Thursday, January 7, 2010

How high is your Resistance to absurdity?

Some of you show interest in learning more about Krysztaly Czasu (Time Crystals).

I decided to quench your thirst and provide an overview of the game. Please note, that I tried to translate things as accurately (not literally!) as possible. However, if something seems weirdly formed, it's probably because I tried to keep the spirit (the difficult, pseudo-historical/scientific/poetic language) of the original.

The Setting

The name of the system comes from a myth within the game world. It is believed that somewhere within the game universe powerful objects (or even entities), known as the Time Crystals, exist. They are said to be more powerful than magic, gods, or the world itself (that's pretty fucking powerful, if you ask me). Those who will come into possession of the Time Crystals will have an almost unlimited control over reality.

The origins or the reason for the existence of Time Crystals remain unknown and many, often clashing theories circulate. Some say they are artifacts from a different universe/dimension, others claim they were made in "time before time", or that they are the remains of the first matter known as the Monolith. Finally some believe they are beings secretly plotting and controlling the world...

The world in which the game takes place is known as Orchia. It's inhabited by typical fantasy races: elves, dwarfs, hobbits [because the game was published in the early nineties, when polish law of intellectual property was liquid, Time Crystals often "borrow" from the fantasy classics] reptilians and orcs.

Orchia is probably bigger than Earth, but the game takes place only on a 4th. part of it's surface, where the Lands of 10 Archipelagos are located. There is 9 so called "close" archipelagos and one "scattered" among them... Some of the islands are very small, others are the size of whole countries or subcontinents. Each of the archipelagos is meant to have a different climate and culture.

It is said that long ago all known lands were parts of a huge super-continent, but due to some events, perhaps a divine intervention, it was scattered.

Adventures usually take place on Orchia's Central Archipelago, most often on it's biggest island - The Great Orcus. It's the homeland of orcs [duh!] and is believed to also be the cradle of all intelligent life.

The game takes place in the time when the orcish empire rules throughout most of the known lands. Though no country can match it's economical and military power, the empire's reign is becoming weaker and it's aristocracy (originally named Uruk'hai) grows more and more decadent.

I don't go into any other details, because there are no interesting ideas concerning culture or the different states. It's the usual, all over the place medieval-fantasy vibe.

Mechanics and Character Creation

The game is based on percentile tests made using a d100.
Each character has 10 primary attributes:
  • Liveliness
  • Physical strength
  • Dexterity
  • Speed
  • Intelligence
  • Wisdom
  • Magical Abilities
  • Charisma
  • Presence
  • Faith
Additionally each attribute has a secondary one called Resistance, which works a bit like a saving throw. Here are the ridiculous names, each is a Resistance to...
• to illusions
• to psychology (!!!)
• to curses
• to shock (meaning psychological shock)
• to unnatural effects (my personal favorite)
• to diseases
• to exhalations (or reek, in polish it's the same word)
• to temperature
• to electricity
• to polymorphism

As you can see, the authors were not resistant to stupidity.

Apart from those (20!) attributes, there are some additional ones, which are based on two or
more of the above attributes, each with equally fabulous names. Among them are: LifeEnergy,
Magical Potential, Spotting and (the best character attribute ever) Normality.

Of course there are also lists of skills, languages, weapon proficiencies, jobs, special abilities one might be born with, special abilities one might learn, etc...

Finally we come to character classes. They are divided into castes, but characteristically for this systems treatment of language, meaning of the word "caste" is reduced to "group". Of course additionally characters belong to different social classes and shit, but I won't go into it, since
there is nothing useful or amusing to be found.

Class castes:

Warriors Caste: fighter, ranger, guard,barbarian, mercenary
Knights Caste: knight, paladin, black knight
Rouges Caste: thief, assassin, merchant, bard
Priests Caste: priest, druid, astrologer, half-god
Wizards Caste: mage, warlock, illusionist, alchemist

So here you are! Now imagine many, many unofficial or semi-offcial supplements, articels, rules and stuff like that. When the company publishing Magia i Miecz (the magazine in which this game was first published) decided to make a book edition in 1998, no one knew what to take, what to change and what to throw out the window. The end product was very poor (not that there was much to start out with) and literally killed the system.

Now few crazy hermits still uphold the tradition and publish unofficial materials (so called 3 edition) on the internet. They are...

art by Jarosław Musiał


  1. Holy Carp! That made my head hurt. I expect there are some gems buried in the refuse tho'.

  2. perhaps. though i went through a lot of it and it mostly just looks like pieces of dnd, lord of the rings and conan glued together.

  3. I presume Normality is something like Call of Cthulhu's Sanity, or WoD's Humanity. Would that be right?

    Half-God character class. Are we talking something like the Greek demi-gods, or something wackier?

    "Resistance to exhalations" (aka "save vs reek") - I can see why the crazy damn Poles took to WFRP so naturally. Kindred spirits to the kind of "it's all gone to the dogs" black humour so prevalent in the British gaming/comics/sci-fi/heavy metal subcultural nexus of the 80s.

    Shame about the ill-considered new edition killing the game. Thankfully that could /never/ happen to D&D, or WFRP. Oh. Hang on...

  4. Chris, you presume correctly!

    The half-god is a man, who want's to be a god. You gain power from gaining new followers, have some special spell like abilities and try to organize your own cult.

    Unluckily, the black humor here comes from the game designers inexperience, more than intention.

    As much as I hate 4e. I kinda like the new WFRP. Many of the errors and lacks of the previous editions were corrected, too bad it became a bit rule-heavy.

  5. Hello everybody!
    To start with, I’m genuinely shocked to see someone who’s not Polish to take any interest in Kryształy Czasu. Although pretty much everything that’s written here is correct, leaving no doubts how, err…, strange KC are, I feel that some clarification needs to be done nevertheless.
    The game mechanics in KC are an ungodly abomination. Though you can clearly see that the author (Artur Szyndler) was trying to follow the example of AD&D in many areas, he went several steps further as far as ‘realism’ is concerned. Thus the mechanics are so crunchy that unless you’ve majored in quantum physics or rocket science, you won’t get through character generation process, let alone playing the game itself. Ridiculous fractions are a commonplace in KC: 1/3 INT + ½ WIS + 1/10 CHAR and you’re ready to make a percentile roll for something-something. Awful.
    The setting, as already said, is totally generic. Heck! I bet if you check the dictionary under “generic”, you’ll find Orchia. That’s how generic it is.
    However, to be completely fair, there are some important factors that redeem the game (somewhat). First of all, Polish rpg market before 1993 was virtually non-existent. The only rpgs available back then were copies of copies of copies of American handbooks brought to Poland by some lucky people who had uncles, aunts or whatever in the USA. Those who had such copies were treated like gods. People would copy those books by hand (sic!). The original version of KC was distributed in a similar manner: some would copy the game by hand, but there were also copies in .TAG files (they are still roaming ‘round the internet) on diskettes.
    Then, in 1993, the first Polish rpg magazine Magia i Miecz (Sword and Sorcery) hit the shelves and started the whole craze. 90 per cent of the early issues were devoted to KC (so it was actually a second edition... somehow), which, because of obvious constrains, were presented in installments. The first issue, as far as I remember, had some basic information and one or two short adventures for pre-generated characters so the readers could start playing without getting too much into details (which were to follow in subsequent issues). For many it was the first contact with a *real* rpg. Some of those who started playing back then have never abandoned KC, so you can see there are some hardcore KC devotees out there.
    KC may be cliché-ridden and crunchy beyond all recognition, but they’re still an important part of rpg history in Poland. People are nostalgic and KC is like our OD&D for many.
    Also, one thing I absolutely love about KC are the illustrations made by Jarosław Musiał, which are (next to Jeff Laubenstein’s artwork) the best I have ever seen in a role-playing game (take a look:

    One more thing concerning WFRP: It was published in 1994 and it was the first rpg officially translated to Polish. It was also the first rpg published as a ready-to-go complete book (as opposed to KC). This is why it is so popular amongst Polish players. Also, I believe it is its unique atmosphere: the mixture of grim and gritty realism with black humor which we Poles like so much.

  6. I wrote about this in previous posts.

  7. @squid - Ah, yes, I noticed those entries too late, after posting my response. Sorry for that. If you feel my post is redundant in any way - feel free to delete it, I won't hold a grudge. :)

  8. "resitance to psychology" - it was "resistance to suggestion", wasn't it?

  9. from what I know it was literally "resistance to psychology" (odpornosc na psychologie), although it might have been changed in later editions...