Radiance is free! Yes
free, as in it will cost you nothing, NOTHING!!! But does free mean no production values and a book filled with
the brainless ramblings of some deranged bedroom publisher making up the rules as he goes along? In this case
The cover artwork
for Radiance is quite nice and lets you know what you are in for from the start (kind of), two mages duel under
a monster infested sky but what’s that we see in the background? A zeppelin…. Interesting.
The opening credits
of Radiance are written from the perspective of the books writer Dario Nardi. Dario has been a player and
Games Master for 30 years and his games of choice are D&D and Pathfinder. To say this guy has done his
research would be an understatement, 30 years of gaming already means he started out with this hobby in the
early days and has no doubt seen many changes to the system he plays, he has also gone out there and asked
people why they play RPG’s and what makes the game work for them. He has then tried to implement all of those
ideas into one perfectly balanced game, that game is Radiance.
Does it work? Read
Pick Your Race –
With a plethora of races to chose from you won’t be stuck for choice. All of the stereotypes are present and
correct with Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Drow, Goblin and Kobolds etc. We also have members from the
D&D stables with Thieflings, Half-Orcs and Half-Elves. We also have some unique races (at least I think they
are unique) such as the Goliath (yeah you guessed it they are giants), the Asimar an angelic race who are both
beautiful and wise, the Atlans a race of human like sea-men (c’mon now this is a serious review), the Dromite
are a race of insectoids and the Rakasha a race of cunning felinoids plus many others. In all there are 24 races
to choose from.
Each race is
fleshed out with special racial skills and abilities such as night vision for the Drow and adaptability for
humans. Each race then also has race specific abilities to choose from as they level up, these skills are quite
fun and varied ranging from combat related skills such as lightning reflexes and stomp to more role-play related
skills such as Student of Science or Seafaring. These choices help to differentiate the races and provide the
players with some cool role-play fodder for their characters.
I am quite a big
fan of these race choices; I like this kind of variety for my players to choose from in a fantasy setting.
The artwork in
Radiance, whilst skilled does make a lot of the races look like they are suffering from some kind of Acromegaly
(especially the “handsome” Elf!) but hey we don’t play RPG’s for the pretty pictures!
Pick your Class
– There are a lot of races to choose from in
Radiance so you would be forgiven for thinking that there may not be so many classes, well that would be wrong.
There are even more classes that races! With 30 classes to choose from the classes are equally as varied as the
Of course the
staple classes are there, we have the Barbarian, Fighter, Bard (I hate Bards, stupid stupid class), Monk,
Paladin, Wizard, Ranger and Rogue.
There are also some
characters that would fit into settings other than pure fantasy such as the Gunslinger, Dhampir (a kind of
vampire), Blackguard (demonic possession fighter), Artificer and Necromancer amongst others.
Again each of the
classes will start with some core abilities such as rapid attack for fighters or unarmed strike for the monk,
wizards of course start with Magic Missile. As you level up you can pick extra skills related to your chosen
class such as cleave, turn invisible, mystic armour or even transform into a monster!
The classes are
also helpfully broken down into party roles. For instance does your party have an Anti-mage, a Defender, a
Healer, a Diplomat, Scout, Sneak and Striker? Each of the classes can cover one or more of these party roles for
example a Barbarian can fill the role of Anti-mage or Brute. The Paladin can act as a Defender and Healer or
even Diplomat. When creating your party it would be a good idea to check that you can meet most of the party
roles on this list.
As if all this
wasn’t enough in Radiance you can Multi-class too! Barbarian/Necromancer hybrid FTW!
Themes – There are
16 themes to choose from. Themes provide an archetype for your character such as the hunter theme with
specialises in hunting and slaying supernatural or magical creatures, the believer is dedicated to his church
and furthering the interests of his god/s. The themes add flavour to your characters and some of them can have a
huge impact with one of the themes being the traitor!
The Gods – There
are 22 gods to worship and each of them is fleshed out with a description of their goals and beliefs. Following
your god and acting in his/her name will grant your character a boon. A boon can range from simple tricks like
being able to wear heavier armour to spectacular abilities such as sprouting an extra set of arms!
There is no setting
in Radiance but there are many ideas presented for making up your own setting right at the start of the book.
Will you play classical myth, space fantasia, high fantasy, steam punk or Victorian steampunk? There are no
restrictions the setting is up to you!
I really like this
way of doing things as it frees up the GM to get creative by his own standards and set up his/her own worlds and
There is a
fantastic section on weapons and equipment including magic items. These can really add flavour to your campaign
or serve as rewards for your players’ epic quests. The Helm of Underwater action does what it says on the tin
and will help your players explore a subterranean cavern. The Infernal Robes boost your bluff, disguise and
intimidation factor amongst other things, how about some Vampire teeth? They merge with your own and allow you
to bite your enemies for a quick boost to your own health!
I have to say I am
really impressed with the imagination and thought that has been put into all of these items, I will go so far as
saying I will be converting some of them to use in other games too.
The gaming system
is very D&D inspired even down to the way you pick your attributes (3 methods are presented in a similar
fashion to that other game). As you level up you will gain skills and abilities related to your class, race and
The book layout is
very clear and concise; if you need to find a skill, spell or ability it will not take you long to look it up.
Everything is present and explained where you would expect it to be.
Fighting plays out
in a similar way in that if you beat the opponents resistance (fortitude, reflexes and willpower) you score a
hit. This keeps combat fast flowing and simple. In fact the combat section of this book is fantastic and gives
clear rules and instructions on how to deal with everything from surprise attacks to being stunned by a smoke
bomb. Paralysis, poison, fatigue and insanity are all covered in a sensible and functional way. This makes
learning the game a doddle for new players.
I must also add
that this game is very well balanced and this is something that I personally do not like. First I think that so
much balance encourages min-maxing after all if one person in the group is smart enough to do it then everyone
may as well do it in order to keep an even team. I also don’t like balance because I think it takes you out of
the moment and to an extent ruins the verisimilitude of the game you are running. Sometimes it’s nice to play
the star character with the lucky attribute rolls or the underdog that lacks the power of the other characters.
I find this level of balance makes every character feel a little bit generic and after a few games you realise
that your character doesn’t really feel that special because every character can do pretty much everything any
other character can do if you make the right choices. This is taken to the extreme by the heretic theme which
can basically abuse the power of any of the gods thus becoming a veritable master of all
If you like D&D
and like balance then you will love this game I am sure. Sadly to me D&D seems like nothing more than an
advanced board game (Hero Quest anyone?) offering very little in the way of real RPG action compared to the
likes of World of Darkness, Dark Hersey or RIFTS.
Guys its free and
it is a very good game, at least the first few times you play it and if you don’t over think character creation.
However the extreme level of balance began to seriously put me off this game and that is why I have marked it
down. For those of you who like balance in your games you may see my final score as unfair.
If you are a
D&D fan then give this game ago, chances are you will really like it. Even if you get it just to use the
items and equipment contained within you won’t be disappointed.
In many ways the
creator has over succeeded in making his version of the perfect D&D clone. Sadly this is also his greatest
failing in my eyes.
Did I mention it’s
free? Download your copy now at www.radiancerpg.com
Want to try another system?