DriveThru RPG for pay what you want, the developers even advertise it as free and encourage donation rather than an outright purchase. I'll be reading through the book and commenting on what I see. I may break the mechanics down and do an in depth analysis in this post, or another. It really depends on their complexity. This is a first impression, I am going into this completely blind. I have not read any other review or synopsis.

The Cover

The cover is a professional quality full colour painting with only the words “Fluxborn Rulebook” and an understated but interesting decorative border covering the picture. The cover illustration depicts a small inhuman creature in a cradle surrounded by strange looking animals. 

There are two juxtapositions that catch my eye. The first is the two figures on the right of the cover art. This is a large eagle-like creature with a lolling tongue and blank expression and an antelope-like animal with a skinless head. The eagle-thing looks almost cartoonish while its match is all skull and promises of horror.
Similarly, two figures in the border flank the title, while human in form, display similar differences in form if not identical differences in theme. Both figures are in profile and wearing hooded robes. Their hands are held up near the centre of their chest. The figure on the left's robes are tattered and he appears to have a short cape or mantle of leaves, or possibly fur. It has an extra hand facing the viewer coming out of the robes and is standing on a shelf of stacked stones. The figure on the right has immaculate robes with a square design reminiscent of Graeco-Roman designs.


This section starts off looking a bit like fiction but quickly changes into a brief prose description of the setting. The game seems to be about a world of dreams. The two hooded figures on the cover correspond to the two major forces in the setting Wild and Logic. The titular Fluxborn are children infused with the two opposing forces previously mentioned. 

The character introduced at the beginning, a hare named Lucky (who is emphatically not a small lagomorph, but instead a “proper hare”, a creature of dreams) seems to be one of these Fluxborn. The introduction clearly presents two other options. Boogeymen apparently embody humanity's collective hopes and fears. Frogkin are related to greed and the need for acceptance. These seem to be the game's classes, for lack of a better term. The into calls them flavours of Fluxborn, but I really hope the mechanics don't use that term.
Around this point the writing gets a little weird. Not in the surrealist sense because I'm reading about people who are half dream but simply the sentence structure. The writing team has named that suggest to me they are Scandinavian of some description, so they could easily be writing in their second language. If that isn't the case, well, it looks like a sloppy case of editing. Given that this is likely to be the first thing a potential buyer will read when they pick up the book, it doesn't bode well for the editing in the rest of the book. I'll reserve judgement for now.

The reason I said the introduction gives us two clear options beside hares is they mention the sic, something above other dreamers. On re-reading those three or so lines I'm starting to think that the Sic is Fluxborn's term for the Game Master. So far I'm getting the same vibe I got from Nobilis from this game. I'm hoping this doesn't end up like Wisher, Theurge, Fatalist (something that I'm still not entirely sure is actually a game.).
The introductory text then drops all pretence of a short fiction to get the reader into the setting and lays out the chapters. In hindsight, I look a little critical of that choice. I would have preferred they stuck to all fiction or all plain prose to ease the reader into the book. In the self contained game books that include setting and story have a tendency to start with a piece of short fiction to hook the reader. At least the good ones I can think of off the top of my head do. 
Chapter one is described as “a different interpretation of the world, as well as the different Fluxborn that live within it”. This seems to be a guide to the setting, including character types. 

It seems strange then that chapter two is also a chapter about setting. It “delves more deeply into the continent of Everthere”. Everthere appears to be the core of the setting, so why include any details about setting in the first chapter? Checking the table of contents, it doesn't seem to be related to chapter size. The first two chapters are collectively about 30 pages. The third chapter is about 40 pages and chapter four is only 10 pages or so. So why not combine the first two chapters? If that were the case, chapter four would seem more like an appendix than anything else. Maybe the chapters are divided by player and GM information. That would explain the division.

Chapter three is the chapter on mechanics including character creation and “a vast array of reality-defying Stunts” which, if I had to guess, will make up the vast majority of the system's crunch. Looking at the table of contents again, it looks like the stunts take up 17 out of the chapters 44 pages. As an aside, this is more page space than the entire second chapter.

Finally, the meagre fourth chapter is the Bestiary. This chapter promises both ready-made creatures and a guideline for their creation. I look forward to seeing how they fit both into such a small chapter as well as what the stat blocks look like. Also, if the cover is any indication, the monster illustrations should be awesome.

I should take a moment to address the presentation of the book itself. The layout looks pretty good so far. A clean table of contents. Easily read, large text. The PDF has book marks on all the sections outlined in the table of contents. There isn't any background so the pages look a little sparse but that means they load fast and are more friendly to printing. From what I've seen of the page layout so far, it looks pretty simple.

Considering I've the amount I've written and how far I've gotten into the book so far, I think I'll be breaking this up into multiple posts. I should mention that the introduction is only one page long.

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