Review: Storm Weavers

Storm Weavers is a solo TTRPG adventure game, and the long-term creation of Paweł Dziemski. After an extremely successful online crowdfunding campaign at Wspieram.to last July for the original Polish version, Paweł decided he would like to offer the game to a wider audience, so he started preparing for battle – er, I mean – preparing for a Kickstarter campaign! – which will offer the game as a translated version in English this time.

Here at The Offline Gamer, we have been lucky enough to gain access to an advanced copy of the English version pre-launch (expected April 2021), and what follows are our first impressions…

The adventure centres around a lone protagonist: Thymin, a dwarven war veteran who sets out to rescue his friend, which of course means he and his trusty axe must battle a myriad of hostile foes as he journeys ever onwards.

Your adventure begins with the heavy scent of war in the air: Thymin and his comrades are fighting in an ongoing conflict against the royal army, and the next battle is imminent. As the war marches on, you witness an event that requires you to decide which of several options will determine the direction of your first steps on this adventure. Not every choice in every scenario is fixed or leads to the same outcome, and some decisions you make during the game may have bigger consequences later, so it pays to consider your options carefully. After making this initial choice, our dwarven warrior soon finds himself face-to-face with his first enemy encounter since we joined his story: enter the first combat map, one of nine unique locations available at relevant points throughout the game.

The outcomes of combat are determined by rolling two d6 once per turn to determine both the attack and damage values of your dwarf and his enemy(s), with one d6 assigned to the player, whilst the other affects the stats of Thymin’s enemy(s). It did not take us long to get into the rhythm of rolling the dice and working out how the results would affect our current predicament; there isn’t a lot of complicated maths involved. However, it might be handy to keep a pencil and paper nearby, as occasionally the odd extra condition may be applied to a particular scenario that will influence your combat outcomes, so you may find it useful to note this down to remind yourself. Your character stats are few enough in number that all different elements easily fit onto the accompanying character card, used for tracking their points, but there is enough variety between them which, when combined with the luck of your d6 rolls, keeps gameplay excitingly unpredictable. This makes Storm Weavers a good introduction to the world of RPG without having to invest in a full set of multiple-sided die or consult a weighty tome of rules every time you have an enemy encounter. Still, as we soon discovered during our playthrough, the outcome of battle is never certain… It really is an unknown journey where you can never be sure exactly what’s around the next corner until you turn the page!

For the sections we have played so far, the balance between narrative and combat feels about right, with the text not feeling too heavy, yet giving enough context to set the scene and get to know Thymin gradually as the game progresses. Combat encounters are woven nicely into the fabric of the continuing narrative on either side of a skirmish. Time does not stand still, however, and as the story continues, Thymin’s next few steps may suddenly land him in the midst of a mêlée and needing to fight his way out of yet another sticky situation!

Despite being set up for solo play, Storm Weavers is versatile enough to play well as a co-operative experience too, for example over videocall. We tested this out and found that the discussions we had about our next moves before rolling those d6 helped us get to know the character of Thymin better. There is a rather intuitive companion app that enables enemy encounters to be set up on the different map layouts specified in the campaign, all laid out identically to the book, with moveable character tokens and hit point tracker counters, except this digital version is in colour. The story text from the book is often included facing the map as a double page spread, so you won’t be flicking back and forth unnecessarily between turns to check your enemies’ stats, and it provides an extra visual aid for others if playing in a group where not everyone has a good view of the main map. Speaking of lovely layouts, the character card included for tracking your hero’s stats (both inside and outside of battle) remains visible on every page where it is needed in the app, and the hit point markers keep their totals when jumping to new pages as you play through the story. One of my favourite features though is simply the use of hyperlinks to jump to the next section of the story; even when you have a choice between several options, being able to navigate directly to any of the page choices instantly makes gameplay so much smoother and easier! This combination really does feel as if everything is set up to work in harmony together, something which can be lacking in other similar RPG games and consequently put off potential adventurers looking to dip their toes into their first quest.

Three factors really make this RPG stand out from the many other adventure TTRPGs jostling for your attention out there. Firstly, the high-quality artwork, especially in the player book. Even though the pages of the book are all in black and white, without colour (except on the cover), this suits the style of the game for those pages containing text and illustration only (not maps) and is reminiscent of Beowulf and J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy works such as Lord of the Rings, which Paweł cites as influences, alongside the successful Fighting Fantasy gamebook franchise. Viking sagas also cropped up in our conversation with Paweł, and their presence in the design of the book is clear, as across the top of every page sits a line of runes, which look fantastic! These real-world anchors to the history of known places and peoples, not to mention their corresponding folklore and mythology, bring a sense of familiarity to orient new players as they learn the game, whilst simultaneously allowing them to explore these places in new ways. Along with its combat mechanics and detailed storylines, this forms the solid foundation upon which the game is built, the second striking feature that makes it stand out. Finally, and perhaps most uniquely: the combination of player book, app and tabletop maps with minis that could and should make the setup feel complicated, but thanks to the careful and player-friendly design, instead complement each other very well.

The original Polish Wspieram campaign was shared over 400 times on social media and reached the dizzying heights of 2667% funded by the close of the one-month campaign. When we asked Paweł what drew him to the idea of a new campaign on Kickstarter for Storm Weavers, his response was simple: he’d like as many people as possible to enjoy the work he has created. The numbers from the original Polish campaign speak for themselves: having played through the prologue, we agree that the English version of Storm Weavers is capable of inspiring a great saga of its own.

To be notified as soon as the Kickstarter campaign is launched, please visit www.StormWeavers.com and sign up with your email address (expected date is April 2021).

This campaign will be very similar to the previous one, sharing many of the same add-ons and stretch goals – we recommend looking at these too if you really wish to take Storm Weavers to the next level!

Note: We have not been paid for this preview. Thank you to Paweł for providing a preview copy of the English edition for this review.

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