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The Wheel of Time RPG
Reviewed by Phillip White, © 2002

Format: Game
Released:   October 2001
Review Date:   June 10, 2002

"The Wheel of Time turns, and ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, and Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow..."

That paragraph should sound familiar, if you're a Robert Jordan fan. It graces the back cover of every one of the umpteen massive tomes in the Wheel of Time series, and—just in case you miss it back there—it's also helpfully included as the first paragraph in each. And who can blame the publishers for being so in love with it? It makes a good catchphrase, and it's actually a pretty cool way of succinctly summing up the plot of the incredibly long WOT series. Plus, it sounds much better than the first draft: "There's this stand-in for the Devil, and he's out to take over the world! Everybody RUN!"

Okay, I kid. But I'm sure you get my point, which is that... well... I'm not sure *I* get my point. But I know I had one...

Oh, yeah! Basically, the Wheel of Time series is all about adventure of the highest sort, with heroes wielding awesome power and taking on incredible odds and fighting battles whose outcome affects the entire world and whatnot. In short, it's every D&D geek's wet dream. And now, thanks to Wizards of the Coast, you can live that dream. Err, sort of.

Actually, you can just play D&D 3rd Ed., with some fancy nomenclature thrown in to make you think it's a new game. Clever, eh?

Dungeons and Jordan

That's right: The Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game is almost completely straight-up 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, entire chunks of rules (mostly those involving game mechanics) are taken verbatim from the 3rd Ed. Player's Handbook. Is this a bad thing? Well, yes and no. Yes, it's a bad thing because, if I'm the sort who's going to buy a Wheel of Time Roleplaying Game, I've ALREADY paid $20 for this exact same set of rules! What the frap am I doing having to shell out ANOTHER $20 just so I can play an "armsman" instead of a "fighter"? On the other hand, it might prove a useful way to introduce fans of Robert Jordan's books to gaming without asking them to buy more than one rulebook. But seriously: If you've taken the time to slog through the five million pages of the Wheel of Time series, chances are you are already a gaming geek and have the full D&D3 set on your bookshelf, right next to AD&D2, and probably even a few ratty books from AD&D1.

Of course, most WOT fans are going to be most interested in how the magic system works, because that's the one part that D&D3 is lousiest at adapting: D&D magic isn't Tolkien's magic and it's not Jordan's magic; it's D&D magic. In the Wheel of Time books, use of the "One Power" is significantly different than your run-of-the-mill, generic fantasy wizard or sorcerer, and it's one of thing that makes the series unique. This distinctiveness is accurately reflected in the game system. In fact, it is the magic system that most sets the Wheel of Time RPG apart from D&D 3E. By classifying spells as "weaves," and giving players the ability to "tie weaves off," the game gives a good representation of what it would be like to try and manage the One Power as an Aes Sedai would have to do.

Everything else aside, the most important facet of the game system is how well it incorporates the feel of the Wheel of Time series. Robert Jordan's world has a texture all its own, and the WoT RPG does a fair job of recreating that texture in a gaming environment. However, the immersion factor is not complete. Certain details are either included in a way that doesn't make sense, or are simply left out entirely. Warders are handled in a rather offhand manner, for instance, and certain aspects of the One Power that feature rather prominently in the books are not included at all. This is most likely the result of the way in which WOTC chose to produce the game. It would have made a lot more sense if they has released the game as a sourcebook for D&D 3E, rather than trying to make it stand alone. That way they could have included more material on the world of the Wheel of Time, and left out all the mechanics—which nearly every member of their target audience will already have.

What Price Weaving?

So would I recommend this game? Well... if you already own all the D&D 3E books, you're probably best off leaving this one alone unless you just really have to have all things WoT. Sure, the magic is different, but is that worth $40?

If you are new to RPGs, however, and you're a big fan of Jordan's books, then this is actually a pretty good deal. It's certainly a cheaper way to get into the hobby than buying all the core books for D&D 3E, and you'll still wind up learning most of the Third Edition rules.

Phillip White is a freelance contributor to RevolutionSF. You can find his Wiseguy Geekboy Bad Movie Reviews elsewhere on the site... if you dare.

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