The Coriolis: The Third Horizon “Arabian Nights” style science fiction RPG was released recently. Modiphius Entertainment also offers a 74 page Coriolis Quickstart with a module and PCs so you can test drive before deciding if you want to pay US $50 plus shipping (Amazon price). While I haven’t had a chance to play the game, my son and husband did at Gamer Nation Con IV, with full rules, and liked it.
Like every other PDF, or physical, rulebook I’ve seen lately, the publisher wanted Coriolis to be an eye-pleasing book. There are lots of illustrations, technically good but many are in a blurry style–to suggest fast action?–that isn’t my favorite. But even text-only pages feature a nice border and space backdrops.
What about the content? The first few pages cover history and some of the cultures in the Coriolis sector. The PDF suggests thinking Firefly but with an Eastern/Arabian Nights, rather than Western, flavor, but I didn’t really see that. Other than calling the slicer/hacker Advanced Skill “Data Djinn,” (a term I got a kick out of) nothing in the PDF struck me as particularly Arabian Nights, and I thought it might come through in the full core book, or in play. However, my family said there wasn’t much of an Arabian Nights vibe, aside from names and the Icons, in the intro module, “Dark Flowers,” they played. (“Dark Flowers” is included in the quick-start.)
The book is clear that worship of those Icons (various deities, as well as the “Dark Between the Stars,” which is similar to Christianity’s Devil) plays a large part in characters’ lives and thus figures in the game. In addition to Firefly, the religious aspect puts me in mind of Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9. The Icon worship is very intertwined with mechanics, as well as narrative, as this quote from the Skills shows: “When you are in danger and attempt to accomplish something difficult, your fate is in the hands of the Icons.” (p. 11)
Speaking of mechanics and narrative, Coriolis, like the Star Wars and 7th Sea RPGs, features narrative mechanics. Like 7th Sea, the base number of dice (D6s) you roll equals the sum of your Ability and Skill scores plus or minus any modifiers. At least one die showing 6 is a success, and additional 6s unlock bonuses. My son told me that in play it worked much like the Raise mechanic in 7th Sea. What if you don’t roll any 6s? There is a consequence determined by the GM or…you may pray to an appropriate Icon for a reroll, which you can also do even if you rolled at least one 6.
However, there are costs for the Icons’ boons and blessings–one Dark Point (DP) per reroll prayer. (There are other ways for the GM to gain DPs as well.) The GM can then spend 1-3 DPs to complicate the situation, from giving an NPC a reroll to weapon misfires to environmental problems. This will be familiar to any FFG Star Wars player. I thought on my initial read that the Dark Point mechanic might be a little unbalanced in favor of the GM, but my family didn’t mention it when they described their session to me. So it looks like everything works reasonably well in play.
Something else I appreciated about the mechanics chapters (Skills and Combat) was that between main text and sidebars, everything was clearly explained with examples. The tone was conversational and engaging, too. Reading them was like having the rules explained by an experienced, patient GM or player of the system. This is always a plus, but especially when you and your group are trying out a newly-released system with unique mechanics, enabling people to start playing with less discussions over how a rule actually works. The Quick Start only covers rules needed for “Dark Flowers,” typical of these promo products. I hope the full rule book has the clear, conversational style as well.
So overall it seems to be a well-developed modern SF RPG with a solid Quick Start to whet gamers’ appetites. I certainly hope I have a chance to play it (maybe at GNC V?) now that I’ve heard it’s a pretty good game.