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Spirit of the Century RPG Overview
Few roleplaying games today encompass the flavor and atmosphere of the pulp era better than Spirit of the Century by Evil Hat Productions. Designed as a fast-paced and ready-to-play game, it is ideal for gaming sessions that are thrown together at the last minute. The game is influenced by all those great pulp stories and characters from the 1920’s and 1930’s such as The Shadow and Doc Savage as well as modern influences like Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer. In Spirit of the Century, each player controls a Centurian, a person born on the first day of the new century. These heroes all belong to the Centurian Club and are dedicated to protecting the world from nefarious villains. Here is an overview of the game era and mechanics.
A “Pick-Up” Game
Spirit of the Century is designed to be a “pick-up” game that can be opened and played in one evening with little to no preparation. Character creation takes only a few minutes and is very easy. The Game Master can use a few steps as explained in the rulebook to put together a quick game that can last for several hours. But don’t get me wrong. There is enough substance in the game to provide long-term campaigns.
The World Setting
The pulp era stories of the 1920’s were all about action and adventure. They were globe-trotting and took characters all over the world from ancient temples hidden deep in the jungles to underground lairs of evil scientists. This is the type of setting that the characters in Spirit of the Century live and operate in. Players take on the role of a pulp hero. It is up to these heroes to stop villains and fiends from taking over or destroying the world. It is all about exploration, exotic locations, killer apes, strange powerful artifacts, shadowy organizations, bi-planes, and guns blazing. Everything is over-the-top. Plus, the rulebook has a timeline of historical events that took place in the early 1900’s to help out GM’s.
The FATE System
Spirit of the Century uses Evil Hat’s FATE system. The way this works is the system uses four six-sided dice that, instead of numbers, has a “-“ on two sides, a “+” on two sides, and then are blank on two sides. So when you roll the dice, you will get results anywhere from -4 to +4. There is a chart that describes the dice result. For example, a -2 is “Terrible” while a +8 is “Legendary”. These results are used for everything such as Skill results and Difficulty ratings. So it is very simple and easy to remember.
This is the area where Spirit of the Century really excels. Each character is made up of four statistics: Skills, Stunts, Aspects, and Fate points. Each character has a number of skills that they can perform. These are anything from Guns to Athletics and are represented by bonuses like +2, +3, and so on as indicated on the FATE System chart. Stunts are like expanded versions of Skills but also can be things such as special gadgets or any number of other items. Some examples of Stunts are Devil’s Own Luck and Grease the Wheels.
One of the most important factors in character creation is Aspect. There are ten Aspect slots that can be filled by things like common phrases, statements, friends, and objects. The purpose of Aspects is to add flavor and dimension to your character. So instead of having just a 2-dimensional character who runs around shooting his gun, you have a character with personality and motivation. Aspects also can be used by the GM for story ideas and encounters that are customized for your specific character. Aspects can be either good or bad and can make a character’s life very interesting. Part of the fun of the game is finding different ways to utilize your Aspects during game play.
Fate points are another very important factor for characters. Each character has a number of Fate points that can be used to influence dice rolls, invoke or tag an Aspect, or activate a Stunt. They can also be used to alter or change an element in the story. For example, if a character is on a plane that is crashing, they may use a Fate point to create a parachute so they can escape.
After you have chosen a name and a background for your character, you will then complete five steps to complete your character. The first is to create an origin and describe your character’s upbringing. The second is to describe what your character did during World War I before they entered the Centurian Club. The third step is to create a title to the pulp novel that the character starred in. Fourth and fifth steps are to have the character make a guest appearance in the pulp novels of two other characters.
Spirit of the Century is very story and character driven. Emphasis is placed on narrative elements instead of just dice-rolling. Often characters will not be required to even roll. Their Skills, Stunts, and Aspects are all used to gauge how well they perform tasks. Of course, the game can be tailored to every group’s style so if dice rolling is your thing, then you won’t have a problem. Spirit of the Century is all about capturing the fell of pulp adventures and creating unique stories with your characters. Of course, this type of system works well if you have a creative GM and players. If your roleplaying style is more hack and slash and dungeon crawling, you may not like the way Spirit of the Century plays.
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