“Era: The Consortium – A Universe of Expansions” Kickstarter – 1st part

A while ago we spoke of the Kickstarter of a survival RPG, Era: Survival, by Shades of Vengeance and we also mentioned several of their other products, a quite impressive portfolio!

To use our own past words “the author and indie game creator, Ed Jowett, told us is that he is, in fact, developing the games as a series and wants to continue to do it so these become ever-growing universes to play in. The four games he made so far, all run off the same rule system, which is written in a modular way, so as to freely mix and match rules from one of the games into the others if this suits your taste! They actually tackle Science Fiction, Fantasy, Superhero and Survival Horror, as shown in the, already published, Era: The Consortium and Era: Lyres and the upcoming Era: The Empowered and Era: Survival.”

consortium17They also had another successful RPG Kickstarter, Era: Silence.

Ed also told us that Era: The Consortium was his first game so we were surprised to see another Kickstarter with a similar name and we decided to know it better, and even to ask some questions to Shades of Vengeance’s team, for the first time.

consortium2Era: The Consortium – A Universe of Expansions is an ongoing, and already funded, Sci-Fi RPG Kickstarter producing a 300-page, full-colour Core Rulebook and up to 18 Expansions to the universe created by Shades of Vengeance! If you open the Kickstarter page you can read a lot about its background: “The Consortium is a huge, interplanetary society, comprising of multiple alien races who populate three star systems. The government of the Consortium is one where financial power gives one direct political power. As a result, the eight most powerful companies effectively rule over the Consortium, defending their monopolies and manipulating each other and the population in an unending struggle for power.

The Resistance has responded to this by attempting to overthrow the Big Eight. Although they are labelled terrorists, many fight for the good of the people.

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You can join either faction as a member of any of 5 playable sentient species who inhabit the Consortium, choosing from huge numbers of backgrounds and decide where in the 500 years of history you wish to play. You might…

…be one of the first colonists on a new world, far from Earth.

…explore strange, new worlds.

…make first contact with an alien race no-one has encountered before.

…fight in a war where the very existence of the Consortium hangs in the balance.

…join a Resistance movement and fight to save 14 billion lives from a plot by powerful individuals.

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In the Kicktarter page you can try the game with a Quickstart pack and also find an impressive number of positive reviews of Era: The Consortium! I will not speak more of the Kickstarter, you can go there and look for yourself and support it, I wanted only to say an important thing. The Kickstarter gives you at least 3 Expansions to the Era: The Consortium Universe, at its funding, and then one more for each Stretch Goal achieved … for FREE! To use Shades of Vengeance words: Every backer over £1 gets 2 extra free books so far! As Stretch Goals are met, more free books are added! If it reaches 10 Stretch goals, you will have 10 more books … not bad I say, and consider it reached two Stretch goals already. Ed and Shades of Vengeance have already planned 18 Expansions to help you play with the Consortium rules from “games about a Star Wars type Resistance against an oppressive government to cyberpunk, from political machinations to space opera… the choice is yours!” Others treat of psionic abilities, cybernetics, rules for trading cargo and race sourcebooks. In the end, you can even obtain the Core Rulebook of Era: The Consortium if you don’t have it.

So if I don’t speak of the Kickstarter, what is there to say? Well, quite a lot!

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Since the Kickstarter is about expansions for the Era: The Consortium RPG game, I want to speak of the game itself! However, I will also tell you a bit about two expansions that you can find in the Kickstarter: The Fifth Race and The Secret War.

Era: The Consortium is only a two years old game but it enjoys already a solid audience of sci-fi fans. Not a surprising thing, it is a high quality product that mixes the talent of professional artists to the passion of amateut workmanship.

I was quite surprised to see how complex the story is: it spans over five centuries, with a lot of details, description of events, planets, subplots, NPCs and so on, taking almost one hundred pages, a third of the book! I don’t even know how to describe it of if to describe it, I don’t want to spoiler and to spoil your fun, if you buy it and I hope you do.

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Era: The Consortium is a sci-fi RPG but the Earth is very far in time, space and memory, humanity has evolved and met several other Sentient Beings. Eulutians are an aquatic species akin to the Earth octopi and they create peaceful and collaborative communities. They wear exosuits to walk and survive outside of water, since they breath only underwater and they seem humans to the casual observer. Ximians are a tough race of insects, with hive societies and specialized castes, Worker, Brain and Politicians. The most fascinating race is, in my opinion, the Vilithii, a species of moving Sentient plants, with unusual senses and perspective. They can also change form, basically “sleeping” in a pod for a while, between a humanoid, many legs, many arms or no limbs form. There is a lot more background of these races, both of their origin and their meaning and relationship in the Consortium.

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For lack of space/time I have to skip some parts of the book, for instance character creation: it is a quite rational and balanced process (I like the Attribute Points spending rules, no unduly lucky rolls …) with the usual choice of Concept, Race, Backstory, Skills (and Specialties if you are good enough at any skill) and so on for your character. I want only to say that some of the backstories and concepts are VERY unusual and original, as you could guess when you play with a giant alien octopus nested in a seemingly human hyper technological suit or a Sentient plant with many possible shapes! As part of the entire process you can choose cybernetic implants, some are quite common, like the ones used by the Vilithi, simply to translate their non verbal language to human tongues. I like the style of the drawings, especially the armors on “dummies” to compare the same armor on different species.

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There are also a lot of drugs, medicines, tools, big mounted weapons, ground and flying vehicles, even space stations, more than 30 pages of goodies! I only mention in passing that the mounted weapons make a lot of sense, you are hit by a cannon, you die, period … 🙂

About the rules, Era: The Consortium use a d10 dice system: I like games with this system (I only like more multiple d6 dice systems 🙂 ) and they put in the “exploding dice” feature, you count a 10 the 0s, you reroll the dice and add them. You have Thresholds for actions (from 2-3 for very easy actions to 10, very hard) and you don’t roll for trivialities: every roll reaching the Threshold is a Success, while 1s are Failures, if you have more 1s than Successes you have a Fumble, of higher severity the higher the difference Failures – Successes.

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The Species of the Consortium: Humans, Eulutians, Vilithii, Ximians and well … another human, probably …

For some rolls you add Attribute and Skill, to determine the dice pool, in other cases you use only the Attribute, e.g. Strength to force a door. You have other rules about opposed rolls, instant and continuous actions, working together, (Bad) Luck Points and other things but all in all, a quite lean and easy to learn system, definitely a good point of the game!

For those liking this kind of things – I do – there are around 20 Status Effects, from quite common ones, to the unusual Survival Mode or Electromagnetic Pulse. In the picture, some people struck by the Horror Status Effect!

consortium9And noooow Combat!

Combat has quite simple rules too, in conformity with the rest of the game and, again, for me it is a big advantage: no bulky rules, more space to description and interpretation. You roll one initiative die, you can Act or Delay (to 0 Initiative). Act means to move, attack, run away or use a Skill and you can also move a do a single action (attack, dive for cover, do a proper skill, like Intimidate, and so on). The Defence is the lowest number of dice between Wits and Dexterity so you have to be quick of body and of mind! Defense adds to the Threshold of the Hit roll of the enemy that is also determined by the circumstances (Cover, light, distance, Stealth and so on and so on). The successes in the Hit roll are the number of dice for the Damage roll and the Threshold depends on the weapon Statistics and other factors as well.

consortium16There are other rules, nice and quick too, about Cover, Sneak and Stealth, Coup de Grace (when the target is Unconscious or under other Status Effects), Multi-Shots, Multiple Targets and Using Two and Even Four Weapons, but I’ll let you discover them in the game itself. I find interesting the special moves for unarmed combat and all the pictures in this part of the book … the Vilithii sniper you see here is absolutely wonderful.

Also, for ALL kind of attacks, vehicle combat, area damage, thrown or unarmed attacks, and so on, you have a nicely done summary chart!

consortium10I have even less time to discuss Skills but I especially like Interpersonal Skills, which have to take into consideration, many circumstances, included Species and social tanking.

The Game Master part is a trove of useful treasures, with no less the 6 Campaigns described! Also a set of Hardcore Rules, for realism, examples of actions, outcomes, NPCs stats and ready-to-play PCs.

And now a couple of questions to Shades of Vengeance!

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1) Hi Ed Jowett and Shades of Vengeance team, how are you? Some time ago we spoke about another Kickstarter of yours, focused on the development of the Era: Survival RPG. I remember it quite well since I wrote the review, I especially remember the Infection and the Parasite, a scary concept, an unfathomable and impending doom, a must in any survival RPG! We also mentioned in passing some of your other projects: the first game Era: The Consortium and then Era: Lyres and Era: The Empowered. The last time we didn’t do the interview part, so do you want to tell us something of you, your company and gaming history? What were you up to, in the aftermath of Era: Survival?

Hi, and thank you for having me back! I am proud to have returned to Entire Party Killed with another game!

This company was formed around a simple goal: we wanted to see more great games out there. We believe that games that give free reign to the imagination are the best possible form of entertainment – there are no limits!

We thought hard about how we could achieve that ahead of publishing our first game (which was actually Era: The Consortium!). We brought together some of the best artists out there and a fantastic team of writers to make our first game. Era: Survival came a little later, and it built on the things we had learned.

Since Era: Survival, we haven’t stopped, we produced a High Fantasy RPG called Era: Silence and prepared many of the expansions you can now see in the current Kickstarter. We are still going, we have a card game called Champion of Earth with artwork underway and a modern era RPG (if you will excuse the pun!) called Era: Hitman close to completion. We are also partway through the creation of the first Era: Survival Source Book, The Swarm.

If you are interested in being 100% up to date with what is going on with our development, check out our website (www.shadesofvengeance.com) or Patreon (www.patreon.com/SoV)!

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2) I liked a lot to write the review of Era: Survival, I liked the horrific feeling of the Parasite and the lack of knowledge about how the contagion spread and the awful effects of it, very good ideas indeed. I have also a basic idea of Era: Silence, we had not the time to properly review it, but playing PCs unable to speak, seems a challenging and attractive idea. So … another Kickstarter! Things seem to go well for you but we have a curiosity! You already told us, 6 months ago, that Era: The Consortium was your first game. Are you coming back to your origins with “Era: The Consortium – A Universe of Expansions!”? What can you tell us about it? I am especially interested to know where this idea comes from. Also we want to know something more of your original game, though I already know something, from your own words: “My first game, Era: The Consortium provided 500 years of playable history in a Sci-Fi Universe. The Kickstarter did pretty well, and the book has been pretty well received by reviewers and the customers in general.”

Era: The Consortium was, for me, the realisation of a dream: I finally created a game, brought it to people and was able to gain the funding I needed to print it. The feeling I had, holding that in my hands was totally indescribable.

But Era: The Consortium, more than any other game I’ve created since is not the end of the story with its 500 years of history. There are so many unanswered questions from before the timeline begins and after it ends… and the book itself hints at that.

I always wanted to continue the work, because there is more to say, more to tell. I gathered the same amazing team who worked on Era: The Consortium back together for these expansions, and I brought in some more of the best people around – Steffie de Vaan, Sally Christensen and Darren Watts are all fantastic and very experienced. They have each brought a lot of new ideas to the table, making the Consortium expansions even better than I had envisioned!

While I’m not yet ready to talk about the years beyond 450CE, there are a number of gaps during the history which I wanted to fill in. I also wanted to show the versatility of both the setting and the system: the expansions bring all kinds of new things, including Survival Horror rules that many people will recognise from Era: Survival, Psionic abilities, virtual environments inside computers, time travel, and much, much more.

These expansions represent a massive leap in the size of the universe. It’s no longer about the 500 years of history in isolation, you have ties to the past through the race-related source books, you have indications about the future from the Fifth Race, Resistance and A New Dawn books.

It is a reminder of the scale and promise of Era: The Consortium: there are no limits.

consortium5Wow, so many things to digest, a whole lot of adventures to be played with the base game of Era: The Consortium or one or another Expansion.

The Fifth Race? Ah, yes, in a few days we will speak a lot of it and its Expansion, along with The Secret War Expansion, so stay tuned and help these guys with their Kickstarter.

You can take a look for news on the website of Shades of Vengeance and remember that you can support them on Patreon too!

I thank Ed and Shades of Vengeance team for their openness and their games too. For them and you, dear readers, the rendezvous is in a few days with the 2nd part of the interreview.

Stay tuned and see you soon!


Disclaimer: the pictures, or parts of them, used in this post by permission of Ed Jowett, are taken from the Era: The Consortium pdf and are from the artists Sofia Michailidou and Victor Adame Minguez.

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