Friday, January 15, 2010

My charitable donation to WEG

The seemingly endless saga of misery that is West End Games has taken another turn. As I mentioned some time ago, WEG was looking to make a rebound. They had a new product, Septimus, a space opera rpg by reknown game designer Bill Coffin, and a new publishing model, Open d6, which would allow the venerable d6 game engine to become OGL. Along came GenCon. Eric Gibson, the current owner of WEG, arrived with a stack of Septimus softcovers and a plan.

Then he disappeared...

Rampant speculation followed. WEG's forums were abuzz with speculation, as the fans (who by this time, number in the tens) debated the future of the company, its owner and the game system. Fans created Open d6 Resurrection, Antipaladin Games created a clone called Mini Six and pretty much everyone felt they'd seen the last of West End Games.

Well, Eric Gibson has resurfaced and he's busily doing what he can to put to rest any rumours of his (or WEG's) demise. Problems with his overseas printer have made him unable to get his hardcover Septimus books into stores, while GenCon softcover and pdf sales have been weak. The Open d6 project is not dead and he's not too happy about these non-WEG efforts to create reasonable facsimiles.

So, partially out of sympathy for a struggling company that has given me a lot of joy over the years and partially out of curiousity about a product that seems increasingly unlikely to ever see the light of day in stores, I bought a pdf copy of Septimus. It is quite a tome, weighing in at a hefty 364 pages. The first 95 or so pages are dedicated to describing the world of Septimus, a Dyson Sphere on the very edge of a dying galactic empire. This description is quite detailed, and yet, there are some glaring omissions. Several things are mentioned repeatedly, but never clearly explained. For example, a particularly traumatic event, known as Steel Helix, is mentioned repeatedly as the source of much of the destruction currently seen on the surface of Septimus, yet no explanation of Steel Helix is given in the text. A free quick-start pdf of the Septimus game released months before the full game mentions a rebellion and describes a rebel military action called Iron Helix, which is presumably the same thing, but anyone without a copy of this earlier release would have little idea about this most important event in recent history of the game world. Other unexplained things include the Seven Cities (presumed to be other settlements outside of the capital that have been cut off by Steel Helix) and ZPG (some sort of disease which may be related to corruption of the advanced technology used to control the inhabitants of Septimus).

Beyond this criticism, Septimus is actually a pretty solid game. The d6 rules are fully presented, so no other books are required to play and the number of game and character options are quite extensive. The game is not as polished as Eclipse Phase or CthulhuTech, but it is certainly easier for inexperienced players to understand. It has a lot of potential, but at this point, I don't think West End Games has the resources to get this game off the ground in any significant way. Pity!


(Edit: Upon further reading, I have a clearer idea about the Seven Cities, although a timeline and a more detailed history would certainly help to elucidate the various political relationships within the game setting.)


Ray said...

Bill Coffin's Septimus is a fantastic book! I read on the forum that Eric is working on getting it out there in hardback soon and has asked what errata or anything that might have been missed before.

Rognar said...

I would certainly look forward to a new printing with an expanded first chapter and all the errata included. Thanks for the post, Ray. Mini Six is a nice little game.