Eoris, the new RPG from “Visions of Essence” is a very long time in coming. I first heard about it in 2008 and after interviewing the authors I was anxious to see the product. Due to some production delays, the book finally released at Gen Con 2010. “Eoris” is a massive, two-volume set in a slipcase that does not lend itself to a single post review, so I am splitting up the two books. Today’s post covers just the world book and a subsequent post in the near future covers the rulebook with character generation, combat systems and the other nuts and bolts of an RPG.
Enough explanation, here are my thoughts on the Eoris RPG World Book.
Both books come in a slip cover and use a landscape format, so the spine is 8.5 inches long.
Printing quality is excellent with glossy, color pages throughout the book. This high quality printing is necessary because the art of Eoris is nothing short of amazing.
All the art is of this quality. I could not find a single “sub-standard” piece of art in the entire book, and I looked at every page. This was a time-consuming task because, by my estimate, 80% of the pages have unique art on them. Some are just smaller, corner pieces for “set dressing” on a long text section, but most are full-page works of art. Overstating the artistic quality of Eoris is a difficult task. It is truly that good. The digitally drawn art, clearly influenced by Manga styles, but not so much as to have that obvious “Japanese” bent of traditional anime/manga.
Beyond the art, the world book is a primer on the world of Eoris’ races, cosmology and geography. I will not sugar-coat this; reading Eoris is hard. Brain-bending hard. After the initial author’s introduction to role-playing, the book launches into the universe of Eoris. And it is a very complicated universe with its own rules and terminology. It reminded me a bit of reading “A Clockwork Orange” and deciphering the cryptic Russian street slang or the linguistic permutations of artificial languages in a Tolkien book. Sadly, there is no codex or dictionary in the book for all the terminology. I hope a fan puts together a wiki to make it a bit easier to look up the many, many terms and names. I consider myself reasonably clever and I re-read the first chapter three times to really get the hang of the vocabulary. This is part of the first paragraph of the “Cosmology” section. I chose it as a good example of the style of writing in Eoris.
What follows is a description of how the universe came to be. It speaks of the nature of natures and the essence of essences. It all begins with a question that gives rise to another and another and another and another: Why does this exist? Who or what governs existence? What is the ultimate underlying principle? What is the force that guides our hand? Who has decided the nature of our reality Are our actions our own or are we mere pawns of a greater consciousness?….
That said, in return for a complex, challenging reading experience, Eoris returns a world just as complex and alive. Through divine intervention of the Great Spirit, the planet Eoris springs into being between the universe we know and the edge of oblivion. Races and nations rise and fall through the ages as Eoris itself slowly moves in and out of the edge of existence. These movements, like tides, make parts of the planet uninhabitable and bring chaos to the world. Eoris is vast, with continents the size of planets and illuminated by The White Ring rather than a sun.
Upon Eoris live several species, but the Sil and Xylen are the most notable. Sil are the direct products (offspring?) of the Great Spirit and to my mind are avatars or angels. Sil clearly look the part, complete with fey beauty and wings. They also feel the Great Spirits thoughts and wield tremendous powers. Xylen are mortal creatures, some nearly human, while others are more animal than man. Yet all are intelligent beings with their own goals and aspirations.
Although Eoris has all the trappings of a fantasy world, including magic, this is incorrect. Rather than magic, the authors go to some trouble to make it clear that all the “magic” is actually science advanced to a point where it appears as magic. In fact, there are references to changing the quantum states of atoms and using different levels of consciousness to meet your goals. Since technology is widely available, flying cars, cities and all manner of fascinating items are at your disposal.
For all its beauty and elegance, the world of Eoris has wars, strife and “The Black Howling, ” the end of times. I will not spoil too much of the story, but there is a new race upon the face of Eoris that wants to do harm to the Great Spirit in the name of a good cause and those that oppose the new race. This is the age that players exist within and the conflict brings many opportunities for strife, both physical and spiritual. Religions, secret societies and politics are strive for advantage. Adventuring hooks abound on Eoris!
I cannot condense 200+ pages of images and text into less than 1500 words without losing the essence of Eoris. There is a certain theme to Eoris. No, theme is not the right word. Feel is a better term. The whole book feels very New Age. I hate using that word because it is not specific enough, but it is the only thing I can come up with that covers the various aspects of Eoris. It is an RPG world certainly, but there is also a thread of spirituality, enlightenment and an artist’s sensibility woven into the story. Art that extends beyond the images and into the realm of poetry. There are short poems scattered throughout and some multi-page poems. I am no critic of poetry, but I found them quite good and a nice adjunct to the world.
I enjoyed the Eoris World Book. It is simply the most beautiful game product in my recent memory, both in its art and writing. I highly recommend you get a copy and judge for yourself, but heed this warning; “Eoris” is very much on the fringe of role-playing games. The complexity and spiritual aspects demand commitment and some thought, but I think it is worth the effort.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer