Saturday, October 27, 2007


Far-future chivalry? Check.

Android-, Clone or Half-Human/Bioengineered Arthurian knights? Check.

Robohorses and hoversteeds? Check.

Energy lances? Merlin as an AI? Avalon as Technology school in "Sidespace"? Check, check and check again.

Cover art by John Zeleznik? Well...yes, check.

Why, oh why, is TSR's Once And Future King so bereft of love? Why is it not cooed to in the Gonzo-friendly online community? Is its fly unzipped?

Or is it because of its parentage?

Once And Future King was part of TSR's "Amazing Engine" line of games -- a series of books from the early 1990s which all shared the same minimalist, sorta-generic rules system. The conceit: you'd create one set of core stats and port them over from game setting to game setting, where the "core" abilities could be used to generate randomized ability scores and so on to make an individualized version of the core character.


I'm not sure how that was supposed to be cool. I remember hearing about it (and looking it over) when it came out, ca. 1993 or so, and thinking, "OK, so what? Why not just roll up a new guy each time? Why's it have to be built out of a common pool every time? How can I go about getting a date?" The system was bland then and it's bland now; I tried making a character once and while I succeeded, I was not really that moved, impressed, or excited about it.

I still haven't changed my opinion of the system, and I'm no longer dating (sorry, ladies; where were you?).

It's not hard to see why the game line failed. But rules are one thing. They can be dispensed with, and replaced with something more agreeable, moving, exciting or just plain cool, season to taste. What I don't get is why I don't hear more talk and chatter about this weird little game setting with its robohorse jousts and its Sourcerors (as in source code, because they're computer programmers) and its castles on Mars and crap like that. It's positively wacktacular, and it seems to get no love.


The other books in the line, by the way, might be somewhat interesting, though often derivative. I quote from the Wiki page:
A near future worldbook where the players are clones forced to fight the aliens.

For Faerie, Queen, and Country
Magical Victorian England with a twist. Magic and Faeries are real. Includes poster map.

The Galactos Barrier
Space opera ala Star Wars (except that instead of "The Force" it's called music).

Biopunk using both traditional cyberware and genetic materials from animals.

D&D meets Earth. Fantasy mixed with the contemporary world. Basically, how the world would be different if magic were real and elves, dwarves, etc. were around.

Metamorphosis Alpha to Omega
Gamma World wasn't dead in 1994; it became an Amazing Engine Worldbook (which is strange since Gamma World spawned from the original Metamorphosis Alpha game).

This supplement may very well have been the inspiration for the Alternity Dark•Matter setting.
For Faerie, Queen and Country
reminds one of Castle Falkenstein and Bughunters probably owes James Cameron twenty bucks, but you never know. Was King alone among these games in its...well, if not creativity, then its pure, pantsless wahoo?

Don't know, can't say. That doesn't make it any less wahoo, though, does it?

So where's the love?