Taking brief break from a project and reading through 'Dawnfire' (as in known heartbreaker essay Dawnfire) is much less terrible experience than I expected it to be. With the full text at hand it is much easier for me to understand the frustration Ron Edwards possibly experienced about the convoluted system it uses; the frustration is heightened, to me, by the extremely possible absence of an editor for the text. Good editor could have salvaged the book, tightening and organizing even this skill-infested setup and improving both stilted language and messy crossreferences, but I see no credit for any editor. Possible life lesson: don't skim on editor. Layout-wise it is better, again, than I expected (fonts are clear, the background isn't interfering, there are bolding/headlines, pages have some breathing space) but it is also almost a checklist to All Details To Pay Attention To: orphans, random alignment (justified in some places, left aligned in some others), messy indents and page breaks, commas pushed to next line, bad hyphens and so many other things; it serves as a good exercise to then go back to my own work and double-check it. Credits list two people for the layout and it does look as if they worked on sections independently. There is spreadsheet of gods. Curiously, people who uphold tenets of the religion, get free skills (per divine emanation, I guess), so in the absence of dedicated Cleric class, there is still unified something for each god, and each religious character can roleplay as cleric. Names for gods are strange, both earth-like (Vlad god of weather, Socrates god of thievery), descriptive (Fury, Midnight Dragon) and made-up (Reeber, Paebak). I wonder if Spawn god of Sin started from the comics and later transformed into less psychotic Slaanesh. Xannatism lists Saturday Nights (capitalized) as its holy time. One god has a smiley face as holy symbol. To its credit, Dawnfire gods are easy to remember, but the whole chapter occasionally reads as the longest in-group joke ever made public. DM called Fire Lord (FL). Hard to shake off the image of Fire Lord from Avatar dm-ing the session. Didn't yet reach famous bullshit mechanic, but the term is not in the initial glossary, to my disappointment.
😊 K Yani @ 2019-04-19 18:48:25
P.S. I think what ultimately doomed Dawnfire is the time of its release - March 2000. With the publishing being much less accessible process back then, Dawnfire book had to be in works since at least late 1999. And 2000 is the year of release of 3rd edition - much more sleek, polished, organized and easy system, and also official new iteration of DnD. Dawnfire is innovative (for good and bad) for ADnD 2ed system, but nobody can compete with new and shiny official edition. Also I wonder if the absence of generous OGL and fan-hostile TSR attitude of years past caused so many deviations in Dawnfire mechanics, which had to be _different_ so the author won't get sued, despite its is clearly being based on ADnD.
😊 Scott Martin @ 2019-04-19 19:25:38
Thank you for this! Looking at the way Edwards describes it, it sounds like a terminal '90s recapitulation of RuneQuest to me, complete with "silly" joke gods.
😊 K Yani @ 2019-04-19 19:38:54
I don't think that gods are intentionally jokes. I think they appeared from the live games, in the way one of my characters has Man-Emperor of Mankind as a deity, and then, instead of sterilizing and prettifying the pantheon into something more 'proper', the author let it be because changing it would be artificial and disservice to good memories. Within the world the gods mostly work (I especially like three gods of death in odds with each other and three gods of suns); gods only look strange to us, looking at them from our perspective. I am not familiar with RQ; to me the system looks like ADnD cross GURPS, with small addition of Storyteller. After the current project is done I hope I can give more details.
😊 Paolo Greco @ 2019-04-20 13:40:57
So basically it's an OSR game, and dramatically underproduced. I do not understand why Ron had to poop on it that way.
😊 K Yani @ 2019-04-20 18:27:57
I don't think it is OSR either: the mechanics are much more cumbersome than they need to be. Ten base abilities, 82 default skills (from occupational, such as sewing, to combat casting magic), overly complicated modifiers and 'five-level' system (similar to Storyteller) to said skills, no xp-for-gold, class system is, basically, just benefits to point-buy some skills, and from examples of play and situations given, it looks as if PCs are supposed to roll to do anything at all. Stifled writing. Bad crossreferences. No alignment, no ThAC0 and roll under alone doesn't make it OSR.
😊 K Yani @ 2019-04-20 18:38:16
The setting has some interesting features: three suns, Dawnfire and Midnight Fire phenomena, lively gods, more unusual races (the most ordinary is dwarves, elves are slightly more unusual and gnomes are nicely strange + unusual new people), Flow and bullshitting magic, morphs (way before Eberron and its changellings). But on other hand, monsters are mostly very ordinary. In summary it doesn't looks like what I understand as OSR. 70% of example of play is people counting skill modifiers.
😊 Paolo Greco @ 2019-04-20 19:56:16
Oh ok I stand corrected. XD

Log in to comment.