First Thoughts: The Summit of Kings from Swordsfall Studios

Note: This isn’t a review as I’ve yet to have a chance to play through The Summit of Kings so the thoughts presented here are based only on a read through.

The Summit of Kings is a stand alone RPG module set in the Swordsfall universe, an AfroPunk setting by Brandon Dixon. The setting itself was the focus of the wildly successful Welcome to Tikor kickstarter last year and this game builds on that, showcasing both one small section of the world and the system that powers the RPG line associated with it. The game is centred around The Summit of Kings, a yearly tournament that brings together Jalen’s, the wordsmiths of Tikor, to battle it out through lyrics and rhythm in the hope of being crowned the Supreme Jalen. Included in the 27 pages are half a dozen pre-generated characters, character creation rules, a full system for musical battle and background information for the event.

One day I want to make a page spread as beautiful as this.

One of the most striking elements of this module is that it is absolutely stunning. The artwork is gorgeous and just speaks of the amount of depth that has gone into creating the world. There are so many elements that have gone into each that are clearly a reference to defined parts of the setting, it’s a level of detail that just wouldn’t be possible without the weight of a fully fleshed out world behind it. Alongside the art is the layout. It’s clean, crisp and works perfectly. Not many people get away with shifting between one, two and three column layouts but here everything flows smoothly and you are never left in any doubt about the intended structure of the page.

Mechanically the game is focused almost exclusively on the battles between individual Jalen’s. While this may seem limiting to some degree it is used extremely well to highlight the system and how it can be tweaked to shift the focus of the game. Rap, which was the inspiration behind the tournament, isn’t a genre that I know much about but the system included here showcases it effortlessly, from how techniques flow from Openers to Transition to Finishers or to the way that winning can be achieved by exhausting your opponents Pride. I love it, and can’t wait to see how it is expanded further in future material.

Being inspired by the Genesys RPG the system leans into the narrative elements of successes/advantages and failures/disadvantages. There’s a table to convert regular d6/d8/d12s included in the book but personally I find this approach rather clunky, especially as the conversion of each die size doesn’t completely align with the others. I believe the custom Genesys dice are compatible with the game but where the mechanics will really shine is with online platforms that tally everything up for you (and it’s worth noting that Swordsfall is a launch partner for the upcoming Role platform).

While they’re relatively minor there are a couple of points aspects where I would have appreciated either clarification or more details. The ‘How to play’ page omits the fact that you subtract failures/disadvantages from successes/advantages to get a final tally, though this is covered in the example of play. It also wasn’t clear to me whether Performance was the only skill that could be used during the Battles or whether Jalen’s were expected to mix and match (personally I quite like the idea of each skill only being usable once per contest). Finally, while a number of side hustles are described for scenes outside of the main tournament there’s no guidance about setting difficulties.

Ultimately The Summit of Kings left me wanting more – Yes, there are parts in the book where I’d have appreciated more detail but really I just can’t wait to see more of Tikor and the Swordsfall Universe. If this is a sample of what is to come then it is going to be one hell of a product when it lands.

You can purchase The Summit of Kings from:

The Swordsfall website – https://www.swordsfall.com/

as well as

Itch.io and DriveThruRPG (DriveThruRPG link includes the LunarShadow Designs affiliate ID)

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