Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Review: MASTERS OF UMDAAR
Every once in a while I read a game book that straight-up makes me happy. Every page is a delight, filled with ideas and energy and the kind of heedless pleasures that drew me to gaming in the first place, those many years ago. Let me tell you about a game book like that called MASTERS OF UMDAAR.
MoU is a "World of Adventure" for FATE, a game I have a lot of love for. The book was initially funded, I think, as part of Evil Hat's Patreon, and I got it as part of the recent Fate More Kickstarter. I have to admit, despite owning the two excellent FATE WORLDS books that were part of the initial FC Kickstarter, I hadn't had much interest in the "Worlds of Adventure" supplements up until now. Not because they were bad -- on the contrary, I knew that they would all be at Evil Hat's usual high quality of content and production values, and I was not disappointed here by the terrific artwork and clean layout -- but because, as a long-time FATE GM, I generally write the setting material (and attendant rule tweaks) myself. I'm beginning to realize just how wrong that decision was.
MoU is aimed at players who grew up loving things like the Masters of the Universe cartoon and toys, Thundaar the Barbarian (a favourite of mine), Flash Gordon, John Carter, She-Ra, Thundercats, Kamandi, or Krull. It's billed as "Planetary Romance", in that it's set on a distant planet but is chock full of elements that are either straight-up fantasy or so over-the-top they can hardly be taken seriously as "science fiction". It will probably make some people grumble, but if you like your games with laser raptors and daring barbarians and ancient tech so powerful it might as well be magic, you will find a book that is overflowing with fun.
The set-up, in brief, is that Umdaar is a distant world that was once visited by a race of super-advanced aliens called the Demiurge. When they left, the high-tech paradise the planet had become under their rule fell apart into barbarism, and a handful of despots seized what technology they could to make themselves absolute rulers. These are the "Masters" of the title, and it's your job as an "Archaeonaut" -- a tomb raider of high tech Demiurge ruins -- to find some "magic" weapons and lay an almighty ass-whomping on the Masters. I defy you not to grin at that concept.
One thing that a lot of game fans are going to like here is the inclusion of a number of tables that can be rolled on to quickly create a character with suitably over-the-top flair for this world of colourful action and adventure. Want to play a centaur Bounty Hunter? A robotic Gladiator? A pterodactyl-mutant wizard? You're good to go with just a few rolls, or pick yourself. Creating a chimera is as easy as combining a few of the tables. Apply some weird powers and archaeotech artifacts, and you're ready to go forth and kick ass.
MoU is a FATE ACCELERATED EDITION variant, which pleased me a great deal (as there hasn't been that much support for FAE thus far, although we have YOUNG CENTURIONS to look forward to). Sure, it's all Fate Core under the hood, but FAE is always my favourite.
I think each one of the "Worlds of Adventure" tries to introduce a new piece of Fate rules awesome, or at least some new ways of using the existing technology (which is very useful for those of us who like to tinker). In MoU, we get the Cliffhanger, a system to help create the kind of pulpy scenes of peril we're used to seeing in an Indiana Jones movie. It's a tasty little tidbit that adds some flair to the usual challenge rules, and it would fit right in with a new edition of SPIRIT OF THE CENTURY.
If you like Fate, planetary romance, Kirby dots, rolling dice on random tables to generate bits of awesome, or are just in need of an infusion of pure FUN, you should get yourself a copy of MASTERS OF UMDAAR today. Shout out to Dave Joria for writing the most entertaining game book I've read in a long, long time, and to Evil Hat for continuing to produce such high quality game products. I've read a few more of the Worlds of Adventure since this one, and they're all bite-sized books full of awesome.
Buy them, you won't regret it.