Willard Bowzer realized that he missed our free download of The New Ice Age some time back, so he poked around and discovered we were now offering Orc Rising, and decided to take a look at that.  Here is what he found.
Willard Bowzer's Review of Orc Rising
The reviewer's words... Thoughts of the author...
Style: 3 (Average) I guess that's because we didn't include pictures.
Substance: 4 (Meaty) Four out of five for a free gift is pretty good, too.
A small outline of a Multiverser scenario which does the system some justice in the same way a good movie trailer does a good movie justice. While Multiverser World books hit balls out of the park, their downloadable worlds get on base each time...and this one is no different (note to UK readers: sorry about the baseball reference, if I knew enough about cricket I'd make a cricket reference also:) That's an encouraging start.
Genre tags: Fantasy It is indeed fantasy, with many of the trappings of fantasy--but it's not about the magic.
A while back I reviewed the rulebooks for Multiverser. Since then, I have kept a pretty regular ongoing game session going at about twice a month. In the time that has passed since then, things got quiet on their end and I almost thought they had moved onto other things. A few weeks ago I got my copy of their brand new book, The Second Book of Worlds. I realized they had been working on something worthwhile (review had been posted previously by me) all along. So my interest in finding out what else is in the works piqued. At one point, their site was offering a free download of a world, "The New Ice Age". The world became more fleshed out and was placed in the 2nd Book of Worlds. I figured since that had been the case, they'd be offering a new free download on their site since the 2nd Book of Worlds was now available for purchase. Thankfully, I was correct, their newest offering is called "Orc Rising". You can read his excellent review of The Second Book of Worlds on our site also, as well as his review of The Referee's Rules.
The basis for Orc Rising is it is somewhat of a post-fantasy setting, in that it's a world in which elves, dwarfs, and orcs live, but magic is fading in favor of an early technology. It's something of a fable. It pretends to be about elves and dwarfs while if you read between the lines you'll see it's really about slavery and colonialism. The "good" elves, dwarfs, and men (and they are "good", really) really believe that they are doing a good thing for the orcs, by "civilizing" them through settling their lands and enslaving them. There's a feeling in which the life of an orc slave is much better than that of an orc tribesman--except that it isn't free. And there's a religious undercurrent...the orcs are being driven toward the evil gods by the actions of the good peoples. That really is an excellent summation of the world; it's a place of moral dilemma.
The situation is made more even interesting by the moral ambiguity. The orcs can't be said to be good, but they aren't the irredeemably evil monsters they might be in other games. On the other hand, the setting doesn't merely invert the world, making the other races besides the orcs evil. That would be too simple. These orcs may have eaten the occasional man and/or stolen his livestock, but they are people too, trying to survive as best as they can. And they have legitimate complaints as the other races are going around destroying their hunting grounds and enslaving their brothers. Meanwhile, the free peoples are acting from mixed motives, perceiving themselves as benefactors of the orcs they enslave and not considering that their "civilizing" of the lands might be as much a crime against the orcs as anything the orcs have done to them. The plot thickens.  I think a lot of people today have this idea that slavery is some evil concept, but this world may bring out that the issues are not so clear when one is in the midst of it all.
Of course, the player character is expected to be a Verser, someone who comes into this world from outside it. This invites the player to bring his own moral perspective to the situation. Maybe he will attempt to convince the slavers that slavery is wrong or perhaps he will side with the orcs against men. Or he might join the slavers, deciding that if the orcs are not human they don't have human rights. Valdron Inc. has on several occasions challenged players to make moral and ethical judgments in their previous offerings, and this world may help put a fresh perspective on our own history of slavery and conquest. The elves, dwarfs, and men of this world make the enslavement of orcs seem so reasonable it's easy to be lulled into agreeing with them. And therein lies the rub.  Will you be the one voice standing against the status quo when the status quo is wrong?
Valdron has shown a knack for providing as much information as the game master needs. They even show in these free worlds (which they openly state are posted for comment) they are close to the mark. I, personally, would have liked being provided with more information about the orc culture, and perhaps on some of the free peoples as well. The size of each group's territory is poorly defined. But Valdron trusts that referees have the ability to run with a world and let it develop in their own hands, and what is presented here is sufficient. It is enough to give you the feel for each culture and the seeds for adventure, yet at only 8 pages long could easily be prepared five minutes before a game session--perfect for that last minute crunch when you realize you're supposed to run the game and don't know what you're going to do. It balances the potential for the action of hack-and-slash campaigns against a depth of meaning second to none, and receives high marks both ways. We ask that people write to us with comments on our free worlds; thus far the comments on this one have been positive.  But we'll be sure to give some thought to how to expand the cultural background of our races--and to entertain any suggestions along those lines.
For whatever reason Valdron Inc. makes the download available (whether they are there to give a flavor of their worlds, their system, or as a bonus to people already running their system) they have succeeded in my opinion. If their simplistic downloads are worthwhile in my eyes, it is no wonder I am so fond of their fleshed out world books. I'll look forward to many more downloads to come, and hopefully, a fleshed out Orc Rising in their next book of worlds. It is definitely slated for that volume, along with several other worlds that have been mentioned here and there--but since very little is written in stone yet, I shouldn't say more about it.

It sounds like an endorsement of the world; get it while it's still available, and let us know what you think of it--and while you're at it, check out Multiverser, the game for which it was designed.

The original review was posted on RPG.net, and forwarded to us.  He previously reviewed The Referee's Rules and The Second Book of Worlds, which he enjoyed even more.

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