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Cavaliers of Mars Core Rulebook $19.99
Average Rating:3.8 / 5
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Cavaliers of Mars Core Rulebook
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Cavaliers of Mars Core Rulebook
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Guillaume R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/08/2020 14:31:57

Cavaliers of Mars is a game of cooperative story-telling in the swashbuckling, high romance, high adventure setting of Dying Mars. It is not a traditional TTRPG; it does make an interesting sourcebook for TTRPGs.

The game consists of rolelplaying adventurers in order to accumulate Drama Points, which are used to either benefit a character or make alterations to the story. The GM has final discretion on all uses of Drama Points. When it works, players and the GM are effectively co-writing a story in real time, livened up with dice and strategic swashbuckling action. When it doesn't, players are combatting the GM to give advantages to their characters, while the GM feels obliged to shut down players' unbalanced input.

Example In SWADE, the GM might tell a player that they recognize a figure from their past in the crowd; in Cavaliers, the Player tells the GM that they recognizes a figure from their past in the crowd, and then the GM plays the figure. A story unfolds, directed by the GM but shaped and told by all involved.

As for the setting, it is delightful and draws heavily from the sci-fi romances of the mid 20th century. Flying ships, ghosts driven on the wind, duels at night beneath rainbow-colored lanterns, mysterious lost cities, mad cults...

One thing I disliked about Cavaliers is the demand that the GM be a writer, rather than a GM. What are the dangers of canal travel? Unknown. How much technology is actually understood? Not defined. What the heck is a "shipsling"? You'll never know - or rather, that's entirely up to you, and your story. Total creative freedom is probably appropriate for a cooperative writing game.

Addendum: complaints about the complexity of the rules are unfounded. This is a game about shared imagination and dramatic scenes. Action is cinematic, not strictly bound by hard rules - explain what exciting stunt the character does, realize there was a failure and make that exciting too. If someone is poring through the rules to gain advantage for their character... well, that person won't be a good Cavaliers player.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cavaliers of Mars Core Rulebook
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Alan B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/30/2019 17:49:25

10/30/2019. This is a review of the written text, not actual play. Much of the game looks great on readthrough: the illustrations and layout are beautiful and support the look and feel of a sword and planet swashbuckling adventure.; the task resolution system looks solid; and the setting material is evocative.

Characters are created by distributing a variety of dice, from d6 to d10 among traits in five categories: Motivations, Methods, Origins, Careers, and Relationships. Methods and Motivations are similar to Vincent Baker's In a Wicked Age: For Honor, For Love, For Self and With Cunning, With Force, or With Grace. Task resolution involves gathering dice from the Motivations and Methods, and adding any of the other three that might apply, then rolling and summing the two highest. This is compared to an opposed roll by GM or other character and the highest wins.

A selection of talents elaborate on what kind of abilities the character has.

A minor drawback is the difficulty in finding the rules on weapon damage and the fact that ordinary weapons have almost no variety -- they all do 1 damage.

Another is the index, which seems to have been overlooked by the editor. It is visually confusing because most listings that should be indented as subheadings are not.

The main off-putting element when just reading the rules is understanding how the combat system allows flexibility and growth. The combat system has two important elements: a character's Speed and the Combat Maneuvers.

As far as I can determine, all player characters have a Speed of 3. Each round of combat, the PC allots their three Speed d10 dice to three categories: Strike, Parry, and Stunt. Stunts are movement or maneuvers to create advantage, such as a disarm or corps-a-corps. The GM counts down from 10 and actions are resolved based on the highest die roll. On a particular count, a die allocated to Strike is higher than the opponent's next available Parry die, the strike hits. If it's lower or equal to an opposing parry both dice are set aside and the blow is considered blocked. As far as I can tell Stunts just take effect on their die count.

Because all PCs have a Speed of 3 and Speed cannot be changed through advancement, the sameness seems to reduce variety. The way that increased combat skill shows up is in mastering the many maneuvers. By spending advancement points to master a maneuver, a character gains advantage -- for example, mastering the Parry gives a +2 to Parry dice.

Something about always and only have 3 Speed dice bothers me. I'm not sure if the system of mastering maneuvers will give enough variety to the combat system and growth. I withhold a final opinion until I have a chance to actually play or read a good actual play report.

If you can provide an actual play report of mult-session play for Cavalier, please link to it here.

If my play group takes on this game in the near future, I'll post an update.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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