From publisher blurb:
WHAT'S THE SETTING? While the setting is built by the players at the start of play, it uses elements that come pre-built. These include kiths, such as Jotunn, Duergar, and Tuatha. They also include affinities (powers), which tend towards having spirit familiars, use of mystical symbols, alchemy, and combat-capable physical arts. Settings tend towards an "Iron Age gone sideways" feel.
SO. WHAT MAKES THIS GAME DIFFERENT? Awen does a few interesting things. While none of these things is entirely new, they are being combined in a fairly new way...
- Character Creation Is World Creation: The setting of the game is a big pile of pieces, which the players assemble, deciding which ones go in, and where, as they build characters. When you make your characters, you put together the starting state of the world. This means that everything in the setting is stuff that people at the table are interested in.
- Situations Build From You, Too: The Guide (GM) will use the stuff of the setting to create situations - local problems to resolve, threats to overcome, and intrigue to dive into. If you decide, when you picked the Raider vocation, that you learned to raid by working in a longship crew, and you give them a name and captain, then you can bet that the Guide will take a quick note of them; that crew is a handy piece to drop right into situations in future.
- The System Is Modular: Rather than giving focusing on rules for individual and specific activities (though there's a bit of that, where needed), Awen has a conflict-based setup - the core mechanic comes with a whole package of options to use as needed to model action, so that climbing a cliff in high winds is just as much of a conflict as a knife-fight in the dark.
- The Game Is Open-Source: While the PDF and print versions of Awen contain a small amount of copyrighted material (just enough to make them into, well, products), the vast majority of the game material is Public Domain, and can be used in any way you like. Design work is done first on the wiki, and material there can be taken and used for any purpose.