Coriolis – The Third Horizon is a science-fiction RPG from the Swedish publisher Fria Ligan or Free League. Coriolis brings together the atmosphere of the Arabian fables One Thousand and One Night and space-operas, like Star Wars. Coriolis uses the same game system as Mutant Year Zero RPG.
Coriolis – The Third Horizon is yet another great RPG from Sweden, published by the Fria Ligan (e. Free League), who also publishes Tales from the Loop and Mutant Year Zero. Fria Ligan has, just as many Swedish publishers, used Kickstarter with a huge success and recently their latest game, Forbidden Lands, was funded and reached all stretch goals.
Coriolis – The Third Horizon is a game of discovery, intrigue and old secrets. You take on the role of an interstellar traveller, and travel between some of the +30 systems that make up the Third Horizon. You will be set in a world where technology and the spiritual clash. The game designers describe this game as Arabian Nights in space. If you like games like Star Wars – Edge of the Empire or the D&D setting Al-Qadim, you’ll probably like Coriolis – The Third Horizon.
Coriolis uses the same game system as Mutant Year Zero, which is a dice pool system using D6. Attributes and skills lie in the 1-5 range; when you test, you add them together and roll that number of D6. Sixes are successes, more sixes allow you to use bonus effects. Gear and equipment can also add dice to the dice pool, so you have a good chance of success. If you’re in really dire straits, you can also call on the Icons to help you, and re-roll all failed dice. This comes at a cost, because the game master earns a Darkness point which she can use to make life harder for your character.
The skill system is relatively easy to grasp, if you have ever played a dice pool system (e.g. World of Darkness, FFG Star Wars RPG, Degenesis The Rebirth etc.) before, this system comes natural. Combat is also fluent and fun. Every character has a number of Action Points and actions costs points, as long as you get a good grasp on the difference between fast, normal and slow action you’re good to go. Space combat is a bit more complicated, but once you get the hang of it, space combat can be really fun and interesting.
The Dark between the Stars
Zenith heralded the dawn of a new era – and the Horizon blossomed once again. Three dozen star systems, linked by fate and the Will of the Icons, wandered together towards a brighter future. But as the Emissaries arrived, the happy days drew to a close, and the Dark between the Stars slowly came creeping back.
The Third Horizon is a network of star systems, which is connected via ancient portal fields. The people of the Horizon uses interstellar space travel for commerce, cultural exchange and to explore.
After years of war there’s is finally a fragile peace in the Horizon. The arrival of the enigmatic and mysterious Emissaries has done nothing to cement that peace, on the contrary the Horizon is in turmoil and conflict is almost unavoidable. At the same time Mystic’s disease or the Blight, which can both twist the diseased’s mind just as gift it with mystical powers, spreads. And worst of all, the Dark between the Stars stirs, prophets and astronics see terrible omens in the night sky.
The Horizon is governed by many different political factions, who constantly try to hoard more influence and fight for power. Each of these has a different agenda and in many ways one can’t but think of the factions in Sigil, of the Planescape D&D setting. There are both major and minor players on this political playing field and this part of Coriolis is an endless supply of story hooks for game masters.
The Icons, which are a sort of divine deities, play a huge role in everyday life in the Third Horizon, since almost all believe in their power. There are nine Icons and each of these incur special talents to characters.
You create more than your character
In Coriolis character creation is a group process. You start with creating a group and decide upon the group concept. Once you’ve decided on concept you choose a character concept within that group concept. This means that session 0 is almost mandatory, and I really like that. The system assumes that every character has a special role within a group, so there are really no secondary roles to speak of.
Part of creating your group is to create or pick a spaceship. Since flying from one star system to another is a huge part of the game you want to make sure that your space ship fits your group’s concept, e.g. a mercenary group would probably own a heavily armed spaceship while free traders would probably own a freighter.
You also need to agree upon a group talent, your group’s debt (because your spaceship isn’t entirely yours) a patron and, of course, a nemesis. Each of these come into play and can have quite the impact on a narrative. Safe for the group talent however, these have little systematic effect and are mostly story tools.
Once the group is ready, you create your character based on the character concept you chose within the group concept. There are three sub-concepts within each character concept, you get a number of attribute and skill points (each point added to an attribute or skill adds one die to your dice pool) based on your background. Then you add talents to your character and calculate Mind and Hit Points.
When your character is ready, you’re set to go to explore the many star systems and planets of the Third Horizon.
Look and feel of Coriolis
Coriolis – The Third Horizon rule book is over 380 pages long and has so many beautiful images, making it easy to get into the right mood for the game. The layout is also great and the text is easy to read. The rule book comes with three scenarios that are easy to use.
Coriolis – The Third Horizon certainly is Arabian Nights in Space and so much more. This is a game of discovery, political intrigue and cultural differences. The system is easy to learn, accessible and fast-flowing. The only thing I miss from it, is the co-operative nature of Tales from the Loop.
If your players like space operas, science fiction and middle-eastern influences, this is the right game for them. If your players are fans of Star Wars or Star Trek, liked Fading Suns RPG, then you should take a look at this game. If your players are more into strategic battles and prefer swords over blasters, Coriolis is probably not down their alley.