" We monkeys even got our own share of the spotlight, and this simian warlord gratefully tips his hat for that nod toward the superiority of monkeys and their natural playability within the theme. "
Title: Jadeclaw by Sanguine Productions
Format: Anthropomorphic RPG Core Rulebook
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: From the makers of Iron Claw, the Anthropomorphic Medieval Fantasy Game, comes this Medieval Orient core book using the same system with an Eastern theme and feel. From mundane cats and dogs, to the more unusual yaks and pandas, to the celestial phoenixes and qilings, Jadeclaw gives fans of the "furry" community (animals with human roles, shapes, and mindsets) a chance to play animal characters as ninjas, samurai, monks, and ascetics. So read on, and check out the game that features me, Genghis Kong, and my mongrel horde as playable characters!
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: Jadeclaw takes place in the lands of Zhongguo, an Asiatic kingdom much like medieval China or Japan in structure. An interesting history and complicated caste system and culture are presented, though more material would have been advisable - it is enough from which to start a game or campaign, but will require a very creative gamemaster (or Game Host, in Sanguine's terms) in order to continue long. The most intriguing part of the game are the many races (animal types) and careers (a rough analog to classes, though this is a very inaccurate comparison) available for play. That section alone makes the book worth a read-through, and Game Hosts will find themselves greatly inspired by the menagerie of animal types and backgrounds present. Of course, there is a down side; cartoon fans everywhere (used to such mainstream furries as "Looney Tunes") will find it difficult to take the setting seriously in initial play, possibly offending their furry-friendly cohorts. Let me just say this now, to get that out of the way - there is nothing funny about a monkey who can wield a katana in both hands, both feet, and his tail, and anyone who disagrees should meet me, Genghis Kong, on the field of honor. Cutting a few inches off the top will set you straight. 3.5 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The art in this book is fantastic. Chris Goodwin's representations of the twenty-nine races are fantastically drawn and his cover artwork is superb. Images of natives of Zhongguo tend toward the cartoony and simple, giving the game a pleasant and comfortable feel, though it may be hard to take the game seriously with images of Karate Cat and Hong Kong Phooey running around in your head- spoiling any semblance of maturity the game provides. The book itself is rather hard to navigate, however, as rules are packed in densely and there are no chapter labels on the borders to tell you just where you're at in the book. Rules tend to be laid out in a somewhat haphazard pattern, making for tough intuitive navigation. At times, I believed it really was the monkeys and foxes handling the layout…and having a good laugh at my expense while I tried to look up a particular set of rules. 2 out of 5.
Playability: Jadeclaw uses a very simple basic rules set, following a "high number wins" principle. Veteran characters (and those with natural advantages) draw on more dice (for increased odds) at greater numbers, giving them the natural edge, but not necessarily eliminating the possibility that a newer character could best them, which makes for very fair gameplay and a lot of opportunities for individuals to shine when their luck turns for the better. Character generation is a bit tough at first, but once muddled through, proves to be a fairly entertaining venture. The game is completely compatible with Iron Claw, so character and race types can be swapped between the two games, which is a bonus. Overall, the game has a very fun and relaxed feel, with a definite push toward fun, entertaining play while still having a lot of room for in-depth story and adventure. 4 out of 5.
Desired Content: The core rulebook for Jadeclaw certainly lacks for nothing as far as rules and systems go, and gives a great number of options on races, occupations, gifts and flaws, and the obvious and expected martial arts section. It lacks a bit in the story department, running a little low on background and culture by comparison to the rules-heavy majority of the book, but this is not an absolute failing of the game and can be easily counteracted in future supplements (which this Monkey hopes are waiting for him just around the corner). Overall, the game plays out very well, creating an inviting theme and a concept which is vastly underrepresented in roleplaying games, as well as a fairly simple and solid system that is neither intimidating nor difficult to learn. 4 out of 5.
|Jadeclaw is, in the end, a fun and unique theme with a simple rules set and a lot of potential. Anthropomorphic RPG material is slim, and Sanguine does an excellent job of covering a lot of bases in the field, giving players many options for play and making each race unique and interesting. We monkeys even got our own share of the spotlight, and this simian warlord gratefully tips his hat for that nod toward the superiority of monkeys and their natural playability within the theme.|
The Good: Great artwork, interesting and unique concept, simple gameplay
The Bad: Not enough story, haphazard layout
The Overall Ugly: Anthropomorphic RP made easy and enjoyable. Furry fans should definitely grab a copy.
What it's Worth: Market