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The Secret World-5E-Core Book $30.00
Publisher: Star Anvil Studios
by Lewis [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/21/2024 02:22:02

Full disclosure: I kickstarted this project, purchasing all physical material.

Can I in good conscience recommend this product? No. Why would you want to buy this product then? Simple. Because when it is good, TSW is very good. The problem is poor feedback response for community concerns, lack of attention to detail, mechanics that clunk and critical sections of gameplay that are missing.

If you wanted to run a game in mythos of The Secret World, but have never played the video game before, then certainly buy this book for the fluff. The writing and exploration is, for the most part, excellent and serves as a solid primer to the great world.

If you already know the setting, then rely on your knowledge, some refreshing from a wiki and choose another game system.

Let’s dive into this.

TSW is built on 5e. That I don’t mind. There have been excellent 5e based games such as (updated) Dark Souls, Genefunk, Ultramodern or Broken Weave. TSW is not one of them. The classes feel hollow and the irony of declaring at the start of the chapter that the Warlock in TSW is not the Warlock from 5e fantasy, yet the actual TSW Warlock is a copy-pasta of the Sorcerer cannot be lost on me. And the Trickster is just a Chaos Sorcerer but without the chance to turn blue. It feels lazy.

The Archetypes mechanic of changing subclasses in and of itself is an interesting fit. The problem is that not all Archetypes are made equal by any stretch and some lack any sort of power or flavour. A brief nod to some feature from the game and that is all.

Backgrounds are awful. Unless you directly come from a X-Files Lone Gunman conspiracy origin, you are up the creek. What about the blue-collar guy who got dragged into this mess when his work-site dug up something they shouldn’t have? Or the white-collar office worker going through their boss’s email logs and discovers secrets no mortal should know? How about a mother of three who loses a child in the park one day and becomes obsessed with their disappearance and those crows that always flock to the swings?

Sorry. You’re a pachinko player or vampire hunter or an Illuminati graduate. The normal is completely forgotten and it clunks.

Talismans are equally a joke. Yes, this is meant to be a self-contained book. But you will have no choice but to look to the 5e srd to get inspiration for any sort of magical item. The very least could have been some basic rules or concepts on how to craft and flavour the magic items of TSW.

Speaking of magic. Where is the modern arcana? People can toss fireballs around but no one can use magic to interact with the modern world? Read USB sticks on the fly. Interface with security surveillance. Transport across landline cables? Urban Arcana in the 3.0 D&D system was doing this better 20+ years ago.

Oh and don’t ask for a “Technology” skill because there isn’t one. You might know how to tame a lion with Animal Handling but sifting through digital logs or hacking isn’t there. Pretty much everyone I know has house-ruled the skill in.

The number of bullets in a magazine does not match the number of bullets you can purchase per magazine for certain weapons. Others aren’t even fully fleshed out.

The list goes on and I’m likely boring you now. TSW is a bolt-on of 5e to a game-world that just doesn’t gel with the mechanics, mechanics that in principle could work but in execution simply do not. Even the monsters just… clunk.

I think that’s how I would describe TSW. Clunk. You can tell when the writers put their love and passion into this book. Chapter 1 is a delightful read and really understands what TSW is. If they release Chapter 1 as a standalone primer, then I implore you buy that in a heartbeat. It is well worth the read. But the rest. When I got the beta release of the rules I declared “Dark Days are Coming.” With the official release all I can say is “Dark Demons Cry Gaia.”

[2 of 5 Stars!]
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The Secret World-5E-Core Book
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