In the interest of full disclosure, this review is based on a review copy of the .pdf provided by the publisher.
Triune is a sci-fi RPG from small press publisher Happy Bishop Games. The game is set in the far future, after humanity has accidentally opened a hole to dimensions claiming to be Heaven and Hell. After getting dragged into Heaven and Hell’s war, humanity declares all religion illegal and sets up Enforcers to keep the anti-church laws enforced and to keep the angels and devils out of humanity’s business (and universe).
As you can probably guess from the above there’s a big disclaimer in the book regarding religion. It’s probably necessary, considering the PCs play Enforcers for the Economic Hegemony of Authorities, or the Hegeomony for short. Humanity has discovered marvelous things; instant and efficient travel to far away stars, the ability to trick the fabric of the universe into creating nearly anything they want with but a thought, the fact that prayers have very real power and the fact that we are seemingly alone in this universe. That’s right, in the Triune universe, there are no aliens in this universe. Furthermore, death is of little threat as your memories and personality are constantly being backed up in the Weave, an internet-like system that is omnipresent (and is also what allows you to manufacture items with a mere thought). If you die, the Weave creates a new body for you and downloads your personality and memories. You can even change around your Body and Mind attributes when you are recorporated!
The book is laid out rather plainly, without a lot of artwork and clean fonts. It seems to have taken a minimalistic approach to design, which works rather well, I think. The artwork, however, is not my favorite in the world especially the pics of the denizens of Hell on page 30. The artwork can of course be ignored as you’re here to roll some dice not look at pretty pictures, right?
The system used for the game is called the Effort System and is pretty simple. Each character rolls a Tell Die, which is a 1d10 and compares it to the relevant character attribute. If you roll under the attribute’s level (modified with bonuses and penalties), you succeed. For instance, to jump onto a moving train requires a roll of the Tell die, trying to get beneath your character’s Body attribute. Once you determine whether you succeed or not, you roll Effort Dice. Effort Dice are 1d6 to 3d6 (chosen by the player before rolling the Tell die) to represent how much effort you are willing to put into your success. On these Effort Dice, each 1-3 is a success and each 4-6 is a failure.
So why would you roll less than 3d6 constantly? Well, as you can see the more dice you roll the greater your chance of a better success but also the greater your chance of failing badly so choosing to roll fewer Effort dice means you will likely succeed less spectacularly but if you screw up, you’ll screw up less spectacularly also. It becomes a game of risk management.
Do I like this system? I think the system would work just fine. It seems pretty simple, and it is but can get a bit more complicated when you throw Prayers into the mix. Despite all religion being outlawed and despite you playing a Hegemony Enforcer whose job it is to enforce the anti-church laws, all player characters have 1 Faith level in three different Paths; one for Heaven, one for Hell and one for the Hegenony. This is one thing I don’t like about Triune. While I can see how it can cause conflict and drama for all the PCs to have Faith, it also means that the characters are essentially hypocrites. I would have much rather seen some sort of optional system for characters to have Faith rather than forcing it on everyone or at least an option to only have Faith in the Hegemony Path.
Each Path has different faiths, and you must choose one in each Path for your character. The Heaven Path includes Buddhism, Christianity, Shenism, Hunduism, Islam and Judaism. I would have liked to have also seen Wiccan and other Pagan religions covered here as well. The Hell path includes a faith related to each of the Seven Deadly Sins and the Hegemony Path deals with secular ideals such as Media and the Service Industry. Prayers are activated by rolling under your Spirit trait, which always starts at 12. Each successful prayer costs 1 point of Spirit, each unsuccessful prayer increases your Spirit by 1 point and, since you start with 12 and roll d10s to determine whether you successfully invoke a prayer, you effectively can use three prayers without fear of failure.
The Prayers themselves all modify the system nicely in some ways or provide a clear, simple effect. Your Faith rating in the various Paths and religions can range from -3 to 9, and the higher it is the more powerful prayer you can invoke. If your Faith rating is in the negatives, some sort of penalty is applied to your character. Some Prayers are universal to all Faiths, some are general Path prayers and some are specific to certain religions.
Experience in the system involves gaining Faith Points, which you can use to increase your Faith ratings in the various Paths. Every 3 Faith Points allows you to increase one of your Path ratings by one, giving access to additional and more powerful prayers. Unfortunately, Faith seems to be the only thing you can raise, which I suppose is OK given that you can reallocate your attribute points when your character dies. Still, I think it would have been nice to include a way to gain additional attribute points during the game instead of having everything hinge on the various Faiths (which, I remind you, your character is legally not supposed to have to begin with).
Overall, I like the system and I like the world and I think it will play quite nicely. There are, however, a few things that press some personal buttons for me.
For one, there is no real threat of death. I realize that this is on purpose, it’s just that personally I prefer games where the threat of character death is real even if it’s not common. I don’t go around randomly slaughtering PCs, but I feel that removing the threat of death removes a lot of the risk and drama for the players.
Secondly, the game world seems a little…noncommittal with regards to religion? Are the Angels *really* angels? Are Devils *really* devils? The angels are vague about it, and the devils say it’s all angelic propaganda. So maybe they are? Maybe not? With absolute proof that angels and devils of some sort exist, I would have liked to have seen a committed answer.
Oh, and you may have noticed that I specified in the review title that this is the Gamemaster’s Edition so what’s the difference between the GM’s edition and the Player’s edition? Simply put, the GM’s edition contains the info that the players don’t have access to as well as an adventure to get you started.
Overall, I give the game a 3.5 out of 5. There are a few issues that, on a personal level, keep me from giving it a higher score. The game itself is certainly workable and your group might very well find the game very enjoyable.