This book is an absolute brick. More than 550 pages. The same was true of the core book, but that felt more natural. Core books are supposed to cover every topic in the game. A campaign, on the other hand, seems like it should be a bit more compact. As of this morning, I was 300 pages into the book and I only just now finished reading all the preconstructed characters.
As much as I love this book, I have to admit it's a weakness. After 300 pages, you really get to know the Glass Maker's Dragon cast - their history, their inner life, their relationships - and they're all great, both individually and as an ensemble. But who's going to read 300 pages?
Well, me, obviously. And a lot of other fans. Which I'm sure is part of what contributes to a sense I've gotten around the internet that Chuubo's is perceived as too lore-heavy, and the fanbase too insular, for the game to really be accessible to newbies.
On the other hand, if you can find some way to communicate the basic concept of the characters well enough to let your players pick one, then that cuts down the reading significantly. Twenty to thirty pages and you've got everything you need to know to play a character, including variants, options, and generalized roleplaying advice.
The question, then, is "are the characters good enough to warrant even that much work?" And that's tricky. Of course the characters are good. Jenna Moran is one of the best writers in the rpg business today. If you pick up Glass Maker's Dragon (and judiciously skip over the drier mechanical bits) you will be entertained by these first two chapters.
However, I worry that maybe the characters are too good. Too distinct. There's a sense there that they've already been written. That you're not so much playing the preconstructs as trying to guess how they'd react to the game's situations. It's a weird feeling, like writing fanfiction to a story that's never been published.
Personally, I kind of like it, especially since I know that the characters tend to get reused and remixed in other CMWGE products, making them a cast of stock characters, a sort of anime-inspired commedia dell' arte. I wish it was an approach more games took with their signature characters.
But I can also understand how some might find it alienating.
Overall, I'm having a pretty good time with Glass Maker's Dragon so far. The real test is going to come in the last half of the book, though. I could never quite pin down how it's supposed to work as a campaign.
But that's a discussion for my next post.