The Ubiquity system is a lot like a dozen other systems where you have the same attributes as D&D (Body, Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma in this case – so, ok, they changed the name of Constitution to Body, but you get the idea). It also has “Talents”, which are Feats with the name filed off, and skills that are rooted in the attributes which are eerily familiar.
The dice system itself isn’t meaningfully a dice system at all – all of the dice are basically the same as coins you flip. Evens are successes and odds are failures. That’s it. You add up the successes. What I mean is, it doesn’t matter that you’re using dice – so why use them?
Oddly, it is even possible to get your hands on special Ubiquity dice, which…just seems extra odd to me. Why?
I think that the Ubiquity system comes with one really cool setting – Hollow Earth Expedition. People have run HEX at the store before, and players have had a really good time shooting dinosaurs and Nazis from biplanes. That’s good times however you slice it.
It just seems really odd to me to license a dice system that is basically a coin-flip system – even Burning Wheel, which is also basically a coin-flip system, has shades, so that some dice-rolls aren’t just straight 50/50.
I really don’t see a reason to create the Ubiquity system at all. I think it would be easy to adapt another system, even one that would be free to license, for the settings that they’re putting out. It doesn’t have elements that aren’t already in a dozen other games. I understand the desire to have a new system for your new company putting out new books and all that, I just think it could’ve been done more easily. There’s nothing about Desolation or HEX that requires a new system, and if I was going to design a system for either, I’d try to have a dice mechanic that somehow added to the experience, rather than just having various ways to flip coins…
Other than the dice and system, Desolation’s post-apocalyptic setting has most of the fantasy tropes you’d expect – the races you see everywhere else (some under different names) with the common generalizations which hold true for them as well.
What will be really interesting is to compare Desolation to the 4th Edition D&D incarnation of Earthdawn, which I believe is coming out next year. Earthdawn is sort of the original post-apocalyptic fantasy setting, the most recent incarnation of which is over 10 years old. Its doubtless going to get updated, and really fits the “points of light” theme of 4th Edition. I’ll be curious to see how WotC adapts the setting and how it compares to Desolation, given that in the generalities they are going to be very similar (and overall I must admit a preference for Earthdawn, which years ago was already dropping some of the entrenched D&D tropes…)