Finally, it is launched and as a project manager, it has been a huge learning curve on getting a group of volunteers on different sides of the Atlantic to work in a meaningful way. Grievous Grimoire is a large tome and was not the reason for the group forming, but when Zatnikotel had the idea, we could see the advantage in the developments to the Open00 ruleset. It has meant that Falling Summer, our originally intended first publication, has had to take a back burner, but it does mean that we can use the rules to support a wider range of characters.
Want an insider’s biased unboxing? Yes, it is great! What do you get for the price of a PDF?
Open00 core rules (Against the Darkmaster) are a great set of relatively simple d100 rules that deliberately mimic the old Middle Earth Roleplaying rules but have a few tweaks. So as a player you have only 6 class main options (vocations) and the scholar as a quasi playable one. With Grievous Grimoire you can spend background points to gain additional benefits and a tweak to vocational bonuses that give you 28 classes called Vocational Initiates. The intention with these has been to give players (and GMs) the chance to play class concepts akin to those found in Dungeons and Dragons and Rolemaster. Reading through these classes and their Milestones (something that is left rather vague or mechanical in the core rules) there are echoes of the path feats of D&D.
Each of the Vocational Initiates (VI) gains a unique skill or spell list that helps create a distinct specialisation to reflect early training. Overall, the bonuses and development points (DP) for VI don’t change from the core Vocation. However, the skills/spells can make VI feel a little more powerful in certain situations compared with the core version. However, you do need to remember that a Background Point was used to access this career path. There is also the fact that the aim is to give a special focus for a character to shine. A Swashbuckler is not the best fighter in all situations but if you want them to swing from a chandelier and engage in a little repartee while disarming an opponent then this is the VI for you.
The Unique Spell Lores for VI provide a way of creating thematic effects for a High Fantasy game. A mistake a GM might make in adopting optional rules would be to allow all Spell Users access to the Spell Lores. This would result in a huge power creep in your game. The idea of having these limited to VI is the way DP buy restricts the rate at which a character can acquire a Spell Lore. A few of the VIs have been given the ability to resurrect characters. In MERP, the most you could manage was Lifekeeping III (something that Weaves eliminates in Open00) and then you had to transport your fallen companion to a powerful healer. I don’t think anything could be worse than reaching the closing points of your campaign at level 10 and losing your character just before the final battle. The resurrection spells are those sort of the last roll of the dice thing. You should be close to the Darkmaster’s lair and at a cost of some of your and your patient’s heroic status you return them to the fight. It has been made sacrificial for just that purpose and it is no more powerful than the Wizard’s Eldritch powers at that level because you wouldn’t want to do it more than once or twice. Spells themselves have been given weaves similar to the mechanic effects of other spells even if they don’t share the same thematic effects. In the Grievous Grimoire, a number of additional sections support the GM in applying the effects of some of the new Spell Lores e.g. Spirit Worlds and Animated Objects.
The other major addition to Open00 is the creation of Specialty skills (I’m afraid we had to adhere to American English Spelling rules having made the style choice many moons ago). There are 43 Specialty Skills to enhance the ones that already exist in the Core Open00 rules. This is not “skill bloat” but rather a way of refining an area that a character that might have some form of specific training. First, the rules are adjusted to define how many a Vocation can have at the start and how much the Specialty skill costs. The DP cost alone will prevent players from choosing a wide array of Specialty skills but the clever part is that it synergises the Core Skill in certain situations with a +1 for each rank. This gives a small competitive advantage in certain circumstances. It could leave players to think “Why bother?”, as spending the DP on the core skill would be more beneficial. However, there are also low-level passive advantages. On top of this, the Grievous Grimoire defines how a Drive Point can be used to create a heroic moment in the game that will bring character concepts to life. Of course, there is always the risk of failure and the consequences of failure result in some interesting complications.
The final set of rules you could use in your Open00 game is Flaws to support character development. I am not sure I would use Flaws much for my characters as I often associate it with a minor adventuring inconvenience for some large bonuses collected elsewhere. However, having said that the Flaws presented in Grievous Grimoire are the flipside of existing Background Options. They return a background point for a tier that is the opposite of something existing. I like the balance of this and feel it at least offsets the way Open00 Background options work.
That is pretty much it for the walk-through of the book. There are, as I have mentioned, some supporting material for the rules introduced such as Animated Objects, Golems, Elementals, Spirit World, Doppleganger Forms, and Mana Crit tables providing examples and guidance but there is little need to describe these in detail. We were very aware as active GMs that quick reference is an important aspect of running games so everything has been recreated in a series of summary tables that can be either printed out to sit behind your GM screen or left on the table for the players to reference.
The Grievous Grimoire is definitely a high-quality product and you can get it from the storefront on itch.io we plan to release a Print on Demand product probably through DriveThruRPG when we have managed to remove any major errata in the next couple of months when of course you can update your PDF copy for free if you generously choose to support us. Remember we are all volunteers with demanding day jobs and none of us are going to be getting any royalties or being paid by the word. We just love roleplay games and writing but we do want to support artists who make their living through the images they sell.