Jackals (2021)

Jackals (2021) is Osprey’s most ambitious RPG to date, the first to launch with an accompanying campaign. An additional sourcebook has also surfaced.

Back in 1982, Chaosium published QuestWorld, as a sort of open world for RuneQuest (as opposed to the closed, Stafford-approved Glorantha), where players would essentially come up with their own RQ variants. The box set was an interesting, but failed, experiment. Jackals strikes me as the sort of thing I bet Chaosium hoped would emerge from the scheme.

It is powered by OpenQuest, a tweaked retroclone of RuneQuest. Jackals tweaks it some more, but at heart, if you’re familiar with the BRP style d100 skill games, you’ll ken this system fast.

Like RuneQuest, the game world is extremely important. Characters get the choice of one of four cultures (modeled loosely on the real world Bronze Age cultures of Greece, Egypt, Israel and the Arabian desert), each of which determines the bulk of their baseline attributes. As the titular Jackals, they wander the world, beloved by communities beset by the taint of Chaos, manifest as a variety of beast-people who kill and destroy indiscriminately, a sort of embodied anti-civilization. When no such problem exists, though, most folks don’t want Jackals around.

The world they wander is a rich one. I love Glorantha for its strangeness, but the War Road feels familiar (thanks to its dim relation to our Middle East). That gives the setting a kind of excitement akin to knowing the song on the radio, even if it is a cover. The mysteries are intriguing, the art lovely and the maps! My goodness, these are some of the best dungeon maps I have seen in years! A handful of scenarios round things out and pave the way for the grand, world-changing campaign, The Fall of the Children of Bronze.

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