The Festival of Swords: Review

Face your fears and risk it all to save your hometown in The Festival of Swords, an introductory adventure for the Dark Peaks RPG. In the past, we’ve talked about the importance of quick-play documents for RPG’s, and Dark Peaks delivers. However, instead of just being a “how to play” document, this is a full fledged adventure to jump right into the game.

The Festival of Swords does a great job keeping the introduction section short and to the point.It has a great bird’s eye view of what tabletop RPG’s are and their basics, easily allowing even first time players to pick it up. Then it launches right into the character creation process.

Character Creation

Character Creation in the Festival of Swords spans only 3 pages. Players will choose a name, background, motive and two fears. And that’s it, they’re ready to play! How quick the Character Creation process is shows how deadly the game can be, however. Be prepared for the worst!

While I love character options as much as anyone else, a quick-play adventure like this lends itself incredibly well to a character creation process that can be completed within the span of minutes. Don’t worry, more features and character options will be available in the full version of Dark Peaks.

Playing the Game

The resolution system in Festival of Swords is simple and efficient. Roll a d4, and add a stat value, though there are ways to bolster your rolls through the use of Fate Dice or Risk Dice. In the main game, the dice size looks like it can increase with levels.

To us, Risk Dice are the coolest concept of the mechanics though. If you roll poorly on a skill check, you can choose to use a Risk Dice. Then you’re able to roll a d4 dice, adding it’s result to your skill check. The “Risk” comes in if the value of the Risk Dice shows 1. In this instance, your roll automatically becomes a Critical Failure, even if you meet the Difficulty. Putting the moments of great risk and rewards in the hands of the players is an amazing idea. 

One other cool feature of the game is having a timer in combat. The players only have a certain amount of seconds to declare what actions they are going to take for the next round. If they don’t declare their actions in time, they lose the action. Although, while I think this is a great idea for Dark Peaks, if this is your first time playing, I recommend not holding this rule in too high of regard until the players get into the swing of combat.

Adventure & Layout

Without giving away too much about the plot itself, the adventure itself is an amazing entry point into the world of Dark Peaks. The adventure is well thought out, and includes a two-page full color dungeon map. It perfectly achieves its goal of creating a fully-fledged adventure, so experienced Game Master’s can be easily introduced to the system, or first time GM’s can learn the ropes.

The layout of this 34-page book is well thought out. The blood splatters marking the titles work perfectly with the brutality of the system, with the art tying the book together, without being intrusive. The text is easy to read and properly split in between clear headers.

The one thing that I would like to see is an alternate character sheet available for download through Drive-Thru RPG. Okay, I’ll admit, this is really just a personal preference, and would not impact the play-ability of the game. But a character sheet without the dark gradients, simple black and white line art would eat up less ink in my printer, and allow my players to use pencils in lower light.

Final Thoughts

For an introductory adventure, Festival of Swords hits all of it’s marks. It’s clear and easy to understand, and is ready to be played within minutes. The book itself is well designed, with great art and best of all, it’s Pay What You Want. That being said, you can feel that a lot of love goes into this adventure. In truth, that makes us all the more excited for Dark Peaks.

We look forward to the Core Rulebook for Dark Peaks to come out in the future, until then, head over to Drive-Thru RPG for your copy of The Festival of Swords!