Review of Legends of Kralis

Review Summary
Comped Capsule Review
Written Review

July 12, 2004

by: C. Demetrius Morgan

Style: 4 (Classy & Well Done)
Substance: 3 (Average)

Have you been looking for a game with that certain special old school feel, yet unencumbered by the same boring old game mechanics but not lacking in crunch? Tired of OGL and D20? Looking for a fantasy setting thatís has a mix of standard and unique character races? Then you may want to see if there are any play test copies Legends of Kralis still available.

C. Demetrius Morgan has written 84 reviews (including 51 rpg reviews), with average style of 3.37 and average substance of 3.46. The reviewer's previous review was of genreDiversion i Manual.

This review has been read 4475 times.

Product Summary
Name: Legends of Kralis
Publisher: N, A
Line: Talarius
Author: Levi Davis
Category: RPG (virtual)

Cost: ?
Pages: 334
Year: N/A

Review of Legends of Kralis

Legends of Kralis

(Prerelease Play Test Copy)

Review by C. Demetrius Morgan




This is a review and overview of the PDF for the play test copy of the core rulebook for the as yet officially announced for release Legends of Kralis role-playing game from Fantasy Makers Industries using the Talarius RPS. The Talarius CSD can be found here.

Target Audience:Anyone that enjoys fantastic stories involving great heroics, odd heroes and mystical abilities. In addition we feel that everyone from new players that have never played an RPG as well as old veterans will enjoy this game and be able to play it.” -Levi Davis

Rating: I give Legends of Kralis seven (7) and a half juicy red apples out of ten (10) juicy red apples. But given enough time to ripe those apples should be golden soon enough.

Initial Impressions top

To be perfectly honest when I first scanned this file the phrase “play test copy” did not spring to mind, the document is just that well laid out. My main qualm was with the attributes, eight just seems like too many core attributes, especially since the game makes use of many secondary attributes. For instance why do we need core attributes of Strength and Stamina in addition to secondary attributes like Health and Fatigue? At first glance it all just seems overdone. At second glance it reminded me- well not really but for the sake of moving this review along let’s pretend it did okay- of a old set of FRGP rules that I started back in the day and, from time to time over the years, brush off in a vainglorious attempt to finish what is sure to be the definitive FRPG game of all time. (Snort. Yeah, right.) Anyhow this is important because I also went overboard on attributes, but if a reviewer castigated me for that I, as game designer, would point out that these multifaceted attributes exist to flesh out the game by providing the necessary stats to simulate a fuller feel and more internally realistic style of play. Heck at one point I even had a Fatigue system in place, probably still do, so I can understand how the design process might have led to this myriad number of attributes. Looking at the character sheet I can also say that, did I not know better, I’d almost swear someone got hold of a copy of those aforementioned rules and put out a game based on it. Save for the fact I don’t really fully understand what is going on here. These are “at a glance” similarities. Even so to see a game that, on the surface, reminds one of AD&D here and Stormbringer there (or rather BRPS) with a character sheet that looks like it could almost be used for a game system one wrote years ago really is intriguing. Also makes me wish I had this in book form. I know, it’s the 21st century and PDFs are all the rage, probably the wave of the future, but there is something edifying about the tactile nature of a book. Like the ability to highlight sentences and bookmark sections for later reference.


Summary top

Legends of Kralis has an definite old school feel. Portions of the game system, especially the character creation process, had me wracking my brain trying to remember what RPG I used to have that might-have-sort-of been similar. My initial reflection was it might be an old Avalon Hill game, perhaps James Bond 007, but then again it could also be something like a distant cousin of M.E.R.P. or perhaps styled after the Dr. Who role-playing game or who the heck knows. Odd as it may sound Legends of Kralis kept dislodging memory fragments of old games I haven’t seen or played in ages, and pretty much had forgotten about, the further into the document I ventured. For instance in some ways the Talarius system underpinning LoK had me thinking about Stormbringer and M.E.R.P., the latter of which was based off of the old Rolemaster rules. Sadly I never played Rolemaster, so I don’t know if that’s just misfire of fading memory or not. Still the sense of déjà vu was hard to shake. Too, I would venture a guess that the early Chaosium and TSR role-playing games might have been major influences here, if not directly then certainly on overall style of the system and game world. However once you scratch the surface the core system reveals itself to be neither directly related to any one system or another, at least so far as I could discern. But that could also mean that the authors were influenced by later games that I never encountered or played. One thing is certain: Whatever the influences that guided the authors might have been the system underlying Legends of Kralis does not look to be a direct hack off the D20 SRD.

The Setting: Legends of Kralis bills itself as a “high fantasy roleplaying game tailored for medieval-style fantasy worlds” designed to simulate the magical mystery of the “late Renaissance period”. However the character races are perhaps best described as a mixtures of the standard Tolkein types peppered with one or two unique beings. For instance movies like Willow and novelists such as Edgar Rice Burroughs appear to have had more than a passing influence. For instance four armed Acires are superficially reminiscent of the Thark warriors often portrayed on covers of A Princess of Mars (sans tusks and more human than reptoid) and if the Aelwyn are not a more extroverted version of the Elwin from Willow then they are an amazingly similar attempt to disguise Hobbits under a name other than Halfing. Or are they? top

The Game World: The world of Kralis is an intersection of fantasy and myth, a melting pot of diverse character races coexisting on a world that could easily be the alternate prime of Faerûn (AKA Toril AKA the Forgotten Realms), the Atlantean world outlined in Bard Games old Atlantean Trilogy (released c. 1984), the world of Palladium Fantasy or, yes, even Middle Earth. However the game world and underlying system, while bearing many surface similarities to extant role-playing games, is not quite a knock-off clone. Kralis presents some sixteen odd character races. There are the four armed Acires, so human like yet not human at all; the diminutive Aelwyn, curious beings fond of drink and song; the ferret like Ba-Liyan, a furry race of natural psionisicts; the noble Centaurs, who need no introduction; the stereotypical Dwarf, who would be at home in any standard fantasy campaign; the quiet and aloof Elves, who are yet aren’t similar to their Tolkien inspired counterparts; the mighty Firbogs, a race of humanoid giants equivalent with the Fir Bolg of myth and legend; those ever tinkering Gnomes, who would be at home on Krynn or flitting about in a Spelljammer; the felinoid Jakara, a furry race of alien refugees; the aggressive and arrogant Kanus, a furry race of caninoids; the mysterious Manax, being a furry race of humanoid mice; Minotaurs, who like Centaurs need no introduction; Orcs, in every way the archetypal brutish menace found in D&D; Sprite-kin, covering both sprites and pixies; the ever repugnant Trolls, who here are a mutant hybrid of human and ram; and last, but not least, the ever important Humans. Races that are dispersed upon the three continental landmasses that make up the world of Kralis. top

System Mechanics: Legends of Kralis uses d100 (2d10). The d100 system is the core of the conflict resolution mechanic used for all skill checks. This core mechanic assesses success based on a factor of 10, meaning that for every 10 points a player rolls it equates to 1 success for their character. Skill checks are an opposed roll. Characters, in addition to their 8 core attributes, have a number of secondary attributes that directly impact play. For instance there are Piety and Action points in addition to Heroic Luck, Reputation, Insanity, and Philosophy (Alignment by any other name). My initial thoughts were that the number of attributes are a bit of overkill. Redundant even. Then again there are gamers who like a lot of detail, even if that means involved bookkeeping and number crunching, and to be fair this never claimed to be a rules lite system. top

Character Creation: Characters in LoK have 8 core attributes as follows: Strength, Stamina, Agility, Perception, Intelligence, Wits, Willpower, and Charisma. Based on the information on page 5 I initially concluded that stats are generated by a combination of racial template (“To the Base Attribute Scores you are able to add in 200 Spending Attribute Points.”) and point distribution system. However, a quick skip to the races section showed very AD&D like modifiers. For instance the entry for the Aelwyn lists +5 Wits, +5 Agility under racial features. Now if this was D&D I’d know exactly what to do with those modifiers, but the impression I initially got was Legends of Kralis was going to be nothing at all like the D&D system. Right? Ok, so that forced me to do a Boolean search on character creation. My initial reaction: Gah! Then I realized what was going on here. When the text said “Base Attribute Scores” I immediately assumed that meant “racial”, so I went to the section on races, but it apparently didn‘t mean that at all. Instead what it means is you have to consult a table that gives you a set of base scores based on Size, to which you apparently then add the racial modifiers, and distributed 200 points on top of that. I don’t like this. I’d prefer to have each individual race have their own unique set of Base Attribute Scores that you can find by going to the section on races. I mean why should a Gnome and a Dwarf, which would both be small creatures, have identical base scores? Obviously they should not. And, technically, they don’t. But I can just see players asking questions like that because they have to first consult a generic chart. Remove the chart and you’ll remove those asinine questions from the gaming table, one hopes. Also having players have to first consult a chart (which it would have been nice to mention you need to do) then go to the section on races, find the racial modifiers, add them together, and. . . Already the player in me is shouting FORK THAT DUDE! All that page turning (and Boolean searching) smacks of over complication. Which is not to say the system is bad, just that it needs to be refined and distilled into something simpler, in my opinion. Liked the section on character customization though. top

Addendum: After a brief e-mail exchange with the author it was brought to my attention there actually is an “Quick Character Generation” appendix. Granted this is nearly to the back of the document, around page 327 (PDF page count) or so, but it does help. Of course it would have helped even more had there been a contents page or index to point to the fact this existed. Especially since there is a much simpler character sheet here that has a lot of the modifiers and such laid out on it. However I still find it hard to believe that a Gnome and a Sprite are classed as “Small”, thus having the same beginning Base Attribute Scores. That said. . . top

Galiel: Galiel is the character I decided to create. She is, obviously, female and, not so-obviously, a Sprite. Yes, you read right, I decided to create a female sprite. Got a problem with that? Didn’t think so. The summarize: Sprites are ranked as “Small”, which means I have to consult the “Base Attribute Scores” chart, then write down these base scores. Now, on the quick character generation sheet provided on page 316 there are six columns next to the core attributes labeled: Race, Base, Attribute Points, Focus, Total, Attribute Modifier. Not really sure what the Race and Base are there for as it seems only one column should be needed. (A wrong initial conclusion.) I recorded the base attribute scores under “Race” distributed the 200 points all characters get, based on my own person whim, which was rather fun, under “Attribute Points” then put in the two racial modifiers sprites receive under “Atribute Modifier” (wrong again!) and went off to Boolean search the document for Focus to refresh my memory on what that‘s for. No help, the word focus occurs with too much frequency. I had to go page by page. (What, no sympathy? heh) The long and the short of it: All players have to choose one of four Focuses for their character. These can be either Combat, Knowledge, Stealth, or Social. Focuses provide modifiers to two attributes and may affect skills. I picked Knowledge. If I did this all correctly that should give be a character with starting attributes of: STR 60, STA 60, AGI 90, PER 80, INT 75, WIT 90, WIL 75, CHA 80 sans the racial and attribute modifiers. Obviously the column for “Race” should be for “Racial Modifiers”, I have now adjusted the sheet to reflect this. This will now change two of my scores above as follows: INT 80, WIT 95. Attributes of 57-60 gain no modifiers, according to the provided chart, so now I have to go in and figure out what modifiers my character has. The end result are the following attribute scores: STR 60, STA 60, AGI 98, PER 85, INT 85, WIT 104, WIL 79, CHA 85. In the immortal words of Spock, “Fascinating”. I have to admit the scratch character sheet does make the process flow a lot easier than when I was using the other character sheet. Of course this is just a overview of the beginning of the process. There is still a lot to do, from figuring out Heath and Fatigue to determining what Skills and Equipment your character has. But I that provides a the bare bones basics of the initial steps of character creation. top


Interview With the Author top

Kester: What sets Legends of Kralis apart from other fantasy role-playing games on the market today?

Levi: Everything! However, to be a bit more realistic and serious ... A few of the things are: Infinite character growth, Use of Heroic Luck, Action Points in combat, different ways of looking at how magic, the gods and psionics works. Again, the devil is in the details. As you begin your experience with not only Legends, but all FMI games, you will find things opening up in great ways. It is a very detailed game, yet at the same time it is very much a quick game.

Kester: What were some of the main influences that helped shape Legends of Kralis?

Levi: Influences. Influences. Influences. This is hard to say, without sounding cliché and trite. We all grew up with D&D, reading Tolkien, Vance, Howards, and a number of early fantasy writers whose names now fail me. But it was also influenced by modern day action movies, Jackie Chan and the host of bad Martial Arts flicks that we grew up watching. Overall, it was influenced by the legends and myths of our world.

Kester: Does FMI (Fantasy Makers Industries) have any long term plans for developing Legends of Kralis further?

Levi: Legends of Kralis is going to be a stand alone genre game. It is a high powered fantasy game, that while incorporates (sic) information from the World of Kralis Guidebook, is a stand alone game that can be used with a gamer's favorite fantasy world or campaign.

Kester: What can gamers expect from FMI in the future?

Levi: As gamers ourselves, other gamers can expect a plethora of support for starts. In addition, we have worked hard to make sure that the rules for all our games are internally consistent, can expect that our rules and games will allow players to be able to create whatever character you wish without over-restrictive rules, concepts or design.

Kester: How will Legends of Kralis be made available for purchase when the play test period is complete?

Levi: Legends of Kralis will be available in both a PDF Version, Hardback and SoftBack. It will be available from our site, and other rpg sites that sell games. In addition, it will be available to and from Local Game Stores.

Kester: Are there any plans for third party support (modules, release of an SRD, &tc)?

Levi: Yes. There is already a CSD (Core System Documents) that is ready to be downloaded. As things progress this will be updated as needed. We will be releasing modules both as "web enhancements" and as purchasable modules. Our first is going to be the Maze of the Lizard King.

Kester: What do you foresee the future holding for FMI?

Levi: Like all small publishers and small game companies that begin in the back office of the house, I am hoping to see Fantasy Makers Industries, make a small but effect difference in the gaming world. We are planning on having a number of Genre Games, ranging from Comic Super Heroes, to Wild Wild West genres, abstract world of Cyberpunk, Space Opera Genre, as well as a Board Game and a Card Game based on the same mechanics that Legends of Kralis will be using. We also hope that … we can anchor ourselves in [the industry] as an alternative to d20. top


Appraisal top

For this review I received an exceptionally well laid out and neatly formatted PDF. A fact that is even more amazing considering this is for a currently closed play test cycle. (I had to have an account created and a password sent to me via e-mail just to access the file!) Though, as with too many PDF endeavors that cross my desk, the font is a bit small for onscreen reading. Then again this is a 334 page rulebook, so I can understand the need to squeeze as much as possible into the document, and that means lowering the font size. That said, as you begin to read, the text informs you that Legends of Kralis is built upon something called the Talarius System. And what’s that? According to the introduction it’s a “d100-based game” in other words, it’s some form of a percentile system(?). I have fond memories of playing and, on the odd occasion, running Chaosium games, which were based on a percentile system, which left me with many questions wrapped around hopeful anticipation of what is to follow. However, by the time I really started to sit down to look at the game system I was feeling depressed. In some minor ways this does seem very much like the game system I was working on, once upon a time, and abandoned around the time it became apparent D20 was going to be the de facto FRPG system of choice for some time to come. To be honest seeing a system with surface similarities to something that I once really thought was going to be the next big thing does kind of get me down, but it’s also nice to see that someone out there is still actually taking the time to tackle designing game systems rather than just latching onto the generic universal OGL flavor of the month. Can’t ride those coattails forever.

Combat: Pretty standard. There’s an initiative segment, critical hits and successes, and of course health points. There’s also an entire chapter on defending and one on using miniatures. However combat is supplemented-or powered, depending on which paragraph you are reading, and these conflicting impressions had me initially confused- by an “Action Point” system that is used to (more or less) determine who gets to do what and when, based on a variety of factors, most especially Size. Size? That’s what the rules said. So does that mean that the more logical choice of tying actions into Agility was ignored altogether? Sadly it seems so. Just don’t me ask why a Giant should have more AP over a Sprite in any given situation where the two races might face each other in combat because I couldn’t tell you. Obviously the system could use some tweaking so that it takes situational modifiers into account. Why? Because it should be obvious that any Sprite is going to fly circles around a lumbering Giant, and not just because I say so, that’s an expectation of the genre. It is possible that this oddment betrays an attempt to consciously design a system different to that found in it’s spiritual predecessor (Chaosium’s BRPS) but that of course it a guess and assumes Kralis has some roots there. On the surface the combat rules look to cover a lot of ground at a mad cap run. There are sections on how one should conduct a chase, deal with concealment, environmental conditions, fighting invisible opponents, impaling foes, throwing things, pushing, charging, and the typical rules fare one would expect to find in the combat section. However the section also droned on and on and on to the point that I had to just throw my hands up and say enough is enough. The weakness here is an overload of information and a failure to provide the bare bones basics with immediacy upfront. Yes, it is partially there and veteran role-players should have no problems filling in the gaps, but I would have liked to see this section written to be more accessible to the newbie as opposed to attempting to cover every conceivable situation. Seriously, at some point gamers are going to have to learn to rely on their own best judgment and think on their feet for themselves! Strangely that was the one circumstance the authors didn’t seem to cover. Which is too bad as that would probably have saved the author weeks of writing rules for minutia. Conversely, no complaints about a lack of crunch here. top

Magic System: Actually the chapter covering magic is titled “Magic and Psionics”, which could mean that these are similar systems, that one is a hybrid of the other, or that the rules are just very short so they were placed in the same chapter. So which is it? From the rules: “Spellcasting is a spoken or subvocalized formula which is intended to cause a supernatural effect.” In addition to this magic is essentially broken down into two categories: Wizard magic, which is further sub-divided into Static and Elemental spellcraft; and Divine magic; which again is further sub-divided into Vested and Bestowed powers. So what does that mean? The rules state “like all magic, casting spells requires a Spellcraft check” whereas Divine powers seem to be more foci based (a character has to have or hold their deities holy symbol) and function automatically(?). Well automatically if a character fails to save verses their Divine Defense Score(!), otherwise so long as a character is in good standing with their Deity it appears their powers just work(?). All magic costs the character Fatigue. Given the substantial number of rules clarifications in the section on combat adding a Piety system keyed to Manna would seem to of been a logical progression and outgrowth here, alas we are to believe that the powers of both priests and wizards drain Fatigue? Maybe. But somehow the system seems to be, not unconvincing, but perhaps a bit of a disappointment. Especially after perusing the aforementioned Combat rules, which went on ad nauseum ad infinitim. And what about the Psionic system? Even worse of a let down in some regards I’m afraid. The first few paragraphs set the stage rather unconvincingly. For instance there’s a sentence or two about how rare Psionics are, which is then amazingly followed up by an “it is assumed” characters with psicraft have passed some rigorous and ominous sounding (yet unexplained) “ritual of the mind”. . . either that or maybe they were just born with psionics. What? That is a bit too brusque and rather vague, making the section inimical to suspension of disbelief. As to the mechanics, it appears that, as with Divine Powers, Psionic attacks just work so long as no one makes their defense rolls(?). Or something. Say what you want about 1st ED AD&D, but at least it had psionic rules that established a solid rationale. Hopefully these sections will see further development. Otherwise magic seems to be functional. Sadly not a lot of flavor text to tie this into the game world, then again there’s not a lot about the game world for that matter provided either. Would be nice to have read what the game world a rationale for all this, as I know there must be one. (Did I miss that section?) top

Negatives: From a PDF standpoint there were no bookmarks, contents page, or index provided. For a 334 page document that can pose quite the problem, especially for Game Masters who may be wanting to run the game while consulting the document from a laptop, and most especially for reviewers who need to get to specific sections to answer questions that pop into their mind on the spur of the moment. A minor sniggle, but an annoying one. The rules, to be clichéd, have their strengths and weaknesses. Obviously a lot of time has been invested developing the combat rules. Perhaps too much as, by comparison, the section on magic seems as if it was almost an after thought. Were it not for the fact I have my own unpublished system (don’t we all) I would probably dismiss the entire section as a really bad quickie write-up. Especially where the psionics rules are concerned. I do not believe this to be so. Alas the average gamer who picks this game up and reads it at a glance may come away with that impression nonetheless. Speaking of which Kralis takes it for granted that the reader is a veteran gamer capable of flipping back and forth through various pages to find what they need, which means it may not be very accessible to the non-gamer newbie or the fair weather gamer who merely wants to sit down and play. In my opinion this potential lack of accessibility represents a major flaw. You can only attract so many flies with eye candy, once those flies have your game book in hand you need to make it easy for them to figure out what the game is about. For instance in the introduction we are told, in a rather round about manner, what the basics of the system are. Yet we are being talked at, not to, and thus rather than coming away feeling informed one has a mild sense of confusion. For instance under “Defenses” it is stated there are four types of defenses, then four modes of attack are mentioned in passing. So what does that mean? Damned if I knew the first time I read that as this section did not inform me what those four defenses are. Fumble. Also, for a game calling itself Legends of Kralis, I found a woeful lack of setting detail or background detail provided. Where is the section dedicated to explaining what the world of Kralis is and what goes on there? In essence what the PDF I received was is one large core rule book, sort of like what you might get if you edited together the DMG and PHB, and little more. No monsters mentioned, much less detailed. No detailed background provided, much less an explanation of the titular setting. Is Kralis the world, as I assume? Or is it a free city? A continent? There really should be a separate section providing an overview about the world and how the various characters and races fit into it. Stormbringer does this rather well, as did Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms, and I was expecting something similar here. Even so this definitely has plenty of wow factor where the rules are concerned. Keeping in mind this is a playtest document I will assume the setting portion is either forthcoming or to be released separately and rate this on a curve accordingly. top

Positives: What a PDF! There’s character sheets, all manner of little graphical boxes containing blurbs, illustrations (one of which looks like the Crocodile Hunter done up as a ninja), and simply more to read than I’ve seen in some published role-playing games. That said, despite my comments about the magic system above, to see Wizard magic and Divine magic essentially using the same meta-mechanic AND to then see this extended to Psionics is, to say the least, interesting. Many will like this because the similarities lend it a streamlined feel. Alas many probably wont like it because they will view such a design choice as a rules cop-out. Assuming anyone reads anything into the system at all! Either way the system should be easy to follow for veteran gamers. That said, I foresee gamers either liking or loathing Legends of Kralis. It has crunch, the rules have a nostalgic feel that may rub some wrong, and many may feel there’s not nearly enough flavor text. Which isn’t to say there isn’t any, but it’s pretty much spread out in the various sections as blurbs and fluffy padding. top


Contact Information top

There are official Forums for discussing Fantasy Makers Industries game products here. Those interested in learning more about the game or company can contact FMI via snail mail at:

These creatures eat fruit and herbs and nuts as well as meat, but they do not thrive well upon these things exclusively.” -The Moon Maid, Edgar Rice Burroughs


Copyright © 2004 C. Demetrius Morgan

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