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Preview - Gaean Reach

Scott "Fowl Sorcerous" Wachter
Tabletop RPGs Editor

Gaean Reach is new RPG from Pelgrane Press based on the Jack Vance's loosely connected sci-fi novels (which include the Demon Princes cycle), it is available for pre-order in print with the PDF available right now. Also of noteworthy is that I got to play around with it during the design phase last year, and now I’m bringing my impressions of the game to you.

The game is a blend of mechanics from GUMSHOE and a few flavours from the Dying Earth RPG (another Vance property), but the interesting parts come in after character creation. The game begins with the group deciding the nature of interstellar criminal, Quandos Vorn - his enterprise, how he wronged each of the PC and how he has evaded their bloody revenge thus far. Each player contributes their own reason for each category in group brainstorming session, leading to what looks like an insurmountable criminal enterprise that must be untangled before the campaign’s end.

The character sheet should be familiar to any GUMSHOE vet with a list of investigation pools that can be spent from to gain vital information in pursuit of Vorn, and a suite of skills that are rolled when the action kicks in. Of course, the character's drive comes already filled in with the phrase 'Death to Quandos Vorn'. The Dying Earth flavour comes in with the use of Catch-phrase cards. Not every player can be expected to imitate Vance's signature wit on call, so the game provides a handy array of canned laconic jibes to be dealt out randomly to players to attempt to use when appropriate earning tokens. The tokens can then be spent numerous ways, re-rolls, refreshing investigative pools, bolstering their own plot armour, shredding the plot armour of others and other useful things, but it would still be awesome if other for the ability to conclude planning session argument with bon-mot from one of the genre’s masters.

The slim, digest-sized, volume offers complete game rules and an overview of the setting, plus advice on how to move NPCs beyond clue dispensing machines and into plot-shaping characters in their own right.

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