Referee’s Bookshelf: Everway

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Everway, whether not it is a good game, is an absolutely gorgeous game. Presented in an inconveniently huge box, with artwork varying from evocatively abstract work to material which was a bit more ordinary for fantasy art but aimed at a much more sober and serious and less pulpy and comic book tone than most RPG art, and coming with not just one but multiple decks of cards, the Everway set is really nicely presented.

But as inviting as that presentation is, and despite having the might of Wizards of the Coast behind it and a name as big as John Tweet’s on the cover, Everway vanished into obscurity. It didn’t help that four months after its publication, Wizards closed their RPG division (this was some two years before they would buy out TSR) and sold off all their RPG properties. It certainly didn’t help that whilst other RPGs from the sold-off portfolio like Ars Magica and Talislanta would find new publishers who would actively support them, Everway‘s subsequent owners don’t seem to have done much with it – so far as I can tell, its current owners are still Gaslight Press, who seem to have fallen into stasis some dozen years ago and done nothing since except regularly pay the fee to keep their website online. But I think the major reason Everway failed is because it’s a curate’s egg. It’s simultaneously extremely traditional and extremely experimental; those looking for an experimental gaming experience will find the traditional aspects of the game hampering, those who look for a more traditional experience will be infuriated by the experimental stuff, and the game’s left and right hemispheres don’t really mesh together sufficiently to create a satisfying and interesting hybrid.

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Referee’s Bookshelf: Simon Washbourne’s Swords & Wizardry Microgames

Simon Washbourne, who puts his material out under the Beyond Belief Games name, might be mostly known for Barbarians of Lemuria (which has an original system), but he has a fine sideline in Dungeons & Dragons reskins. I’ve previously reviewed Woodland Warriors, his Swords & Wizardry-powered take on Redwall; some time after producing that line, Washbourne seems to have found himself bitten by the Swords & Wizardry bug again, leading to the creation of a triptych of games all coming out in June of that year.

(It didn’t stop there – in August Washbourne would put out Stone & Wood, an adaptation of Swords & Wizardry to the setting of the Thomas Covenant books following in the footsteps of his D20 take on the setting, Chronicles of the Land. But whilst, like the three games reviewed here, Stone & Wood was released as a free PDF, Washbourne has wisely not tried to actually sell hard copies of his Stephen Donaldson-inspired fan works, whereas these three games have printed copies available via lulu.com).

Each of these games combined some handy innovations over baseline Swords & Wizardry with features unique to the game in question in order to adapt it to a genre distinct from standard D&D fantasy. As such, it’s worth taking a look at each to see what they have to offer.

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