Artesia is interesting for several reasons:
1. Crossmedia production:
Mark Smylie, the creator, first published the first parts of his comic Artesia, before publishing the RPG. There was even talk about selling the movie rights. Classical horizontal diversification.
Unfortunately, Archaia Studios Press (founded by Smylie) is just a minor player and suffered from internal restructuring last year. On the other hand, it's quite possible that at least the comic will be finished (pet project) giving players and GM additional background. If any Artesia RPG sourcebooks will be published? Well, we still hoping for Trierzon.
2. Outstanding quality in artwork, layout and design:
350 pages, hardcover, complete in 4 colour on coated woodfree paper. All the artwork is done by Mark Smylie, given the whole book the most coherent and professional look of all RPG I encountered so far. 4 and nine tenth stars out of 5.
3. The religious background
Artesia is one of the very, very few RPG with a believable mythologic and religious background (something which Hârn lacks, unfortunately. But this is a discussion for another topic). For short: it's on the one hand a struggle between an old cult of a mother goddess and a younger cult of the sun king (and their pantheii), on the other hand there are omens bringing message of an ill future and darker sects doing their hidden work.
4. The experience system
The experience system based on the (for the Artesia setting rewriten) great arcana of the tarot is very intriguing. I.e.: You gain "Lovers"-XP by aiding a pair of lovers in need and "Hermit"-XP by resisting diversions from your goal. You can spend those XP on attributes, skills, gifts etc. tied to the specific arcana i.e. stamina or research for "Hermit"-XP and empathy or persuasion "Lovers"-XP.
Some minor flaws:
- Well, it's a an artist labour of love and for this reason striking beautiful ... but huge. Something for a connaisseur but nothing for beginners.
- Like many Fantasy RPG creators Mark Smylie slackers a bit in regard to toponymy, albeit he did it 99 % better than most other games. But ... how many Middle Kingdoms do I have to endure?
- Due to the scope of Achaia Studio Press it is unlikely that we will see more sourcebooks in the near future. Sad, as at least four more books are announced in the core book: "Cults of the known world" with more informations on the different pantheii, "The book of Secrets" with more informations on the heavens and the underworld (and how you could rise to become a demi-god), a more detailed decription of the Middle Kingdoms and at last a ruleset for mass combat.
If you are a hard-core "medieval and nothing else" simulation gamer, Artesia might not be your first choice as it resembles in many aspects more early renaissence times. But this in a refreshing way.
Michael - visit Tales of Chybisa.com
Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.