All right, so it was not a couple of days. But anyhow.
I’ve been playing Artesia – Adventures in the Known World. Except that we did not adventure in the Known World, we adventured in our own world constructed with Dawn of Worlds worldbuilding game. The system is generally quite… bad. After suffering a critical hit in his groin, my character apparently lost a substantial amount of body mass permanently (Strength went down). After finding True Love amongst themselves, two of our party’s characters are now flame resistant, and are experts at everything (+5 to all die rolls, 5 damage resistance). 30 is the difficulty class for a Near Impossible task, and I can usually hit it when I play my flute.
Still, there are two things I like about the system. One is the Arcana system. Every character chooses three Arcana paths at the beginning of every session. These paths contain tasks, which give the player experience when fulfilled. For example, the arcana of Sword is about self-improvement and facing challenges. When you enter a contest of skills, you gain experience. When you win one, you gain experience. When you improve yourself, you gain experience. The Arcana of Sphinx is about deceit and treachery. Making a deal, breaking a promise, using guile to get someone to do something and performing an act of treason give Sphinx experience. Each Arcana Path also contain things you can level up with the points.
I would have wanted a system like this back when I ran Ilea. I wanted a game where the players would freely explore and do things without the constraints of a linear story. The Arcana system enables this activity perfectly. People wanted to gain experience, so they did the tasks set by their Arcana. Some of these (treason, for example) caused major events in the world, which could easily kick off into an adventure. I think I will use this experience system when I want a game where the players are free to do what they want.
The second thing I kind of liked was the Binding system. There are all kinds of Bindings in Artesia, which are emotional and mental problems. Madness, Dread, Grief and Love are all Bindings, and they all have mechanical effects, usually penalties. Personally I feel that the Binding system makes PC and NPC relationships a lot more tactile and thus easier to play. When my character’s life was saved by another PC, I took several levels of Love binding towards that PC. Later on she destroyed an ancient and beautiful statue to get her hands on a powerful magic spear, my character realized that she was, well, a cunt. I changed a Promise Binding I had to Guilt and the aforementioned Love to Grief. Taking a pen and an eraser and physically changing my character sheet gives these decisions the same weight as taking damage in a combat, and that is pretty cool.
So these were two things I enjoyed about Artesia, but as stated, the rest did not fit in our GM’s vision of the world. Now that I think about it, Artesia is not bad. It just has a wildly different world than any other fantasy game. A world where being a demigod is quite easy (I have taken three levels of Ascension), where mortality is a relative (Death Arcana Path’s final task is “Die”. It can be scored multiple times in a campaign) and everything works on strange principles. (My character began with 2 Appearance and Presence. A tree has both in 5) It requires a wholly different mindset to work, and I don’t think you should use the system for anything else.