Carts full of corpses slide through the muddy streets of a deserted city. Monks copy manuscripts silently in their cold monastery rooms. A hammer falls again and again on glowing red metal in a blacksmith shop. Fragrant flowers perfume private courtyard gardens. Grim and silent soldiers march the dusty roads in search of enemies, both infidel or faithful. This is the world of the Middle Ages, which our ancestors knew, and which shaped our present.
But beyond this human world, in the most shadowy depths of the woods, in the loneliest cave, in the most obscure cell, in the dimmest chambers of the human heart, legends live. Here, demons haunt castles, elves skulk in the forest, alchemists concoct spells, and witches laugh and laugh around their campfire in a forest clearing bathed in moonlight, as the demon sitting among them raises his goatish head and grins, directly at you, dear reader, saying, "Welcome to the aquelarre; welcome to the coven."
A Classic Roleplaying Game
Almost 25 years since it was first released in Spain, Aquelarre ("Coven") finally receives an English translation. Originally from Spanish publisher Nosolorol, this English edition is a gorgeous 570-page, full-color, complete roleplaying game.
Game and Setting
Aquelarre offers everything you expect to find in a fantasy RPG: character creation, game system and magic system. It also includes detailed information about the medieval Iberian setting, the cosmology of angels and demons, and a bestiary.
It is gloriously illustrated throughout. Examples of the brilliant artwork by Jaime Garcia Mendoza illustrate this page.
Player characters in Aquelarre begin life in one of five kingdoms that dominated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages—Castilla, Aragón, Granada, Navarra, or Portugal. Based on their region, characters may be of various cultures—Arabian, Basque, Castilian, Catalan, Jewish, Muslim, and many more. Social position (from nobility to slave) and father’s occupation affect their capabilities, including profession. Of course, personal characteristics play their part, too. One such is the Rationality/Irrationality rating, which determines how attuned a character is with the Irrational world, how capable with magic, and how susceptible to it. Rituals of faith depend upon a high Rationality instead. Advantages and Disadvantages help to round characters out.
The game system itself relies mainly on percentile rolls against either characteristic ratings or skills based on those (and on character experience). As might be expected from a game that has thrived for several decades now, rules for combat, weapons, and healing are all nicely detailed, with options to suit a variety of playing styles.
The book also includes considerable detail about medieval life in Iberia, from daily business to social mores to fairy tales, besides the expected focus on angels and demons.
Like making a deal with a devil, Aquelarre is not for the faint of heart. It's not an introductory RPG for younger players. The realistic historical setting is dark. Some of the artwork is disturbing. Nosolorol describes this new edition of the game as "more medieval and more demonic than ever" and they are correct on both counts.