This review doesn’t really matter.
This review doesn’t matter because there are four types of people who will click on this review when they see it, and none of them are looking for more information in order to form an opinion. You will have critters who’ve already decided they love Candela Obscura and want to see if I do too, and then critters who’ve already decided they hate Candela Obscura, think switching rulesets was pointless…and want to see if I do too. On the indie/OSR side, you have those who can’t stand Critical Role, and want to see if I’m going to bag on it, ranting as long as I did when I reviewed Root. You also have those who are just thankful that the largest Actual Play in the game is using something other than D&D, and have already decided it’s better. Ultimately, I don’t think my conclusion is going to satisfy any of these camps.
Now, given my own biases from both years of experience in RPGs as well as other media (not to mention writing to a specific audience for a living), I find it hard to believe that anyone was expecting a conclusion other than ‘it’s fine’ for the first ground-up new game from Darrington Press. Just like nobody should have expected Tal’Dorei to be a Planescape or Spelljammer or other setting that really pushes on the conventions of the D&D genre, nobody should really have expected that a new game from Critical Role Productions would do anything other than nestle neatly into the range of genres already popularized in roleplaying, specifically nestling in next to another bestseller, Call of Cthulhu.
I’m starting the review in this way because, ultimately, the specifics of Candela Obscura aren’t nearly as interesting as the reactions they’ve elicited. On Twitter, the first reactions I saw were mostly from indie designers who seemed primed to hate it. Apparently everyone became an IP lawyer since the OGL kerfluffle, because there were people outright claiming that the game had plagiarized Blades in the Dark and was violating the terms of the Creative Commons license (in case it isn’t clear, this is untrue). On Reddit, I read a lot of confusion about the system, though it’s hard to tell from comments if this is just from newness and lack of context, or if it is actually confusing in play. And, of course, the first big review expressed disappointment at how much of a retread the whole thing is.Continue reading Candela Obscura Quickstart Review