Originally published at http://www.themandragora.com
The Corporia RPG has a very interesting premise: the Knights of the Round Table are reincarnated in the near-future. The setting: an apparent utopia known simply as The City (which can be set anywhere), run by mega-corporations. One of these is Valyant, where the CEO is the reincarnation of Sir Lancelot du Lac. An energy known as the Flux permeates the City and it is this Flux that empowers magic and awakens the various magical denizens (sometime called Cryptids). Valyant and other private security firms protect the city from the dangers of the Flux's energy, an occult police force known as the Knightwatch.
Much of the Corporia rulebook relates to The City itself, laid out like corporate training/welcome manual, in-flight magazine, or even city guide. It's left deliberately vague so that you can place the City wherever you want, although there is a certain bent toward a corporate America. The character sheet (of which form fillable PDFs exist) is written like an Human Resources form. Throughout The City section are ads or magazine covers that really add to the flavour I think: "Mutants are welcome in Club Nightmare!"
I'm divided on the artwork to a certain extent. There are very few paintings or similar. The majority are photographs of people in dramatic poses - such as men in suits fighting with a swords, folk wielding guns and other weaponry etc. Valyant definitely put me in mind a lot of Wolfram & Hart in the TV show, Angel (except on the other side of the fence!). Some of the photos don't work as they don't really relate to the subject at hand but the character Archetype portraits look great. It wouldn't have hurt to break up the text in Corporia with some black and white art.
The system is nice and basic: roll 2d6, take the highest, add the Core Value (e.g. Strength) and Skill value. If the total is higher than the Target Number (TN) it's a success. That's it. A simple system. It does make combat particularly deadly though if you're not wearing armour (be it plate mail or suit weave!). Armour is also pretty complicated, having three stats - one for Melee, one for Hi-Velocity (bullets), and another for Energy (X-caliburs!) - it does seem a bit overly difficult. I do love the fact that the melee skill is called "Getting Medieval". PCs can utilise the Flux too by spending Flux Points. These can be used to improve rolls or activate a power of some sort (in the case of Sorcerors and other magicians, for example).
There are 13 Character Archetypes (and more available for download) in Corporia. A good mix of various types you can use to create PCs (and there are sample characters to use, like we did). As I said before, the concept art works well here, along with a quote by each Archetype. As a fan of D6 Star Wars, I have no problem with this. If you want a quick game, use one of these. There's quite a bit of flavour to these characters, and there's are the usual Assets and Backgrounds (wealth etc.) that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's played Shadowrun or World of Darkness.
There's a few starting adventures although I'd have like to have seen a single introductory adventure with a bit more substance. There's a small beastiary. The monsters, or Cryptids, are pretty much the ones we've come to expect (vampires, werewolves, succubi, etc). The adventures are a bit of let-down though. "The Lady in the Lake" adventure makes no sense - it just confused me. HOW are the PCs expected to find the killer? There is a meta-plot (like World of Darkness) based in Arthurian legend but I'll not touch on it here, as it's more fun for players to figure it out on their own! I do like Corporia's GRAIL adventure concept: Goal, Recon, Assault, Infiltration, Liquidation. That's a nice idea. It breaks things down into easily-managed concepts. Also really fits in with the whole Athurian legend concept.
Now, in regards to the presentation of Corporia itself. I have a few criticisms. I have the digital edition (which I got free for review - just to make that clear!), which is technically great. Its bookmarked, cross-linked and even gives you helpful hints for its use. I would definitely want it in book format though. There's no POD option and I'm fairly certain my local games shop wouldn't get it in. The layout could be better, spacing out the paragraphs a bit more, perhaps using two columns. It feels like a Word document converted to PDF. Two different body text fonts and lots of stuff in small case that don't really add to anything. Also the GM is called the Director. It's a minor thing, I know, but please can we just call a GM "GM" in RPGs? There's a section entitled Game Mastery already... The players will call them GM anyway.
The game of Corporia we played was a short one, using the sample characters. One player had never played an RPG before, but found it quite easy to pick up once he’d read the character sheet. As GM, it was pretty straightforward to run (we played the QUESTbusters scenario) although I spent a lot of time winging it. The armour in combat was a bit tricky to figure out, perhaps a simpler system could have been used other than “7 /10/4″ notation.
I think you could call this game genre Knightpunk. In summary, Corporia is a solid little game that could definitely use a little reformatting. It also needs a creative GM who’s happy to fill in the blanks. The price tag is pretty good value for what you’re getting. It’s far less rules heavy than Shadowrun, and less dark and meta-plot than World of Darkness. It’s the kind of game I wouldn’t run regularly but definitely would for a few sessions. It’s easy to pick up, has a solid core game mechanic, and the Arthurian premise of “Knights in shining Armani” is great. Note that there are also quick-start rules for Corporia if you want a taster.
[4 of 5 Stars!]