I bought Eldritch soon after it was released, as I am generally drawn to non-d20 RPGs of any sort. I was also interested to see what Dan Cross et. al. had done with the system. I knew Dan's work from some of the Troll Lord Ganes products and so he was at least a solid and known quantity. Also I thought it was a good sign that Goodman Games was publishing Eldritch as GG has a good reputation numerous thriving game lines.
Overview: The cover by Peter Bradley is fantastic. He continues to impress and I hope we see more of his work as time goes on. I did not particularly care for some of the interior art but that is a matter of personal taste, you may feel otherwise. The art was functional and didn't distract. The layout was nice, utilizing sidebars and examples where needed. Though it was on the plain side. Now this isn't a big deal for me, I don't need or really want a load of spiff in my RPG rulebooks, but it will doubtless seem drab to some of you. It is focused more on function and readability than eye-candy. The editing suffers a bit as there are page reference errors, which are annoying, but not fatal in my opinion. No text will ever be perfect, particularly from a small press. There are several assumptions made in Eldritch, principally that those reading the book are not novice RPGers. The text is clear on this score from the outset but it would have been nice to see it be just a tad more user-friendly in this regard. Some have groused that the book is not a complete game, this is not the case. It is a complete game in every aspect. It just doesn't spoon-feed you. It lays out the structures and allows you to fill in the rest, the text has sections on spell. magic item and monster creation. But I suppose most folks do not want to put in the mental elbow-grease needed to gen up a magic system, etc. Well, I am sure that those aspects may be forth coming. Though, you do not need more than the corebook/.pdf to play the game. There are additional materials avaialbe on the website that I found useful, particularly the GM screen. All free for download. The screen made running my first game a lot easier.
The System: I have read the other reviews and many seem to fault the system for noe bieng a "rules-lite" system. Well, from my reading Eldritch never purports to be such, in fact it states plainly that it is rules-transparent rather than rules-light. The meaning here is that the rules, all the rules for play, are presented clearly for use by player and GM alike. As a result it is not difficult in know what is "going on" in the course of a game session or how certain things might be expressed in game terms. That is not to say that there isn't a mild learning curve due to the alphabet soup of terms used. To some this may detract but in my opinion it makes no greater demand on the would-be player/GM than any other system out there, and far less than most. The system presents the "standard tropes" in the way of playable races and classes/professions. but that is more for familiarity as much as anything. You are certainly NOT limited to such pidgeon-holing and the system encourages further devlopment. In my view have the standards presented is more of an aide in learning the system, at least it was for me. To that end Eldritch is highly tweakable, want to play with the classic races/professions go fo it...want different advantages/disadvantages, create them...want to add skill trees, delete them or modify...do that too, don't like your magic with a Vancian dash, create your own! Don't like the level based system (which feels a bit odd I must admit) drop it. Do any of these things and more, the game does not suffer one bit. I found the defense pools, variable difficulty/target numbers and potential Harm to be interesting concepts that play well (more below). The magic system is open-ended and largely free form. I also like the use of skill-clusters/trees. This allows for great flexibility and creativity at the game table.
Game Play: This is where Eldritch really shines. Shakespeare said that the game's the thing and here it is just so. Character gen was a snap, but I have an experienced group, less experienced players my take a while the first time out. We ran through several short encounters and scenarios. The system played very well. It did take a combat or two to get used to which defense pool to use when, but once the dice start rolling it becomes intuitive. The variable difficulty system was a gas, it injects a big element of the unknown into the ebb and flow of the game. Eldritch is not a combat simulator, leaning more toward the cinematic, but with enough crunch to satisfy. Magic was potent and easy to adjudicate. Though there is at time a burden placed on the GM in such resolutions, it is no more so than most games. Aill in all we had a great time and will be adding Eldritch to our rotation of systems.
The Bottom Line: Don't let the minor editing glitches and bland-ish layout put you off. Eldritch is a worthy system for anyone looking for somethign different, open and flexible. It feels like the start of something. A great idea that is slowly catching on. It is easily worth the price of the .pdf. Very reasonable by modern standards.
[4 of 5 Stars!]