Goddamn I love The Secret World, and I will bear a grudge against Funcom until the day I die, and then probably for a long period after, because that’s how much I hate what they did to one of the most engaging and unique properties in MMOdom. They didn’t just drop the ball; they spiked it so hard into the turf that it blew a hole through the fabric of reality and passed through multiple dimensions, causing the inhabitants of those other planes of existence to stop what they were doing to look to the sky muttering “what the fuck…?” as the ball passed into the next reality.

Thankfully, Star Anvil Studios appears to love TSW as much as I do because they have produced The Secret World TTRPG, based on the 5E rule set (neither this post nor the comments are to become a referendum on the 5E rule set) and the soon-to-be-Kickstarted Savage Worlds edition. In some ways this is the Best Case Scenario because having a video game TSW was cool and all, but having the entire universe in which to create or even re-create stories set in the Fourth Age is like taking the training wheels off the bike just before we hit the down-slope of a 70 degree grade. Buckle up, people – it’s game time.

I now have all of the digital KS backer parts from my pledge:

  • The core rule book!
  • The Art Book!
  • The Bestiary!
  • The Monster Cards!
  • The Power Cards!
  • The Map Pack!
  • The Sample Adventure!
  • The Audio Drama!

And just yesterday I placed the order for my discounted on-demand physical copy of the core rule book sporting the vastly superior Templar binding.

I have read through the core rules background, and it does a very good job of providing the kind of info I love to get through TTRPG manuals based on existing properties (Aliens, Battlestar Galactica, et al.), as these books tend to get more into the kinds of things we can only infer from their source treatments. And I have to admit that despite my professed love for TSW (aka Secret World Legends), I have never gotten further than Egypt, so for me, a lot of the background content in the manual is New To Me. Of course, I know Solomon Island like the back of my hand…

Being that these items are all in digital form (for now), I don’t know that the monster and power cards are very useful unless of course they were printed out, but considering I never get to play in person this isn’t even an issue, really. They are nice reference items that sequester their info outside of the Appendix of the rule book, and I always appreciate quick access content.

The Art book is a nice touch. it contains a lot of the art from the original TSW, especially all of the male and female outfits for each class and each faction. There are some pictures of various locations, followed up by plates for a few of the monsters that we all know and loathe.

The only disappointing item for me is the bestiary. The core rule book contains a lot of the more familiar creatures (ak’ab, scarecrow, wendigo, etc.) from the early stages of the MMO, with the bestiary picking the slack to add a few other monsters — 10 to be exact. I wouldn’t have minded if the creatures from the core manual were replicated in the bestiary to give it some heft, as having a separate resource to open alongside the core rules would ease the need to flip pages back and forth. I’m sure either Star Anvil or the community will fill in the blanks over time, especially since Star Anvil recently announced that Funcom has renewed their partnership to allow for the creation of more content.

What I really loved was the starter adventure, “Stoneward Bound”. I have to say that one of the reasons I love TSW is because I’m a fan of the “modern cosmic horror” setting. Another reason is because the MMO starts us off in New England, which is where I’m from. Kingsmouth is a pretty good representation of a small New England town, and I loved to see it when I first entered the game. “Stoneward Bound” picks up about a decade after the events of Solomon Island and is focused in the Boston area. I don’t know why this kind of thing matters to me more than it does when the action shifts to Egypt or Transylvania, or if it had happened in the Usual Locations of Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, or New York.

Strawberry Banke, Portsmouth, NH

“Stoneward Bound” is a relatively short but direct adventure that is a good starting place for new players, and will have a tinge of the familiar for anyone who has played the MMO edition as many of the old adversaries are still kicking around. At the end, the module explains how the events that took place can serve as hooks for further adventures, which are the kinds of hints that I always appreciate.

Of course for me, this is all academic. I haven’t played a TTRPG in a few years now, and I have not played in person in decades. I buy TTRPG books for the side-loaded lore and to stretch my brain around whatever mechanics the system employs, but my shelf and hard drives are filled with books and files that have been archived. On one hand it kind of makes me sad that I don’t have a go-to team that I could rope into playing any game on deck at the drop of a hat, but then again I remember how stressful it was for me the last time I tried it, and I’m not sure I want to go through that again. Although I did think that maybe if we ran once every two weeks instead of every week, it might be more manageable.

The other sadness is that I would love to take advantage of the freedom afforded by the Unbound Universe that The Secret World TTRPG provides, but when I consider the possible scenarios I might be able to craft…I get static. Not THE Static, but just run of the mill white noise. I don’t know what the hell happened to my brain over the past decade or two, but I’ve been finding myself devoid of a lot of that Olde Time Creativity that I used to have an abundance of in my youth. It’s not for lack of inspiration, as we’re eyebrows-deep in geek culture now more so then ever. Maybe it’s because ideas both great and terrible are so ubiquitous that I feel that any idea I come up with has been tainted by some pop-culture treatment that I’m inadvertently ripping off and that the players would pick up on and use to short-circuit the game.

Finally, there’s currently no VTT treatment yet, which is critical to me since I only get to play via the Internet. Yes, technically a VTT doesn’t need to have integrated rules to be useful; people play via non-gaming tools all the time. I expect that Foundry will get a treatment first since modules can be made using Javascript. I saw someone in the Star Anvil Discord mention that they had thrown one together for Fantasy Grounds, but it’s not an unofficial-official project that has found its way into the public realm. I don’t know about other platforms, including Roll20, but since Roll20 is the most bare-bones platform out there, it might get support there before anywhere else. Who knows. Being built on 5E though may speed up adoption in the VTT space, so I have my fingers crossed.

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