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domingo, 24 de mayo de 2015

Review of Ablaneda

In today's review I will talk about the role-playing game Ablaneda, created by José Carlos Domínguez and published by Other Selves.

Ablaneda is a game of medieval fantasy, but instead of mmeting a hifh fantasy setting with elfs, dwarfs, orcs and dragons in the style of the J.R.R. Tolkien sagas or something typical of the Old School games like exploring labyrinths or underground tombs it immerses us in a setting more akin to real Middle Age (basically in legends of North of Iberian Peninsula in times of the Reconquista) but where magic and legendary creatures really exist and are very dangerous...

Ablaneda is settled in the same name County, a land colonized in medieval times that for one reason or another remained isolated form the world, so the original inhabitants and their descendants were forced to live there facing the many dangers threatening them.

The game itself is divided in there parts:

Prima pars: Setting

First part comprises 4 chapters (The Patrol, The roads, The creatures, The faith and the magic) describing the games's setting and giving information about the following themes:

Details needed to know the type of characters played in the game, in this case members of la Ronda de Yerbosera (Patrol of Yerbosera, better known as Patrol of the Gallow): prisoners with a conmuted death sentence serving in the militia protecting the County, a postponed sentence indeed, as it is a dangerous assignment where they can easily die (to that effect la Ronda is clearly influenced by the Night Watch of the Song of Fire and Ice saga by George R.R. Martin as the author recognizes).

The Ablaneda County description takes for reference the roads patrolled by the Ronda (the Royal Road, the River Road, the iron road, the Old East Road and the Forest Road), allowing them to visit places like Castro de la Reina, the capitol where rules don Francisco (the most important nobe of the County), the abandoned Abbey of San Andrés (that seems to be cursed), Yerbosera (base of the Ronda and main artisan and commercial centre of the County), Castronegro at the Broken Mountains (it is said that its subterranean tunnels lead to the misterious city of Bajomonte or hide a sleeping dragon...).

The many dangerous creatures populating the Ablaneda County and siege the inhabitants, like the sierpes (giant snakes with poisoned fangs and the might of three men), ojancos (giant beings with only one eye and a huge appetite), the janas (enchanted women living at the bottom of the waters wich sometimes bewitch unaware boys to marry them), goblins (mischievous pixies whose mission in life seems no other than cajole good Christians and make their life miserable) or demons come from the very heart of Hell and Death heralds or other ghostly apparitions coming to reclaim souls of near death people.

To finish this last part the book alsos treats the magic in Ablaneda, it may consist in sorcery by witches, healers and alchemists (mainly linked to natural world), miracles of those worshipping God and the saints, black magic (consisting in invocation of the infernal cohorts to to satisfy desires and petitions of those invoking them) and pacting with demons to have all they want in exchange of giving their soul to Devil. Leaving aside all these there's also the chance of using magical and sacred objects and pixies also have their tricks to deceive poor mortals.

Secunda pars: Game

Second part comprise two chapters (System and Director) devoted to explain the game mechanics, in this case using the XD6 system (a narrative system) that works at basic level as follows:

Players create their characters thinking first in their background story with a maximum of 10 sentences to obtain their strong suits, also known as traits, to define their capabilities. Among these traits players distribute XV points (yes, in Roman numerals) with a minimum of II points and a maximum of V points for every trait, the score of every one will be the number of dice the player will roll every time the character wants to use a trait.

Given the above, the scale of traits will be the following:

Id: Poor (only 1 dice, for not particularly outstanding of characters).
IId: Proficient (2 dice, for a qualified professional).
IIId: Expert (3 dice, for someone who excels in his work).
IVd: Master (4 dice, for someone who excels in his work and other ones ask him for advice).
Vd: Legend (5 dice, for someone whose works and name will be remembered by future generations).

When it's time to use those traits player will roll as many dice as his score, for every V or VI obtained in a dice it wiil be a success (as more successes better).

According to the situation in the gaming session it's also possible to have opposed rolls, one player against other or the game director against a player if it's a rather tricky situation or the player is facing a creature, in this case will win the one with the higher number of successes (if it's not an opposed roll it will be necessary to obtain at least a success to achieve what he want's to do).

Assuming that the reason of the opposed roll is a conflict the difference between successes of the winner and the losser wil be applied as damage against the latter (whether substracting it from the traits' score if it's a character or from the damage counter of a creature, when the trait or the counter reach zero the character or the creature are defeated, although characters also have the option of surrender before that happens).

There's also the chance of using advantage dice (the task is easy for the character, so the player can roll extra dice) or opposition dice (the task is difficult for the character, so the director can also roll extra dice), the number of successes obtained in opposition dice are substracted from those obtaines in advantage dice.

The advantage / opposition scale will be the following:

Id: Moderate advantage / difficulty
IId: Clear advantage / difficulty
IIId: Doubtless advantage / difficulty
IVd: Extreme advantage / difficulty
Vd: Better think about an automatic success or failure

Players also can also force issues to work for them spending destiny points (they have III at character creation), to be used to force an advantage appearing or recover points of a trait lowered from damage of an opposed roll.

Regarding the game director he will find in the corresponding chapter many advice as orientation for creating and refeering adventures in Ablaneda, including things like themes to consider and how to do it (medieval superstition, fairy tales, survival, satire...), tasks to do by the Ronda (patrol, escort merchants, investigate...), how to manage players' antagonists and magic and which works can inspire the director (including literature and other games).

Tertia pars: Adventures

In its third part Ablaneda offers three adventures for game directors and players to begin thie journey in the County roads:

La cueva de la Ayalga: Who is singing inside the cave?
La rosa roja: Martín Rojas, mayor of Prado Espeso, wants to marry his daughter with the rich Ferrán de Bragata, but she wants to marry him?
La noche más corta: At St. John Night pixies, ghosts and demons travel the earth and the Ronda is on duty...


Ablaneda is a game that will appeal first time players not wishing to have a complicated experience and veteran referees and players wishing to try a light game with many connecting points with classic games of the Spanish role-playing game scape like Aquelarre by Ricard Ibáñez (in fact contents of the latter would be easily adaptable to Ablaneda given its easy ruleset end the medieval themes)

If you are interested in the game and want to take a look before buying it its available as a Pay What You Want pdf written in Spanish in DriveThruRPG and Lektu digital platforms, although if you want to buy it in paper and have the magnificent full colour map of the County accompanying this review it's available in Spanish shops served by Distribuciones Sombra (in both cases take a look at the Other Selves website for more information), if you are interested in the XD6 system it's available as a free download from said digital platforms.

Before ending this review I also want to remind you of the raffle being carried out for the Limited Deluxe Edition of Ablaneda in aid of the Intermón Oxfam NGO, if you want to help you may read this page of Other Selves explaining how to do it (I'm not sure if those living outside Spain can participate, so better contact Rodrigo García Carmona and ask him).

This entry it's also available in the following languages:
Castellano Català

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