In our newest feature, Jordan Palmer takes a look at the world of Rebirth a role-playing game by Michael Hansen.
Introduction to Rebirth
I’m taking a look at Rebirth by Michael Hansen, it’s an old-school RPG about a war torn land still feuding over the demonic gifts given to seven necromancers long ago. Half the world seeks to gather the power for themselves while the other half believes nobody should hold the power that would make them as a god. Players take on the role of one of the reborn, those raised to life and bearing the seal of the one who raised them from death. They have no memory of their past and no certainty for their future. You’ll definitely be getting the old-school vibe and dark themes as you look through the book, it’s a fun read and has a lot of lore to go over included to help you get started.
Rebirth runs on a simple percentile system, you roll dice to determine the outcome of your actions. It’s easy enough to pick up, just look at your skill and adjust for how difficult or easy the task is then roll the dice. If you roll within the needed range you succeed, otherwise you fail.
The game has 9 different attributes, first divided by Body, Mind, and Spirit, and then further divided by whether it requires force, intuition, or endurance. These 9 attributes are tied to almost everything in the game and determine what your character is best at.
What I Liked
I’m going to start off by going over what I liked about the system. The first thing I enjoyed is how much the world and story have been woven into the game. There are a lot of thematic elements in every profession that bring the world to life. Even the currency the players use is the necrotic remains of the dead, bones still tainted with energy. It’s a lot of fun to see all the little things that tie together in the world.
I wasn’t sure I was going to like the 9 attribute system at first, it seemed a little unwieldy to me, but in actual play my players really enjoyed it. It was easy for them to understand and basically broke down into what you were using (your body, your mind, or your spirit) and how you were using it (brute force, thinking and finesse, or pure endurance). Once we got to playing it was fairly simple to remember and didn’t have any troubles with it.
Another thing I absolutely enjoyed is the almost exhaustive list of skills, professions, and abilities that were given to players. There are a ton of options in this book. It starts off with 14 basic professions each of which has two specialties to choose from and each with their own unique flavor. Each profession is tied to one of the seven nations and which necromancer raised you so I found it best to determine whether my players wanted to play on the side seeking the artifacts gifted by the demon long ago or the side who wanted to protect them from being gathered and their power unlocked. It allowed my players a bit of focus and made sure that thematically the party worked better together. Despite the amount of options you don’t have to know all the content, it’s very easy to choose what you want and only learn those few things since the basic rules are relatively universal.
My players chose to side with the lawful nations and played as a Medic that further became a Mortician with the ability to create and control false life, another chose an Archivist and advanced into an Artificer with the ability to create magical items, and my last player chose to play a Politician and advanced into a Bureaucrat that focused on weakening the oppositions morale and influence policy to the group’s advantage. It was a lot of fun to play with an offbeat party that wasn’t your typical adventuring fare and my group really enjoyed it as well.
What I didn’t
One of the critiques I had of the system was the amount of math involved. Granted, much of this math is done up front and recorded on the character sheet, but many of the skills and abilities are calculated using a fraction of a players level that had to be recalculated every time a player leveled up. In regards to leveling I would also like to point out that while there were a lot of fun abilities to gain, but almost half the time when players leveled up they received nothing, which wasn’t quite as exciting as the abilities they gained at the other levels.
The other thing I will bring up is that there is very little direction on what kind of game is intended to be played. While there’s plenty of lore and history to go over I would have liked to see a bit more focus highlighting what situations the game really shines in. Being the Game Master is often hard work and anything that helps me create fun challenges for my players is only going to make it easier on me. There is an online resource for players and Game Masters to check out, but I would have still liked to see something in the book itself to help out.
Who Would Enjoy this Game
Having gone over my thoughts on the game I’ll finish by going over the kind of person that would like Rebirth.
- Anyone who loves playing in broken worlds with lots of lore revolving around ancient feuds and old magic.
- Those who enjoy old-school role-playing games with a focus on the player’s choices instead of the character’s skills.
- Those who don’t mind putting the effort into setting up the game and what experience you want your group to have.
For those who want to check out the system you can find more on their website at: rebirthroleplaying.com.