A while back I ran a playtest of Warrior, Rogue & Mage because it had captured my attention as a real DIY fantasy roleplaying game with a lot of potential.  The playtest was a success, and my understanding is that it provided some useful information when Michael revised WR&M into the second version.  It’s been out for a while already, but I love it so much that I want to review it anyway.  I haven’t had a chance to play with WR&M v2 yet, but I hope to do so in the upcoming first week of school.  So, here are my thoughts and impressions.

The second version of this PDF is really quite impressive.  I liked the first one just fine, but there was clearly more time spent on layout and design on take two.  I don’t entirely agree with some of the typographic choices made, but my complaints are more aesthetic than practical.  The text is very readable, and the illustrations are wonderful for helping to set the tone.  One definite improvement over the last version is the size of the text.  Just a few points make a world of difference for readability.

The basic rules have not changed considerably from the first version of WR&M.  They are, however, somewhat easier to understand.  The abilities system is simple and easy to get started with, and it’s flexible enough that you can dream up a hundred variations for a single set of abilities.  The skills and talents give you mechanics correlates for your inspirations, including options like Channeller and Herbalism.

One big change from the first edition of the WR&M rules is that non-human races are available as player options.  Personally, I enjoy playing in an all-human world from time to time (insofar as the heroes go), since it breaks the stand-bys of fantasy storytelling, but it’s really a matter of personal taste.  It’s certainly nice to have the option, and the non-human races are set in Appendix 2: Optional Rules.  The original world that Michael sketched out remains intact, and it continues to be an excellent sandbox for fantasy roleplaying.

Mounted or vehicular combat and ritual magic get equal attention in the appendix.  Ritual magic is something that I’ve always felt was lacking in traditional D&D.  It’s easy to throw in a dark (or light) ritual as a plot device, but it rarely goes farther than that.  I don’t think WR&M explores the idea quite as far as I’d like, but it errs on the side of keeping things simple, and that’s something I can get behind.

The third appendix contains a bestiary, which is a boon to busy GMs everywhere.  NPCs and monsters alike are included with everything needed to run them except a little imagination.  On a similar note, at least one fan supplement has already been published – From the Imperial Forges.  It’s an excellent collection of items that fit with the included setting and can be dropped into any WR&M game.  One of my measures of success for any given game is whether the fans produce their own material and share it.  The fan material on DriveThruRpg is only a good sign.

At the astonishing price of $0, you can’t afford not to pick up both WR&M and From the Imperial ForgesWR&M makes a great game for experienced and new roleplayers alike, and there is something attractive about the DIY nature of the game.  It’s certainly a polished product, but it still feels like something a bunch of friends cooked up together.  I can’t give a much higher recommendation than that.