Raiders of the Lost Artifacts (OSR)
This rules-book/toolkit for original edition-gaming clocks in at 128 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page final quote, 1 page SRD, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 119 pages. It should be noted that the pages are formatted for a 6’’ by 9’’ booklet; if your sight’s good enough, you can thus fit about 4 pages on a single sheet of paper when printing this.
This review was sponsored and chosen as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.
All righty, so what is this? Well, we have basically a complete game on our hands here, one based on OD&D, obviously, so we begin, unsurprisingly, with character creation coming first: The classic 3d6, 6 times, as well as 3 sample ability arrays are provided. The book then explains modifiers by attribute – 18 equals +3, 3 equals -3. The system also provides advice on which class to choose; you also choose a big phobia, equipment and your Luck throw; maximum hit points are governed by class, ranging from 10 to 6; Armor Class is 10 sans equipment, attack bonus is +1 at 1st level, +0 for scientists. Simple, right?
Well, attributes are the classic 6, but what about Luck? Well, it represents the saving throw mechanic – you roll d20, add the associated attribute modifier and try to roll above the target number, with examples provided. On a natural 19 or 20 r on a 1 or 2, you have a lucky break or a bad break.
Characters have hit points and HD (Hit Dice); progress and improvement is achieved by gaining XP – the pdf advises on awarding XP for achieving goals, killing monsters and accumulating treasure. Cool: Publishing accounts of your exploits nets you an XP-bonus, which emphasis the archaeology aspect implied by the game.
There are 3 basic classes – the mercenary, the raider and the scientist, all of which cover 10 levels, with slightly different XP-values: Scientists require 600.000 XP to reach 10th level, raiders 400.000. Mercenaries have to choose whether to get +1 with melee weapons or ranged weapons at 1st level and nets +1 BHB (the attack bonus) per level; Luck starts off at 14 and improves to 5. 3rd level nets the option to create explosives from scratch, which is nice – however, no range is provided for these. I assume that the demolition targets a single creature, but spelling that out would be nice. Similarly, the pdf does not note how long it takes to make these – so yes, you will probably need to make some referee-calls there. Damage scales, btw. 7th level yields an attack- and damage-buff for allies in sight and adhering to a concocted strategy at 9th level can provide defensive bonuses for the allies – +2 to armor class and Luck rolls. Thankfully that btw. has a time limit
This would be as well a place as any to note that, personally, I’d have loved to see attributes and armor class capitalized – Luck rolls are, so not sure why these aren’t. It’s an aesthetic complaint and thus won’t influence the rating, but yeah.
Scientists are basically the “casters” – they get scientist gadgets of levels up to 5 and progress their BHB only to +6. Gadgets may be used only once per day, unless otherwise noted, and lost gadgets require $100 per gadget level to replace; they are powered by power packs and these may be replaced for $100 per scientist level. Basically, the power pack acts as the battery for the scientist; on a meta-level, it explains the need to rest etc. Treasure hunters would be the explorer/thief/rogue-stand-ins, with the skills to open locks, stealth around, climb walls – you get the idea. No percentile rolls or the like are required, just fyi – it’s d20 plus the associated attribute bonus – which, unlike the references to the respective attributes, is btw. capitalized. Languages are btw. not something you’ll be awash in (good thing, as far as I’m concerned!) and yes, you can multiclass.
Now, if you have a phobia, you get +1 to an attribute of your choice (I assume it caps at 18) – however, when faced with the phobia, the character must succeed a Luck roll or be paralyzed for 1d4 rounds! 20 sample phobias are included. 7 sample, fluffy backgrounds are similarly provided and we conclude this basic character creation section with a sample character build. We move on from here to equipment and find e.g. sample prices for transportation as well as a variety of weapons – though the melee weapon table has a glitch – the dagger-entry should obviously only sport 3 asterisks, not 4 – it makes no sense for it to behave as though it was a whip, which 4 asterisks denote. Weapons that are two-handed, just fyi, inflict +1 damage. The ranged weapons table also notes RoF (Rate of Fire), including easy rules for burst and full auto firing; military weapons, usually illegal, are noted, as is when a weapon can be concealed under jacket or long coat…which is, frankly, less consistent than it should be. Machine guns can be concealed under a jacket, so can a magnum revolver…but a regular revolver can’t be? Also *really* weird from a consistency point of view – the asterisks that denote whether a weapon is concealable or not are different on each page: On page #1, the asterisks are behind the cost (weird), while on the second page of the table, they are wither behind the weapon name, the damage, or the RoF – the latter of which, oddly, also sports an asterisk. That’s…kinda confusing.
Now, regarding AC, the pdf provides ascending AC as a default, with descending values in brackets, for those so inclined, with the basic armor pretty much capping at 15, helmets providing +1 and shields similarly ranging between +1 to +2 to armor class – which is, once again called AC here. Mundane equipment is similarly covered, ranging from cameras to toolkits. Vehicles come with ACs and hp, maximum speed, weight, cost, etc. – but also DR. I *assume* that’s supposed to be damage reduction, but I am not sure – the table doesn’t properly explain this value. Speaking of things the tables fail to explain: AoE and vehicle weapons have a column that’s called “Cap” – no idea what that’s supposed to denote.
Next up would be the gadgets, which include smoke bombs, UV goggles, short-range electro pistols, etc. – these are very brief in how they work, to the point where they are somewhat opaque. If e.g. a smoke bomb is a gadget, do you have t pay for “item destroyed” or can you pick the pieces back up? How long does a long-range radio wok each day? The somewhat ambiguous way in which these work will, alas, require some referee calls. Relics, i.e. magical items, can have a variety of effects, with Excalibur presenting an example to give the referee an idea.
Speaking of the referee – the pdf continues to provide basic advice for the referee, covers light, poisons, drowning. Time is measured as known; 10 minutes are a turn, a round is typically one minute. Hirelings are included and combat works in a simple manner:
Both sides roll initiative – 1d6. The side that wins acts first: Ranges weapons, spells and devices are used first; then movement is resolved and finally, melee attacks are resolved. After both sides have acted, morale issues are resolved. Once a character is reduced to 0 hp, you either are dead or get 1d6 rounds of grace before dying, depending on the choices of the referee. Cover will generally provide between -1 to -5 to attacks.
From TN0 to advanced grappling, the pdf provides some alternate, optional rules – though the latter, with its control point tracking, seems like complexity for complexity’s sake to me, complicating a simple system that has, as its main draw, its simplicity.
Beyond these rules-basics, we also have extensive advice on structuring campaign and adventure design, themes of the system and tropes – from lost worlds to cliffhangers and rival investigators, this section provides some interesting options. However, where the book really starts to shine and come into its own, would be when it emphasizes its pseudo-archaeology-angle and whole-heartedly embraces the wackiness: We are introduced to the ancient astronauts school, the idea of lost super civilizations, the idiocy of nazi archeology[sic!]…etc. – basically, from esoteric pseudo-science to ideas that still resonate through our fantastic games, these are all explained in their basics – and while I loathe such pseudo-science in real life, I absolutely adore how they make for great scavenging material for roleplaying games.
From here on out, we cover a metric ton of different artifacts and relics from our own mythology, from Pandora’s Box to the Sudarshana Chakra, with multiple suggestions for possible uses and powers of the respective relic. This massive chapter is most certainly one of the coolest sections herein and makes for a great section. Speaking of which: I only have the warmest praise for the trap section – you see, obvious traps are automatically detected, so the traps noted herein are different, focusing not on simply rolling to disarm, but presenting them more like a challenge for the whole group to overcome, a methodology that gets two thumbs up from me.
The pdf also sports an array of random tables for McGuffin hunting on the fly; beyond these, we get stats for cultists, nomads, gangsters and also some monsters, ranging from ghouls and golems to strange mechanisms, mermaids, mummies, animated statues, vampires, werewolves…and yes, an extensive array of animal stats can also be found. The first appendix contains a ton of different villains, places and societies drawn from real world, ranging from agrippa’s book to Ayer’s rock and beyond- which is an inspiring read, but also utterly unfocused and random; I don’t get why this section has not been organized better.
Appendix #2 contains an optional class, namely the occultist, who needs 1.000.000 XP to reach level 10! They basically provide an optional spellcasting class, which gains spells of up to 5th level from whatever OSR-game you’d like to use in conjunction with this…or you can use the array of spells presented herein, which, once again, are very brief – to the point where e.g. question marks for Luck and Move of a conjured imp as well as issues regarding range, parameters, etc. of the spells once again require some referee calls. Upon gaining a level, the class must roll and potentially gain a corruption – all of which are disfiguring, but not necessarily crippling. Still, spellcasting remains an opaque process. A very basic adventure sketch can be found and the 4th appendix sports optional skill-system – with class-specific ones etc. allowing for some diversification. 80 additional phobias (why not include them among the original 20???) and an appendix N section complement the pdf.
Editing and formatting are generally good on a formal and rules-language level– while I noticed a couple of typo-level hiccups and some odd formatting inconsistencies, as a whole, the game is understandable, though novices may be puzzled by some components. Layout adheres to a no-frills one-column b/w-standard with thematically-fitting b/w-artwork. The pdf does NOT come with bookmarks apart from the blank pages before front and back cover, making the use of this in the electronic format horrendously annoying. I can’t comment on the print version, since I do not own it.
Darren Watt, Thomas Denmark and David Pulver’s “Raiders!”-game is an interesting, per se well-crafted one-book-RPG. It does several things right: getting started is *really* easy and deserves applause. However, at the same time, the rules often do not provide the level of precision I’d have liked; and no, this does not have anything to do with being old-school: From LL to LotFP and S&W, there are enough examples that get this right. The other issue that can provide some issues would pertain tables not properly explaining mechanics, which can be wonky. So, while the basics of the game are didactically concise in their presentation, the details are a bit less impressive.
At the same time, there is a lot to be loved here: The focus on archaeology as a theme is something that really appeals to me and while campaign setting-wise, we don’t get much to work with, both the traps and relics and the fluffy ideas provided make sense in a good way. There are a lot of things to like here.
…so, should you get this? It…kinda depends. If you have a pulpy setting and look for some hard rules to supplement them, then this’ll do the job. Similarly, if you already know 0e-rules (since some aspects could be spelled out more clearly…) and want an easy to pick up system, ten this should do the trick well. Referees should have a bit of experience under their belt to make this work as smooth as it should due to the various minor glitches, though.
On the other hand, this book is not as precise and concise in the rules-language as it should be, so if you do mind making rules calls, then this may not be perfect for you.
This, as a whole, makes this a mixed bag for me, one that would be on the positive side…but frankly, the lack of bookmarks makes using the pdf really annoying. Ultimately, this reduces what would otherwise be a tentative recommendation to something less enthused: My final verdict: 3 stars; a worthwhile purchase if you’re interested in the idea of running a pulpy 0e-style game and can stomach some rough edges.
You can get this game here on OBS!