The Game: Engel
The Publisher: Sword & Sorcery Studios, White Wolf's D20 imprint.
Degree of Familiarity: Read it, realised that it was a glorious setting attached to the most derivatively bog-standard D20 system ever, and put it on the shelf again.
Books Required: The Engel corebook
Oh, Engel. I could be here a while. See, Engel is a translation of a German game. It's a post-apocalyptic future where the seas have risen and the minions of the Dreamseed plague the world. The milleu is fairly medieval, and the world is given such loving description that it's hard not to fall in love—Engel, as a setting and as the original game, is clearly a labour of love.
That doesn't extend to the D20 adaptation.
See, originally Engel ran with the Arcana system, based around drawing and interpreting tarot-like cards to determine the scene's path, and had a highly generic D20 adaptation bolted on to the back. In the translation, only the D20 rules remained. And suffice it to say, they're utter crap. Seriously. It's like the medieval milleu was seen as an excuse to just steal D&D without the magic. Each Order of the Engel gets a class, and everyone else has to pick from six—though of the six, two are PC classes from the 3rd edition PHB and the others are NPC classes and thus useless—doubly so with Rogue/Expert and Fighter/Warrior. The idea that Rogue and Fighter are the only human classes suited for PCs and everyone else gets one of the four is a possible excuse, but it's not actually mentioned anywhere.
Eric Brennan went and made a conversion to the Storyteller system back when he was hacking systems in an RPG.net column. If ever I wanted to run Engel, I'd use the Storytelling system and a version of that hack. I'd not put people through the crap in the back of the book.
Anyway. Character creation is folded into the description of the mechanics. That means no headings, and little details are hidden right away, making everything a right cunt to find. Fuckers could at least have tried the Storyteller conversion...
So. I'm going to make an Engel, because I'd be an idiot not to. Engels are the children of the Lord, winged teenagers who stand in vigil over the remains of humanity from giant gothic towers called Heavens, in which lie technological secrets. Humanity loves them—at least, those who want to be saved and don't mind the medieval tech level and like living in a repressive theocracy. But then again, Engels get to fly. And they get powers.
I'm thinking of a bit of a daredevil, a self-confident guy who relishes the thought of being a saviour, someone who keeps people safe from the Dreamseed with a flaming sword and loves being known as a hero. That makes him a Gabrielite, a warrior-angel. It also makes him a bit of an outcast in the Nuremburg Heaven, where life is full of drill and orders to be obeyed without question. I figure he's a maverick who honestly loves saving people, and secretly he fears that his pride is a critical flaw that an Engel should not have. That said, he'd rather have his pride and love saving people than regard it as just another harsh battle that he's lucky to survive. And yes, I am naming him Luther.
4d6 drop lowest. Cock. Time to head to random.org and indulge the second law of thermodynamics a bit.
I had to get a 7. Other than that, it's a bloody good roll. Normally, I end up with a set that hardly sees double-figures.
Gabrielites are the fighter-equivalents. That means high Str and Con to start with and a decent Dex. That's the pair of 17s and the 13 sorted. The 12 goes into Cha, I get the feeling that he's good with people, fairly bright, but not too sharp, so I assign the remaining numbers so.
The book now waffles on about AC, saving throws, and the kind of stuff that I need a class to define. I don't even have a race yet...
Oh, there they are. Medium-sized, base language of Latin, Speed of 9m, and the Fly feat with a fly speed of 45m. I had to wade through two pages for that?
I flip straight to Gabrielites. In addition to the best Base Attack Bonus, Gabrielites gain feats like Fighters in D&D. I roll a D10 for hit points and get an 8. Adding the Con modifier gives me 11 HP to start. Sucky but still better than most. Skillwise, I get sixteen points with a max of four in each skill. Thing is, I also have to buy special powers from the same pool. Goliath's Might looks cool, so I put four points into that. Four more points into David's Agility, because boosting ability scores is for the win. Finally, four points into Intimidation and Concentration. The skill list is painfully long, and I can't be arsed working out if Listen or Spot or Search or Smell or Read Lips or Lick Monster is the best perception skill for the setting.
I note proficiencies at this point. I get one free exotic weapon, which means I can use the Gabrielite flaming sword. Sounds like fun.
Finally, I note down the bonuses from my level.
I have one Feat left to pick. Most of the combative ones can come from Gabrielite bonus feats, so I'm not too worried just yet. Flyby Attack looks like fun, so I note it down.
I can't see any notes on starting dosh, or what comes for free. I'm going to assume that I can get whatever I fancy for now. A quick Google proves that I'm not merely ignoring a hidden reference, they simply ignored starting equipment. I figure that I can get the Gabrielite shoulder armor, flaming sword, and a large steel shield, along with robes and the like. That's enough to start me with an AC of 18, which is pretty bloody high.
Time to fill out the numbers and add everything up. I know it didn't look too difficult to make a character, but combine random stats with a need to read every sentence to see if the chargen rule is buried in the overly wordy and passive-voice rules babble and a general lack of choices to make the character fit the concept. Yeah. Right, enough of my whinging. Let's call that done.
Str 17 (+3)
Dex 13 (+1)
Con 17 (+3)
Int 10 (0)
Wis 7 (-2)
Cha 12 (+1)
Ranged Attack: +2
Melee Attack: +4
Goliath's Might +7
David's Agility +7
Weapon Proficiency (Simple, Martial)
Armour Proficiency (Light, Medium, Shields)
Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Flaming Sword)
Flaming Sword (1D10+1d6, 19-20/x2)
Gabrielite Shoulder Armour (+3, Max Dex +6)
Large steel shield (+2)