Let me go ahead and preface this review with the fact that I have never read any of the Mistborn novels (something that I intend to correct soon), and therefore I approach this book with no knowledge of the setting beyond the product description of the product in the Crafty Games Website. That said, I am quite familiar with Crafty Games, and I trust them with regards to their ability to create good games with interesting and flavorful mechanics that both emulate and highlight the coolest part of whatever genre they’re going for.
And that is why I decided to check this game out.
The Mistborn Adventure Game opens with a short story called The Eleventh Metal by Brandon Sanderson himself. It’s a good read, and already I can see why the Mistborn series is so highly regarded. The story also fits remarkably well to serve as an introduction to the most crucial element of the setting: the Art of Allomancy, a brand of magic that deals with metals. The description of how the magic works is done in a manner that is both cinematic and refreshingly new.
Sanderson’s setting is presented as one of great danger and great opportunity. The Player Characters are assumed to be part of a Crew, a group of like-minded individuals from diverse backgrounds who band together to achieve their goals. Whether they are a self-serving group of thieves and bandits that keep one step ahead of the law, or rebels seeking to overthrow the oppressive authorities that run civilization as you know it is left to the Players to decide.
There’s plenty of room for various stories in the setting, and the description provided of the Dominances of the Final Empire paint a vast expanse where any number of stories can be run. While it might seem a little too dangerous at first, enterprising player characters can actually do a lot to change the status quo.
Scattered throughout the book are various callout boxes that contain a few notes from Brandon Sanderson himself, discussing some of the reasoning behind decisions made in the creation of the book, a nice touch that lends itself well to giving a better understanding on why the game was built that way by the boys of Crafty-Games. As someone who has tried putting a game together before, I appreciate these for the insight they provide.
It is at this point that I believe I ought to state that the Mistborn Adventure Game is NOT powered by Fantasy Craft, and employs an entirely different system that caters towards a more rules-light approach. I must admit that this was a pleasant surprise when I first heard that such was the case.
A set of pre-generated characters are introduced early, to give a nice snapshot of just what kind of characters are possible in the setting. Each has a single page character sheet that looks like a mix of FATE traits and Savage Worlds at first glance.
The Character Creation section is remarkably well written, considering that someone like me who struggles with systems like FATE understood it perfectly, each step described in detail, and with an accompanying example. Definitely one of the better Character Creation chapters I’ve had a chance to read.
The Rules are simple, but the way that simple building blocks interact in play is a remarkable testament to how Crafty Games pays attention to how mechanics and concept go hand in hand. The rules seem simple enough, with a d6 based dice pool mechanic, with modifiers and traits adding or subtracting to the pool. The aim is to roll at least a pair of a high value, and as many 6’s as possible. 6’s don’t count towards the value of a roll, but instead are called Nudges, which modify the final result towards a better success, or mitigating the complications of a failed roll.
That said, conflict is given a thorough treatment, with examples for both physical conflict (combat) and social conflict detailing every step with examples althroughout and a summary of all the rules laid out again for good measure.
The magic chapters discuss each and every one of the forms of magic in the setting in great detail, covering history, methods and mechanics. Each type of magic is unique and flavorful, and immediately brings up ideas for character concepts (which is always a good thing.)
The chapters dealing with the respective Metals follows, which is something that I found to be very fascinating. I’m a fan of magical metaphysics in games, and having a structured magic system like this laid out was quite an intresting read, though I suspect that it will take some more time before I get to commit this information to memory so that I can run the game. There’s a lot of information to digest in one go.
The third portion of the game is the Game Master’s book, which contains a large amount of information on how to run a game. It’s written from a perspective that doesn’t overlook any detail, giving examples of stories, how to deal with things like Destinies and Tragedies, NPC Creation and how to handle Secrets. These are all very well written and provide the necessary tools for a GM to start developing their own campaigns in their version of the Final Empire
The Mistborn Adventure Game is by no means a simple game, but the rules themselves aren’t exactly “Crunchy” by definition. Crafty-Games has done an excellent job in making something that’s different from their usual niche yet without losing the same rooted foundations in sensible mechanics that I’ve come to expect from them.
The art is still in the excellent Black and White style of the Fantasy Craft books. There’s not a lot of it though, and some readers who have gotten used to seeing a lot of illustrations may find the book a little bare.
There are a few minor errors in the digital edition such “page XX” references but I believe that these will be corrected shortly.
Overall, the Mistborn Adventure Game is a genuinely pleasant surprise. Crafty Games has proven that they can put together a rules-medium game that remains faithful to its source. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn setting is a refreshingly unique vision with exotic magics and a unique look and feel that doesn’t come off as trying too hard to be different. I highly recommend this game and I’m looking forward to running a campaign in this setting.
Check out the Crafty Games Website to buy a copy of the game in Hardcover, Softcover and Digital Editions
The Digital Edition of the Mistborn Adventure Game is also available for download from DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly PHP 675.00