The Wheel of Time is easily my favorite book series. The world is rich and alive. It is constantly moving and growing as events unfold around it, rather than being a still frame backdrop that the characters run around in. When I heard that there was a tabletop game based off of this amazing world, I immediately bought it (luckily I got a really good deal for it on Amazon) and started learning everything I could about the game. A lot of the themes and world I already knew from reading the series, and anything that was unfamiliar to me could be researched using the compendium that I have for the series. The game, while easily a 10/10 in my mind, I do have to admit that it does have a couple of glaring issues mixed in with the huge successes it brings to the table.
The Best: The World
So it can be a little off-putting to jump into a world that is already made for you. Star Wars games can get away with it somewhat because you have the whole galaxy at your disposal to be creative with. Wheel of Time is pretty much confined to one Continent. However, what many may not know is just how rich and interesting that continent is. There is history spanning thousands of years just waiting to be explored by the players, and in those times a GM has total creative freedom over everything except the major events of the time. The canon is what you make it. But even if you want to play Vanilla (or in the time the game is intended to be played), all of the countries are fleshed out to each individual person. The societal structure, sigils of rank, accent, customs, skin color, power balances and more are at your fingertips for character and NPC creation. The world is alive and waiting to interact with the player, which is exactly what every good game needs. There is also already that looming threat of evil existing in the world, providing tension and plot advancement where needed. All in all the world already provides a lot of the ambiance and tools needed for the GM to create a great game!
The Worst: Variety of enemies
What the Wheel of Time provides in NPC and cultural variety it lacks in variety of enemies. From a storytelling perspective it makes sense to have a long term and recurring type of enemy, but it does have a rough edge when it comes to keeping your players guessing. Basically there are three types of enemies you can face in the Wheel of Time game. Humans, monstrosities, and beasts. There is a little variety within those three categories, but a lot of weight falls onto the GM to have an interesting set up to keep the story fresh. Unlike in some other games, there isn’t a luxury of built in surprise with some creatures that a game can rely on. In a Star Wars game, a Rancor will almost always succeed in making the players reel a little bit. In DnD, a dragon or beholder will always put the party on edge. In order to achieve these same feelings of dread and tension with WoT, there needs to be a lot more work put into the ambiance and suprise around the situation. The silver lining here is that the lack of variety in enemies forces a new depth of story telling, but it is very daunting for new GMs to try out.
For anyone that is looking to get into this game, I would most definitely suggest reading the books first. While it will take you a little bit of time, after all there are fourteen books, it will give you a deeper understanding of the world and how each culture operates. If you don’t want to commit that much time into learning about this universe, at least pick up a copy of the compendium for an all in one resource for characters, creatures, and locations. As always, there are also a ton of online resources for you to find and use that get more into the deeper history of the world. Chief among these will be dragonmount, which is an absolutely massive collection of information and commentary on the series as a whole.
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