Out of all the booklets I got for FreeRPGDay, Arcanis: the World of Shattered Empires intrigued me the most, probably due to the Ancient Roman style guy and vampire mage on the cover. I wasn't familiar with the setting, as I never really got into the 3rd Edition of D&D, but it was apparently an award-winning setting of the D20/OGL era, and now its publisher is giving it its own system.
The booklet clocks in at 30 pages and includes basic rules suitable for a night of play, four characters, a short adventure, and a blank 2-sided character sheet. The art inside is excellent and I imagine it will probably all appear in the full rulebook when it is released at Origins.
The resolution system seems to me to be an amalgam of mechanics cobbled together from different sources. Arcanis' roots are in the d20 system. The core mechanic of this system is to roll 2d10 (your Action Dice), roll the die associated with whatever attribute is appropriate (from among the following: Might, Prowess, Quickness, Vitality, Charisma, Insight, Logic, and Resolve), add any relevant modifiers and try to beat a target number. All the attributes have both a score (all the pregenerated heroes have scores from 3-7) and a die size (d4, d6, etc).
There is an exploding die mechanic.There are "Fate" points which can be used in a number of ways to bend the rules. Characters have three different defense scores: Avoidance, Discipline, and Fortitude (which might as well have been d20's Reflex, Willpower, and Fortitude, but I digress). Armor has a Rating that soaks up damage.
Characters also have access to weapon tricks and spells, which seem pretty similar to 4E's powers.
There are two different types of damage a character can sustain: Stamina and Wounds. Typically, a character has a high stamina score, and when it is depleted from damage, you fall unconscious. A character can handle only a few Wounds before possibly dying.
It seems to be expected that combat be handled using a 1-inch square mat or Dungeon Tiles and miniatures. It features an interesting Initiative Clock feature for combat. Basically, instead of having set turns and rounds and such, each action you take happens after so many ticks of the "Clock".
Overall, it is definitely interesting, but too many fiddly bits for my liking. And I like 4E D&D!
The included adventure is a fairly straightforward affair designed to introduce the basics of the combat system with a bit of roleplaying thrown in for good measure.
I'm also a bit of a grammar nazi. Poor grammar, syntax, and misspellings stick out like sore thumbs to me. There aren't a whole lot of those types of errors in the booklet, but there were enough to make me take notice. It seems as if it may have needed another edit.
I know this hasn't been the most glowing review I've done, but it's my two cents. If you were a fan of the Arcanis setting in the good ole days of the D20/OGL, and are interested in getting the upcoming game, it's definitely worth a read-through! I will select one winner at random from among all the comments left below.