Overclocking Your Overlight

A Look At The Supplemental Supplies

Mar 18, 2020
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If you’ve read my past articles or follow me on Twitter, it should be no surprise that I profess my love for Overlight at least once a fortnight. This narrative driven, rules light system based in a fantastic, kaleidoscopic world that lets my imagination run wild is something I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to play. With that in mind, it was only a matter of time until I worked my way through all the supplemental materials available for GMs.

As someone who was put off by all the additional materials to sift through in Dungeons & Dragons, a system I also love but find filled to bursting with charts, stats, and numbers, I found it refreshing that I couldn’t get enough of Overlight’s lore, actively seeking out every little scrap of writing that would enrich the world I’d come to run for my eager group of players. As a GM new to Overlight, you might also be wondering about these materials. Are they really worth the money, and what do you get within them? Fear not! I’m here to help!

Ahead you’ll find several mini reviews of the extra materials available for Overlight at the time of this article:

  • The Skyborn Order and Its Enemies, a lore supplement
  • The Overlight GM screen, packaged with the aforementioned lore book
  • The Ivory Mausoleum, a standalone adventure module

If you have a particular product you are especially interested in, feel free to hop down to the header you need. In the interest of disclosure, please note that I purchased the first two for myself, while the third was graciously supplied by Renegade.

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Each book is about $15, as is the GM screen. So the first two packaged together are $30 while the standalone module is $15 by itself. Worth the price? Read on to find out.

The Skyborn Order And Its Enemies

The Skyborn Order is the game’s gift to new GMs seeking a hook to tie a group of Skyborn players both to each other as well as to any number of adventures across the Shards. If we take a step back a moment to consider the form it takes in the core book, we get a basic description, a mission statement that’s left fairly open in its particulars, and a roaming headquarters that’s reminiscent of the Black Fortress from the movie Krull. The open shape you choose to let the Order take is by design. It can be anything you need it to be. But what if you’d like a little help?

Enter The Skyborn Order and Its Enemies, what I consider to be an invaluable asset for any GM. What I expected was a more structured look at the Order, information about ranks, initiation, perhaps more details about their non-mobile bases across the shards. What I found was all of that plus so much more! I hadn’t even stopped to consider the idea of different conclaves of Skyborn orders, differing philosophies of Skyborn each looking to understand themselves, their Chroma, and affect positive changes throughout the world. What you get with The Skyborn Order and Its Enemies is details on not just one conclave but five!

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Not all Orders are military in nature. Several deal with the more spiritual sides of Skyborn, or even the defense of The Arts.

The Ring of Light is what most Folk think of when they think of the Order, acting as something of a peacekeeping and mediation force across the Shards and being the largest of the five. The Circle of Clear Ink is dedicated to the protection of the arts in all their forms, and it’s open to non-Skyborn as well. The Lodge of Vision looks deeply inwards as mystics and seers. The Scarlet Hand is the smallest of the conclaves, devotees of the Might Chroma and based at the heart of Pyre. And the Disciples of the White Sands believe the Novapendra are paragons of enlightenment, following in pilgrimages to their inhospitable Shard. The book gives you no small amount of detail for all of these conclaves. Whether you then use them as NPCs or make them available to your players, and considering the Skyborn players are the center of your narrative, this is a supplement that greatly enhances the depth of your world. I’ve already had my players encounter the followers of a couple different conclaves, new to Chroma and seeking to understand themselves and their adversaries better by engaging with these much more knowledgeable Folk. The subsequent roleplay and character development more than justify the cost of this supplement.

The “and its enemies” part of the title lives up to its promise as well. You may have encountered the Unlighters before, in the pre-built module included in the core book, but the rabbit hole goes much deeper. Do they have hidden masters? How far into society do their tendrils grasp? Do sects have secret, united goals, or do they operate independently of each other? And could they perhaps exist on more than one Shard? In addition to this gang of Skyborn haters, you get a look at what happens when Skyborn go bad; the other enemies listed show you a glimpse of what happens both when Skyborn fancy themselves as gods as well as what can befall them if they deny the pull of their Skyborn destiny. Finally, you get a notable NPC for use on each Shard, further adding to your options as a GM. All of these options, even if you don’t directly use them in your game, enhance the overall world and your understanding of its workings, allowing you to enrich everyone’s experience nonetheless.

As supplements go, I find this book an absolute must-have, but considering it’s also paired with the GM screen, effectively “doubling” the price, is it worth the overall investment? Time to move on to the next piece of this review.

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"...And its enemies." There's great material regarding what happens when good Skyborn go bad.

The Overlight GM Screen

Nothing functionally accessorizes your TTRPG like beautiful artwork spread out over a shield that acts both as a game reference and a screen to obscure your game master machinations. A place to roll your dice in secret, a safe space to spread out your plot notes, a screen to post up sticky notes for important NPCs or monsters, or maybe just some lovely visuals by the talented Kwanchai Moriya that face outwards to your players, helping everyone get in the mood for the game that much more! Overlight’s GM screen is the same foldable, sturdy construction you’d expect from any such accessory. For the screen’s basic functional purpose, as well as looking amazing, it’s a total win.

However, I have a few issues with the side housing the GM references. The four panels facing inwards, in my opinion, somewhat waste their space. I’ll explain. Of the information presented, I find that only half of it is something I use regularly. One panel presents a list of the skills, a very useful feature for a system that encourages players to negotiate the use of their abilities in fluid situations. I find it very helpful to have a basic description of the skills for when I need to suggest a default as well as to see how far I can extend them to unique situations. Likewise, the reference charts are useful for a newer GM to the system, ensuring questions about die roll resolution can be answers quickly without digging in the book, something that isn't ideal for reference. In both cases it’s nice not to have to go hunting in the core book.

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The back of the GM screen. It would've been nice to see other material, such as the levelup cost or hazard roll chart. Instead, basic Virtue info takes up two panels.

The other two panels of the screen are dedicated to explanations of the core virtues and Shards. While I appreciate that understanding of these core aspects is central to running a game, I feel that this information, basic still as it is, would be better left in the book. It’s the kind of thing that becomes second nature after a while, the kind of thing you only go to look up in rare circumstances or when prepping before running your session. As such, I find that months later running Overlight I never look at them anymore. I’ve committed them to memory, and additionally there’s so much overlap between the two lore-wise that I’m left with the impression that these panels were tossed in perhaps simply to fill space.

What would have been nice to see on the other panels, and something I find myself constantly flipping back into the book for, are the few references and rules in Overlight’s systems. Specifically, the combat maneuvers and the damage chart for environmental hazards. Much like the skills, combat maneuvers are a thing my players often ask for help with, and knowing their limitations and uses at a quick glance would have been nice. Similarly, in a setting where the environment itself can be an adversary, and given that the formatting of the core book isn’t the friendliest thing for quick reference, getting lost looking for the hazard damage chart is never fun. While I appreciate I could add extra bookmarks or tabs to my copy of the hardcover book, it would have been nice to see more of this material on the GM screen for quick reference. Especially since the system is so rules light already, it would’ve left the book mainly as a mid-game Chroma power reference.

Even so, these criticisms of the GM screen don’t put it down for the count, and I still recommend it for its main purpose: acting as a screen for the GM. And considering it comes packaged with The Skyborn Order and Its Enemies, I think you still get a great value out of this purchase. Together the set sells for $30, which when you consider each piece carries a $15 price tag seems perfectly reasonable. All in all, this one still gets two thumbs up from me. Just be ready to put a few extra markers for easier reference in your core book.

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There is some phenomenal character art in The Ivory Mausoluem to help bring the figures within to life.

The Ivory Mausoleum

Last up we have Overlight’s new standalone adventure module. If I’ve had one driving concern as Renegade puts out more materials for my favorite TTRPG, it’s in regards to accessibility. The core book, as I’ve stated before, isn’t exactly formatted in the best ways to draw people into it. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but to get the most out of it you really need to read cover to cover. That’s a big ask for a new GM trying to both come to terms with an unfamiliar system as well as shepherd in new players. As such, one of my biggest concerns with any new stuff put out for this system has been if it’s capable of acting as a bridge for newer players.

The good news here is that I believe The Ivory Mausoleum is such a supplement! If you’ve used the free module included in the core book, you’ll find a similar setup with this additional adventure. There are notes for rolls made against the wilderness as the group travels the wilds of Pyre, of what success brings on various courses of action within the combat and non-combat sections of the story, and there’s a narrative of a few pages for the GM to read at the outset to help them understand the history, motivations, and attitudes of the antagonists. It’s also nice that this module makes special accommodations if you’re coming directly from the adventure included in the core book, linking into NPCs and plot the players have already encountered. Additionally, given the open nature of the players taking several different courses of action through the story, the module does a good job of trying to anticipate all the major options and giving you points to consider regarding any particular course the group decides on. I’m intentionally trying not to spoil any plot points for prospective players here, but The Ivory Mausoleum also provides plot advancements that a GM can use in future sessions, opening up the possibility for recurring characters, new creatures, new questions, and changes to inter-Shard politics.

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More awesome character art from The Ivory Mausoleum.

Whether you purchase The Ivory Mausoleum as a module you intend to run as a standalone,an adventure to be slotted into your existing campaign, as another premade story to ease into the system with, or as a lore supplement to better your overall understanding of the world, it’s a solid addition to your RPG bookshelf. It sheds light on some subjects you might already have read into from the core book, such as how airship engines work, the possible nature of a certain unique creature on Pyre, and even a little of what Pyroi politics look like. I wouldn’t say it’s as essential as the materials in The Skyborn Order, but if you’re like me, a lover of lore, let’s face it: you’ll want a copy of The Ivory Mausoleum. At $15 it’s a very reasonable purchase considering it’s the gift that keeps on giving, acting as a lore supplement long after the one-shot module has run its course.

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If lore is the key driver behind this world, shouldn't we welcome things that expand it?

More Than The Sum Of Their Parts

If my time with all these additional Overlight materials has left me with anything, it’s an overall sense of how to run my world better, both via lore and mechanics. The Skyborn Order and Its Enemies showed me how to expand the world of the Skyborn, helping my players better understand their characters, their powers, and the world. The Ivory Mausoleum not only enhanced my understanding of lore points surrounding Pyre but also gave me mechanical suggestions for how to better control named adversaries and large army level fights involving dozens of NPCs. It also familiarized me with better ways to have NPCs use Chroma of their own, even given the pared down stat system that adversaries use. In simply reading these supplements, some of which I’ve come to use in my own game and some of which I read for review and simple enjoyment, I feel that I’ve come to run a much smoother, more rich world for my players. And I’ve not run a game yet without my GM screen, despite any misgivings I have about the printed references on its inner side.

Overlight is, by the core book’s own admission, a game about personal discovery as much as it is about adventure. Characters come to terms not only with their backstories and the main plot points they’re struggling against but also what it means to be Skyborn, what it means to wield Chroma in this broken world. The supplements available all let you dig deeper in this regard, and for that I thank Renegade for publishing them. These early materials show that Overlight has a bright future of releases and support ahead of it, and I eagerly await what comes next! In the meantime, if you can’t find these supplements at your local game shop, you can order them online directly from Renegade’s webstore. If you have a group that’s as in to Overlight with you as mine is with me, do yourself a favor and go grab whatever you have the funds to purchase. You’ll be very glad you did!

Adam Factor