The Mistborn series has been a bestseller for a fair length of time and with good reason. It’s original, superbly written and engaging like few other recent fantasy titles. And it doesn’t feature nonsensical characters like sparkling vampires.
Instead, it features a bleak world ruled by a dictatorial god-like creature who doesn’t take no for an answer (sometimes doesn’t take yes for an answer either) and has a legion of servants to impose his will at all costs. And I mean all costs. There are nobles who are powerful and amuse themselves by ruining other people’s lives and by mistreating the Skaa, a fallen-from-grace race of humans who have been enslaved for the last thousand years or so. And no… it doesn’t get any easier.
There is magic too, of course, though this time is all around metals. Some people can consume one metal – the Mistings – and gain powers through them, and others can consume any metal – the Mistborn – and gain even more powers. More on that later.
There is more about the magic system, but that would spoil the novels for you, so I’ll play safe and tell you that you should read the novels before you read this game, unless you have no intention to read the novels in which case you probably don’t care about spoilers. But don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
Oh, and the whole setting is based in the world of Scadrial. A world blighted by a constant rain of ash that turns everything grey and makes life very, very difficult. It’s also a very dangerous place. At night the mists cover everything and the mist wraith, who some consider to be nothing more than a myth, roam the world. This is not the place to get lost and ask for directions.
The cities, more akin to a early Victorian sort of architectural era, although vibrant and full of activity, aren’t any safer, to be honest. Nobles play and trade with secrets that will grant them an advantage they can use to crush other noble houses and protect them from the Steel Ministry, the implacable police The Lord Ruler uses to keep everyone in check. And yes, that is *everyone*
The guys from Crafty Games decided that it would be a good idea to have a game based around the worlds of Brandon Sanderson. They saw potential and got to talk to the author and the author said “yeah, why not!” And thus, the Mistborn Adventure Game was conceived and worked on for a while. Until it was released.
To my surprise, they released the game in a 6×9 format. That is the size of a novel, and the thickness too. At over 500 pages, this game clocks in a lot of information and, to be perfectly honest, is pretty intimidating. It’s a very hefty tome.
You have two different editions of the game. A soft cover and a hardcover. Both are identical except the covers. Same quality paper, same layout, same size, same meatiness. However the hardcover will last you a great deal longer. It does offer a tremendous amount of protection and is worth having it. And you better hurry… I know they don’t have a lot of them left and I doubt they’ll reprint it in hardcover.
The layout is *sublime* from beginning to end. Seriously, from the moment you open the cover and see the magic map of all the metals, the book looks clean, is extremely easy to read and is very welcoming. A simple layout with exquisite attention to detail makes this book one of the best RPG books I’ve ever seen. I truly am not exaggerating. Try it.
The iconography used for the magical symbols is really fantastic. It feels like the alphabet of a magical language that you’d love to learn but looks tough enough to be just for the sturdier scholars. Every chapter is separated by one of those symbols and looking for content in the book is aided by those icons immensely.
To make matters better, the organisation of the book is just perfect for me. It really feels l ike they’ve taken their time and they expect you to take your time and absorb things slowly to make sure you get everything. The character creation section is a joy to read. It goes step by step explaining everything in lovely detail and encouraging the reader to use their imagination at every step. The examples of abilities, stunts, characteristics, weaknesses… everything is put through in a way that tells you “this is how it works. Now go and make it work, you’ll have fun and you know it.” And you truly know it.
Example characters are given for pretty much everything and every ability comes with an example that allows you to see how the ability is used, why, when, how and by whom. Not just that, they go in as far as to explain why the abilities work the way they work, so you can choose the right ones for everything.
The characters have a combination of number based abilities and more abstract characteristics, like weaknesses and stunts, that are simply descriptions of certain aspects of the character and they can be used, if interpreted properly, to add more dice to your dice pool. For example, say that a character is “Bolder in the face of death” because your character feels that if death is so close, you might as well try and see what happens since you’ll die anyway. If a situation arises that brings you very close to death, you can invoke that trait to add some dice to your roll that will reflect how much bolder your character becomes. Tons or room for interpretation and roleplay!
As characters go, you can play with Skaa, Nobles, Terris or Kandra, with Kandra being the most mysterious and alien of all the races for reasons that will become obvious when you read the book.
The mechanics are relatively simple. Gather a pool of d6 and roll them. You must roll over a number that determines the difficulty and the more dice you roll with the same number the better. 6 are nudges that can be used to perform extra tasks or cooler stunts. A pool can’t have more than 10 dice and if you go over you can use those dice for defence.
There’s a bit more to it than that, but you get the gist. It’s not a numerically complex system, though it’s not an easy system to get to grips with. This game certainly is not for beginners and rules lawyers will struggle to get to grips with everything. The game relies a lot on the players to come up with reasons for their abilities and stunts to work, so a certain level of experience would be desirable.
The magic system is *sublime*. I won’t go into much detail because the game contains information that would spoil the novels, so I’ll be careful here.
The best bit of the magic system is the strategic element to how magic is used. For example there are metals that pull and metals that push. You can push pieces of certain metal to turn those pieces into some sort of bullet. That’s the easy bit. However if you push against an object that’s heavier than you, you will be pushed in the opposite direction. So yes, if you push against the floor you can jump or fly (kind of.) If your opponent is wearing a coat with metal buttons you can use that to your advantage, etc.
Some metals affect the body, some affect the mind and some affect… well, something else. You’ll have to read the novels. Also there are more ways to use metals that I won’t tell you about, but rest assured that there’s more to magic than what I’m telling here.
Conflicts of all types are covered in the rules. From standard combat to dealing with forces of nature, mental conflicts, travelling, dialectic battles… This game doesn’t hold its punches. It’s a tough world out there and you better know what you’re dealing with or you’ll end up really messed up. Well, your character will. You’re safe. It’s a game.
The third and last part of this book covers Scadrial as a world and gives advice on how to write and run adventures.
If you’re thinking “oh no more of that please…” quit it. Seriously. This is different and, to be perfectly honest, even if you’re not interested in the world, the magic or anything else, the advice contained here is second to none and worth buying the game for.
How to use secrets, create plots and subplots, use traitors,motivation, destiny, successes and failures… how to use anything and everything that’s likely to be found in this world is just as well explained as the rest of the rules and setting information. The “Eureka” moments come hard and fast as you read this book.
And then there is a section with characters you can use right away, enemies, common animals and not so common ones… Basically all you need to play.
Yes. I love this game. Very, very much. I don’t just love it for how good the setting is, though, but how well it’s been made. There’s no doubt that the authors love this world and they’ve understood to perfection how’s meant to work. The fact that you have bits of advice by Brandon Sanderson himself scattered all over the book should suffice to tell you that he has been very much involved with the game and that the canon has been respected.
Actually it’s been respected so much that it has also been expanded. Yes, there’s information in here that’s not in the novels and there’s information in here that will spoil the novels. I can’t say that enough times. You must be aware of it.
Although the book is a bit devoid of illustrations (I’m a visual person after all) the ones that are in it really do the whole thing a great deal of justice. The lineart is magnific! And I’ve already gone on about the layout enough. Seriously excellent!
I did miss a couple of things, though. I wish there was a map of Luthadel and a bit more descriptors of other cities and locales. Creating a specific village or small city in detail to explore wouldn’t have gone amiss. This is not to say that there’s isn’t enough in here to get you to play without a problem, at all. There is more than enough information. I just wanted a bit more.
So please get this book. It has taken a place of pride in my library and jumped into my top 5 fantasy games of all time.
With ongoing support and new material released, and Crafty Games truly committed to keep this game going, there’s a lot of life in it and you’ll be graced with more and more canon for years to come.
And if you don’t believe me get Wrought of Copper.
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