First off, Arrows of Indra claims to be “Old School Roleplaying in an Epic indian Fantasy World.” What this means may differ from person to person, but I should point out that even a quick
glance at the cover clearly defines “Indian” as from India, not Native American. Now some people’s interest might wane there, but being a relatively curious and culturally diverse sort myself, my interest was piqued and I would hope yours would be too.
RPGPundit clearly defines his purpose in a well-written introduction defining the concept of “Old School Roleplaying” in a manner seemingly tip-toeing around calling the game what it is. This is presumably because of the current intellectual property owner’s massive army of legal wizards who they seem more than willing to unleash at a moments notice. But the introduction also defines the game’s intent and inspiration.
Already not more than a page into the actual content of the book, I find myself taking notes for further research and reading material. What is the background on the Brahmin caste? Just what is an Untouchable? I assure you these things have very different connotations from how we see the words today.
The game itself does a very good job of covering the basic, more familiar fantasy roleplaying classes but also introduces classes that are particular to the culture and succeeds in making them more than just a redefinition of existing classes. One of my favorites is the Thugee of which my only previous experience with was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Character creation itself does an excellent job of providing a massively random draw from various aspects of the Indian culture, including its caste system. Random table for period appropriate names anyone?
Going back to the Indiana Jones reference one would think the Thugee a villain. This assumption would be horribly incorrect as an actual Thugee is a “Holy murderer”, or we could call it an assassin. Thugees existed before that concept however.
Skills are definitely represented old school, in that they might not seem to have any effect on the game being played. I assure you though, you will not overlook that mining experience when you find yourself trying to stop a runaway mine cart at some point. Skill systems such as this always put a player’s, and game master’s, creativity on point, something I always find myself wondering why more “modern” systems have moved away from.
What would be traditionally called magic is handled through a series of Enlightenment Powers, some of which closely resemble their counterparts. Even in the renaming of the powers, a sense of the time and culture is preserved. When was the last time you had “Vajra Thunder” cast on you?
Some of the Enlightenment Powers, such as Banish Magical Effect, Bless/ Curse, and Charm Monster may leave little to the imagination. Their familiar naming convention, though, does serve to ease would-be magic users from a more traditional setting in to one that may very well be alien to the player, but shouldn’t be for the character.
The Game Master’s section will be very familiar to anyone who has been roleplaying for a while. It includes some of the old favorites such as rules for wilderness travel and even for morale. The latter is very important if you intend on including hirelings or slaves in your party. This facet of more mainstream games seems to have fallen out of favor with modern games and gamers. But you have to ask yourself just who is carrying that mountain of treasure for you, and just how much are you paying them to do it?
Once you get to the Gazetteer section of the book, you’re in for the real meat and potatoes of this game. The complex relationships of politics, the regions, even the realms of the underworld are all described in great detail. This last part being very useful for those with absolutely no knowledge of Indian culture but wishing to run the game.
For example if a Game Master wanted to run a good versus evil style of campaign he would know one of the easier places to deliver that experience to his players might be the Dandaka Jungle. Also quite the opportunity for lost treasure and artifacts with some many lost temples and hermitages abound beneath the leafy and vine draped canopy there.
Monsters and maps, creatures and critters, gods and religion… the book does an excellent job of ensuring the reader understands everything presented to them. There are even appendices that include rules for advanced level play for those who find the game popular among their play group.
Players interested in becoming nobility and land owners? Twenty levels of play not enough? Perhaps it’s time to retire these characters and take on the roles of their children? All of these rules are covered within the book.
So if you’re looking for a short break from the more “western” fantasy roleplaying games that dominate our hobby, or if you’re looking for something more unique to dive into I highly recommend Arrows of Indra. Even if you’re just looking for a book of research on caste systems or in need of original ideas for adventures, monsters, or religions, this could be that book for you.
For more about Arrows of Indra and RPGPundit…
- … check out the product page at Bedrock Games.
- … check out the Google+ community for the game.
- … check out the Facebook page for the game.
- … pick up a copy at DriveThruRPG!
Timothe Loya is the lead writer and designer for Tim Loya Games, which has produced several unique game supplements in The Expedition Journals of Amestus Armen series.