Cover.full[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

We wouldn’t be the civilisation we are now if the Greeks hadn’t been there. OK, OK, the same could be said about the Romans and other ancient civilisations, but they are not what Hellas is all about.

Hellas – A World of Sun and Stone is the Ancient Greece inspired role playing game from Kephera Publishing that takes place in space and in the future.

In a nutshell, and so not to spoil anything for anyone, the 12 Gods have been creating and influencing humanity and given us knowledge, wisdom and technology. So much so that humans have colonised space, discovered planets, new races and new technologies. Humans have even conquered part of Slipspace to accelerate travel between planets.

Of course not everything is hunky-dory in the known universe. The Atlanteans, ancient enemies once condemned to perish in the depth of Slipspace, have returned and they seek vengeance.

Only a few, touched by the gods and blessed stand between them and annihilation like the galaxy hasn’t dreamt of before.

Guess who that is…

The Book

Hellas is a hefty book. 338 pages, hardbound and in full colour, no less. The quality of the paper is really excellent and great attention has been paid to detail. The extent of that attention to detail is reflected in the textured thick papers and grace the first and last pages of the book. The book has been bound horizontally, rather than vertically. Although that makes reading and, more importantly, storing it on a shelf, a bit more difficult, it is a lovely idea that sets it apart from most other books and games. The covers are lovely, with really nice illustrations, lovely shiny finish and a solid binding that, although won’t sustain bad treatment, it will hold the book together very nicely.

Layout is very, very nice. Two column format with an easy to read font, well paragraphed, good titles, the tables are simple and clear… A truly professional work. Between chapters, two pages tell the story of Iolaus and Alcmene, a Spartan and a Nympha. Although this doesn’t make much sense to start with, as you read the book, everything falls into place, helping make even more sense of the setting. This trick is something most RPG would benefit from greatly!

The artwork is lovely. Two styles throughout the book. Drawings and 3D generated illustrations. The drawings and paintings are lovely. The style suits the game very well indeed. Not over-complex, but not amateurish either. However, they are let down by very jagged edges in most cases. It is terrible that, in such a well thought out and well designed book, no one spotted those mistakes and no one corrected. Although there are a fair few illustrations, it wouldn’t have been that difficult and would have given the game the truly professional look it deserves.

The 3D generated illustrations are charming. They’re used mostly on the planets and spaceships. Although they’re very basic in terms of texture and lighting, they do provide a perfect reference and visuals for all they’re intended. I will admit I am biased as I used to do 3D animation and I used to create that sort of images in the late 90s, so I am bound to like them.

I do question, though, if the order in which the chapters have been laid is the best. It was confusing to start with, since I kept reading terms and stats I had no idea what they meant. However if you persevere, everything becomes clearer when the rules are explained.

hellas_cave[1]The Story

What a joy! Just for the amount of work and dedication thrown into the story and the setting, this book deserves full marks. The background information goes from the beginning of time to the “present day”, all of it with a Greek tint that makes perfect sense. The events in the storyline are very nicely linked and create a very congruent and diverse universe with plenty of opportunities.

I really liked how they have turned Greek myths into alien races that coexist with humans, or Hellenes, all over the planets. Amazorans, Nymphas, Mirmidons, Goregons and other races, each with their idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses, provide with a very good platform to become both integral and congruent to the universe.

Tons of planets, each with their temple moon, are described for good measure. The planets for all the races plus a few more to aid both players and GM create and run adventures. Hellenic society is also explained in detail. From how people live, marriage, politics, technology, customs, traditions, equipment, jobs… everything is there!

The space map is also very, very clever. The authors have used the actually distribution of our real Greek islands and used it to place and locate different planetary systems. Very well thought, and the high resolution map you can download from their website is very nice indeed.

To make things even better, you have Slipspace to consider. Slipspace is like the “sub-space” of this setting. It is the method of travel between planets that reduces the travelling time dramatically. The interesting part about Sklipspace is that you can use it as a complete universe in itself. It has its own creatures, laws of physics, distances, atmosphere… you get the drift.

The system

The rules are very simple. Based around what they call the Omni system, it is a D20 based system in which you add stats to a die roll and then compare results to see if you’ve achieved a success, partial of full, or a failure (which can be terrible!). So no need to go over rule after rule after rule to get to where you need to go in the game. Very neat!

Magic is also present in the book. Called Animism, it is a very open system. Instead of tons of spells, the effects of application of Animism is left to the players and the GM to describe. I thought to start with that this would create a lot of issues, on second read, it made quite a lot of sense. Fighting descriptions are also left to the players and GM to come up with and the book encourages very often about the role playing aspect, rather than the rule-playing.

Tips both for players and GMs are also given in their own sections, and even tips for adventure creation are explained in detail, so even newcomers to the hobby will find all they need to get to a good start.

The book ends with a campaign that spans 25 years of in-game play, and a ton of shorter adventures. I felt disappointed with the format of the adventures. Although the adventures are very good in plot, the format is too succinct. There are no location details or encounters, which I think were needed to give a better sense to the whole thing. As they are presented, it wouldn’t take more than one or two sessions to finish the whole adventure. Good effort, but a truly epic campaign is kind of wasted by not giving it the length it deserves.

Conclusion

I really like this game. Everything about it is interesting. Well written with top-notch editing, easy to understand and very comprehensive, it has all the ingredients to bring many a session of terrific fun.

There really is very little to criticise in this book. Apart from the jagged edges in the graphics and an adventure campaign that could do with a lot more work thrown into it, this is a really good game and book and I am only so happy to recommend it.

Hellas–A World of Sun and Stone is available from: