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is HinterWelt Enterprises’ fourth role-playing game. In the style of Shades
of Earth (SOE), HinterWelt’s second book, Roma
Imperious is an alternate world history. Roma Imperious succeeds where SOE arguably was lacking, however, and
provides a detailed and well-mapped history that provides endless story for
history buffs and non-history buffs alike.
RI is what would have happened if Rome had continued
to flourish, instead of declining as it did in real history. Also, this
world’s Rome has magic and strange monsters. Not falling into the trap of
trying to do too much in too little space, RI
concentrates on the area it’s discussing – which is, naturally, Rome and the
surrounding Kingdoms and Empires.
The book is thorough in
its contents, including character concepts in chapter 6 such as Artificer, a
tradesman who creates magical tools; Praetorian Guard, a protector of Rome who
falls into the rouge category rather than fighter; and the Medicus, a doctor
with surgical skills and healer spells. The book also gives examples of game
plots and related character backgrounds within chapter 3 that are routed in the
Kingdoms and Empires described.
In usual HinterWelt
fashion, the game’s CHARGEN is available online. The only difference between
this and the regular character sheet is that the CHARGEN provides your character
with 90 Denarii (a denomination of money for the game). Using the in-book
character creation, it is very hard to find out how much money your character
starts with. The character creation section’s reference to an area of the book
on weapons and equipment has an optional rule that allows a dice roll for
is not perfect – we all know that no gaming system is – the good of the
story outweighs the sometimes problematic Iridium System.
RI is HinterWelt’s second RPG in hardcover. The
book’s cover – a Roman Centurion on a lion-driven chariot – is reflective
of the alternate world history by mixing the standard Roman element of a chariot
with the fictional element of having a lion in front of it. The colors used are
rich and the art is extremely well designed with a picture-like quality.
The interior has a lot
of traditional-looking Roman pictures, and some fantasy pictures that
incorporate the Roman characters. Though some of the art technically involves
nudity, it is done in a tasteful way. Much like the statues of ancient Rome, the
art simply seems part of the culture and never over-done.
The detailed maps that
appear in the front and back inside covers of the book are reflective of the
entire continent, while smaller maps appear throughout the book. The maps are
extremely well done, in that they could pass – in all ways but the fictional
titles, of course – as real maps from such a time.
A large (24” x 36”)
fold-out map, a replica of the one in the front inside cover of the book, is
available separately. The map does add some clarity and is aesthetically nice,
but it is not absolutely necessary for play.
The written content has
clearly been put together with a great deal of thought to readability. The first
half of the book is background story for the game and the second half is rules
for the game. The exception to this, however, is a sample game that appears at
the end of the book. The chapters flow together well. Even for those who have
never picked up a HinterWelt book before, they should be able to navigate RI
easily, which is another incentive to play.
For gamers more
experienced with other systems, the Iridium System seems a mix of older games
rather than a new system. HinterWelt has been continually improving the Iridium
System since their first book, Tales of
Gaea, and have worked out a lot of the bugs. This includes the addition of
an Optional Luck Rule to clear up some of the previous confusion as to when the
Luck attribute should come in to play.
Some players, especially
those accustomed to other systems, may find a large problem with skill checks,
more specifically – unskilled checks. It is almost impossible to perform a
task that one is unskilled at because in order to do so the player must roll a
percentile against the character’s relevant attribute, giving a less than 20
percent chance (since in character creation, no attribute can be above 20).
One Iridium System issue
that has been present from the beginning and still remains is the length of
combat. The number of dice rolls required tends to bog down combat, especially
when there are a larger number of characters. The inclusion of the combat
modifiers in the weapon proficiency section of the character sheet makes the
math needed simpler than in some other role-playing systems is a plus, but
definitely doesn’t make up for time lost with so many separate dice rolls for
each combat round.
An example of this
extremely lengthy combat process is if two characters fight each other they must
first roll to hit against the target’s defense. Then the other character may
roll to parry the attack. Even if the attack goes through, another roll must be
made in order to target the correct area on the foe. If that roll is successful,
a roll is required to determine how much damage is done, which is first
subtracted from the armor points and then the opponents fortitude points. If the
targeting roll is unsuccessful, the player must make a roll to find out what
part of the body is hit before rolling for damage. Still, if a vital area is not
targeted, the foe is not defeated.
The game-world setting
was definitely the best part of Roma
Imperious. A well thought-out meshing together of standard Roman history and
fictional elements brought together a detailed story that is pleasing to those
who know what really happened and those who simply want to play the game.
over Rome – and all over the related areas, including Africa, Aegyptus
(Egypt), the Jade Empire (most of Asia), and Hispania (the area around the
Spanish peninsula). This is good for a couple of reasons – of course it’s
always good to have background information, but it also allows for setting the
campaign in the other areas.
The inclusion of a
pre-made game story at the end of the book was very helpful. Especially for
those who are new to HinterWelt games and the Iridium System, the story given is
a good example of how to incorporate the elements of the story into the game.
With the same idea, the
character templates – each including some back story – are useful for a
group’s first experience with RI or
to speed up one-shot games.
There were mathematical
errors in the book. There was even such an error in one of the worst possible
places – in one of the examples of combat section. In combat example 2, a
damage roll is added and the numbers 16, 17, and 10 are summed to be 38 instead
of the correct total 43. This is stated again once later in the section, but
stated correctly as 43 at another point.
The need to have skills
in each weapon, as opposed to each of the weapon types, seems overly complicated
and unnecessary. This may be especially noticeable for the fighting-heavy
characters who will eventually learn many weapons.
While some other
role-playing systems have converted to being usable with miniatures and
mini-boards, this game is definitely not. Having tried playing RI
with minis, it is our opinion that some adjustments would have to be made or
optional rules added in order to do so.
We recommend that you
buy this book. Roma Imperious is
filled with great story, and it is fascinating and endlessly useful. The story
is so good and useful on its own, in fact, that it could be used as a resource
for other role-playing game systems.
Whether using it as a
source book or playing RI, this is
definitely a useful book for gamers of varying levels of experience. The story
has something to please almost everyone. Roma Imperious could definitely be the book that brings HinterWelt
well-deserved notice due to its fascinating and detailed game-world.
Style: 3 (Average)
Substance: 4 (Classy
& Well Done)
The Basics –