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Topics - Nanshork

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Board Business / Additional Forum / Discord Integration Accomplished
« on: March 11, 2024, 11:00:12 PM »
Way back in 2022 I asked for people's input about what they'd like to see now that I'm running around inside the forum code and doing who knows what, and Discord integration came up as a request.  I set up the snazzy header image but that was all that came out of that request.

More has now been done, but not in the way you might expect.  The Discord server header image is still the only part of Discord that touches the forum, >99% of active members are already over there anyway.

Instead, the forum now touches the Discord server.  Moving forward, every new thread/post made (including this one) are automatically sent to the Discord server with a link back to the forum.  I don't know if it will boost forum activity any, but since Strat and I manage both we're interested in keeping both alive and as healthy as possible.

Other RPGs / Review of DIE: The Roleplaying Game
« on: November 07, 2023, 09:20:31 PM »

This review is a little different from my other ones because it is neither a game I've had for a while nor is it something that was requested.  I'm going into this one blind, except for the fact that this RPG originated as a comic book (also named DIE).  In the comic, the main characters are transported to/trapped in an RPG world.  This book is the underlying rules system of that RPG world (and made by the same people who made the comic series).  I really enjoyed the comics so I sought out this RPG.  It came out earlier this year so it is fairly new.

The PDF is 416 pages so this one is probably going to take a while (although as normal I'm going to post it all at once so you won't know any better anyway).

I think this is the first RPG book I've reviewed that has had a content warning.  "Content Warning: Murder, torture, food, hospitals, teenage drama, animal abuse, terrible gm practices, body horror, murder (in self-defence, corporate exploitation, undead, cannibalism, plagiarism, zombies, obsession/parasocial relationships, workplace disagreements, body modification, loss of control, gaslighting/false memories, please for euthanasia, unreality, abusive managers, stress and deadlines."  Watch out, this game has FOOD!

Table of Contents:
  - Author's Note
  - Introductory Comic
  - 1. Introduction
  - 2. Rules
  - 3. Paragons
    - Dictator
    - Fool
    - Emotion Knight
    - Neo
    - Godbinder
  - 4. Master
  - 5. Rituals
  - 6. Running DIE
  - 7. Building DIE
  - 8. Bestiary
  - 9. Campaign
  - 10. Scenarios & Social Groups
    - DIE: Total Party Kill
    - DIE: Video Nasty
    - DIE: Con Quest
    - DIE: Do You Remember The First Time
    - DIE: Development Hell
  - 11. Appendicies
    - Appendix 1: Player Masters
    - Appendix 2: Starter Grimoire
    - Appendix 3: Second Session Prep Example
    - Appendix 4: Gameography
    - Appendix 5: Futher Culture
  - 12: Index

A point of clarification: I will be using DIE for the name of the game, Die for the name of the world in the game, and die as the singular form of dice.

Author's Note

This is basically the author talking about the comic and the RPG and about how they were written concurrently because they each impacted the other.  Also apparently this RPG was kickstarted and I missed it.

For once I actually read the intro comic because I know these people make good comics!  It's good (although not necessary).

1. Introduction

There's the standard explanation of what this RPG is (which includes talking about the comic, the real one not the intro one).  Paragons are the classes of this game (if you couldn't already tell). 

This game is not just recreating the comic, it's a system to let you make your unique version of the DIE story.  "You make your own social group of messed up, real-world humans.  They're dragged to a world which echoes your own strengths and weaknesses, failures, losses and successes back at you.  It is your fantasy world, personally and horrifically yours...".  Tell me that doesn't sound awesome.

"Each of these visitors is transformed into their own unique versions of the iconic paragons of the series".  As expected, the list of paragons in chapter three are included, however Masters from chapter 4 are on the list.  Yes, the GM is also a player.

Also apparently the game ending requires everyone agreeing that the game ends so that's interesting (and also how it works in the comics so I'm not surprised).

Haha, the "What is a Roleplaying Game" section tells you to watch an actual play video.  Modern problems require modern solutions.  There are also tidbits about how to use this book (everything past Chapter 3 is for the GM), a note on different tones the game can take, some terminology explanation (they use dice to be singular and plural and I hate that, also encounter gets a definition and the standard D&D stat names are used).

There is also a Setting section which has an explanation for the world of Die and how things happen the way that they do.  It is labeled as a spoiler for both the DIE comic and for the players of the game so you're not going to get any extra information from me about it.

2. Rules

There are two levels of game to this game.  The first is when the players are playing characters on their version of Earth (called Personas).  Eventually the Personas enter the world of Die and are transformed into the Paragons while still retaining the personality (and baggage) of their Personas.

There are no real rules for Personas, when the characters are on Earth it's all roleplaying and conversation.  Luckily the game doesn't stay that way because then it would be a storyteller game and I would hate it (here's hoping that this doesn't turn out to be a storyteller game).

As previously mentioned, the traditional stats of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma are used.  According to this page, the only listed uses for the individual stats that might not be seen as D&D standard are that Wisdom is for understanding of the world, spirituality, and most things involving gods while Intelligence includes things involving computers.  Stats range from 0-4.  2 is average, 3 is normal human maximum, 4 is significantly better than anyone on earth.  5 is beyond human (and I'm assuming for epic monsters or some such).  An given example is that a character with a Dexterity of 4 and no training in gymnastics is at least as good as Olympic gymnasts, and thus with training would be better.

There are also four defensive stats which are derived from other stats.  Guard (seems to be like Armor Class) is based on Dexterity and is depleted when hit.  Health (pretty obvious what this is) is based on Constitution.  Willpower resists emotional manipulation and is based on Wisdom and Intelligence.  Defence (okay, this one is like Armor Class so Guard doesn't have a D&D equivalent) starts at 0 and is not derived from other stats.

As an aside, this book was written by UK people and my spell checker really doesn't like the word "defence".  Defense is much better.

Action resolution goes through the following steps:
 - If there's no significant chance of it not happening, it happens.  (Example: Taking a drink)
 - If it is absolutely impossible, it doesn't happen. (Example: Eating a prison door in one bite to escape)
 - If a skilled character uses those skills on a task in a situation with little immediate pressure and little interest in failure, it happens. (Example: A hacker tries to hack open a door with no time limits or imminent combat)
 - If a character uses a Paragon ability that has its own set of rules, use those rules.
 - If none of the above apply, turn to the Core Mechanic.

Here's where we learn that DIE uses a dice pool system.  The Core Mechanic goes as follows (as a broad overview).
 1) The GM determines and announces the difficulty.  Most tasks are 0, tasks that would stretch the limit or normal human capabilities are 1, tasks that exceed the limit of normal human capabilities but are technically possible are 2.
 2) The character gets a dice pool of D6's equal to their relevant stat.  Any class abilities that impact the dice pool are applied.
 3) The GM decides if any advantages are present, +1 die to the pool per advantage.
 4) The GM decides if any disadvantages are present, -1 die to the pool per disadvantage.
 5) Roll the dice in the pool.  If there are no dice in the pool, roll two dice and pick the lowest.  Anything that shows a 4 or above is a success.
 6) Remove a number of successes from the rolled dice pool equal to the difficulty.  If there are more successes than the difficulty, choose which are removed.
 7) If any successes remain, the action is successful.  Any remaining dice showing a 6 or higher can be used to activate an additional special effect (called a special) if the character has a relevant one to use.

That all seems pretty standard except you have to beat the difficulty level, not just meet it.

Specials mainly come from a character's class and weapon and can only be used once per roll.  In addition, some specials require multiple successes of 6+ to activate.  Also the Master has specials which require a 20 on a roll of a d20.

Also once per session each player can use a "real-world" flashback to recall an event of their Persona to reveal something new and gain an advantage to one task.

But wait, there's more!

In combat, Initiative = Dexterity and it isn't rolled.  Turns go from highest to lowest Dexterity.  Combat is over when all relevant characters agree it's over, if someone is still fighting and wants to fight then it's still combat (I don't know how it would be any other way really).

DIE uses an abstract system for combat range, no minis on a map here.  Characters are either in Melee range (adjacent to each other), Close range (throwing range, one move action to get to melee), Medium range (ranged attack range, one move action to get to close), or Far range (can't shoot unless you're some kind of sniper, at least two moves to get to medium).  On your turn you get one move and one action (and you can take your action to move again). 

As your action you can attack (difficulty equals the target's defence, number of remaining successes at the end of the roll equals number of hits, if you roll zero successes and someone could possibly attack you then they do and you automatically get hit).  Getting hit removes one Guard (which refreshes at the beginning of each combat).  When Guard is 0 then attacks remove health (which is called a Wound).  If attacking with an area of effect attacks, dice are rolled once and successes are applied to each target individually.  If you're casting a spell and the spell requires a roll to see if you cast it then you roll once and that determines both casting and attacking results.

There are also some special things you can do with your attack.  You can delay it (and/or your move), or ready it to react to another action. You can combine your attack with the attacks of other characters, using the highest dice pool out of everyone and gaining an advantage per extra person attack.  You can add a disadvantage to do non-lethal damage (doesn't have a different track, just doesn't kill at 0 health).  You can add a disadvantage to split your successes between multiple opponents.  Also if you roll extra successes after downing a target you can reduce the remaining successes by one and move the remaining successes to another target.

There are also rules for critical failures, extra successes, "failing forward" (success with cost/partial success/success with complication), multiple success targets (example: you didn't roll high enough to get someone to do something but you did roll high enough to get them to do if if you bribe them), success rewards based on the number of successes (like combat granting hits per success), task abstraction, situational specials (those things that happen on leftover 6+ rolls), and an example of combining some of the above.

Overall it's relatively rules light but still comprehensive.  There is more GM interpretation and decision making about checks and results than in standard D&D but it looks pretty decent to me.

3. Paragons

As previously mentioned, Paragons are the classes of this system and they are as follows:
 - Dictators are artistic diplomats who manipulate emotions with horrific magical words.
 - Fools are swashbucklers, rushing into danger and relying on their supernatural luck to survive.
 - Emotion Knights are warriors who feed one sacred emotion into their arcane, sentient weapons to devastating effect.
 - Neos are techno-magical rogues, stealing the elusive Fair Gold to power their cybernetic gifts.
 - Godbinders are clerics who prefer to make deals with their gods to get miracles.

Then there is the Master which is reserved for the GM.

Character advancement has three options in terms of how you can run it. 
 - Option 1: There is no advancement because the standard games are 2-4 sessions. 
 - Option 2: Your players hate not advancing so there are some class specific quick easy advancement options. 
 - Option 3: You're playing a full campaign so you can use the leveling system (1-20).  Starting at level 1 is expected because of the nature of the game (real people pulled into a fantasy world).  Starting at higher levels would mean your characters have been in the world before.

For a full campaign with leveling, leveling has nothing to do with experience.  The world of Die has 20 regions, you master a region (as determined by the GM or maybe a future chapter about campaigns but usually completing a major adventure in it) means gain a level.  Leveling in this game is nothing like you are used to.  Every paragon has an "advancement map" which is laid out basically like this.

You start down at the bottom, it says start and is filled in.  Every time you advance (level up), you pick a region that shares a spot with a region you've already filled-in.  You then fill that region in and claim the reward listed in it.  In addition, levels 3, 6, 9, and 12 let you add a point to one of your stats (to a max of 4), and when you reach a level equal to the number of sides of your class die you get a class die advance.  What's a class die you ask?  Read on!

Each paragon is associated with a specific die.  D4, D6, D8, D10, and D12.  Nobody gets D100 and the D20 is for the Master.  Paragon abilities will use the paragon die, bigger dice doesn't automatically mean better.

I'm not going to go over each paragon individually because they're all interesting and that would take too much time.  Instead I'm going to go over them generally as a whole.

Each paragon starts with a 2 in all stats and 2 extra points to distribute as you wish (with the preferred stats of that paragon listed for you).  There is also starting equipment and appropriate clothes/armor with any rules for the equipment as needed.  Then we get into paragon abilities and choices, which includes a whole lot of information and questions related to role-playing from a player perspective as well as a group and game perspective.  This isn't a storytelling game but it is clearly just as grounded in roleplaying as it is in mechanics.

We then move on to the advancement map which includes a lot of ability names of things that are on the map and what they do (all choices are mechanical but some also come with questions that have to be answered and should be done in collaboration with the GM). 

It's all very interesting although it will require a large amount of player buy-in in terms of willingness to roleplay and willingness to understand what their character does because there is no equivalent to a fighter who just gets some minor plusses and has no real choices in terms of combat options.

Update: I have been asked to give an overview of a Paragon so here we go.  We'll do the Fool because it's the simplest (yes, when you read it remember this is the simplest). 

The Fool's class die is a D6 (yes, the same die as the standard dice in the game and there's some text about elsewhere in the book).  They get to add it to their dice pool any time they're acting foolish, and when it is in their dice pool they gain a Special to add another D6 to the dice pool.  Playing a fool means fucking up other people's plans because you want your special class powers so you don't die.

Now, take your fancy (but not really) D6 and draw a circle on one of the sides using a non-permanent marker.  If you roll a circle something lucky happens.  You can define the lucky thing, but the GM can tweak it.  If you decide that all enemies are buried under rocks then probably you and all of your friends are too because that's a bit much.  If you roll the die and don't get a circle, add a circle somewhere else.  Also if you did roll a circle, erase all of the circles except one but add a cross to a different face.  Rolling a cross means something bad happens to you or the people around you, then all of the crosses get erased.  Also there is advice for how to handle D6's that are bad for drawing on (and what to do if you run out of blank sides).

If things get super crazy in a bad way you can hand your D6 to the GM to escape from a situation by using your crazy good luck (that you just handed away).  The GM can hand the D6 back at any time by making an entirely unfair event not worse than the good luck was good (because bad luck is luck too if you haven't figured that out by now).  Also if you want your D6 back RIGHT NOW just deliberately cause a disaster to get it (like by having dinner with the king and saying out loud that you want to steal all of the silver).

After those rules we get a character creation section on picking your trade (Swashbuckler, Bard, Con Artist, Etc) which grants you some addition equipment and/or abilities.

Also there's a "class feature" where if you or your Persona do something that entertains the group or is particularly foolish the GM might give you an extra circle on your D6 if they want (and it notes that annoying isn't the same as entertaining).

Due to the layout of the advancement map, your first advancement from the advancement map is fixed.  For the Fool that is an advancement called Clown School.  Clown school lets you pick from one of eight options, many of which involve being able to add a cross to your D6 in order to gain an advantage in various social situations (there are also a couple of combat related choices and one for adding a circle to increase your luck).

4. Master

As previously mentioned, the GM is also a character in this game.  This is an antagonistic character, not a member of the party (although there are rules for a player character Master in Appendix 1).  Rules for making a Master (using this chapter) are the same as rules for making any other paragon with the exception of advancements.  Masters advance when players do but the only advances they get are stat points at the same levels that players gain them.  Masters are powerful from the beginning and gain no new abilities.

5. Rituals

It doesn't matter what you're expecting from this chapter, prepare to be surprised.  This is also the chapter where this game is starting to lose me.

Rituals are the way the game prep is done for a short campaign.  The "DIE Rituals Checklist" includes everything that needs to play the game up to and including ending the game.  This is another chapter that will get a broad overview but I'm not going to deep dive, it's for the GM and also not my thing.  There are also "rituals" that happen in the rituals chapter, probably designed to help get people into the roleplaying mood but I think they sound silly and will gloss over them along with a bunch of other stuff (an example is it is explicitly written down to thank everyone for playing at the end of every session).

Here are the sections:

Preparation - getting the required physical materials for the game together (dice, books, character sheets, etc) and having discussions with the players about the game and what tone/paragons people are interested in.

Prepare the Magic Circle - This is basically the creation of a collaborative document stating what the game will be like and where the limits are so that "we all can craft a story that everyone feels comfortable with and is excited about".  This includes tone, inter-party conflict limits, limits on the Dictator role, the kind of ending the game is aiming for, things that shouldn't be included in the game, things that should be included in the game, etc. 

Persona Generation - This includes Persona generation (obviously) where each player determines the personality of the person they are playing before they become a Paragon.  Then everyone takes a short break to step away from the table (except for the GM).

During the Break - The GM figures out which Paragon is assigned to which Persona.  By default there can only be one of any individual Persona which makes a maximum group size of 6 and the GM is always the Master.  There is apparently a section on breaking these rules later in the book.

Character Generation - All of the players come back to the table and are now playing the Personas, out of character talk involves raising your hand to reduce random OOC side chatter.  The GM gives the players their character sheets and helps guide them through basic character creation choices.

Into Die - Everyone is now in the world of Die and the game actually starts.  This includes "magical girl transformations" as Personas turn into Paragons.  Also there's an intro combat to help familiarize players with the rules.  There's a bit more intro stuff and then the first session closes out.  All of this is guidelines and examples, you don't have to run your game this way.

And the rest - There are more sections but going section by section here isn't really going to help things.  What follows is more GM prep (narrative building based upon the Persona creation steps previously followed, world building, etc) but not too much prep because this is labeled as a low-prep game.  This game is designed to be more off-the-cuff and reactive (which I personally am terrible at running) and the example session 2+ world creation involves player input (which I am personally not a fan of).  The example climax involves a lot of post-game roleplaying about Personas after they returned to the "real world" (if they do).

Oh, we get some sample NPC stats (the game is designed to be rules-light so outside of combat stats aren't generally needed). 

At the very end of the game there is apparently an Aftercare section in the section on safety tools found in the next chapter.  To be honest this makes me roll my eyes.  Be adults, playing an RPG shouldn't end in something that sounds like therapy.

6. Running DIE

The standard chapter about how to GM with a twist because players are playing a "real person" who is sent to a fantasy world (and you're supposed to incorporate a lot of that real person's personality and biographical information into the game). 

Then we get into the Safety Tools section.  "Don't play DIE without safety tools.  DIE has the potential to go anywhere, and that includes bad places."  There are a lot of potential safety tools listed that can be used and a QR code to a TTRPG Safety Tool Kit.  If you're not aware of safety tools, it's mainly a bunch of ways that players and GMs can discuss boundaries within the game without actually discussing boundaries because that might make people uncomfortable I guess.  I don't have a positive opinion about this being the direction that the TTRPG industry is going.  While I don't have a negative opinion of the creators of DIE for including it in the game, it does make the game seem like one that isn't for me.  If I can't have an open and honest conversation with my players about their hard limits I'm not going to run a game that's potentially controversial.

We then move on to sections about how to run the game for each of the Paragons (with some information about what kind of personalities can be best suited to each paragon and what possible complications to look for in terms of personalities).  We also get information about having the players play as their Personas because the GM wants to know what kind of internal dialogue is happening.

After that we get the variant modes of play mentioned earlier, meaning allowing multiple paragons of the same time or having the GM play something other than the Master.  These can change aspects of the game (if you want them to) and be more than just allowing people to play whatever they want.

7. Building DIE

Basically this chapter is for ways to run the game after/instead of running it the Rituals chapter way (they suggest doing the Rituals one first).  This includes the option of not having open-ended free-form kind of world creation and just making a world the same way you would with D&D or whatever else (plus some other suggested alternatives).  There is also a long section about adventure structure.

8. Bestiary

The is your standard bestiary plus Paragons native to the world of Die plus some other things that are specific to the kind of story based Persona driven game this is.

This is not just an alphabetized list of monsters and statblocks, DIE is not that kind of game.  Each monster has reasons it might be used, "truths" about them, and other information related to why they would show up in the first place.  There aren't orcs for you to go fight orcs because they're orcs, there are orcs to serve as echos of the Personas past that are best represented by orcs (and also orcs as racism gets mentioned because of course it does).  There's a lot of philosophizing in this bestiary.

9. Campaign

The Rituals chapter is basically instructions on how to run a short campaign of DIE.  This chapter is how to run a more traditional length campaign.  Again, this isn't exactly the same as it would be in D&D or another game.

We still get the script to follow for how to proceed with things that is in Rituals, just adjusted due to the game length being much more open ended.  Persona generation is different (and shorter) because the Persona related inter-personal and Persona related world-building stuff doesn't have to be jammed into a handful of sessions.  There is also significantly more world-building since players might visit any of the 20 regions of Die.  Etc.

We then get into how world-building works in this narrative based game since the world can be a reflection of the Personas and not just based on a module you pulled out of your D&D collection. 

Interestingly enough, there's also a big section about what to do with character death that isn't what you'd expect.  Remember, characters are people that were drawn from the "real world" that ended up in the game.  You can't just roll up a new character (although there is a section about what to do if such a thing is really needed).

However, there are rules for people playing secondary characters (effectively controlling NPCs) in a split party scenario so that everyone can contribute in every session instead of people being sidelined.

There's a lot of stuff that I'm skimming or just skipping, it's only important if you specifically want to run a long form campaign and if that's the case you should be reading this book yourself.

Some of the narrative elements do annoy me though.

10. Scenarios & Social Groups

Where Campaigns is about running a long campaign and Rituals is about a shorter more structured game, this chapter is about running the game as a one-off (like at a convention for example).  It also has alternative (in-game) types of groups the Personas could be a part of with different Persona generation structures for those instead of the standard type given in Rituals (which is the "Social Groups" part of the chapter title).

Each scenario also includes it's own scenario specific Persona generation setup.  Even if the who game lasts for a couple hours it's still narrative focused after all.

11. Appendicies

These are the appendicies.  My spell checker hates this word too.

We have: The Master as a full-fledged player Paragon, a list of spells that can be used by those who might gain the ability to use spells (also to be used as examples for the GM to create new ones), a full example of session preparation taken from an actual game, some games that influenced the creation of this game, and some things you can read/play/watch/listen to/Google to help you get a feel for how DIE can be.

12. Index

It is an index.

Final Thoughts

Well it didn't turn out to be a storyteller game but I don't like it anyway.  Anything with the sheer number of trigger warnings (they aren't only at the front of the book) and narrative focus just isn't my kind of game.  Then again I want to run Abandon All Hope (previously reviewed) but probably never will because I'd need to know my group pretty well to make sure I don't scar them so I'm not automatically against the idea of trigger warnings.  But food as a trigger warning?  Really?  And an Aftercare section?

It's not a bad system, it works well and seems very balanced, but it is designed for a completely different type of person than I am and I wouldn't really be interested in even playing it.  I'm not keeping this in my collection.

Other RPGs / Review of Warbirds
« on: August 18, 2023, 09:24:55 PM »
Apparently people still want me to do reviews so here we are.  Originally this was going to be a review of Eclipse Phase 2E but less than a tenth of the way into that 400+ page book I found out that players had the ability to control the narrative flow of the game so I just scrapped that review entirely, what I had written was already super long for the page count I had covered and I do not like storytelling games as everybody who has read my previous reviews already knows.  If you want a review of Eclipse Phase 2E you'll have to get it somewhere else.

Instead you get WARBIRDS!

I remember liking this one when I first got a copy of it a long time ago but I have no idea how well I'll think it stands up.  I remember the setting for this one is odd.  I also remember that this is a game mainly about airplane dogfights, pew-pew!

Table of Contents:
 - Credits
 - Comic
 - Welcome
 - Chapter 1 - The World of Azure
 - Chapter 2 - The Nations of Azure
 - Chapter 3 - Major Organizations
 - Chapter 4 - Rapidfire Rules
 - Chapter 5 - The Characters
 - Chapter 6 - Warbird Creation
 - Chapter 7 - Go Gonzo
 - Chapter 8 - Running Warbirds
 - Appendices
 - Supporters

The comic replaces the standard intro story that a lot of games have except it's a little comic book.  Neat but skippable.

Welcome to Warbirds

I am vaguely annoyed that the title doesn't match what it says in the table of contents.

I remembered correctly, the party is a group of elite fighter pilots in the world of Azure.  You are members of powerful mercenary group known as the Guild.  Your plane is called a warbird (hey look, that's the name of the game!).  Azure is an alternate reality universe made of floating islands above an endless Murk.  Basically in 1804 in our world there was a giant hurricane and it picked up islands in the Caribbean and part of Florida and transported them to Azure.  If this sounds dumb you can just replace it with something else (and maybe skip the first few chapters).  It's about 200 years later but technologically Azure is around our 1940s with diesel-powered airships.

Warbirds is cinematic (think pulp movies), there is no battle map.  It's about airplane dogfights, quick snap decisions, and life or death situations, not sitting around planning your turn for a few minutes and calculating squares.  There is also some rules for doing things on the ground (aka not shooting planes with your plane).

Chapter 1 - The World of Azure

Okay, I guess the game assumes we know what dice are and how to roleplay.  I'm not complaining, I've just done this enough to notice when those sections are missing.  I'm just going to give broad strokes here because this is all setting.

At the bottom of the "world" is the Murk.  It is like a dark ocean made up of dust and gasses and other stuff, planes can't fly in it and people can't breath in it and pressure increases as you descent into it (like the ocean) so it hasn't really been explored although people have tried.  Some of it can be "mined" to make heavy diesel fuel and no bottom has been found.

Above the Murk is the Sky which is pretty identical to our sky except it has giant floating islands that don't all float at the same height, there are roughly three layers.  Also the sky is much "higher" than our sky, space is a lot further away.

The Eye is at the middle, a giant invisible pillar of air that rises out of the Murk and extends hundreds of kilometers into the air.  If you want to fly up to a higher island, use the Eye.  It is also Magnetic North, emits radio interference, and the magical rock that makes the islands float (called Floatstone) both rotates around the eye and stops working inside of the eye.

We then get some information about the different groups of islands (Lowlands, Midlands, Uplands, and others), information about how to travel around, and a history lesson about what has happened in the past couple hundred years.  Also there are two Popes.

Chapter 2 - The Nations of Azure

This one is a deep dive into fluff.  I'll just list the nations here so you get an idea of what you're in for.  Each one includes an overview of the island/nation and information about its culture, politics, and places of note.

Jamaica, The Minor Principalities, The Guild Keys, Haiti, Cuba, Santiago, Puerto Rico, Yucatan, Tegesta, Nassau

Chapter 3 - Major Organizations

Here's a list of the major organizations in this chapter.  Each one includes origins, objectives, and other information.

The Guild (the main mercenary group), Pirates, Mercenaries (that aren't a part of The Guild), Prensa Libra (news-people), Errant Observations Inc (a company that finds new islands), Exploration Companies (explore new islands), The Fundamental Catholic Church, and The Reformed Catholic Church.

Chapter 4 - Rapidfire Rules

Warbirds is a 1d6 system, higher is better.  The stats are Body, Mind, and Spirit with modifiers that go from -3 to +3 (-2 to +2 during character creation) with 0 being average.  Skills are added to an associated stat and go from 0 to 6 with difficulties ranging from 2 to 14 (+2 if untrained).  There are no automatic successes or failures.

There are also some new twists on things.  Every session each character gets a number of Reserve points equal to their highest skill +2, points can be spent to increase rolls or do other cool stuff.  Also if the GM thinks someone is doing something awesome they can grant +1 to the roll and a reserve.  If you roll a 1 and failed by 3 or more then the player can ask the GM for a critical failure in which something extra bad (but not lethal) happens and the player gains a reserve and also an XP for the skill being used (no more than one critical failure per scene).  There are also rules for helping others with rolls.

There is also a Fame rating which can be used as a bonus to certain skill rolls once per session (and could be turned into a penalty if there is a Scandal).  In addition, Fame represent your income.

As all rolls are a stat plus a skill, unsurprisingly so are rolls in combat (which mainly covers initiative and attacking).  On top of that, here we learn that the amount that you exceed the target number is called the Lead, this gets added to damage rolls and can also help improve other things.  Defenders have a Defence score (like armor class) and a Resist score (like damage reduction). Special actions can be taken in combat and there are also rules for modifiers like surprise or fighting in darkness.  It isn't simulationist but it covers the basics, it's a plane game and there is still a section for fighting while riding a horse.  There are also some example combats which can be helpful.

There is a health track, the more wounded you are the more penalties you have on rolls.  Health ranges from 1 to 10 (normal people have 3 health).  If your health track is exceeded then you are out of the fight, death only happens when dramatically appropriate (as generally expected from a cinematic game).  Mainly this is when a player puts their life on the line (to get bonuses but increase risk) or faces certain death (because some things you just can't survive).  This also covers NPCs so you can have that asshole villain who always pops back up.

Next in this chapter we get the Rules of the Sky.  If you're in a dogfight, the only stat you care about is Situational Awareness and the skills you care about are Piloting, Strafing, Gunnery, and Ordinance.  Aircraft also have their own stats (Performance and Armor) and health track (called Structure).  Then we get a few pages about how dogfights work with the flying and the shooting and the falling, etc.

Chapter 5 - The Characters

You are assumed to be a a member of The Guild (a new, bottom-tier member).  The smallest unit in The Guild is a flight, all characters are part of the same flight and there is not a strict hierarchy so no one person is automatically declared the leader.  You are then in a squadron (there's a list of squadrons) and each squadron has a rival squadron (this changes a lot).  Then you get a rival flight just to annoy the crap out of the players I guess.  There's also support crew and a guild agent and some other stuff the GM gets to sort out.

Character creation follows these steps: Decide on a Concept, Pick a Name, Build a Background (which includes a lot of sample questions), Assign Stats (you get a single +1 and can assigned up to -2 for extra compensating plusses and you can save stat points for x2 skill points) (as an aside, the Situational Awareness stat for dogfighting is equal to your three stats added together), Choose Skills (10 points to spend, max starting skill level is 2, with two occupational skills at level 1 for free), do math to get Secondary stats (defence, resist, health, fame = 2), Choose advantages and disadvantages (advantages have to be balanced out by disadvantages, many are roleplaying related), Sort out gear, money, and fame.

Character advancement is gained through XP which is immediately assigned to skills which get improved when thresholds are met.  Stat points are awarded separately and have their own thresholds. There are also fame points, guess how they work.

Chapter 6 - Warbird Creation

Warbirds get their own character sheets with the Situational Awareness stat and the warbird skills which are all at least 1 and you get points for those like with your character's points.  You then take the normal statblock for a warbird and decide if you want to use light machine guns, heavy machine guns, or cannons.  You also get one heavy weapon (which could be a bomb).  Next are some lists of traits you get to choose from (all positive).  Lastly there's the math.

Getting kills in dogfights or strafing lets you eventually get more traits on your warbird to "level it up" (my phrasing, not the books).

Chapter 7 - Go Gonzo

Are floating rocks not enough for you?  Then it's time to GO GONZO!  Here are (optional) rules for magic!  Want your Catholic characters to exorcise demons or pray for miracles?  Bam, have some rules.  Want your Mayan characters to perform sacrificial rituals?  Bam, have some rules.  Want some Hatian Vodou?  Bam, have some rules.  There are also a few pages dedicated to mad science.

Chapter 8 - Running Warbirds

This is the GM chapter.  We get rules on arbitrating rolls (when to grant automatic successes, what to do with high Leads, etc), how to run the game (including what to do when the characters aren't in their planes and what places they could visit), how to manage time (both downtime and dogfighitng time), etc. 

One interesting thing to note is that this game has Sponsorship, if you want to be famous then find sponsors that will let you advertise their brand (which was apparently a real thing).  This is a relationship that has to be maintained, not something the players can get for free.

There's also the standard information about running missions and rewarding xp and how to run enemies and example statblocks (including airships and trains and buildings), etc.


These are pretty bare-bones, as expected.  Want to run a game where the players fly a transport ship and you all pretend you're in the cartoon Talespin?  There's an appendix about games based around being couriers.  There's an an appendix for helping track dogfighting initiative, and one for the glossary.  We also get the standard allotment of character sheets.

The supporters page is because apparently this game was funded on Indiegogo.

Final Thoughts

This system is way more story-tellery than I remember.  Probably too much, although I'll be keeping it around because it's just so unique, I personally haven't seen another system dedicated to flying around in planes and shooting other planes.  Also it isn't a cooperative storytelling game where the players have rules where they can make NPCs appear or otherwise mess with the narrative so it's not Eclipse Phase 2E.  So it's okay, not great but an interesting premise and has some ideas I can think of taking and using in other things.  I wouldn't be interested in running it.

As an aside, this clears out my review backlog!

Board Business / Outage
« on: January 28, 2023, 04:16:16 PM »
As people noticed we had another outage.  Our host migrated the website to another server.

Long story short everything should be back to normal now, but anything posted from the 18th through the 26th is gone.  We're talking about less than ten posts so I don't expect any major issues to come out of this.

Other RPGs / Review of Slasher Flick
« on: October 01, 2022, 10:21:45 PM »

It's been over a year since my last review and I guess that means it's time for another review!

Slasher Flick is an RPG about running slasher movie styled games (SURPRISE!) published by indie company Spectrum Games.  The "indie company" part kind of shines through here because for some reason this book has two covers, the image at the top of this post is one of them which also happens to not be the one which is on the purchased pdf itself (and that one has some artifacts on it left over from whatever program was used to make it).  Spectrum Games publishes some other thematic systems (Sunday morning cartoons being one) but this is the only one that grabbed me enough to look at it.

This is not a blind review, although it has been a long time since I've read through this system. 

The pdf is 171 pages cover to cover and the table of contents goes as follows:
 - Chapter One: Introduction
 - Chapter Two: Slasher Films
 - Chapter Three: The Game Rules
 - Chapter Four: Characters
 - Chapter Five: The Players
 - Chapter Six: The Director
 - Chapter Seven: Quick Flick
 - Chapter Eight: "The Vault"
 - Appendix: Character Templates (Which is almost 60 pages long)

And then there's a warning about how the game is for grownup's and "is Rated-R" which should kind of be self-evident.

Chapter One: Introduction
Before I get into the actual words written on the page, I want to take a little side trip into the world of page layout.  Each page in this book (once the actual content starts) is about 3/4 actual content (width-wise) and 1/4 sidebar.  Many pages don't have a sidebar but the sidebar (in blood red with splatters at the edge for theme) is there anyway.  Basically they had a page that was almost standard 8.5"x11" but not quite wide enough so they slapped a sidebar on it and shoved the page numbers into the sidebar area so it wouldn't feel wasted.  It's not bad, but it does help keep the "indie" feel of the book.  Each chapter also begins with a quote from a slasher flick (Scream, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, etc) and there's indie quality art that once again isn't outright bad, I can honestly say that I've seen worse in more professional books.  Also I noticed a typo on the first page of this chapter so just be aware there are some rough edges if you decide to pick this one up.

Anyway, this chapter starts with "The Meaning of Fear" which is basically a section on why people generally watch slasher flicks.  We then move on to what is an RPG (in terms of this RPG) which in this case means that all players are the potential victims of the psycho killer(s) and that the players might die but that's part of the story you're telling.  Also, as player death is expected each player will control multiple characters.  There is an included sidebar about how the game isn't about winning or losing as long as everyone is satisfied with how it ended (even if all the players die).  That's actually a pretty good concept for a game which is not about larger than life heroes battling villains.

The dice used for this game are the d6 (also used as a d3), d8, and d10.  The Game Master is called the Director (which makes sense thematically).  Each game (or Adventure in traditional RPG terms) is called a Flick which can be made up of multiple sessions.  Sequels to Flicks (aka another adventure with the surviving characters and possibly the same killer) are also a thing that can happen.

We then move into the traditional "how to play an RPG" section although non-traditionally there is a sidebar about how a game board (aka battle map) is not needed.  One interesting thing I want to point out is that there's also an Important Terms section which includes "Genre Points" so we already know the game rewards people for doing the dumb things people in slasher flicks always do (like check out creepy noises).

Chapter Two: Slasher Films

This chapter is about real world slasher films (which should not be a surprise from the chapter title).  We got a basic overview of what slasher films are, what the killers in slasher films are like, tropes and cliches from slasher films (like how even when their friends are dying people in slasher films end up trying to have sex and then if they do have sex they get killed), and a list of "essential movies"  (each with commentary by the author of this book) and "almost essential movies", plus a list of just really bad movies.

Chapter Three: The Game Rules

Here are the crunchy rules bits.

There are four types of characters: primary characters (aka movie main characters), secondary characters, tertiary characters (aka minor background characters), and the killer.  Each player plays one primary character and they all share the secondary characters.  The director plays the tertiary character and the killer(s).  Secondary characters can either be assigned to players or just all in a pool and people play whoever.  Secondary characters allow the players to keep playing in different scenes (as secondary characters tend to die a lot), and also to contribute to scenes that their main character isn't involved in.

Characters have four main stats: Brawn, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit.  Stats are rated Poor, Normal, or Good, and there can also be positive or negative qualities to stats which make people good/bad at a specific area (like being good at sneaking of unperceptive).  For a stat check you either roll four d10 for a Poor stat, four d8 for a Normal stat, or four d6 for a Good stat.  Rolling two or more identical numbers is a success, two pairs out of the four dice equal an effective four matching numbers.  Positive or negative qualities can add or subtract dice to the pool (as can task difficulty modifiers).  Sometimes (but not usually) rolling matching numbers of the highest number you can roll has an extra benefit. 

There are optional rules for character vs character fighting which follow the general rules.  All opposed checks are a stat check vs stat check (because everything falls under a stat).  If one character is better at a stat than another character, the better character gains dice and the worse character loses dice from their dice pool.  Honestly this seems really punitive but killers don't have stats (it says so right here) so I don't know if it's really as terrible as it sounds since it purely impact character versus character conflicts.  There are also rules for helping someone else on a roll but only one person can help another person.

There are also rules for "freak-out checks" (aka you just opened a door and see your friend's dead body so you roll to see if you freak out) which results in a combination of roleplaying restrictions as well as situations with the director gets to make decisions for you (and then you get to do stupid things just like in the movies).

Then we get a side-bar with optional rules about what to do if your players are conditioned by other RPGs to just attack the killer every time it pops up.  Any scene involving combat with the killer is called a Kill Scene.  Instead of health, players have Survival Points.  Kill scenes are places with players gain/lose survival points depending on how they roll and what actions are taken.  1's are bad here, but having good stats also makes it easier to roll 1's so there really are some math issues with this game.  Then again, pretty much everyone dies in most slasher flicks that come up against the killer so this very well might be intentional!

Here's how a kill scene works.  First, the character and the killers involved roll Finesse checks for initiative (unless someone gets the drop on the other).  Second, everyone declares what they're doing in order (the person who won initiative gets to pick if they declare first or second).  Third, the director determines what stats are used and what modifications to the dice pool apply.  Fourth, the player rolls.  Fifth, the director narrates the results of the roll.  Sixth, the character adjusts their survival points based off of the results of the roll.

Matching results gives you extra survival points (with bonus points if you match the highest number you can roll).  No matching results means removal of survival points.  Rolling 1's as secondary/tertiary characters negates a match for each 1 rolled.  Four matching numbers of the highest number you can roll immediately ends the kill scene in the player's favor and four 1's ends it in the killers favor.  If the character's survival points reaches a certain number (which is usually 8) the kill scene ends favorably for them and if the character's survival points reaches a negative number it ends unfavorably for them.  All pretty simple.  There is also an optional rule for faster kill scenes if the dice end up making them go on for too long.

1d6 survival points are retained between kill scenes, and there are some other rules but that's about the gist of it.  Primary characters get some advantages to keep them from dying as quickly as the secondary/tertiary characters.  There is also an example of a kill scene written out to see how it works out during play (which unfortunately is incorrectly written with explanations saying that rolls were different from what the example rolls say).

Next we get an explanation of Genre Points.  Genre Points are gained when you do things particularly appropriate for the genre no matter how stupid the action might be.  They can be spent in the following ways: re-roll dice on a stat check, reduce survival point loss, make a minor alteration to a scene (such as getting your car to start when it won't start, but the director has final call), pull another character into a kill scene, make a secondary or tertiary character lose survival points instead of your primary character.

Lats we get some rules on the killer.  Slasher flick killers are generally more tropey than standard bad guys and the rules reflect that (including how hard to kill they are).

Chapter Four: Creating Characters

Primary and secondary characters are made using these rules, tertiary characters and killers are made using rules in chapter six. 

All of the players sit in the order that they choose but once you're settled in people aren't allowed to change the order during character creation.  The director decides how many secondary characters are created (usually one per player) and defines requirements for character concepts (like everyone must be college-aged friends).  Then everyone gets character sheets, one for the primary character with the secondary character sheets divided up as evenly as possible.    Everyone is in charge of making the characters that they are holding the sheets for.

First, all sheets in your possession must be given a stereotype (there is a big list in the sidebars here).  Then all players pass their secondary character sheets to the player on their left.

Next, all sheets in your possession get their stats.  All stats start at Poor.  Primary characters get four stat boosters (Poor > Normal > Good) and all secondary characters get three.  Then, once again, all secondary character sheets are passed to the player on your left.

After that all characters get positive qualities.  Just like stat boosters primary characters get four and secondary characters get three.  There are sample qualities listed and the director gets final say on all of them.  The game of musical character sheets continues.

Negative qualities are next, give your sheets one no matter what they are.  Each is assigned to a stat just like the positive qualities and you get some examples of these too.  Round and round the character sheets go, when they'll stop nobody knows.

Now we get to make alterations to the sheets.  Primary characters get two, secondary characters in your possession get a shared pool of all of your secondary character sheets minus one (minimum one).  These can be used to increase a stat, gain a positive quality, gain two genre points, or gain a special ability (primary characters only) that you can use genre points to activate.  To the left, to the left.

General items are given here, characters need a legitimate reason to have weapons in order to have weapons (aka you're a cop, a street gang member, etc).  Pass secondary character sheets to the left again, I'm out of jokes.

Last, all character sheet details are filled in.  Things like their name, how they are linked to other characters, tidbits about their personality or past, etc.  Now everyone has helped create all of the secondary characters as a group (and made their primary character all by themselves).

Chapter Five: The Players

This is the "how to play this game" chapter.  Tip #3 (out of 5) is to "Accept Death!".  There are some actual rules here, mainly around genre points.  First, genre points are pooled on a player basis, not a character basis.  This means that you can have your secondary character do stupid things to get genre points in order to spend them on your primary character.  Some general tips about how to gain genre points are also listed (although the only sure fire way to get them is to have a character you control die which gets you two).

There's also some information about how to play secondary characters (which involves treating them as more than just a sacrificial pinata of genre points), and how to pay primary characters, how to play into the group archetypes that exist within slasher flicks.

Chapter Six: The Director

As expected, this is the "how to run this game" chapter.  Both pre-game and in-game responsibilities are listed (although it does explicitly say that just making up the flick as you go along is okay so don't feel like it is roping you into anything).  I'm not going to dig too deep into this one because you might end up playing the game and I don't want to ruin it, but this chapter does go in depth about how to prepare and run a flick in a way that is both helpful and also genre appropriate.

There are also rules for creating tertiary characters as well as the killer (and the killer is built completely different from a character because in the movies they're generally portrayed as larger than life and able to do things that other people can't).  There are rules to be able to portray pretty much any killer from any slasher flick you can think of, supernatural or otherwise.  There are also some example killers to give you ideas or just use wholesale.

Then we get into more running the game tips.  It can be run as a serious horror game or a campy B-movie schlockfest.  There are also tips on how to narrate (including how to deal with sex scenes which are a staple of slasher flicks), how to adjudicate rules (including giving genre points), how to play tertiary characters and the killer, and how to embrace the different sub-genres of slasher flicks. 

Chapter Seven: Quick Flicks

Quick flicks are basically one-page adventure ideas with a killer concept but they aren't really fleshed out.  Savage Worlds has a similar concept in their books.  There are three listed here.

Chapter Eight: "The Vault"

The Vault is a full flecked flick for up to four players (with a specified number of total primary + secondary characters) to use if you want to run a game.

Appendix: Character Templates

Here is a huge list of character templates usable as primary/secondary/tertiary characters based off of the stereotype that they portray.

Final Thoughts

I like it for what it is.  The rules are a little fast and loose and probably not mathematically sound but it's simple and easy and works from a thematic perspective.  This isn't a game to sit down and have a long campaign with, this is a game to run short sessions with if you don't have a group that can get together regularly or just want something different. 

If I want a long drawn out horror game with tense decision making (and most/all of the characters dying) I'll run Alien.  If I want something shorter and quicker with people leaning into the idea of a slasher flick type game specifically (with most/all of the characters dying) I'll run this game.  It definitely has its place in my library.

Board Business / Community Input Requested V2
« on: September 15, 2022, 01:37:15 PM »
There have been some discussions on Discord about the site but I'm posting it here to make it "official" (and also Discord is a terrible place to try and reference old information from).

Our website doesn't look great on phones and this is not a new issue.  I'm going to be looking into alternative themes for the website that are more mobile friendly which will end up probably including (among other things) a small visual overhaul, but it's going to be a little bit of work because some things like our fancy tables are extras that Prime coded into our existing theme.

While I'm doing things anyway, are there any other issues people have noticed with the board that should be addressed?

Is there any functionality that you think would be good to add that other forums have? (For example GitP, I don't have an account there so I don't know if they have features we don't.)

Is there anything you wish you could do while posting or browsing that you can't? (From a technical perspective, not a mod rules perspective.)

Here is a working list of things that I'm going to look into:
- New website theme that is mobile friendly Done, edited current theme
- Integrate Discord into the site better than the News link Sort of done
- URL pop-up input for the link button (might require changes to the post editor) Done, post editor changed
- Snazzing up the website header area? Not easily doable so not happening.
- th table code from here (might have to go in table2 options) Doesn't seem possible

Board Business / Results of today's website maintenance
« on: September 13, 2022, 07:23:43 PM »
So as you may or may not have noticed, the site was in maintenance mode for a few hours today.

This was to run updates, fix some outstanding issues that have vaguely annoyed me for a while, and mostly to try and resolve the recent bot influx.

Here are a couple of changes that I've made that you might notice:
 - The SMF version number on the bottom of the page has changed!  We are no longer super out of date!
 - The site now forces everyone to use HTTPS (as do the storm shelter and bg archive although nobody should be logging into those) because we're no longer using expired SSL certificates!
 - People who are in a group where their name is a different color (like me) now have their name in that color everywhere that it's a link.  This is a side-effect of cleaning out old junk that was installed poorly (probably as part of one of our migrations) and replacing it with new less-junk alternatives.  I don't expect anyone to care, I'm just explaining why my name is now going to be red everywhere.
 - We should get less spambots being able to register because that whole process has changed.  I've been cleaning up bots multiple times a day so if it continues to be an issue I'm going to work on this further (now that we're in a better place than we were this morning).  I've deleted thousands of them and I'm tired of it.

There shouldn't be any leftover issues or random stuff that needs to be addressed like the last time I did major maintenance to the site (three and a half years ago), but I'm not stepping down this time so you're all stuck with me.

Board Business / I'm a Mod Again
« on: April 01, 2022, 04:25:02 PM »
I posted it on Discord and so there's no reason not to make a post about it here too even though forum activity has been pretty down lately.

I'm a mod again so we do have a backup mod now.  Thankfully we're not dealing with technical issues the way we were last time I was a mod so this time my promotion isn't based around fixing stuff.

Other RPGs / Review of The Company
« on: November 21, 2021, 01:54:20 PM »

Okay, this game is a little different than all of my reviews so far.  The Company is not a big budget RPG (or even a small budget RPG), it is a game that I kickstarted that is available on and so is just a weird little indie zine game.  For those who aren't aware, zine games are short little games with minimalistic rules and layout.  The Employee Handbook (Player's handbook) and Management Manual (GM handbook) are both only 24 pages.  Because of this shortness I'm going to go ahead and review them both and this will still end up probably being the shortest review I have done/will do.

I'm not even going to worry about the table of contents on these books because honestly I don't even see much of a point.  Therefore this will probably also be the least organized review that I have done/will do.

Employee Handbook

Right away in the first (non front cover) page we get a page called OVERVIEW which is basically the equivalent of a player reference card in more-complicated board games and tells you the results of dice rolls and what combat actions to take and when you gain stress and some other basic stuff.

We then move on to your welcome letter as an employee of the Wuhan-Baxter Corporation as a member of the Asset Recovery and Containment Division (this page also includes writing credits and the very short table of contents). 

The next page is the Introduction which lets us know that this is a survival horror game centered around corporate emergency response teams (so we're the Weyland-Yutani employees in the Alien universe as an example), and also this is a d10 game where you get a dice pool made up of d10s and you need an 8+ to succeed.  There are varying levels of success and failure and more difficult tasks require more success rolls.

We then finally (can I say finally when we're on page three of the actual contents?) get a multiple page section which is about how to play the game so of course multiple pages are required.  We get a page on rolling (which is all pretty simple but you can adjust your dice pool and roll for skills you aren't trained in and collaborate on rolls, etc).  There are also rules on items and combat and surprise and healing and resting and stress/burnout.  A lot of these are specifically designed to emphasize the survival part of survival horror (and making survival more difficult in many cases).

Character creation is pretty simple.  You pick a career from the list of careers (Soldier, Scientist, Medic, Engineer, Technician), you choose a couple of skill proficiency boosts to add to the skill proficiencies you start with, and you pick a perk from the general perks or your career specific perks.  Bam, done.  If you're playing in a campaign (and not just a one-off) there are rules for promotions (which is just gaining more skills/perks) but the Drive that you spend on those can also be spent on more immediate gains so even one-off characters have use for this game's experience points equivalent.  Drive is gained by completing missions and also doing your job (each career has specific listed job goals, for example the Medic wants to search and care for survivors).

There are also a couple of pages detailing weapons, armor, and other equipment with what they do.

Management Manual

We get the same overview and a similar employee welcome page (this one welcoming you to the Wuhan-Baxter Executive Management program).  After that, we get some new stuff starting with a timeline history of the company (the current in-game date is explicitly left blank).

Next we get another Introduction but this is to the GM side (in this game GM is Game Manager).  We get rules on how to GM The Company (including some ways to track time that keep things abstract and simple but still allow for heightened tension, this part is neat) and some reiteration of the Employee Handbook rules (so that the GM doesn't have to look at both books).

The meat of this book (and what takes up most of the pages) is a sample adventure which takes place in a deep sea research facility and includes rules about things like what happens if the hull gets punctured.  It's short but interesting.

Final Thoughts

This is a neat little game.  It's short and sweet and has some editing issues (since a formal editor wasn't hired this isn't a big surprise) but I still like it.  My only real problems are related to rules that don't exist (and given the nature of this game it isn't surprising that some things just aren't explicitly spelled out.

For the low price of pay what you want (although I paid more than nothing since I kickstarted it) I'm happy to have this one in my collection.

UPDATE: I reached out to the creator on about the editing issues (which were super minor) and they were all fixed in about two and a half hours and new versions of the PDFs were uploaded.  I'm double impressed, this guy really cares about his game and I'm going to run it if I get a chance and it was worth supporting the creator's labor of love.

Other RPGs / Review of Savage Pathfinder / Pathfinder for Savage Worlds
« on: August 25, 2021, 04:41:47 PM »

Savage Pathfinder, aka Pathfinder for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition is a game that I kickstarted and now it's available for sale and it's about time for me to do another review so here we go.  In addition to this book there's also the Rise of the Runelords adventure path and a monster manual and some other miscellaneous stuff but I'm not including those here.

I'm going to be assuming at least basic knowledge of both Pathfinder and Savage Worlds but if this book gives us a basic overview of the Savage Worlds rule-set then I'll include that here (and I don't see why it wouldn't).  Otherwise you're on your own if you don't know something (or I guess someone could bug me to review Savage Worlds but it is popular enough that I don't see that as required).

We're back to reviewing blind here, I haven't looked at the book yet because I've been waiting for all of the revisions and pre-release errata to get out of the way as I think I've done enough editing and proofreading just for the people around here.

The pdf is 260 pages long (including covers and blank pages and whatnot) and the index goes as follows:
 - Any Time, Any Place (Probably a story)
 - Getting Started
 - Characters
 - Gear
 - Rules
 - The Adventure Tool Kit
 - Powers
 - Magic Items
 - Game Mastering
 - Bestiary
 - Index

Any Time, Any Place

I was wrong, this isn't a story.  Thank god, I always skip the stories because I really just don't care.  Instead, it is a one page chapter about Savage Worlds in the most general meaningless way except they mention some of their other product catalogs in case you want to go buy more Savage Worlds stuff.

Moving on...

Getting Started

Okay here we go, I'm going to teach you the basics of Savage Worlds and not skip to page 8 as the book advises me to since I already know what the hell I'm doing.  Oh, and there's "What's a role-playing game" which honestly I don't even want to read anymore because it's the same damn couple of chapters in every book.

What?  I should read it because I'm reviewing the book and am not allowed to skip around?  Fine, one second.......there, done.  This game uses GM terminology (Game Master) and advise you to go watch some "actual play" videos on the internet if you don't know how to play an RPG.

Anyway, Savage Worlds uses the standard set of dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20).  You will in addition need a d6 that is different from your other d6's which will get rolled a lot and is called the Wild Die (I'll explain it more whenever the book actually talks about it).  You will also need a standard deck of playing cards (including the jokers), this is used for initiative.  You'll also need some sort of easily trackable tokens which are used to track "bennies" (kind of like action points in 3.5).  Then there's the whole optional battle map thing which they explicitly call out as optional.

We then get a pretty extensive section on where things are now in the game world (the god of humanity died in the relatively recent past and things are kind of fucked up), general knowledge items like days of the week and months of the year and coinage terms in the different countries and more.  Oh, and there's a map.

Lastly we get a one-pager explaining some differences between Savage Pathfinder and regular Savage Worlds for those of us who are familiar with the rules.  It explicitly says that this isn't a direct conversion from Pathfinder to Savage Worlds and that you won't find any conversion documents because the spirit of everything thing needs to fit along with the rules content.  In addition, while most Savage Worlds settings have a section specifically for rules of the setting Savage Pathfinder does not because it is such an extensive overhaul, therefore all setting specific rules are in the general rules section of that chapter.  It looks like this book is a standalone book instead of also requiring the base Savage World rules and I think that is neat is it makes it more accessible to people.

As a general overview, there are some general changes with edges, skills, arcane backgrounds, weapons, combat, enemies, and powers.  One of the biggest changes is that class edges are a thing to capture the spirit of PF classes.  Everyone gets a class edge for free (if they want, other options are available) so while Savage Pathfinder is still a classless system you can get the feel of PF classes if you want to.


We’ve got eleven “core character concepts” with a pregenerated character for each if you just want to play the damn game, which includes suggested advancements.  These “core character concepts” are based off of the eleven core classes in Pathfinder and are basically the iconic characters if you ever paid attention to those.  However, I expect everyone here to not be a lazy bastard so we’ll review this chapter anyway.

So the first thing you do when making a character in Savage Pathfinder is come up with a concept so you know what character you’re going to make.  Surprise!  The second thing you do is wait for the GM to tell you what rank your character is.  You know how people have sat down and broken up the levels in 3.5+ D&D into different ranges that encompass different game archetypes based off of the power levels of the characters?  This is built into Savage Worlds (and by association Savage Pathfinder) with Ranks.  Each rank is associated with a specific range of advances your character has had (you don’t go up a level, you gain an advance and there are no experience points) and certain advances also have a rank as a prerequisite.  It’s an easy way to eyeball the power level of a character.

The third thing you do during character creation is actually start creating your character.  Ancestry selection is the name of the game (I’m not surprised about Ancestry replacing Race here since Ancestry is the words Paizo has moved on to and Paizo’s name is slapped on the copyright page).  Once your ancestry is chosen you pick hindrances.  This is the standard “pick a negative trait to gain a positive one” but it’s all relatively restricted in terms of what you can get out of it.

Next you figure out your traits, traits include both attributes and skills.  Here’s where things get fun (at least to me).  Savage Pathfinder is not a d20 system, it’s not a dX system at all.  All attributes (and skills that you are proficient with) start at a d4.  If you want to be stronger you spend a character creation attribute point to increase your strength from a d4 to a d6.  When making a stat check you roll the die that your stat is at, and there’s a general cap at d12 although some things can raise it higher (to a d20, this is very hard to do).  There are also some things that grant a static bonus to the die roll.  Skills work the same except there are five skills that everyone starts trained in (such as stealth) and you start with a d4.  All skills have a linked attribute, and the die type of the attribute is a soft cap for the die type of a skill (it costs more points when raising a skill above its attribute).  Your smarts attribute also defines your languages.

Once you’ve got your traits you figure out your derived statistics.  These include your tactical speed, parry (Savage Pathfinder is a system that supports deflecting damage as well as soaking it), and Toughness (damage threshold to be explained more in the combat chapter most likely).

Almost lastly, you figure your your edges which are sort of like feats.  Second to lastly you buy gear (everyone starts with the same baseline gold piece budget but this can get adjusted during character creation).  Lastly lastly you figure out your background and alignment and religion and all of that fun stuff.  One thing of note is that alignment has been simplified to Good, Neutral, or Evil.  The chaos-law axis is not here.

Now on to the nitty gritty.

For ancestries we have the seven races I would expect: Dwarves, elves, gnomes, half-elves, half-orcs, halflings, and humans.  Everyone gets a bonus die increase to a stat (even humans, we’re using the standard Pathfinder baseline here which makes sense) and then some other bonuses (such as an extra edge for humans which is the feat analogue).  Also we get pictures of every race in their underwear because nothing tells you what a half-orc looks like like seeing one in its underwear.  For some reason the gnome is a purple-haired punk rocker.

Hindrances are either Minor (worth 1 point) and Major (worth 2 points).  You can only get bonuses from 4 points of hindrances but you can take as many as you want for no benefit at all.  Some are purely mechanical but others are personality and role-playing based so the expectation here is basically don’t be a dick about taking things that you’ll then ignore during the game.

When it comes to traits, there are five attributes (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor) and twenty-six skills (with no sub-skills, Academics means you maybe know all academic smart people stuff that isn’t explicitly covered by another skill).  There are skills for spellcasting so here’s a heads-up about that.

Edges are like feats.  They can grant bonuses to skills (but a +2 to a skill here is a lot more significant than a +2 to a skill in a d20 system), make you faster, better at combat, etc.  In addition, you can take class edges (and yes, both “multi-classing” and “prestige classing” aka prestige edges are a thing).  As an example, lets say you want to be a bard because you’re an edgy memelord.  What do you do?  Why you take the Bard edge (which only increases your edginess) after meeting the Spirit attribute and Common Knowledge skill requirements.  In return you gain spellcasting, penalties if using medium or heavy armor, and the ability to taunt with the Performance skill (instead of the taunt skill) with some bonuses.  As you go up in rank you can take more Bard edges such as Inspire Heroics.  Each class has one base class edge and three additional edges.

Some things of note here before I move on: there are no proficiencies (everyone can use everything and some class edges get penalties if wearing specific armor types with the exception of druids still can’t wear metal armor), everything is attribute and skill based so fighters are not automatically better at hitting things than wizards, and there are no class skills because technically there are no classes.  Traditional Pathfinder class feature choices still exist (cleric domain, sorcerer bloodline, wizard arcane bond, etc).

Just like classes are edge based, so are prestige classes (and again we’re given the traditional core prestige classes to work with).  Each prestige class edge has a rank requirement and some other requirements and gives you bonuses as expected.  Assassin gets Death Attack, Dragon Disciple gets Breath Weapon, Loremaster gets a free reroll on a list of knowledge based skills, etc.

Okay, earlier I mentioned that Savage Pathfinder is “advancement based” and not “class based”.  Generally an advancement is given after one or more game sessions (which here is defined as 4-5 hours of play, lucky bastards).  This can be adjusted as needed of course (for example, the official adventure paths tell the GM when to grant an advancement to make sure that player power levels stay appropriate).  An advancement can increase an attribute, one or more skills, grant an edge, or buy off a hindrance point.  There is also a limit of one class/prestige class edge per rank (so multi-classing is a slow process).


Everyone starts with clothes, that’s the first actual rules text.  I’m not surprised it’s first, a lot of people tend to forget giving their characters clothes.

Here is some basic gear rules information since I’m not going to go item by item.  Instead of a proficiency system there is instead a minimum strength system and if you’re not strong enough for your weapon/armor/whatever then you get penalties.  Also you can’t deal more damage with your melee/thrown weapon than your strength die.  Also anyone can use a two-handed weapon with one-hand at a penalty.  Encumbrance does exist but it is implied to only be used when players are being ridiculous (or if your DM believes that you can not have a meaningful campaign if strict encumbrance records are not kept).  We’ve also kept the special materials such as mithral and adamantine, as well as the masterwork equipment designation (although that is implemented differently).  Weapon Sizes are still around (if needed from a logical perspective) but no longer impact damage and is just about weight and minimum strength requirements.

Armor increases toughness which helps you not take damage.  Shields increase parry so you can parry better (and also protect you from ranged attacks although facing comes into play here).  Weapons roll your strength plus an additional die for damage unless they’re projectile weapons (such as a bow or crossbow) which have fixed damage dice all the way.  Some weapons (such as the longbow or crossbows) can pierce through armor negating their toughness bonus.

There are also rules for cannons and siege weapons, vehicles, regular adventuring gear, tools (but not masterwork tools), and alchemical items.


Remember way back when I talked about how you’d need a d6 that you could tell apart from your other d6’s?  That’s because all PCs (as well as special unique NPCs/monsters) are known as Wild Cards.  Everyone else is an Extra.  Wild cards can take three wounds until they’re incapacitated (instead of one like extras) and also roll a Wild Die alongside every trait roll that they make (and take the higher out of the wild die and regular die).  A wild die is always a d6 unless you somehow have something that changes it.  This means that even if you have a d4 in a skill you still will be rolling a d6 (because you get a d4 plus your wild die) but obviously 2d6 take the highest is better.

Rolling a trait roll is the pretty standard roll a die and compare it to the target number (in Savage Pathfinder the target number is usually a four).  Circumstantial modifiers can be added (or subtracted) but those are usually pretty low as (once again) this isn’t a d20 system.  If you roll multiple dice intending to use all of them (such as using an edge to fire two arrows so you roll two attack dice) the dice are tracked independently.  However, you roll one wild die per action so if you roll two dice for two arrows you only roll one wild die in that attack and can replace only one of your attack dice with the wild die.

In addition, Savage Pathfinder is a game with exploding dice (not dice with bombs).  Here they are called Aces, and this means that if you roll a d6 and you get a 6 why you roll your d6 again and add the result.  Did you roll 6 again?  Now your result is 12 + your third roll of the d6.

This mainly matters because of a rule called Raises.  For every 4 points your result is over the target number you get a raise.  Raises always provide an addition effect, for example extra damage when attacking.  This means that raises are, among other things, the critical hit system.

Speaking of crits, critical failures happen when both your normal trait die as well as your wild die both roll a one.  You can’t reroll a critical failure ever no matter what, period.  If you’re rolling multiple dice (such as that two arrows scenario), a critical failure occurs when more than half of the die results are a natural 1.  Critical failures always include something bad happening in addition to just outright failure, and spells even have their own rules for critical failures (I did warn you earlier that spells are skill based).

Lastly, if you aren’t trained in a skill at all you still roll a d4 and the wild die but subtract two from each die roll.  This means that it is theoretically possible to perform any normal skill result (since target numbers are normally a 4) but it is not the most likely outcome.

That’s enough about dice rolling, let’s move on.

Another rule in Savage Pathfinder is Bennies (which are sort of like Action Points as I'm sure I already said).  Every PC starts each game session with three bennies (usually tracked with a physical object like poker chips or other tokens) and they are discarded at the end of the session so you can’t hoard them.  Bennies can also be awarded mid-session if the GM feels it is appropriate as a reward (and if anyone draws a joker card using the playing cards I told you that you would need then all PCs get a benny).  The GM also starts each session with one benny per PC and the GMs wild cards have their own bennies in addition to the general GM benny pool.

Bennies can be used to do the following: reroll a trait, prevent wounds, recover from being shaken, draw a new card from the deck when cards are being drawn, reroll damage, or influence the story in some way (such as find a clue if you’re stuck or nudge an NPC into being more agreeable).  That last one is entirely up to the GM but can be prompted by a PC.

Another special rule, similar to but different from bennies, is Conviction.  Conviction is also tracked by a physical token and is a special award granted during great and meaningful victory or misfortune (and unlike bennies it can be hoarded between sessions).  Conviction can be spent to gain an additional d6 to all trait and damage totals until the beginning of the character’s next turn.  This die can ace like any other (but since it is added it doesn’t contribute to crit fails).  It can instead be used to trigger or refresh abilities that have a per-time-period use restriction.  Powerful stuff, but entirely GM dependent.

But wait, there’s more!  Combat rules galore!

The assumption for combat is that you’re using minis (and it gives minis rules as inches and not squares so you can go full on wargaming if you want to) but the game supports not having them.  Combat initiative is done using normal playing cards called Action Cards (I kept telling you that you’d need a deck of cards, and yes you can buy special Savage Pathfinder Action Cards) with the ace going first and the two going last.  Groups of NPCs that aren’t wild cards share an action card.  The deck gets reshuffled every time a joker is dealt, and the joker can go whenever they want with a +2 to all trait and damage rolls that round (in addition to other joker bonuses).  There’s also a tie-breaker list for the different suits.

When your card comes up it’s your turn.  Action types are split up between move, regular, and free.  Regular actions can be taken at any point in your movement and not just before or after moving.  There are also a special sub-type of actions called limited actions, you can only perform one limited action during your turn.  You can perform up to three regular actions on your turn but each addition action beyond the first applies a penalty to all actions that round and so multiple actions have to be declared before any dice are rolled.  This means that if you declare actions that are dependent on other actions then they might not happen but you get the penalty anyway.

Remember the parry derived stat I mentioned way back?  That’s the target number for melee attacks (basically it is your armor class).  Ranged attacks normally have a target number of 4, modified by range.  When rolling damage, compare the damage roll vs the toughness derived stat.  Damage less than the toughness has no game effect (but the target is “beaten up a bit”).  Damage greater than the toughness makes the target shaken (if they are already shaken they take a wound).  Each raise on the damage deals a wound on top of the base effect.  When you’re shaken you can only take free actions (which does include some movement so running away remains an option).  At the start of your turn you make a spirit attribute roll to remove your shaken condition (or just spend a benny).  Wild cards can take three wounds before being incapacitated (and wounds also give penalties).  When incapacitated, make a vigor roll to see if you die (which happens on a critical failure), take a permanent injury and start bleeding out (failure), take an injury that goes away when all wounds are healed (success) or take an injury that goes away in 24 hours or when all wounds are healed (raise).  As long as you aren’t already dead you are unconscious regardless of the result.  Oh, and if you’re bleeding out you might die so failing vigor rolls isn’t the best thing to do.  Bennies can also prevent wounds.

Oh, and if your wounds remain untreated and you depend on the natural healing rules to get better, those also require vigor roles and a critical failure there means your wound is infected (or similar) and you take another wound.

There’s also extra rules for aiming and grappling and breaking things and called shots and disarming and all of that extra stuff you love to hate.  Oh, and rules for hitting innocent bystanders with ranged attacks when you miss.

Good stuff.

The Adventure Tool Kit

This is basically the GM section of things you can add to your game.  I won’t go into detail here because there’s not much of a point, but it does cover the following topics.

Allies: NPC extras are designed to be controlled by the players (and not be DMPCs) and this also helps keep a split party from being bored if they actually have allies.  How to run that is in this section.

Creative Combat: An optional rule to have tests between combatants with varying results (tests are things like throwing sand in someone’s eyes or trying to stare them down or kick him in the balls, normally they just do specific things).

Downtime: What it says on the tin.

Dramatic Tasks: Add drama to tasks when the PCs are rescuing people from a burning building (or more likely something a little less heroic but just as dramatic such as climbing a rock face while being shot at).

Fear: For creatures with the fear special ability (or if the GM just thinks you should be terrified).

Hazards: Cold, heat, hunger, thirst, falling, high altitude, etc.

Interludes: When you want to force your players to actually have to roleplay their characters during downtime.

Mass Battles: Also what it says on the tin.

Networking: For the people person in the party.

Quick Encounters: When aint nobody got time for that.

The Planes: This is Savage Pathfinder so planar travel is a possibility.  This is a one-page section so don’t expect as much detail as actual Pathfinder.

Social Conflict: Because sometimes words can cut like knives.

Travel: If it doesn’t matter how long the trip takes then this section doesn’t matter, but if the group is on a time crunch here is how to ruin their day.


It’s magic time!  So, just to confuse everyone the way to get magic is to have an “Arcane Background”.  Yes, clerics have an arcane background.  Different sources of magic with different rules isn’t a thing (although the standard eight schools of magic from Pathfinder still are), the edge that grants your magic gives you any specific restrictions you might have and otherwise everyone follows the same rules.  One thing to note is that in Savage Pathfinder all powers are spells (at least so far), but savage worlds is a generalist system that you can build on (like GURPS) which is why it uses general language like "powers".

Rule 1: Activating powers requires an arcane skill, this is defined in your arcane background (for example, clerics use the faith skill).

Rule 2: Everyone has a list of starting powers, this also comes from your arcane background.  Want more powers?  Take the New Powers edge.

Rule 3: Everyone has power points for their powers.  No vancian casting here! 

Rule 4: Every arcane background has a different list of powers that they can take so there are different caster lists even if all magic basically functions the same.

Do you have powers? You can automatically detect magic for free as a regular action (but you need the detect arcana spell if you want to do it further than 30 feet away or get specific information more than the simple is it magic yes/no).  Identifying magic items is a skill check. 

Another basic change from what you might be used to, your spells can look like whatever you want but this look is locked in.  This functions kind of like energy psionic powers in 3.5 D&D, the power itself does damage but you as the player decide what kind of damage (except that the selection is permanent so if you shoot things with fire then it is all fire all the time).  Flaming skulls once is flaming skulls forever but this a per power decision.  You can however add trappings to powers you know instead of learning new powers so you can learn ice bolt and fire bolt.  You can also add limitations to your powers as part of their trappings to make them cheaper (but not free, and this is also permanent).  Also powers have rank requirements just like edges.

Activating a power requires a skill check and you lose a power point on a failure.  Critical failure invokes backlash and you become fatigued and all of your active powers instantly end.  Addition power points can be spent to double power duration on a per-target basis.  Every hour spent resting regains you 5 power points but resting doesn’t have to equal sleeping.  Bennies can also be spent for power points.  Interestingly enough, you can also try to activate a power by spending fewer than normal power points in exchange for getting a penalty to your casting roll, however a failure on this roll automatically counts as a critical failure.  There is also a list of power modifiers that are selected during power activation and everyone can use to increase the power point cost in exchange for additional effects.  Individual powers have additional modifiers that can be used for that power.  This is also similiar to D&D 3.5 psionics.  One thing to note is that damage doesn't scale much, it is x damage or x damage on a raise or spend some power points to instead do x damage or x damage on a raise.  Savage Pathinder doesn't support the Pathfinder bags of hit points playstyle.

Cantrips are also a thing in Savage Pathfinder.  These also require a skill roll and the effect must be based on a power that you already know (so if you shoot fire bolts you have the cantrip power of matches for example).  Cantrips are free but have specific restrictions on how they can be used with GM veto power spelled out right there (and they can’t directly hurt people).

Magic Items

I don’t really know what you’re expecting here but I’ll give the same general rules information as I did with Powers.  Magic items are magic items after all.

Some magic items require a trait roll to activate, like any roll this can crit fail (and some items have powers that only activate on a raise).  If an item grants an edge that you already have, it instead grants the improved version of that edge if it exists.  Magic item effects don’t stack with themselves or the same effect from anything else (such as a power).  Magic item slots exist and are as follows: head, eyes, shoulders, neck, chest, belt, wrists, hands, feet, two rings. 

Magic items shops exist but are much more limited than you might be used to, a large city can have (in the whole city) 1d6+1 potions and scrolls (the roll is split in half between the two), 1d6+1 healing potions, and 1d6 total of any other type of magic item.  Walmart for magic items does not exist if following the rules laid out here.  There are however rules for crafting magic items, both temporary ones that tie up your power points until they are used as well as permanent ones.

Other than that, things are as you’d expect (for the most part).  Armor and weapons can be enchanted but can only have five points of echantments total, each enchantment has how many points it takes up and a specified cost that is not directly tied to the point cost (and some things like the glamered enchantment that makes your armor look like regular clothes costs zero points although it still costs gold).  There are no pluses, if you want more damage on your weapon you take the damaging enchantment.

Otherwise everything is fairly standard Pathfinder.  You have specific magic weapons/armor/shields and rods, staves, wands, rings, wondrous items, etc with all of the basic staple items being there.

Game Mastering

This isn’t the GM rules chapter, this is the general how to GM chapter that you all know and love (from my previous reviews if nothing else).  We have sections on gathering the party, campaign types, enemies and encounters, and running the game.  It’s all there if you need it and short and to the point if you don’t.


It’s the monster section.  It has monster special abilities and monster size categories (I like this part, “normal” size goes from halfling to stone giant/war horse but is five different sizes in that “normal” category and each size has a toughness modifier), creature types, and alignment if you’re a GM and skipped over character creation.  Other than that it is all stat blocks but the blocks are all small and easy to read so they compact well.  However there aren’t a whole lot here because they want you to buy the bestiary book.  It’s pretty much just animals (for animal companions), swarm, human skeleton and human zombie (for powers) and townsfolk and town guards (to round out the group).

Final Thoughts

I like it a lot, a hell of a lot more than I liked PF2E.  I personally see it as a great blending between Savage Worlds and Pathfinder (both of which I’ve played and am well familiar with).  It’s not perfect, but there is nothing here I see as explicitly bad or wrong.  All-in-all it's a good system, although Savage Worlds has always been aimed at a lower power than Pathfinder so if your goal is to single-handedly conquer worlds and fight gods this is probably not what you want.

The only real downside that I see is that who knows how much additional content the game is going to get, on the one side it is being done by the actual company who makes Savage Worlds and isn’t just some random offshoot but on the other side they sometimes make Savage Worlds settings that pretty much get abandoned without much supporting content.  However, if all they do is convert the different splats and adventure paths they have a lot of material to work with so here's hoping.

Other RPGs / Review of Prime Directive Modern Edition
« on: July 30, 2021, 06:02:59 PM »

Another request from nijineko for a game I've never heard of.  This one has three current versions: GURPS, D20, and D20 Modern.  D20 Modern is the most current version (and theoretically the most fine-tuned) and I haven't reviewed anything from D20 Modern so that's the one I selected to review.

If you couldn't tell from the name, Prime Directive is a Star Trek role-playing game and is published by Amarillo Design Bureau Inc.

The table of contents is as follows
 - Prologue
 - Introduction
 - Empires and Species
 - Character Classes
 - Skills
 - Feats
 - End Game Rewards
 - Technology
 - The Star Fleet Universe
 - Starships
 - Adventure: Rescue on Roon
 - Index

Amusingly enough, the prologue starts before the table of contents.  It's a list of other products, a basic glossary of d20 terms, and a story that takes place in the prime directive modern universe.


Here is the basic information we've come to expect in an intro with "What is d20 Modern" and "What is Prime Directive" and information about the Star Fleet Universe such as species and eras and other information that you probably already know if you care about Star Trek (and is similar to but different from the Star Trek Adventures information).  These differences are mainly because each game maps the information to their rule-systems and so interpretation is necessary.

Empires and Species of the Star Fleet Universe

We start with a list of all of the species (some of which I don't immediately recognize) with homeworld information, ability modifiers, base speed, free languages, and other information (both rules and fluff).  Honestly, humans kind of suck with a flat baseline of nothing special (as is standard for D20 Modern).  As a comparison, Rigellians get two stat boosts, two bonus feats, and D$ vs ultraviolet radiation.  Their downside is needing to make a very high Will save to lie for any reason.  There are some balance issues here but they manly appear to be because D20 Modern baseline assumes that everyone is a human so they don't get nice things.

Vulcans get a large Charisma penalty which amuses me every time I think about it.

Species are organized into Federation members, Klingon empire members, Romulan empire members, the Kzinti Hegemony, the Confederation of the Gorn, the Tholian Holdfast, and the list keeps going on.  Being able to play traditionally "evil" Star Trek species (such as the Gorn) is a nice change of pace.

Once your species is selected it is time to figure out your age.  Young Adult and Adult are the standards here although games starting at levels other than 1 might have different base age category baselines.  Height and Weight tables are here, as is standard.

Due to the lack of in-combat healing it is recommended that rolls for hp are double before adding the constitution modifier (I'm not sure how this is any different from base D20 Modern but whatever).

Character Classes

We get some information before diving into the nitty gritty.  There's a table for what kind of tone different level ranges are (Level 1 is Cadet, level 3 is Green, level 5 is Standard, etc).  There is also a promotion and rank system.  There is also a suggestion of having the group leader (and perhaps the second in command) be higher level than the other characters in order to buy these ranks.  That won't go over well in a lot of groups.  There's also a section on different types of party setups (bridge crew, freelancers, fighter pilots, etc).

Oh look, humans do still get to keep their bonus skill point over non-humans but that isn't mentioned in species it is mentioned in classes.

Classes are the same stat-based classes from D20 Modern with some adjustments such as additional class skills or talent trees.

D20 Modern also uses starting occupations and there are some new ones here as well.  The same with action points (with prime directive specific adjustments). 

We also get some rules on making contacts (which is a Charisma based system) which can also be purchased through Wealth.  This looks abusable.

There is also a list of advanced classes (which bridge the gap between base classes and prestige classes) with the normal entry base class.  Amusingly enough the book flat out says that if you want an advanced class for your Tough Hero (Con based) you need to buy a different book.  This is the core rulebook here, come on people.  In comparison there are four Fast Hero (Dex based) advanced classes.

Balance here is all over the place.  Here's an example, these are the two listed advanced classes.  You could be a soldier and get weapon focus, weapon specialization, some bonus feats, +4 to initiative, and a few selections from a list of soldier-y special abilities (because D20 Modern likes selections from lists).  Or you could be an orion pirate and gain Charisma bonuses, the Leadership feat, an orion pirate lieutenant, an aura of fear, and some other stuff.  One of these is significantly better than the other.

We also get a handful of 5 level long prestige classes.

Remember me mentioning the existence of a promotion and rank system?  It's a weird point based system where you get points a month and certain point thresholds are required to gain ranks but you also have to roll Charisma checks and honestly I'm not seeing anything here that would require someone of higher rank to be higher level than other people.


This is all pretty standard for D20 Modern with a couple of added skills and a couple of changes to existing ones to better fit the setting.

There's a skill for hitting a machine to temporarily fix it.  It's called Benchthumping.  "Ayyyyy"

There's also a list of Psionic Skills which aren't class-skills for anyone and have prerequisites.  Mind Meld is a classic example.


Just like the skills section this is the base D20 Modern list with some additions (and also some psionic feats to go with the psionic skills).

End Game Awards

This is a weird chapter.  You can reward people with experience points!  There's also seniority points, action points, and "bonus points".  There's also a couple of pages about medals and rank insignia.

Technology of the Star Fleet Universe

Progress Levels feature predominantly here (unsurprisingly), with the different progress levels of each empire.

Equipment (weapons, armor, etc) are also in this chapter.  This also includes ship equipment such as engines and reactors and transporters and replicators.  This includes both rules information as well as scientific explanations of the technology.

Exploring the Star Fleet Universe

Apparently there are a handful of related games of which this is one and here is where the writers want to talk about the history of the Star Fleet Universe games.  Also it looks like they want you to buy one of these other games in order to have space ship battles?

Oh wait, nevermind.  There's information about exploration and space combat if you don't want to buy another game (although I guess they want you to buy another game).  Also randomly shoved in here is information about different things like the prime directive and the romulan code of honor and also a sample free trader spaceship. 

Adventure seeds and a timeline of the universe get shoved into the end of this chapter.  Oh, and some information on commercial passenger service.  Lastly there a page with some disclaimers and warnings, acknowledgements, and an about the publisher section.

This chapter is weird and not the most helpful.

Starships of the Star Fleet Universe

Not quite the chapter title listed in the index but not the worst example of this that I've seen.

This is a four page chapter of the most important ships used by the more important empires with no real mechanics information and "in a future product, Star Fleet PD20M, we will provide a complete starship combat system".  Ugh.

Rescue on Roon

Your standard sample adventure.

Final Thoughts

This book is terrible.  It isn't even a complete system, they explicitly let me know that they want me to buy other books so that I can have a complete system.  What the hell nijineko?  Why do you keep asking me to review these terrible things?

D20 Modern can be decent, but this sure as hell isn't.

Other RPGs / Review of Abandon All Hope
« on: May 27, 2021, 07:16:40 PM »

Okay, this one is going to be a little different because this is one of my weird obscure games that is hard for me to describe in bits of pieces which is why this review is happening.  I have read it (although I haven't done a deep dive into how balanced the game is, my expectation is not super balanced).

Abandon All Hope is a weird indie action/horror RPG written in 2010 by a guy with a terrible website design.  The whole product catalog consists of the core rulebook, a 6 book adventure path, and a choose-your-own-adventure style book that is designed as an alternative to the normal character creation system (you run each player through it individually before the actual game starts or have them run through it themselves) which serves as an introduction to the setting and an alternative starting point to the adventure path (and the selections the characters make determine all of their stats/etc.

Buckle in, this is going to get weird.  I'm going to get more detailed than I normally do.

 - Chapter 1: History
 - Chapter 2: Characters
 - Chapter 3: Contraband
 - Chapter 4: Gangs
 - Chapter 5: Combat
 - Chapter 6: Warden Only!
 - Chapter 7: Demons
 - Chapter 8: Other Threats

If you didn't notice, we have contraband, gangs, a warden, and demons.  I describe this game as "Space Prison in a Hell Dimension".

Chapter 1: History

Right off we're told that this is a horror game with strong sci-fi themes (I remember weak sci-fi themes so we'll see) with a GM (called the Warden) and it features mature themes such as psychological terror, insanity, extra-dimensional horror, and survival.  This game is not for all groups.

How's this for a backdrop: "Players take on the role of prisoners in the far future, all of whom are condemned to serve life sentences aboard a megalithich starship on an automated, circuitous route on the frontier of known space".

Okay, here's the deal.  Humans did a lot of warring with each other and eventually became unified as one empire which includes both Earth and some fledgling colonies because we were probably going to kill each other off if we didn't unify.  Total disarmament of everyone was the goal, pure pacifism so we'd stop being evil little shits.

Since we're never having war again, everyone who ever fought in a war was put into re-education camps so they don't taint other people.  This included a lot of major psychological analysis of everyone to see if we could find out who is pre-disposed towards violence.  The culmination of this is the "Ludovico Gauges" (named after the drug-aversion therapy the Ludovico Technique) which measures the human psyche in the fields of despair, guilt, and insanity which are believed to be the causes of violence.  Therefore if you're mentally capable of violence you are now a bad bad person.

This caught on like wildfire, both as a concept and as something that the government should do something about.  The answer was to build the biggest self-supporting/self-sufficient colony ship ever conceived of and just put everyone on it because Australia was already full.  With all the bad people gone, nothing bad can happen on Earth right?  (We don't actually care about the people left on Earth, they're not part of the game.)  Of course, this is the future so the staff are all robots.

To give you a sense of scale, the primary prison module is almost three miles long and consists of five hundred levels containing over ten million cells and dormitories with food dispensaries and farms and gyms and infirmaries and everything else that your normal self-sustaining prison ship needs.  And everything is overseen by an AI run in computers bigger than a city block.

It was sent off into space and disappeared and basically nobody on Earth cared.  What happened?  It entered a hell dimension.  The how's and why's aren't really important, it's not like the players are astrophysicists who can figure out what is going on and fix it anyway.  Oh, and this fucked up the ship both structurally and electronically. Millions of people died as this happened (and you can experience it happening if you play through the adventure path).

Chapter 2: Characters

This is a character creation system involving random tables (although the character creation system can't kill you and you can't get three lifetime's worth of jobs to gain a bunch of attribute points from so it isn't Traveller).  This is a classless system.

Oh, and for some reason the primary die type used is the d12 although the whole standard set can come into play.

Character creation is done in the following steps:

1) Roll your "Convict Identification Number / CIN".  Roll a d10 seven times and write them down in the order that they were rolled.  This is your CIN.

2) Look up your CIN to see your Prison Status (aka are you a short timer or an old timer or in-between?)  This impacts multiple things and gets written on the character sheet.

3) Determine your Attributes and Gauges.  Remember the Ludovico Gauges I mentioned earlier for despair, guilt, and insanity?  Those are character stats and go from 0-10.

The attributes are Prowess, Reflexes, Wit, Willpower, Social, and Intimidation.  Depending on how long you've been in prison determines how you randomly roll each stat individually.  Works cast scenario you're rolling a d10 and hoping you don't roll a bunch of 1's, best case it's 1d6+4.  There is no balance here.  Everyone gets 0 despair, if you've been in prison the longest you start out with 1 insanity (otherwise it's 0), and the longer you've been in prison the more guilty you feel but everyone has guilt.

We also get some rules text here.  Attribute checks are rolling a d12 and trying to get equal to or below your attribute (so attributes of 1 are just fucking worthless).  Willpower checks are used to stop your Ludovico Gauge scores from going up.  Despair is used to check for fear based things.  Guilt is a measure of your conscience and your starting guilt from character creation is the lowest your guilt can ever be.  Insanity is how crazy you are.

Everyone starts with 10 health regardless of your stats.

4) Determine your starting Build Points.  Build Points are character customization points.  Add up all of your stats (not the gauges).  The higher the number, the less build points you get to spend.  This goes from 350-600.

5) Determine your conviction record.  Why were you put on the prison ship?  This one is selected, not randomly determined.  Are you a murderer (which could just be someone determined to be pre-disposed to killing even if you never did anything or a former soldier), n Vice Offender (porn, drugs, rapist, other bad things), a Dissident (don't disrespect the government) or an Anarchist (you cannot avoid being a citizen?  Each one grants a bonus point to one of two attributes (your choice) and a free trait (explained soon).

6) Purchase some traits.  So you've got all of those (or not very many) build points.  What do you spend them on?  Traits and equipment.  Guess which this step is?

The main thing here that isn't just normal trait stuff is that there are five categories of traits (Background, Social, Psychological, Combat, and Aberrant), and every conviction record (reason you're in prison) has different costs for each trait and some traits are not available to some conviction records.   There is a trait that lets you rearrange your stats so that's something.

It is impossible for me to tell how balanced character creation is if you couldn't tell already.  Oh, and some traits talk about psy potential so psykers are in this system.

Some traits cannot be purchased after character creation and there are advanced traits which cannot be purchased during character creation.  Trait costs are always in multiples of 100 (some traits can reduce the cost of other traits).

7) Purchase some equipment.  Everyone gets "convict basic issue gear" and in addition whatever build points you have leftover get converted into smokes.  Yes, this is space prison and cigarettes are money.  Equipment that is purchased has to be worked out with the GM though, just fyi.

8) Determine your identifying features.  Roll some dice, find out what is wrong with you!  This is an optional rule but everyone uses it or everyone doesn't.

9) Pick a secret personal goal.  Here is where things get even more interesting.  Everyone has a personal goal which is a secret between them and the GM.  Acting according to your goal can grant bonus build points during the "xp granting" phase.

Possible goals are: Redemption (you want to become a better person and do good things), Power (everything is better if you're in control), Survival (don't die don't die don't die don't die), Escape (you don't know how but you're getting the hell out of here), and Damnation (these stupid people are running or fighting the demons, you want to join them).

10) Backstory time!  Pretty self-explanatory.

11) Pick a name, everyone has one.  You should to.

Chapter 3: Contraband

Everyone gets some overalls, a personal hygiene kit, boots, a metal wristband that can magnetize to stick you to the bulkhead so you don't get sucked into space, and that's it.  Everything else costs smokes, and items are restricted by Control Level so some are way harder to get (and more expensive) than others. 

Shivs are 50 smokes just fyi.

If you have the right traits, you can also salvage components from parts of the ship.  You can then use those salvaged components to make things (such as shivs).

Chapter 4: Gangs

There were gangs before the hell dimension and there are gangs after.  If you join a gang you gain bonuses from the gang with each gang having specific entry requirements.  There are 12 major gangs which will want you to go on missions if you join them (and there are inter-gang feuds as well).

Chapter 5: Combat

This is your standard rounds and turns based combat.  Initiative is 1d12+Reflex.  Generally in combat you can move and then do a thing (like attack) or move twice.  Attacking is rolling a d12+Prowress,defending is d12+reflexes, defender wins ties.  It's all very simple.

There are rules for suprise attacks and reloading and disengaging and other things like that but most fancy things (like disarming) are going to be traits.

Chapter 6: Warden Only

It's the GM part of the book.  Actually, the beginning reminds me of the Alien rulebook.  We have normal suggestions such as the rules are only guidelines and can't cover everything, and then horror-rpg oriented ones like make the demons be rare enemies and use humans more because they can be terrible too.

Then we get into specifics about the ship (which players obviously don't know about ) with what can be found where and how everything is doing in the hell dimension, and there's a large two page spread map.  There are some tables to randomly generate encounters and stuff the player's might find.

Injury and recovery rules are found here, as well as in-depth rules about despair, guilt, and insanity (helpful hint: more of these are generally bad).

Interestingly enough there is also a hope mechanic, that is up to the DM about how to adjudicate and is a once per adventure thing.  Also it's used by the group, not by individual party members so a unanimous decision is required to use it to pull their fat out of the fire.

The psy rules are here as well, and they aren't brutal to the psychic but they are very rare.

Chapter 7: Demons

As the gauges go up, demons can manifest as they are attracted to the strong negative emotions.  And then they kill people.  It's a little more complicated than that but you get the idea.

The most powerful of demons have stats in the teens and health higher than the entire party put together so you don't want to fight these guys unless you know what you're doing and have more than the bare fists that you start the game with.

Chapter 8: Other Threats

These are all of the non-demon threats the party might face.  Robots, convicts, and other hazards (such as environmental ones).

Final Thoughts

I still love it and still want to run it if I can ever find the proper group.  Is it balanced?  With that character creation system who knows but it's not as bad as I remember it being.  I've got this one in paperback and it is definitely a keeper.

Other RPGs / Review of Star Trek Adventures
« on: May 27, 2021, 04:01:48 PM »

So I currently don't have any requests and don't have anything just laying about that I haven't already at least skimmed through, so here is my first review where I'm not going in blind (I skimmed through the book a couple of years ago).  I don't remember enough of the mechanics to remember how I feel about it, this is just one of the rpg's in my collection that I have but we'll see if I decide to keep it after this review.  As is standard for me by now this is a review of the system itself (as well as its presentation within the book) so that you can better decide if it is something you want to dive into and not a detailed technical analysis of every word.

Star Trek Adventures is an officially licensed RPG published by Modiphius which is the same company that published Mork Borg and the Alien RPG which I've favorably reviewed before.  It uses Modiphius' 2d20 system (which the other games I mentioned do not) and from what I remember has a narrative focus which makes sense given the source material.

The book layout itself is very thematic, it reminds me of the computer consoles in the show/movies.

The table of contents is pretty standard.

 - Chapter 1: Introduction
 - Chapter 2: The United Federation of Planets
 - Chapter 3: Your Continuing Mission
 - Chapter 4: Operations
 - Chapter 5: Reporting for Duty
 - Chapter 6: The Final Frontier
 - Chapter 7: Conflict
 - Chapter 8: Technology and Equipment
 - Chapter 9: Home in the Stars
 - Chapter 10: Gamemastering
 - Chapter 11: Aliens and Adversaries
 - Chapter 12: The Rescue at Xerxes


The introduction opens with the Next Generation opener quote by Picard which starts with "Space. The Final Frontier." TNG was the show I grew up with so this resonates with me, and also lets me know that at least with this book you're in Starfleet.  There is a Klingon Empire book out now and more "who do you work for" books might come out in the future.

The default setting is the 24th century (specifically the year 2371) but you can play in any Star Trek era you want.  Want to have your crew hang out with Kirk and fight Klingon's with smooth foreheads?  That's supported.  Want to defend the wormhole that was found in Bajoran space?  That's supported too.  The book even lets you know that it will point out when mentioned subjects are not available in certain eras to make it easier for you to play how you want.

For those (like me) who don't have the Star Trek timeline memorized a brief overview of what is happening in 2371 is mentioned.  Sisko is already at DS9 and has been assigned the Defiant to look for the Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant, Voyager is about to be sent to the Badlands to find Maquis (and hopefully you know how that works out for them), etc.

We then get into the standard sections on roleplaying and what you need to play and why you should play Star Trek Adventures instead of something else.  As a 2d20 system you want at least 2d20, and also some d6s.  You can buy special dice but they aren't required.

We also get a basic overview of how the game works from a mechanics perspective (along with a play example).  If you attempt a task (such as determining if someone has been infected with something) the player and the GM come up with a pairing of an Attribute and a Discipline (for example, Reason and Medicine).  Your scores in both of those are added together and that becomes your target number.  You then roll 2d20 and look to see how many of them roll equal to or under the target number.

Chapter 2: The United Federation of Planets

This whole chapter is basically a history lesson presented as if it was actually given to your characters is a briefing.  There's an overview of each quadrant and the major players in it in "modern day" (with sidebars that are reports from different sources in-universe), as well as a list of general threats to the Federation that aren't quadrant specific (such as the Terran Empire from the mirror universe or the Borg).

The next part of this chapter is about the early history of the Federation, but it is presented in a unique fashion.  Instead of a timeline or an overview of what happened, it is presented as log files and excerpts written during said history to give an overview of major events that happened and some of the players involved.  I think this is neat.

After that we get an overview of the 23rd century (which is the century before "modern day").  If you want to play in the era of The Original Series, this is the chapter for you.

Then there's a section for recent Federation history which is laid out the same as the early history of Starfleet section.

Chapter 3: Your Continuing Mission

We start out with an overview of Starfleet.  Starfleet's mission, ranks, organization, etc.  Want to think about the Prime Directive?  There are pages on it as it can (and should) guide decisions that are made by everyone on the crew.  Want to know what Starfleet Academy is like?  Read on.

We then get into assignments after graduation from the academy and how that works, the types of missions that crew can get assigned to (either temporarily or permanently), and away teams and their purposes and compositions (which isn't just to dramatically kill security officers). 

Chapter 4: Operations

Seventy-three pages in and we're finally getting some crunch (not that I'm complaining, Star Trek is a very flavor-heavy setting).  Here we get an overview (again) of PCs, NPCs, the GM, and Dice (which do include a special type of d6 but there's a chart for using regular d6s in their place).

Like Lancer which I just recently reviewed, Star Trek Adventures uses Scenes (of which encounters are a type) as a framework for the game.  Scenes in Star Trek Adventures aren't as completely player driven as those in Lancer, the GM can not just react to player actions but also use a Threat system to make things happen.

Everything within a scene, whether it is a character or a location or even a situation, has traits.  Traits are show descriptions to relay significant facts.  A situation can have the Darkness trait. A Klingon character has the Klingon trait.  A location can have the Abandoned Cardassian Station trait.  Traits are there so that the GM can help determine what is or isn't possible and how difficult things are when attempting something affected by a trait.  Some traits are Advantages and thus helpful, others are Complications and inherently problematic. 

If you are attempting to do something, you are performing a Task.  Tasks are things you roll for and thus require that something bad happens in the event that you fail the task.  Players should be told what that bad thing could be before they roll as all Starfleet officers are people who know what the hell they're doing and don't just fiddle around to see what happens.

Now that we know how to get things done, let's learn about who can do the things.  This is a classless system.  Characters have six Attributes: Control, Daring, Finesse, Insight, Presence, and Reason.  Characters also have six Disciplines: Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science, and Medicine.  Attributes go from 7-12 and Disciplines go from 1-5 so your target number could be anywhere from 8-17 depending on the combination required.  We couldn't get further away from D&D if we tried although there's nothing wrong with that.  In addition, characters can have Focuses which are basically specialties and these don't have a rating of their own but can help adjust the target number.

Something that is interesting is that there are multiple methods of "buying" more dice to roll for a task but not enough information is given here for me to talk about that so I'll get back to it in a later chapter.  There are also rules for teaming up on tasks to assist a player as well as opposed tasks which both work about as I would expect.

Okay, remember how we want to roll below target numbers on a d20?  That means that a 20 is bad, and a natural 20 is a Complication which is a negative trait that comes into play with the Task has been resolved.  For example, if you're counseling someone and roll a 20 then congratulations you just made their issues significantly worse.  Some things can add to the "Complication Range" which means that lower numbers also trigger complications.  There also rules for automatically succeeding with a complication is the GM gives the option.  Complications can be traded in for Threat which I will describe in a bit.

Remember how I mentioned talking about buying extra dice would have to be discussed in a later chapter?  I was wrong, this book is better laid out than I thought. 

The first method is Momentum.  For every success generated above and beyond the number of successes required to accomplish the task, you generate Momentum.  Momentum can be spent to improve the outcome of a successful task (such as doing more damage with an attack or doing more work than would be normal for the amount of time spent) and this can be spent after the GM describes the outcome (so you don't waste momentum if you're happy with how things turned out).  In addition, Momentum can be saved and go into a pool where anyone in the party can spend momentum from the pool and one of the options there is to buy additional dice.

Instead of spending Momentum (perhaps you don't have any) you can instead generate Threat to buy additional dice.  Threat is like Momentum for the GM, it's a pool of points that the GM can spend to make problems for the players (or buy dice for NPCs). 

Lastly there's Determination, every player starts with one point each session which can be used for a list of things including gaining an extra d20 which automatically succeeds with a 1 (and a 1 generates two successes as it is a critical success).

Now that that's out of the way, there are also some rules for challenges (a situation requiring multiple tasks to overcome) and extended tasks which are both

Chapter 5: Reporting for Duty

Here we get into how to roleplay Star Trek Adventures (as opposed to how to roll or how to roleplay in general).  The three main eras of play are mentioned: Enterprise (aka Star Trek Enterprise), Original Series (aka Star Trek: The Original Series + movies) and Next Generation (aka Star Trek The Next Generation + movies, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager).

In addition to the differentiation between PCs and NPCs, there are also Main Characters and Supporting Characters.  Both are controlled by the players (and thus are not NPCs), but Support Characters are created as-and-when needed so that either there is someone to man a station or provide assistance during a difficult situation or so that a player can still take part in a scene if their main character is somewhere else.

All characters have one or more Trait (of which their species of one) which are descriptions of important parts of the character to hep define who they are and what they can do (and function the same as traits for locations and situations as described earlier).  These traits are neutral (neither inherently positive nor negative) and thus can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Characters will also have values which are statements about their attitudes or beliefs or convictions.  They're not just basic opinions, they are core principles that the character believes in.  For example, Kirk has the value "Married to the Enterprise".

Since we're talking about characters, this is the part where we also delve deeper into the six attributes and what they stand for and examples in which they might be used.  The same goes for the six disciplines (and all main characters get at least a one in these due to basic training received in Starfleet academy).

Characters will also get six focuses which are not tied to a specific discipline and is about what specializations and specific talents does your character have such as Survival or Espionage or Astronavigation.  Lastly characters will get Talents which give different bonuses depending on the talent and have pre-requisites.

Now that we've gotten a general overview of character creation, let's dig into character creation!  There are two methods of character creation, Lifepath (which is the default) and Creation in Play.  We'll go through those in order.

Lifepath is about what you'd expect, you're documenting the lifepath of your character. 

Step One, put a 7 in each Attribute and a 1 in each Discipline.  Second, select your species (which gives you the species trait, +1 to three listed Attributes, and one Talent from the species talent list or the general talent list).  There is a table for which species are available for each era of play, and also rules for mixed-heritage characters as well as for creating species that there aren't rules for.

Step Two, determine what kind of environment you grew up in.  This grants +1 to one of three attributes and +1 to one of three disciplines as well as a Value reflecting the environment and culture you were raised in.

Step Three, determine your upbringing which increases one attribute by 1 and another by 2 as well as grants another discipline increase along with a focus, and grants a talent.

Step Four, go to Starfleet Academy and determine which track you were on (Command, Operations, or Sciences).  This instills a value, grants three attribute points, grants discipline increases to three disciplines, grants three focuses, and also a talent.  Hooray for school!

Step Five, determine how long you've been on the job. Are you a young officer, an experience officer, or a veteran officer?  Each one grants a value and a talent.

Step Six, determine two critical events that happened in your carerer (from a list).  Each grants different things but there's always an attribute and discipline increase in there somewhere along with a focus.

Step Seven, put on the finishing touches.  Pick one final value, make sure your attributes and disciplines are within the established limits and gain a couple more points wherever you want to help get things where you want them, and put on any final details along with making sure that nothing got accidentally missed.

The other character creation method is Creation in Play.  Basically you pick your role on the ship and assign attributes using the numbers on a list, pick your species and your two primary disciplines, pick one vale, and you're ready to go!  Basically everything else that is missing gets filled in as play happens (and can happen in the middle of trying to resolve a task).  It's interesting but I'd rather not use this method.

The rules for supporting character creation are listed here as well, they don't get anywhere near the level of bonuses that main characters do and don't get talents at all.  Recurring supporting characters can slowly get better (including gaining talents) but never get as good as main characters.

For leveling up, the system uses a defined milestone system with three types of milestones.  The first two only allow you to swap things around on your character sheet (or the ship's character sheet) but aren't for gaining things for free (very unlike D&D leveling).  If that's what you want you have to complete an arc milestone which is all about the culmination of a story that drives growth and development.  It is your story arc and thus not something you'll gain very often, but also lets you do things like increase an attribute or a discipline or gain a new talent (for yourself or your ship).

There are also some basic rank and reputation rules which can eventually lead to promotions or disciplinary action.

Chapter 6: The Final Frontier

If you couldn't tell from the title, this is the chapter about the different places you might go and things you might see or do.  Information about the different planetary classes, alien encounters, stellar phenomena, and scientific discoveries and developments (for things like improving warp core efficiency) can all be found here.

Chapter 7: Conflict

If you don't know what this chapter is about then you probably shouldn't be reading this review.  There are two types of conflict in Star Trek Adventures, social conflict and combat.  Either way we still have rounds and turns, with initiative determined by the GM selecting who goes first based on the situation and then turns alternative between the two sides within the conflict. 

Social conflict is anything involving deception, diplomacy, bargaining, intimidation, etc (with some things being refused automatically, no matter who you are you can't just get Picard to sell you the enterprise for a few bucks). 

Combat is pretty standard, you can attempt one task and some minor actions (say aim and shoot or draw a phaser and shoot) with a stress system in place instead of actual hp and once something reduces your stress to 0 (or bypasses it) you become injured and are incapacitated.  If you take two lethal injuries then you have died.  Objects have structure instead of stress but otherwise it works the same (with breakage happening instead of injuries).  There are things you can do to avoid injuries.

Chapter 8: Technology and Equipment

This is all weapons and gear and other items with information about the different eras of play and rules for creating unusual equipment.  It's all pretty much what I expected.

Chapter 9: A Home in the Stars

Starships and Starbases (and colonies) are what this chapter is all about.  This includes starship combat because that functions a little differently that people just shooting phasers at each other since there are shields and critical systems and whatnot.

Since the ship (or starbase) where people are stationed is just as important to the different shows as the characters, there is a lot of detail here beyond just stat blocks. 

In addition to all of that, the rules for creating the starship character sheet are here as well.  They function very similarly to the player character sheet (6 systems instead of 6 attributes, 6 departments instead of 6 disciplines), focus and talent rules, etc).  Ships also get Mission Profiles which adjust the stats of your ship.  A diplomatic ship has different needs than a tactical operations ship.

Stats for all kinds of example ships from shuttlepods to ships of the line to ships from non-federation civilizations are here as well.

Chapter 10: Gamemastering

This is a narrative game, so this chapter starts with how to tell a story.  We then go into discussions on different styles of play.  Next up is different possibilities for character creation beyond the basic rule listed above (all to best suit the group at hand).

The rest of this is basically just "how to GM".  We get a section on how to adjudicate the rules (and a lot of rules are situational or up to the GM in the first place), a section on running combat, tasks and challenges, etc.  There are even sections on what the different roles are that the players might have on the ship and how to help them shine, both for PCs and NPCs.  Basically anything that has been mentioned in another chapter gets at least touched on here, which is nice.

Lastly we get what most people would expect, which is how to create encounters and NPCs and missions and locations and everything else that the PCs will be directly interacting with.

Chapter 11: Aliens and Adversaries

Here's your monster manual chapter with everything from example NPCs from all of the different civilizations (including named NPCs) to beasts to alien technology that might be used as an encounter.

Chapter 12: The Rescue at Xerxes IV

This is an example mission with 5 scenes to run as an introductory adventure.

Final Thoughts

I think the system is decent and the game is good (and it has gotten a lot of official support including a Klingon Empire book where you're all on a Klingon ship instead of a Federation ship and example stats for the main characters of different shows) but I don't think it is for me.  It's too much of a cooperative storytelling game for me to want to run it, and the only reason to play it is to specifically tell a Star Trek story instead of a general spaceship story.  Since Star Trek is NOT a series about running around and shooting everything and stealing their stuff I think finding a group for it would not be the easiest of tasks.

Final judgement: Good game but not my style so I won't be keeping it.

Other RPGs / Review of Lancer
« on: May 24, 2021, 02:02:46 PM »

This one is another request by Lord Charlemagne.  This is another review with no prep besides looking at the product page, and I am reviewing the free version of this game which does not include "the NPC creation, GM section, and setting info" but otherwise is identical to the paid version.  The game itself can be found here.

Lancer is a mecha rpg in space with maybe aliens and people fighting other people because of a recent revolution and honestly I don't watch mecha anime so I don't know how cliche this is which is probably for the best.

The book is organized into four sections, each section containing multiple chapters and each chapter containing multiple....sub-sections(?).  Then there's an Index, a list of Backer Characters (from kickstarter backers) and some character sheets.  I do want to say that this book appears to be organized quite nicely (unlike some other books I've reviewed) and I appreciate that.

Section 0: Getting Started
 - Introduction
 - Playing Lancer
Section 1: Building Pilots and Mechs
 - License Levels
 - The Pilot
 - The Mech
 - Mech Structure
 - Creation Example
Section 2: Missions, Uptime, and Downtime
 - The Structure of Play
 - The Mission
 - Downtime
Section 3: Mech Combat
 - Combat Basics
 - Turn-Based Combat
 - Pilots in Mech Combat
 - Quick Combat Reference
 - Statuses and Conditions
 - Wear and Tear
Section 4: Compendium
 - Talents
 - Gear and Systems
 - Pilot Gear
 - Introduction to Licensing
 - General Massive Systems
 - IPS-Northstar
 - Smith-Shimano Corpro
 - Horus
 - Harrison Armory

Before we get any actual content there's the page that I'm getting used to about uncomfortable topics in the game and inclusion and how to deal with it all.  This isn't a problem for me but I know some people flip their shit when they see this kind of thing.

Section 0: Getting Started

This section starts with an introduction to the world of Lancer.  There's a parallel plan that people travel through which kinds of reminds me of Cowboy Bebop.  There's an "omninet" which doesn't remind me of Cowboy Bebop at all because that would require old-west style bounty hunter television shows.  Lastly there's a universal currency.

All three are managed by one central government but planets on the outer edges of the government's control are rebellious and full of pirates and war.  Also there are five major arms suppliers because union states are allowed to fight each other I guess.

Every player is a Lancer which is one of the best mech pilots (basically like an ace fighter pilot).  Lancers are described as "mechanized cavalry" so there are other types of combat but this isn't the game for playing ground troops or ship pilots.  Also everyone is a human.

When playing lancer, everyone is a pilot with a mech.  The dice used are d20 and d6 (and d3).  There's an online character creation/management system which also has rules or I don't know what in it and is recommended.

Play is broken up into two types, narrative play and mech combat, and each type has its own rules.  Narrative play is more rules-light and mech combat is crunchy.  When rolling dice, you're either making a skill check or an attack or a save.  For skill checks the default target number is 10.  For attacks the target number depends on the defenses of the target but a roll of 20+ is a critical hit (it doesn't have to be a natural 20).  For saves, the target number depends on the ability you're saving against.  When making contested checks the person who initiated the check wins ties.  Also you can always choose to fail because you think it "would create a more interesting story".

Situation bonuses (or penalties) add/subract a d6 from the roll instead of being static numbers.  I kind of like this, it helps keep things uncertain about if you'd be successful or not more than static modifiers do. In addition, if you have multiple situational bonuses (or penalties), bonuses and penalties cancel each other out and if you end up rolling multiple d6's you just take the highest number instead of adding them all together.

Also there's Grit which is half your license level (rounded up) and improves your attacks, hit points, and save target numbers for both you and your mech. I assume this is a static bonus but it doesn't say and probably will later.

Both narratively and mechanically Lancer's play is divided into Missions, Downtime, and Scenes.  Missions are exactly what they sound like and can be more than one game session long.  If you're not on a mission, you're in downtime and downtime rules happen (downtime can also last for years depending on the game).  During both missions and downtime, play is divided into scenes which are just what they sound like.  Instead of encounter based abilities, Lancer has scene based abilities.

Lastly I want to say that I'm 16 pages in and can't decide whether or not I like the art yet.

Section 1: Building Pilots and Mechs

License Levels are basically level and rank rolled into one, and also include the ability to requisition gear so there's no tracking how many dollars you spend on missiles because apparently currency tracking doesn't exist in this game.  We appear to be doing milestone based leveling because there aren't any XP charts and it talks about doing a mission granting a license level.  Everyone (normally) starts at license level 0.  Also, there are retraining rules built into the leveling system, that's nice.

The first thing you do is build your pilot, and the first step there is choosing a background (or just rolling for one from the table).  Backgrounds can have a mechanical effect outside of combat for skills both positively and negatively (as either a situation bonus or penalty) but it can't just be arbitrary (there are rules for arbitration during a disagreement on either side).

Next you pick your triggers.  Triggers are short phrases that describe key decisions or actions that your character is especially good at.  An example given is "Apply Fists to Faces" so if you have that trigger every time you do something that might be interpreted as trying to apply fists to faces you get your trigger bonus (which can be +2, +4, or +6).  One one trigger can apply at a time, and these are static bonuses and not the situation bonus die roll bonuses.  Please note that triggers are only for skill checks so your Apply Fists to Faces trigger won't actually let you punch people better in mech combat.  There are a couple of pages of example triggers (with what they could apply to) but making up your own is okay too with GM approval.

After the pilot we move on to mech creation.  Instead of triggers Mechs have four skills (hull, agility, systems, and engineering) and you get to pick which get bonuses.  Mech skills are used in mech combat, and also grant "additional bonuses" during mech creation.

All mechs in Lancer are modular and built around a frame.  The frame determines the mech's size and armor and available weapon and other types of mounts.  Size is abstract, most mechs are about twice as big as a person.  There are seven types of mounts a mech can have, although most mounts can accept things from other types (and flexible mounts don't have a dedicated type of weapon).  Basically there are main weapons, auxiliary weapons, heavy weapons, and superheavy weapons.  As an aside, mounted don't actually have to be attached, how your mech carries its weapons is an aesthetic choice with no mechanical benefits. 

If it isn't a weapon it is a system and each frame has a set number of system points available for systems to take up.  Grit and the Systems mech skill both increase systems points.  Each frame also gets a core system which is unique to the frame and generally grants a once per mission ability that can be activated.

A couple of other things of note are that one of your mech's stats is how many repairs you can do while out in the field.  Mech overheating is a thing.  Each mech skill actually improves multiple stats based off of how many points are in the skill.

Okay, I've just hit my first annoyance at this system.  Buried in a section about core bonuses (something you can get when you level up) I've discovered that license levels aren't just a general way of tracking your level.  You can gain license ranks per weapons manufacturer.  So you could be Rank 1 with all five manufacturers for a total license level of 5 and you have access to the rank 1 equipment from everyone.  I don't know why this is hidden away because it is important.

Section 2: Missions, Uptime, and Downtime

For the sake of total transparency I want you to know that I added an oxford comma that wasn't in the original text.  A comma between every entry in a list is important!

We already talked about missions and that gets rehashed here.  Choosing mech gear happens after the mission briefing, and leveling up happens even if the mission is failed (as long as you aren't dead). 

It is suggest that the first session start with a mission briefing and the group deciding who they are as a group (with another table people can roll on) along with the patron and personal histories of characters within the group itself.

As I said, missions start with a briefing of what the situation is, what the goal is, ankd what the stakes are (with examples).  Next the players enter the preparation stage and choose their gear and equipment for both themselves and the mech (since you basically get unlimited requisitions of the equipment you're licensed for you can swap out without issues).  Next is the selection of reserves which can include both reinforcements as well as support or extra equipment.  Then you're boots on the ground and in the mission.

After that overview we get into the rules of narrative play and how narrative play is differentiated from mech combat.  Narrative play is PC run, the NPCs don't initiate anything and there are no turns.  The skill check rules are here and pretty well fleshed out.  In addition, there's a section on combat in narrative play which then uses skill checks (and things like the trigger Apply Fists to Faces can apply for punching).  When combat is outside of mechs it is suggested to always run combat narratively.

Downtime is what happens when you're not on a mission, and it is also where you accumulate reserves for the next mission.  Downtime is also explicitly a time for role-playing.  You can take specified downtime actions to accomplish both things at the same time.

Section 3: Mech Combat

"Unlike narrative play, mech combat is tactical and turn-based".  Good.  Basically put down the pilot character sheet you've been using for the narrative stuff and pick up your mech character sheet because it's time to kill something.

We have an explicit ruling that you aren't your own ally.  Nothing like a little self-loathing to start the day.  Also people's attitudes towards you depend on if they are an ally or not.  Just because they are your best friend doesn't mean that you are their best friend.

When using battle maps, Lancer is a hex grid system.

Initiative works in a diceless fashion.  First someone on the PCs team (which includes allied NPCs) goes based off of who the players want to go first (the GM picks someone if the players can't agree).  Then an enemy NPC goes.  Then the PC team member who just went picks who goes next.  Then a different enemy NPC goes.  Etc.  The PCs always go first on the first round, but turns alternate between rounds so if the PCs went last on the first round the NPCs go first on the second round.

I have to say it's an interesting system, I don't dislike it.

On your turn, you get a move action.  You also get either a full action or two quick actions.  You can then decide to overcharge (gaining heat for your mech) to gain an additional quick action.  There are also free actions and reactions (which are taken outside of your turn).  You can move before and after your other actions but all non-move actions have to be taken together.

A lot of things are covered here, pretty much everything I would expect from my (admittedly limited) experience with mecha media.  There's even some basic hacking.

There's also a whole chapter on pilots in mech combat (and it is explicitly called out as a bad idea to be on foot and attacking a mech).

Section 4: Compendium

This chapter is basically just a bunch of lists and tables.  Are you picking a pilot talent (which everyone gets)?  Here are all of the talents, and each has three ranks (and lots of references to other media).  As an example, there is the Technophile talent.  At rank 1 you have developed a customer AI that you can put in your mech for free but it is very limited.  At rank 2 it can act independently and 1/round you can re-roll a mech skill check or save.  At rank 3 it gets even better and can be in your mech along with another AI and benefits from your talents when it's piloting the mech (and you can take it around with your outside of the mech). 

We also get gear.  Lots and lots of gear (and explanations of how things work and what keyword mean and how AI works) with the focus right now being on pilot gear.

After pilot gear is an introduction to licensing which goes over how every licensing level 0 person has access to the same general equipment (which can have role tags so if you want to focus on a specific role that can help).  It looks like you can't actually gain ranks with GMS because that's the general equipment everybody gets, instead you gain ranks with the four other manufacturers.

The general list includes core bonuses, mech weapons, systems, flight systems, and the standard frame everyone starts with.  Then each manufacturer has its own core bonuses, weapons, etc with the listed specific rank requirements to take them (and you can mix and match between manufacturers as long as you meet the requirements as far as I can tell).  Different manufacturers are focused on different things although there is of course some overlap.  There are 29 mechs so there is plenty of variety.

Final Thoughts

I like it.  I wouldn't run it, the whole narrative thing doesn't really appeal, but the way it's written is definitely a way that I could play because it isn't all magical tea-party "I did the thing, no you didn't, yes I did" kind of stuff.  Also the combat parts are really fleshed out and have plenty of crunchy rules. 

This gets a thumbs up for me, it's refreshing to be back at reviewing things that I don't think are bad.  As I mentioned, I don't have a lot of experience with mecha stuff but I don't see any reason why this game couldn't be a general system for running a game for whatever mecha anime you prefer.

Other RPGs / Review of Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game
« on: April 21, 2021, 12:19:28 PM »

This review was done at the request of nijineko who asked for it last year and I finally finished my backlog so here you go!

According to Wikipedia, Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game (I'll just call it Amber) was written by the co-founder of Palladium Books and set in a fictional universe of some books written by Roger Zelazny.  It was published in 1991, and is the official webpage of the game.  I expect strange and probably terrible things.

As is standard I have no idea what I'm getting into (I've never even read the books).  This book is a little over 200 pages and has a layout that basically goes like this (emphasis very much not mine):
 - Introduction
 - Playing a Princess (or Prince) of Amber
 - Creating Player Characters
 - Glossary of Amber Terms & Concepts
 - Player Character Powers
 - A Player's Guide to Role-Playing
 - A Game Master's Guide to Amber Mechanics
 - A Game Master's Guide to Campaign Construction
 - A Game Master's Guide to Elder Amberites
 - Game Master Techniques
 - Index
 - Character Sheet
 - Artifact Work Sheet

Before I even get into the Intro I feel like pointing out that we have a game master section that is before the game master section (and appears to be a section and not a chapter) and that the guide to elder amberites is after the elder amberites.  As I said, strange.


Unsurprisingly, this game was written with the idea that you'd know the source material but it does give a basic summary of the ideas behind the books so that's something.  Then we get an introduction to roleplaying (which talks about some mechanics without explaining them which I don't like) and honestly this game sounds really weird with Shadow-Earth being mentioned and players not all playing in the same time frame.

Next we get some terms.  There are four attributes: Psyche, Strength, Endurance, and Warfare (Psyche is mental power and Warfare is fighting ability).  Also the game is not only diceless but completely devoid of any type of chance.  I've also learned that this game is designed with the idea of tournament play and cross-over tournaments where different campaigns interact.

Playing a Princess (or Prince) of Amber

You know how most RPG books have a written out script of what game play would look like?  This game has that as it's own chapter and is throwing terms around that I probably won't know what they mean for a long time to come.  Also the setting involves infinite planes that maybe aren't real?  I'm still not sure how this "Shadow" stuff works but it is way more than just Shadow-Earth.

This seems like a choose your own adventure game where every player is reading a different book. 

Creating Player Characters

Okay, right off we're getting a little too optimistic here.  "Remember, this is your immortal character.  One you'll want to play for years and years."  I've never been in any game that lasted for years and years.

And now it is getting weird.  Attribute allocation is done by auction competing with the other players.  Everyone gets 100 points (which are also used to by powers and extras).  More points can be gained by reducing your attributes below base "free" level (or taking bad stuff or by agreeing to a "regular on-going chore that the player promises to do for the Game Master. Examples include keeping a diary for your character, taking note for the whole group, or drawing a picture every game session.") and you can't reduce an attribute after you've bid on it. 

Basically the amount you bid is written down secretly and the GM announces the results.  From there it becomes an open bid with people just saying whatever and the GM acting as auctioneer.  Once someone has a top bid that nobody else is willing to beat, everyone loses the amount of points that their final bids were for and are ranked accordingly.  First rank in an attribute is the best and none of the other characters can ever beat them.  The "free" rank is Rank 0 so any rank of an actual number (even if it is 9th) beats a 0.  This happens for each attribute.

Psyche is mental strength, force of will, and affects some of what I assume are powers.  The relative ranking in Psyche will determine all contests of the mind.  If you get first rank in the Psyche bid then you will always beat the other players in Psyche all the time no matter what (although NPCs might still beat you).  As an aside, the example bidding for Psyche lists eight players.  Eight.  Also the GM is trying to get everyone to spend all of their points on the first attribute auction.  We also get some examples of what a character from the books with really high Psyche could do but I don't really understand half of them.

Strength is literal strength which impacts damage both dealt and received.  It is also used for wrestling.  The example uses here make way more sense as they're all physical things that a character from the book did.

Endurance is endurance which can make you win by default if your opponent over-exerts themselves.  It also affects how fast you can heal, which apparently includes regeneration.  As you might expect the example uses for this one is a pretty short list.

Warfare is fighting in anything that isn't hand-to-hand combat (which is covered by Strength).  Tactics and strategy also fall under this attribute.  The examples here are actually the longest list, divided into four whole sections. 

With attributes out of the way we move on to powers.  There are three major types of powers with basic and advanced versions of each, and they are all very expensive.  Pattern means that you're a member of the ruling family of Amber and have immortality along with other things that aren't mentioned.  Logrus means that you're of the reigning family of the Courts of Chaos which oppose Amber and they can shape shift (if they spend the points).  Trump is the "art of mystic images" whatever that means.  There are also the minor powers of power words (used for defense), sorcery, and conjuration which are all much cheaper.

You can also spend points on items which turns them into integral parts of your character and can't be permanently removed from it in any way.  You can spend points on a shadow realm which has a construction guide later on.  You can spend points on allies (which are secret, you don't even know who they are).  Lastly there's "good stuff" (luck and alignment and some wishy-washy stuff) "bad stuff" (gives you free points but you're a bad person who bad things can happen to) and "zero stuff" (neutral all around, no points in good or bad stuff because you can take both).  The "stuff" is all very wishy-washy and the GM is supposed to take it into account when they describe what happens.

Of course you can't forget the player contributions where you get points for doing chores!  No more than 20 points though, the book says so.

Lastly we get examples of all eight players and their character creation, which gives me a better idea of how this is all supposed to work but now i know there's going to be some crunch heavy chapters in the future because they're referencing things we haven't learned about yet.

Appearance, Age, Skills, and Equipment are all listed as freebies!  Why skills are free, who knows, but the suggestion is to write chapters about your life experiences instead of just writing down "brain surgeon".  Equipment that you didn't spend points on can appear and disappear due to Shadow.

The GM controls your history, background, parents, friends, devotees, and how old you are in Amber since different Shadows can have different time flows (slow or fast).

We get a little personal note from the author at the end of this chapter where he talks about his two favorite characters he has GM'd for in his six year campaign.  Six years.  One game.  Think about it.


It's a glossary. 


Here we learn what the different powers we can buy during character creation do.  Pattern is about Shadow, moving through it and finding things in it and leading other people through it and adjusting the flow of time.  Things like that.  Advanced Pattern allows for even fancier things, but they're almost all storytelling devices.

Logrus requires shape-shifting and creates Logrus tendris to fight or find things.  Advanced logrus can summon things or make servants or things of that nature.  Logrus is vulnerable to Pattern and Trump.

Trump is about making images and linking them to reality.  Trump makes Trumps, whatever that means.  Advanced Trump can spy and open dooorways or capture people in Trumps.

Shape Shifting is just that, and can be used for healing or disguise or turning into another form altogether.  You can lose yourself in your shifted shape so there are dangers here.  Advanced Shape Shifting lets you change the appearance of your mind so you aren't detected and being able to better become other people even to the point of taking on their personality.

Power Words are defensive words (like SCHANG! and MAGIQUE!) that you know and can use.  Sorcery is spellcasting which is super specific and honestly seems kind of useless compared to everything else.  Conjuration is for conjuring things and can be combined with power words and spell casting.

The rules for making your personal items you spent points on are also in this chapter.  Basically you pick qualities or powers to imbue your item with and spend the listed number of points on them and there you go.  You can do the same with creatures (like a special horse or cat or whatnot).

You can also spend points to have your own shadow with its own qualities.

How to Play a Character in Amber

This is a chapter about how to role-play.

Step One: Love Your Character
Step Two: Play in Character
Step Three: Live your Character
Step Four: Keeping Secrets

I don't really agree with all of the points here but everybody role-plays differently (which maybe the author forgot about).


Right away, combat is boiled down to two main steps.  Step one, compare the attribute raks of the participants.  Step two, hist attribute rank wins.  Everything else is just the GM describing things (with most likely some exceptions).  Honestly this feels pretty meh to me.

Then book then goes on to basically say that the way to beat people of higher rank is to stack the odds in your favor, usually by cheating (like if you're in a duel then break the rules of the duel without other people finding out).

Basically combat is 100% storytelling.  The GM looks at the abilities of everyone involved and says what happens and the players involved say what they do and then the GM narrates further, etc.  This is more of a storyteller game than most storyteller games.

We get a whole section about what kind of details to focus on in combat and when things can be glossed over, with multiple examples of how combat can play out depending on the amount of detail you want to give as the GM.

We then get into some more detailed information about how to adjudicate combat with more than two people and how to judge combat depending on how far apart the attributes of the participants are (with more examples).

Then, for some reason, this chapter starts a deep dive into stuff despite the fact that we already know how combat works.

Types of combat are broken down into three types: swords, bodies, and mind.  Cheating is possible in all front.  Sword combat is really any melee combat that isn't hand-to-hand, and we get pages and pages of combat choices and strategies and combining attributes (say bunching someone during a sword fight) and I guess this is all here just to make the storytelling better?  Strength combat is laid out the same way (although not as long because there aren't as many fancy moves you can do when boxing or wrestling).  Mind combat is fought with the Psyche attribute and is all jedi mind tricks and psychic domination stuff.

Then we get some basic information on combat and time (since different types of combat can take different amounts of time but this game doesn't have rounds or an equivalent).  We also learn about other factors in combat (this is a place where good stuff/bad stuff/zero stuff can come into play) and damage (remember, no HP in this game) and armor and death.  Honestly I could never run this game and I don't understand how it doesn't turn into arguments of "yes I did, no you didn't" with new GMs because everything is so wishy-washy.

The Mechanics of Amber: A Game Master's Toolbox

Have you noticed that these chapter names are the same as what is listed in the table of contents?  I have.

Basically what this boils down to is that if a character tries something that is within their abilities, it works.  However, if they're using powers things might not work the way they expect.  Experimentation is a thing, and the GM basically just makes up how they want things to work out.  The most common reason for a character to fail entirely is because they are being opposed (such as during combat).  Once again, good stuff/bad stuff comes into play as well.

We also get some "all roads lead to Rome" language where basically the players decide what they want to do and then the GM continues on with whatever plans they already had because in the end every random thing can be justified logically.

Also for some reason the author in this chapter explicitly states "I've always liked the idea of player characters being given sufficient power to blow themselves to kingdom come".  In D&D optimization terms, everyone is Tier 1 unless they made an actively broken character (in a bad way).

We get into the behind the scenes of Pattern and Trump (Trump is apparently super complicated and based on Tarot decks).  Shape shifting shows up again as well, with what can happen when everything goes bad (for example if you lose your personality in the shift).  Sorcery gets a bit of screentime, and then we get pages about creating powers and adjusting existing ones.

Campaign Building

Don't use Zelazny's version of Amber, make your own!

Boiled down, this chapter is about how to tell a story with some example stories from the Amber books and some ideas that aren't in the books. 

Tacked on is some language about how advancement points should be awarded and applied.  After that is information on running tournaments and cross-over sessions.

Then we randomly get what is always a very problematic part of a game based off of existing media.  Attributes for major characters!  If you know who Oberon is and always wondered what is stats are, here you go!  You even get multiple versions (probably for different time periods in the books).  The same goes for other characters (and this goes on for a long time, there are lots of characters with lots of information).  After in depth profiles of all of the major characters of the books (along with spoilers) we got some basic information on how elder Amberites think and feel and see the world.

Techniques of Role-Playing

"Amber, in the years of play-testing, has been as much a matter of style as any set of specific rules."  This is the first sentence of this chapter.  All of the weird insanity so far is now completely explained.

First we get a guide to attribute auctions where the GM's goal is to get everyone to go broken spending all of their points competing with each other, with specific tips for each attribute being auctioned.  Second we get character quizzes where you have your players answer questions to get in depth psychological profiles of their characters.  We're talking "The tortoise lays on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over, but it can't. Not without your help. But you're not helping.  Why aren't you helping?" kind of questions.  This thing is deep and a couple of pages long.

Third we get information how to to make characters develop a background and they want you to role-play that background.  Fourth we get the "rules of engagement".  Things like players control their own actions and things must be fair and don't be biased. 

Fifth we get "good game masters create good role-players".  According to this book, bad role-players include: murder hobos, rules lawyers, and players who aren't in love with their characters.  Nothing like some good old fashioned judgement against playstyles.

Sixth we get game mastering techniques like "verisimilitude" and "don't say it, show it".  Seventh we're up to tricks of the story-telling trade like foreshadowing and retrofitting the story (since this is a storytelling game and the story is all that matters since you're supposed to be playing the same campaign for years).

Last but not least we have what has to be the weirdest chapter(?) in the whole book.  Wrap-Up: Ultimate Amber Role-Playing.  The Amber RPG is not a game (despite the G for Game being in the title).  This book is over 250 pages and they want you to just throw it all away because "The best kind of role-playing is pure role-playing.  No rules, no points, and no mechanics."  There are even guidelines for dumping every single part of the game including the GM.  They want you to play magical tea party Amber.  Why the hell did they make this book in the first place then?

Scenarios & Campaigns

After talking about how we don't need rules there are some example scenarios to run to get people used to the rules.

Final Thoughts

I hate it, I hate this so much.  If this was written now it would be a short 'zine system like Mothership and probably much less terrible.  It felt like half of the book was just reading example play.  And that tidbit at the end about how rules are bullshit and get in the way of role-playing?  Ugh.

And what the hell is up with the terrible editing?  The table of contents doesn't match the chapter titles and the layout was just awful.

From a mechanics standpoint it is a lot better than Mistborn (which I also reviewed) but from a pretentious terrible storytelling game that is massively over-complicated it is probably on par (but I think I hate Mistborn more). 

This very well might be the worst game system I have ever read in my entire life (I haven't read FATAL and never will so don't try and make that comparison.

Other RPGs / Review of Pathfinder 2nd Edition
« on: April 16, 2021, 09:14:40 PM »

I've been putting this one off for a while since it is so long (over 600 pages) and I feel like I'm probably not going to like it, but this needs to be done so here we go.  As always I'm going into this blind (except from being exposed to the general hate of this new edition that permeates the internet).

Pathfinder 2nd Edition (which I'll just call PF2E, and this review will assume knowledge of PF1E) came out in late 2019 to lots of rage and dismay despite the fact that PF was 10 years old at the time which is pretty damn old for a single edition of an RPG that was still being supported.  This means that we now have PF grognards.  I'll let you figure out how you feel about that.

There are 11 chapters in the core rulebook.  These are followed by a conditions appendix, character sheet, and glossary/index.

  1) Introduction
  2) Ancestries & Backgrounds
  3) Classes
  4) Skills
  5) Feats
  6) Equipment
  7) Spells
  8) The Age of Lost Omens
  9) Playing the Game
  10) Game Mastering
  11) Crafting & Treasure

As is standard for Paizo there is lots of art and color and fluff text everywhere.  I don't like it but it is what it is.


This is the standard chapter that you should expect (although sometimes I get surprised).  This is a roleplaying game, it uses dice, it has players and a GM, blahblahblah.  There is a paragraph about how everyone is responsible for being inclusive to all identities and life experiences which is just a sign of the times I suppose. 

As an heads up, I don't know if it is my PDF or what but there is something really wrong with the bolded font.  It's fuzzy and hurts my brain.

The game still has levels and XP and the standard six ability scores with ability modifiers.  Ancestry is the new word for Race for reasons that I would probably find to be extremely stupid.  Backgrounds is self-explanatory, and classes and feats and skills are all still around as well.

There are some new things however.  Critical Successes and Critical Failures are not just determined by rolling a specific number on the d20 (although 20 and 1 still cause them) but also by rolling 10 over (or under) the DC.  Like other systems, critical rolls now impact the result instead of just being an auto-success/failure.

Instead of putting a specific number of ranks into skills, you have a proficiency bonus determined by your rank (and there are five ranks: untrained, trained, expert, master, and legendary).

We still have the familiar initiative, rounds, and turns, but during your turn you have three actions to use which aren't classified into types and so you can just do whatever (although there are "activities" that require more than one action).  Casting a spell is called out as requiring two of your three actions.  Free actions still exist.

Speaking of actions, attacking is the Strike action (and attacking has a proficiency rank just like skills, and so does AC by being proficient in the armor).  Critical success on attacks do double damage (and the book is very excited about this, there's an exclamation point and everything).  Full-attacking is using multiple Strike actions on your turn but at the standard -5 penalty per extra attack that you're used to (with possible ways to reduce it according to the text).

The three standard saving throws (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will) are still around (with proficiency bonuses) and critical successes "usually" mean that you just ignore whatever caused the save roll.

Other tidbits gleaned from the key terms part of this chapter: Ancestry helps determine HP (like Starfinder), everyone starts with 15gp instead of it being determined by class, items have levels (like Starfinder), Monsters/NPCs/Hazards/Diseases/Poisons have levels but their range is -1 to 30 (I don't know how a negative level would work), spells go to level 10 now (which is the opposite of Starfinder), there is a rarity system for items and also "spells, feats, and other rules elements" (I have no idea how a rare rule would work either).

And now we unexpectedly get an explanation of the contents of every chapter and a bunch of rules text!  I don't like the layout of this book so far.

Aside from the actions rules we already knew, there are three types: Single, Reaction (used when it isn't your turn, requires a trigger), and Free.  Actions have associated symbols because some people think that's helpful even though this isn't a board game.  Activities have symbols denoting how many actions they take up.

When it comes to character creation, we're doing something new.  All stats start at a 10 and are then adjusted by boosts (which increase by 2 unless the score is already 18+ and then it increases by 1) or by flaws (which decrease by 2).  Ancestry, Background, and Class selection all adjust ability scores, however a level 1 character can't have any ability score higher than 18.  Rolling ability scores is listed as an alternative method, and there is no point buy.  We also get helpful charts of races and classes with ability score information so you can come up with pairings without having to flip back and forth between chapters.

As an aside, none of the core races have a penalty to Dexterity or Intelligence, but Goblins have replaced Half-Orcs as the "monstrous" core race (Paizo loves goblins).

We haven't deviated from the standard 9 alignments so there's none of this stupid lawful=good and chaos=evil stuff that D&D 4E had.  There's also some more character fluff in the same vein as Ancestry replacing the word Race that I see as annoying but I'm not going to get into that.  Also, there official character sheet has an "Achievements" section where you can record things like "Farthest Distance Fallen" or "Most GP Gained At Once" or "Deaths".  Ugh.

Moving on, leveling up now costs 1,000 XP (it goes away forever).  This eliminates things like de-leveling due to XP loss which I like.  Also, all characters get four ability boosts every 5 levels, and proficiency bonuses go up by 1 every level.

Ancestries & Backgrounds

From a terminology perspective, basically Ancestry = Race and Heritage = Sub-Race.

Each ancestry has multiple heritages which give you an ability or an action you can use or elemental resistance or whatever.  Heritages can do all kinds of stuff but are relatively minor in scope.

You also get an Ancestry feat at 1st level and an additional feat every 4 levels thereafter.  This is completely separate from anything gained from class levels, and conceptually I like it.  Your dwarf can be dwarfy without having to decide if they'd rather be dwarfy or clericy.

The ancestries are: Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Goblin, Halfing, Human.  Where are the half-races (half-elf/half-orc)?  They're human heritages.  Goblins are the new "breaking away from stereotypes to be good" races.

There is a pretty extensive list of backgrounds, which grant you the following: two ability boosts (usually one to one of two choices and one to an ability of your choice), training in two specified skills, and a pre-determined skill feat.

Languages are listed as Common, Uncommon, or Secret and everything that grants languages specifies which list to choose from.  No more party of first level characters that combined know every language in existence (unless you really work on it, you can't just default to Aklo because nobody else picked it).


I'm seeing a lot of Starfinder here too (which isn't totally unexpected, although there's less Starfinder than I would have liked).  Every class has a Key Ability which determines DCs.  HP are static at each level (and added to the HP from your ancestry). 

There are 12 classes:
  - Alchemist
  - Barbarian
  - Bard
  - Champion (Paladin replacement, good but not automatically LG)
  - Cleric
  - Druid
  - Fighter
  - Monk
  - Ranger
  - Rogue
  - Sorcerer
  - Wizard

Each class gains proficiency in listed skills or weapons or defenses or other things at various levels.  In addition, you gain class features (of course) and access to the list of class feats for that class (you can class feats independently of ancestry feats or skill feats or general feats, so you're gaining feats all the time but for different things from different lists).  I like this on a conceptual level.

As you level up you also gain increased proficiency ranks at specified intervals as well as the ability boosts that I mentioned earlier.  Class features can include increased proficiencies or "actual" class features.  This means that the fighter has class features just like everyone else, although I'm not making claims as to how good those features are when compared to spells.

Animal companions and familiars are massively nerfed compared to PF1E/D&D 3.5  Animal companions are gained from feats, require you to spend one of your actions to give them action, and can only gain item bonuses to speed and AC (and AC bonuses are capped for them).  Animal companions also get have stat blocks that are quite stripped down (abilities modifiers instead of scores for example) and most of their abilities are derived from your level.  Also, level 1 characters start with young companions, having them grow up requires spending more feats.

Familiars are also gained by feats (although class features might grant the feat), require spending actions to grant them actions, and have states derived from yours.  They also don't get any sort of attacks and don't even have stat blocks so no super powering your familiars into combat machines in this game.

PF2E has Archetypes, but Archetypes are really code for Multiclassing and this feels like 4E where you spend your feats to do it.  Sometimes you spend a feat to gain a feat from your muticlass' feat list.  I am honestly not a fan.


Skllls have gotten some adjustments (of course).  Now every skill can be used untrained, and some skills additionally have uses that can only be performed if you are trained in them.  For example, everyone can use the Deception skill to lie but only someone trained in Deception can use the skill to feint.  In addition there are now general rules for using skills to earn income so Profession is gone forever.  Other general non-skill specific  uses of note: identifying magic, learning spells from another caster or a scroll, begging (the city version of Survival).

Fly is also gone as a skill, that's been rolled into Acrobatics thankfully.  The deception skill can create a diversion so you can sneak, it's nice to see that as a general skill use.  Gather Information got rolled into Diplomacy (which maxes out at Helpful).  Knowledge has been replaced with Lore and is now a crazy general skill that's all over the place (Circus Lore is an example, along with Alcohol Lore if you want to be a bartending clown).  Specific knowledge skills that were important (like Nature or Religion) are now their own independent skills. 

As an aside, skill uses now have traits (such as attack or move or concentration) and armor check penalties don't apply to uses with the attack trait (such as using the Athletics skill to Disarm).  In addition, there are listed results for what happens on a success vs critical success, as well as what happens on a critical failure (because skills can crit now).

All-in-all there isn't anything drastic here except that a lot of things that used to not be skill checks (like disarming or tripping or shoving someone) are now skill checks so they follow the same rules as everything else (and also the crit thing).  I think I like these changes as a whole.


As I mentioned earlier, this system gets a lot of feats.  Aside from the Ancestry feats in the ancestry chapter and the Class feats in the class chapter, we now have General Feats (feats everyone can take) and Skill feats (feats based on skills, both ones that are for skills in general as well as feats for every skill specifically).

Skill feats have both a level requirement and a proficiency requirement (for example, if you want the feat that lets you identify spells as a free action you need to be level 7 and have Master proficiency in one of the skills that can identify spells, along with knowing another feat).

With the fact that you gain skill feats independently from other kinds of feats, and that there are feats here for all kinds of stuff, I see this as another plus.


As I mentioned previously, items now have levels (and there's a rule where you can't craft items of a higher level than your own).  In addition, encumbrance has been simplified into a system called Bulk.  You can carry a number of Bulk equal to 5 + Str mod or you become encumbered.  Items have a number to indicate their bulk or their bulk is "Light" which is 1/10 of a Bulk, with the total rounded down.  In addition, creatures have Bulk (a medium creature is 6 Bulk for example).

We also get some general information on damaging/breaking items, actions needed to change your equipment, "shoddy items" (which you can't buy on purpose during character creation), and then the general item information that seems pretty on par with PF1E.

Three types of armor are still around but now some armor have traits (like you can sleep in it or helping on Reflex saves).  Shields don't have armor check penalty anymore but tower shields reduce your speed. Almost everyone can attack unarmed without spending a feat.  Weapons can have way more kinds of traits than in PF1E, things like reducing multiple attack penalties or extra damage against flat-footed opponents.  In addition, Exotic weapons are now Advanced weapons.

In case you've forgotten, proficiency bonuses apply to weapons and armor as well as skills.  This means that they apply to AC and attacks.  These are also done by category, not by individual weapon.  Also, the common/uncommon item typing has shown up here but I haven't seen any real rules about what that means.

We also get general gear, class specific starting gear options if you want some guidance, alchemical items, 1st level character magic items, formulas (which are used for item crafting and can be reverse-engineered), basic services, housing, animal rental/purchase prices, and general rules information about how bulk/pricing is converted when items aren't small/medium.


Spells do have some general rules changes.  Spell attack rolls are made using your spellcasing ability mod (and have their own proficiency bonus, as do spell DCs).  Also, there are now four types of spellcasting: Arcane (Wizards and some Sorcerers), Divine (Clerics and some Sorcerers), Occult (Bards and some Sorcerers), and Primal (Druids and some Sorcerers). 

Heightening spells is now a general rule and not locked behind a feat (and like D&D 5E casting some spells in higher level slots can make them more powerful).  Other than that, spells are spells.

The biggest difference is that there aren't class specific spells.  Whatever type of spellcasting you have, that's the list you pull from.  Well, there's that and there's the fact that spells go up to 10th level now (probably because 10 is a round number). 

In addition to the regular spell system, there are two alternate spell systems.  There are Focus spells which are cast using Focus Points instead of spell slots (bardic music abilities fall into this category now as an example).  All of the spellcasters (as well as some non-spellcasters such as Monk) get access to some of these and they are class list restricted.  There are also Rituals which remind me of D&D 4E rituals more than anything else except they're locked behind skill requirements instead of needing a feat and are for big out of combat stuff (like animating objects of awakening animals or communing with nature).

I feel like there's a little too much standardization here, it's very different than the PF1E/D&D 3.5 way or just every class can do their own thing with their own systems.

The Age of Lost Omens

This chapter is the general expected chapter about the world and the planes and different locations and cultures that could someday get their own splatbooks because that's how PF1E did it.  It also talks about where to find some of the more iconic creatures (such as demons and serpentfolk), as well as different factions, religions, faiths/philosophies (atheism for example), and domains.

Playing the Game

Here is how you play the game.

Proficiency bonuses are spelled out here (basically your level plus a number based on what your proficiency rank).  Rules on rounding and multiplying more than once are here.  In addition, we get everything else.  Damage gets a few pages.  It's very in depth.

Other rules of note: Hero Points are a thing on a per-session basis (mainly for re-rolling or not dying).  Jumping is a regular action with a defined distance.  There are rules for helping your allies aim at a target they can't see.  There are actions you can take during overland travel (called Exploration Activities).  You can only benefit from 10 magic items (which can be changed daily).  Retraining costs no money but does take time (and you can only retrain feats, skill proficiency choices, and class feature choices). 

Game Mastering

Here is how you run the game.

Most of it is either standard or non-standard but in the end not meaningful IMO.  We do get a sidebar basically saying that the rarity system is there as a tool to the DM to make things as open or not in terms of what options the players have.  You might want to make rare items rewards and not found in shops for example.

In the spirit of I'm not sure what, there's also some stuff in here that I wouldn't have thought of.  An example is how long it takes for everyone to sleep and how long each watch is for groups of 2-6 (because everyone needs 8 hours of sleep or it doesn't count, barring any race/class/feat abilities).

WBL is still around, but the table now also has suggestions for permanent vs consumable items, and there are different tables for party WBL and character WBL (party WBL is for making sure that the party meets minimum expected magic items levels and is used to track thing during leveling to meet those standards, character WBL is for making characters above first level). 

Crafting & Treasure

Alright, remember earlier when I said you can only have 10 magic items active?  That isn't exactly true.  Some items require you to "invest" in them, and you can only invest in 10 items at a time.  In addition, if you don't invest in the item you can still wear it, you just don't get the magical benefits (not investing you in your magic armor doesn't stop it from being armor).

Other than that, the treasure tables are sorted by level with page numbers for each item listed and differentiation between permanent and consumable items.  This is done for both magic items as well as alchemical items.

We also get information on different material items can be crated out of.

The most interesting thing in this chapter is weapon and armor enhancements.  These aren't just buying pluses or specific abilities and finding the cost.  These are done by purchasing runes that are etched into your equipment.

Want +1 to your AC?  Get the +1 Armor Potency Rune (which has a level of 5).  Oh, you have a potency rune?  You can have property runes equal to the bonus from your potency rune (which maxes out at 3), and this is on top of the Fundamental runes (of which there are 2 of per type of equipment, one being the Potency rune).  These are also on top of whatever effects are on your magic armor/weapon already.  There are even rules for transferring runes between equipment.

Final Thoughts

I can't tell if this edition is two steps forward, one step back or one step forward, two steps back.  It's not bad, but while there are specific elements about it that I like I'm not sold on it.  It definitely it's a D&D 5E clone which is one of the things that I've heard against it.  I'm just kind of meh on the book as a whole.

Honestly if I'm looking for a new Pathfinder I'll either play Starfinder (which I was expecting this to take a lot more guidance from, I love Starfinder so much more than PF2E) or I'll wait until Savage Pathfinder comes out (because Savage Worlds is getting Pathfinder and I expect that to be amazing).  I won't be keeping this one.

Other RPGs / Review of Cyberpunk Red
« on: December 19, 2020, 10:21:14 PM »

I apologize for the delay since my last review. I'm lazy and reading through a multiple hundred page roleplaying game book to analyze it is work and that's about the best explanation I can give you.  As is standard, I have no idea what I'm getting into here.  I've never looked at any of the previous Cyberpunk editions and haven't played Cyberpunk 2077 because I generally wait for games to be patched and on sale before I buy them.

Normally this is where I'd talk about the history of the game and when this edition was published (which is this year) and blah blah blah but honestly I'm going to assume that you're all like me and only care about it because of the video game so we'll just skip that part.  If you do care you probably know it anyway.  All I know is that this general system has been around for a while so I expect the technology aspects to be a little off.

The pdf is 458 pages, cover to cover.  Looking at the index, none of the chapters/subchapters are numbered but the book is laid out as follows:
 - Never Fade Away (This is italicized so is probably a short story)
 - View from the Edge (Or how to play a role-playing game)
 - Soul and the New Mechine (Making characters)
 - Tales from The Street (Probably more about making characters)
 - Fitted for the Future (Stats, skills, equipment)
 - Putting the Cyber into the Punk (CYBERWARE, and also something called cyberpsychosis)
 - The Fall of the Towers (Another story)
 - Getting it Done (Using skills, etc)
 - Friday Night Firefight (Combat rules)
 - Netrunning (Hacking rules)
 - Trauma Team (Damage/healing rules)
  -Welcome to the Dark Future (In game history)
 - The Time of the Red ("Current events" most likely)
 - Welcome to Night City (About night city, where you will most likely be)
 - Everyday Life (Appears to be a lot of flavor stuff about getting into the game)
 - The New Street Economy (Pretty self-explanatory)
 - Running Cyberpunk (Also self-explanatory)
 - Screamsheets (I have no idea)
 - Black Dog (One last story)

After the index we get what is basically an explanation for why this book exists, and the answer is because CD Projekt Red wanted to make a Cyberpunk video game.  This ruleset was created by the creator of Cyberpunk specifically to be a version that fits both video game and tabletop game requirements.

Never Fade Away is a short story so I'm skipping it as is customary for me, and I'll just skip over the other stories as well.

View from the Edge

As expected, this is an intro to Cyberpunk.  We got some in-universe language about what cyberpunk is and a general overview of the technology and history that make up the world.  Cyberpunk has a feel for it that looks like they're explicitly trying to make it not seem like Shadowrun (the word punk is in there for a reason).

Then we get "A Tabletop RPG primer".  I'm explicitly told that since I know what I'm doing I can skip this part and so that's what I'll do.

Lastly in this chapter we get a glossary of different street slang to get you into the mood.

Then there's an in-universe advertisement webpage.  That was unexpected, but neat.

Soul and the New Machine

There are three basic concepts to live by as a Cyberpunk player.

#1 - Style Over Substance
#2 - Attitude Is Everything
#3 - Live On The Edge

If that doesn't differentiate this from Shadowrun then nothing well.  Now on to something a bit meatier.

There are ten roles in Cyberpunk Red, and each role has it's own special "Role Ability" which starts at a value of 4 (we're still a little over 100 pages away from finding out what that means but a value of 4 means you've been doing this for about 4 years).  Each role gets a one-page description and there is a basic overview of what the role ability.

1) Rockerboy - Rock-and-roll rebels who use performance, art, and rhetoric to fight authority. (Role Ability: Charismatic Impact)
2) Solos - Assassins, bodyguards, killers, and soldiers-for-hire in a lawless new world. (Role Ability: Combat Awareness)
3) Netrunners - Cybernetic master hackers of the post-NET world and brain-burning secret stealers. (Role ability: Interface)
4) Techs - Renegade mechanics and supertech inventors; the people who make the Dark Future fun. (Role ability: Maker)
5) Medtechs - Unsanctioned street doctors and cyberware medics, patching up meat and metal alike. (Role ability: Medicine)
6) Medias - Reporters, media stars, and social influencers risking it all for the truth - or glory. (Role ability: Credibility)
7) Execs - Corporate power brokers and business raiders fighting to restore the rule of the Megacorps. (Role ability: Teamwork)
8) Lawmen - Maximum law enforcers patrolling the mean streets and barbarian warrior highways beyond. (Role ability: Backup)
9) Fixers - Dealmakers, organizers, and information brokers in the post-War Midnight Markets of The Street. (Role ability: Operator)
10) Nomads - Transport experts, ultimate road warriors, pirates, and smugglers who keep the world connected. (Role ability: Moto)

When it comes to making a character, there are three different methods.

1) Use a template
2) The fast and dirty way
3) Calculating everything using pools of points to buy things

All three methods have flowcharts to help with the character creation (the first two methods share a flowchart).  The first two methods involve rolling stats, the third buys them.  The first two methods get all of their gear assigned to them, the third appears to buy every single item individually.  From the flowcharts these look like the big differences.

Regardless of which flowchart you are using, here are the basic steps:
 1) Pick a role (and set role ability to 4)
 2) Run the Lifepath
 3) Generate Stats
 4) Calculate derived stats
 5) Set skills
 6+) Equipment

Tales From The Street

This is the chapter about running the lifepath.  The lifepath is a flowchart full of tables with options to roll from (with the ability to choose an option if you think the roll doesn't fit your character).  Some tables have more than one thing you roll for, and they are rolled separately.  I'll go through them and give a basic description of each.

 1) Cultural Origin - What part of the world are you from?  What is your native language?  (Everyone knows Streetslang.)
 2) Personality - What is one of your core personality traits?
 3) Personal Style - What is your clothing style?  What is your hairstyle?
 4) Affectation - What is one fashion item you always have on you?
 5) Motivations and Relationships - What do you value most?  How do you feel about most people?
 6) Most Valued - Who do you value the most?  What possession do you value the most?
 7) Family Background - What was your family like?
 8) Environment - Where did you grow up as a child?
 9) Family Crisis - What bad thing happened to your family?
 10) Friends - How many friends do you have?  What is your relationship with them?
 11) Enemies - How many enemies do you have?  Why are they your enemies?  What are their resources?  How will they act if they see you again?
 12) Love Affairs - How many tragic love affairs have you had?  Why did they end?
 13) Goals - What is your life goal?

In addition, there are also role based lifepaths.  They go over career specific parts of your life.

Fitted for the Future

Now we're getting into the basic rules of the game.  We start with character statistics.

There are 10 stats split up into 4 groups.  The Metal group contains Intelligence, Willpower, Cool (just how it sounds), and Willpower.  The Combat group contains Technique and Reflexes.  The Fortune group contains Luck.  The Physical group contains Body, Dexterity, and Movement.  Stats go from 1-8 generally (but can go higher). 

Each method of character creation has its own method for stat generation.  For the template method, find the table for your role, roll a d10 and directly copy the stats that the table says you have.  You can't have crappy stats this way but you can't deviate from what the table says in any way.

For the "fast and dirty" method, use the same tables as the template method but you roll a d10 for each stat individually which means less balance between stats but more potential variety between them.  Once again, you can't deviate from what you rolled.

For the calculating method, you get a specified number of stat points.  It's your basic point buy method on a 1-for-1 basis.

Derived stats are all about why you don't want to dump some stats.  HP are derived from Body and Will.  Humanity (which helps stop you from being a homicidal sociopath and is lost by installing cybernetics) is derived from Empathy. 

We then move on to skills.  Like most games, skills are complicated and I'm not going to do a deep dive here.  There are nine different skill categories based around what kind of skill it is.  All skills have an associated stat.  Skills are purchased, and some skills cost more to purchase than others.  Skills have ranks from 1-10, languages are a skill, and everyone starts with some basic skills.

Just like stats, the different character creation methods have different ways of selecting starting skills.  If you're using the template method, write down the skills that are listed on the table for this purpose.  Period.  If you're going fast and dirty, you get a pool of skill points and buy your skills based off of the list of 20 skills available for each roll (and you have to buy your basic skills, they aren't free).  The calculating method is like fast and dirty but you aren't limited in what skills you can buy.

Once skills are selected we move on to the equipment phase of character creation.  Here we get a general overview of what is what (with specific items being in the Night Market chapter).

Weapons are split between Melee, Ranger, and Exotic (with different weapons using different skills).  Non-exotic ranged weapons get attachment slots.  Armor has an armor rating (called Stopping Power) and Armor Penalty (which penalizes stats) and is purchased separately for the body and the head.

One of the things I like about weapons in Cyberpunk 2077 is that there aren't specific stats for every single type of thing.  Pistols are either medium, heavy, or very heavy.  There are examples of each, but you don't specifically stat out every kind of pistol you might want and try to figure out ways to make them different from each other.  Other types of ranged weapons are split up the same (for example a sniper rifle is a sniper rifle) and melee weapons come in four categories. 

To determine what you get, each method comes into play again.  Templates and fast and dirty get predetermined equipment based on their role and in addition get money to buy additional equipment or keep at their discretion.  Calculated characters just get a bunch of money and have to buy everything individually, including equipment we haven't gotten to yet.

After weapons and armor, you get an outfit.  An outfit is more than the clothes on your back, it is everything that you carry with you from day to day and since you'rea Cyberpunk character this includes a bag containing food and clothes and toothbrushes and whatnot because who knows what might happen.  An outfit is separate from Fashion which is how you dress and has its own sub-section.   Once again, templates/fast and dirty get what the table says and calculated characters buy whatever (but they get additional money specifically for fashion that you can't keep the change from).

Non-execs live in a rented cargo container with first month's rent and kibble free (yes, you're eating kibble).  Execs get fancier digs but they also have to pay rent each month.  Nomads can live in their vehicle due to their role ability.

Putting the Cyber into the Punk

Now we're onto my favorite part of any futuristic RPG.  Cyberware!  Cyberware is split into 8 types and each type has separate limitations on how many pieces and be installed.

As you expected, templates/fast and dirty get what the table says (with humanity loss already calculated for you) and calculated characters buy whatever.

But wait, there's more!  Assuming you can convince the other players to take advantage of attractive employment opportunities, you too can get free cyberware by joining the (covert) military, taking up a life of organized crime, or selling out to a corporation!  Of course there are downsides to these options, but they're all on the role-playing side and all you care about are those sweet sweet numbers right? Who cares if a bomb might be hidden inside of your body.

Then we get to The Fall of the Towers which is another story and to be skipped.

Getting It Done

Here is the chapter on non-combat rules (and some combat related ones too).  Initiative is Reflexes + 1d10.  On your turn you get a move action and an action.  Skill checks are d10 based too (of course) and stat + skill + roll.  It's all pretty easy to understand for anyone coming from the d20 system.  Crit successes are exploding dice (roll a 10, roll a d10 again and add it, can't get a third roll) and crit failures are exploding dice but bad (roll a 1, roll a d10 again and subtract it, can't get a third roll).  I like this better than auto-suceed/auto-fail.

Here is also where you learn what the Luck stat does.  You get a luck pool with points = stat which refill on a per-session basis and can be spent to increase rolls by +1 per point spent.

We also get a skill overview, which is basically what can you be expected to do at different skill levels with a base of 10 being a professional level of competency.  Role abilities are also described here, as are rules on multiclassing between roles (which can't be done at character creation).  For multiclassing, you just buy rank 1 in the new role with your improvement points (which we haven't gotten to yet but are probably just XP you use to buy character improvements with, pretty standard) and that's your new job.  You can spend points to improve your previous role but it's not the role you're seen as anymore.

A little bit on role abilities, they're all interesting and all dramatically improve as more points are put into them (with a maximum of 10 as normal).  I like them.  (As a Nomad you can put ejection seats in a helicopter and there are rules for what happens if you eject into helicopter blades.)

Friday Night Firefight

Here's where we move onto the combat specific rules, with a refresher on initiative and actions.

Since armor mitigates damage but doesn't make you harder to hit, combat works differently than what you might be used to.  Ranged combat to-hit targets are based off of the type of weapon being used and how far away the target it (unless the target has an Evasion of at least 8 because then they can roll to dodge bullets).  Since even normal people can attempt to dodge melee attacks those are straight up contested rolls.  Defender wins all ties.  Damage is all rolled in d6's.

There are of course special rules that can be used for ranged attacks (such as suppressive fire) and different rules for different kinds of melee combat (martial arts as an example).  Other special rules include things like rules for a human shield and how taking damage fucks up your armor and penalties for being wounded.  I like this game.

Being under 1 hp means rolling death saves (failing a death save is the only way you can die).  Critical injuries happen when you roll at least two 6's on your damage dice and confer actual penalties on top of automatic bonus damage (none of this multiplied damage on a crit in this game).  If you're hit while under 1 hp you automatically suffer a critical injury and get penalties on your next death save.

I want to say that vehicle combat is a little more complicated but it is covered in 4 pages so it really isn't that bad.

Interestingly, there are also rules for social combat, in the form of facing someone down.  The person who loses either backs off or takes a penalty to all actions made against the winner.  Nothing like a little intimidation.


Here it is, the hacking/decking chapter.  I expect this to be horribly complicated, I've never wanted to play a decker outside of a video game just due to the complexity.

The good news here is that netrunning doesn't take place in its own separate initiative count.  When it's your turn you either take a "meat action" (action with your body) or "NET actions" (netrunning actions).  You get your regular move action regardless.

The bad news is that this chapter is still over 20 pages long so while netrunning isn't anywhere near as bad as some Shadowrun rulesets I've seen it is way more complicated than "meatspace" actions.

All in all I was prepared to hate this chapter but it's not bad.  My main worry is that if I play a Netrunner there doesn't seem to be much you can do to boost your checks and black ice makes me paranoid.

There are also rules for how to create a net for someone to run (which is pretty simple) and how to set up your own net to control automated home defenses and whatnot.

Trauma Team

The chapter on healing, injury, and death.  We get the same information here that was in the combat section on wound states and critical injuries and death saves.  We also get rules on how to stabilize and heal naturally.

We also get information on what skills can heal what, trauma team insurance (like modern ambulances but they're armed and armored and you have to pre-pay for them to come), hospital visits, and everything else health related (such as drugs and therapy).

Welcome to the Dark Future

This chapter is all fluff and no crunch (but in a game like this that isn't a bad thing).  A timeline of how the world got to be the way it is can be found (divergence from our timeline started in the late 80's it looks like). 

The current year is 2045 (which I guess is why the system is Cyberpunk Red and not Cyberpunk 2077 like the video game). 

The Time of the Red

Where the previous chapter was about how the world got to where it is, this chapter is about what the world is now.  It's interesting but again all fluff and since I don't know any of the previous material (and am not running a game in this system) I'm not actively invested in it.

Welcome to Night City

Here's the story of Night City (the city the game is expected to take place in) with its history and current situation and whatnot.  It is made up of different zones, some safer than others, and all the information about who has power where and what role they have and what gangs there are and everything you need to make a believable city for your players.

Everyday Life

Where the previous chapter was about what the city itself was like, this chapter is about what life is like in general.  Crime and punishment, everyday technology, guns, vehicles, and other information about other general day to day items that aren't crunchy rules that need to be referenced.  It's nice.

I mentioned kibble earlier, here we learn that kibble is not actually dog food (so that's something at least).

The New Street Economy

Here we have not only the expected information about what do things cost, but we also get information on how the economy got the way it is, how to generate a night market (kind of like a big swap meet), and midnight markets (too exclusive for you to get into). 

When buying a weapon you can cheap out and buy poor quality, or open your wallet wide and buy excellent quality.  Poor quality weapons jam up, excellent quality ones give you a bonus to attack.

There are other economic rules here too, they're all pretty standard.

Running Cyberpunk

This is more than your standard "how to run a game" chapter but less than the amazingness that is the equivalent in the Alien RPG book that I have previously reviewed.  The first half of this chapter is all about how to really get into the feel of Cyberpunk and not just general hints for GMs.

The second half of this chapter is what I've been waiting for a while to find out about experience improvement points!  If the mission was a success, IP are granted to everyone with the possibility of bonus IP for individual players that stood out to the GM as deserving of more points.  If everyone failed then IP are still granted but it's a little more complicated.

IP are then spent on improving skills and your role ability (or gaining new role abilities) with the cost being based on what the next level would be of the specific thing you're improving.

We also get sample statted up NPCs to use and random encounter tables.


So screamsheets are the new newspapers, and this chapter is "news" about different things and what the players know and GM knows about what is going on.  They're basically a bunch of plot hooks/mini adventures.

To finish out the book we have the last story, Black Dog, and a three page character sheet.

Final Thoughts

I like it, I like it better than any Shadowrun version I've ever read which is the closest thing I can compare it to.  It's streamlined and interesting and I couldn't run it because I need pre-written adventures but I could totally play it.  Definitely a keeper!

D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder / Pathfinder 1E is getting a spin-off
« on: October 05, 2020, 09:38:28 PM »
It's called Corefinder and it's to Pathfinder what Pathfinder is to 3.5.  Legendary Games is publishing it.

GitP thread about it.

Paizo forums thread about it. (Contains a link to the Legendary Games Discord server in the first post)

I expect this community to never move onto it because I'm the only one who wants to learn all the systems but conceptually I'm interested to see how this goes.

Edit: I'm reading through the threads and will post an overview of actual crunch information.

Other RPGs / Nanshork's System Reviews
« on: July 06, 2020, 01:36:15 PM »
I own (and read) a whole lot of different RPG systems.  It was brought to my attention that because of this, people wanted to know what my opinions of different systems are.  So I wrote up some system reviews and they weren't poorly received so this is a thing now (at least for now).

I review things from a mechanics perspective and with an eye towards helping people figure out if they want to own the system or not.  Because of this my reviews are a little different from everyone else's. 

Abandon All Hope
Alien: The Roleplaying Game
Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game
Cyberpunk Red
DIE: The Roleplaying Game
Mork Borg
Mistborn Adventure Game
Pathfinder: Second Edition
Prime Directive Modern
Savage Pathfinder / Pathfinder for Savage Worlds
Slasher Flick
Star Trek Adventures
Starfinder (An introduction and not actually a review, just a comparison of Starfinder vs 3.5/PF)
The Company

Feel free to comment/ask questions in the review threads themselves.  I also take requests and you can ask for those here (or ask questions or whatnot).

Other RPGs / Review of Mistborn Adventure Game
« on: July 06, 2020, 01:26:52 PM »

The Mistborn Adventure Game is published by Crafty Games in 2011, and this review was a request.  Not only am I going into this review blind (the same as the last couple of reviews), but I don't know anything about the source material and only vaguely know who Brandon Sanderson is.

The PDF is 563 pages (including covers, etc) and I've been informed that this includes a lot of short stories which pad the page count and I won't care about because I've never read a Mistborn book.

Right out of the gate this book is laid out a little strangely.  It is three books in one (and I am using the word book literally, right out of the table of contents). 
 - Book One: The Mistborn Adventure Game (What would be a PHB in another system)
 - Book Two: The Treatise Metallurgic (I have no idea what is going on here)
 - Book Three: Always Another Secret (The DMG equivalent book)

Word of warning: I'm going to completely skip over all of the short stories in this book.  I don't care about them and am not even going to read them but I can pretty safely assume that anyone buying a game "Based on the best-selling novel series" (as written on the front cover) does care so the stories aren't a complete waste of space.  However, if I wanted to review short stories I'd be doing that instead of this. 

Skipping stories, we're now in the Introduction, and I have to say that the world of Mistborn as described is weird.  It's the effective technology of the 18th century but then volcanoes erupted and the sky is blotted out by ash and there are undead and we've got some sort of V for Vendetta oppressive government/church running everything and wealth is measured in the secrets you know.  Also some people can use metal to do magic.  And PCs are running around trying to make things better.

It's not the worst setting for an RPG that I've ever read, but I can definitely say that I still have absolutely no interest in reading a book from that setting.  Please note that if this is completely wrong and not what the Mistborn books are about that I'm just summarizing what's in the RPG book so blame the authors of that.

Thankfully there is a bunch of setting information after the introduction for people who are interested in the setting.  I'm clearly not so I'll just skim through it.  We've got the desolate world of Scadrial where all all civilization is a part of the Final Empire which is ruled for an immortal god-king who ascended to the throne a thousand years ago.  It's all very grimdark sounding.

Magic is broken down into three basic fields: Allomancy (eating metal do do things), Feruchemy (storing powers in metal to be used later), and Hemalurgy (using metal spikes to steal abilities from others).  There are 19 different metallic elements and alloys used in the Metallurgic Arts, and you're pretty much not going to be able to use any of them.  Most practitioners can only use a single magical style and metal and two of them are inborn with the third being a closely guarded secret.

After that we get the general "what this is" section of most RPG core books.  Mistborn is a storytelling game so from experience I am prepared to not like it.

On to Book One!

If 3.5 is your game of choice, be prepared to not like Mistborn.  "For those of you who've played RPGs before, the Mistborn Adventure Game is a relatively rules-light, strongly narrative storytelling game. There are no levels, no "grinding" for XP, and no killing things and taking their stuff."  Why does a rules light game have a core rulebook that is over 500 pages?  At this point I honestly don't know.  Oh look, a note from Brandon Sanderson.  Mistborn is a storytelling game because those are his favorite types of systems.  Remind me to never play a game that he's running.  Also he wanted a game that could be run in PbP (I'm not sure how that's a design goal but okay).

Mistborn is a d6 system that explicitly requires you to have at least one friend. (Playing with strangers is not allowed!  I'm joking but it does say that friends are required to play, along with dice and paper and imagination.)  The GM is the Narrator (as expected in a storytelling game).  Brandon Sanderson pops in again to talk about how you don't have to read the books to play the game.  I expect to get annoyed at his sidebars by the time this is over.

Okay, first major critique (bias against storytelling games aside).  Want to know what is right after the "Getting Started" section?  A bunch of sample characters.  I have no idea what is going on or how even to make a character but look, here are a bunch of pre-mades with backstories and everything ready to go.  This annoys the crap out of me.  Fuck you pre-mades, I'm not even going to read you later when I know what your sheets actually mean.

After the pre-mades is a glossary.  I'm going to skip past this too, it's another very poorly placed section.  Glossaries go at the end of a book!  They shouldn't be a chapter in the beginning!

Now, on to what might be the little bit of crunch this game actually has.  Character creation mechanics!

There are three Attributes: Physique, Charm, and Wit.  Generally they range from 2-6 (with the number being the dice pool).

There are three Standings: Resources, Influence, and Spirit.  These range from 2-10.

There are four Powers: Allomancy, Feruchemy, Hemalurgy, and Mimicry (there is a shapeshifting race that can mimic the forms of dead people they eat).  Powers are rated individually (of course).

There are Traits which is pretty standard for a storytelling game.  These range from skills to physical characteristics to relationships to whatever.  Just make them up!  Traits can be used to grant bonus dice to rolls (or lose dice).  Negative traits exit but they aren't things you pick and they are "actually one of the best ways to develop and enhance your character's personal story".  I'm rolling my eyes if you didn't notice.

There are three Resiliences: Health, Reputation, and Willpower.  All three are derived stats (they are calculated by doing math with other existing stats).  A resilience of 0 means you have been defeated (which doesn't always mean death because this isn't that kind of game).

We also have props which are "not just 'stuff' to collect for that rare moment they're needed - they're an essential part of the character".  All props are equipment and they're "permanent".  If your prop is a sword cane and you lose your sword cane then you get a new one "off screen" unless the GM says otherwise.

Characters have Destinies and Tragedies because a storyteller game isn't a storyteller game unless you have a backstory that takes up at least a page.

Character creation is done as a group because part of your character is defining the crew that you are all a part of.  Brandon Sanderson doesn't like random people thrown together in an adventure, he says so himself.  It's "harmful".

Then you come up with a phrase that is a character concept.  This goes on your sheet.  I don't know why.  Then you answer a survey and put those answers on your sheet as well.  I feel like I'm reading census instructions.  Stats are also generated as part of this census process, they aren't randomly generated.

Once you've finished your stat generation and most of the rest of the census, then you get to pick your race.  This is because specific powers are restricted to specific races so that has to be last.  Races do not have a mechanical impact aside from that.

Even though this is a level-less system, characters can advance through things called Advancements.  Advancements are granted per session and up the the narrator.  You can get advancements for things like "making a critical choice at a Turning Point in the game" or "staying in character" or "selflessly improving the quality of the game for everyone" (an example there is adjusting your actions to get the Crew back on the game rails).  Things like this are why I really don't like storytelling games.

Advancements are tracked on your character sheet (until you spend them) and you can't have more than 20 at a time.  Some Advancements have a cost of 20 so know what you're saving up for before you spend your points.

After character mechanics we delve into how to play a storytelling game, blah blah blah.  Rolling dice is both different and really weird.  Okay, you figure out your dice pool (max 10, min 2).  You have a target difficulty number anywhere from 1-5.  You roll your dice.  6's get put aside because they improve your rolls.  You then take the highest set of matching dice and those are your result to be compared against the target difficulty.

What happens if you roll a bunch of numbers that don't match each other?  I have no idea.  You can't even fail without matching numbers according to what I'm reading.  This is insane.

You then take your result and subtract the difficulty from it to get your outcome number.  Positive outcome is good (higher is more positive), negative is bad (all negatives are a failure) and a 0 is just barely succeeded.  Those 6's you rolled can boost the outcome number as can some other stuff.  This is only for situations where degrees of success or failure would matter.  Negative outcome rolls also introduce complicates so they should still be tracked.

As a storyteller game with all kinds of different stats, Mistborn runs combat differently than you might be used to.  Conflicts encompass all kinds of, well, conflicts, including combat.  This means that all kinds of actions are possible using all kinds of dice combinations and targets get to roll defense dice based on what stat is defending against the "attack".  For a rules-light system this is actually pretty complicated (although most of the work is on the GM's side). 

It's so complicated that after the chapter on Conflicts there is a chapter on extra rules for Physical Conflicts (aka Combat).  After that is a chapter on Social Conflicts.  After that is a chapter on Mental Conflicts.  I guess since Conflicts are pretty much the main thing anyone is going to be rolling dice for I can understand it, but we're talking about 60 or so pages just about how to roll dice.  This is terrible, I can't even be bothered to read these rules because they layout is so bad and there are multipage examples all over the place breaking up the flow.

Next we have a chapter called Changing the World which has rules on Standing rolls and Resources rolls (such as buying equipment) and a bunch of other things.  I'm already annoyed at the conflicts rules and things here aren't any less complicated.  Rules-light my ass.  It doesn't help that every little thing that might be rolled has multiple paragraphs of examples.  Just give me some quick dirty tables and be done with it Brandon Sanderson!

Pushing past all of that, we get a chapter on the shapeshifting corpse eaters.  They're special and get special rules.

Book 2: The Treatise Metallurgic

I'm going to make a prediction right now.  This whole book is going to annoy me with hyper-specificity and too much non-rules text.  Let's dive in.

We have the basic rules of Allomancy, Feruchemy, and Hemalurgy.  Each is more complicated than expected but nowhere near as bad as the conflict rules (and normally you'll only have to worry about one of them anyway, unlike conflicts). 

Next we have overviews of each type of metal, how they are used in the different types of metalmancy, and little Brandon Sanderson thoughts about each one that I just can't be bothered to care about anymore because he and I just don't see eye-to-eye about some really basic stuff.

All in all this book is so much better than the previous one. Everything is well written and concise, things make sense, examples aren't long and rambling.  I feel like it had a different editor.  My prediction didn't come true though, that's a plus.

Book Three: Always Another Secret

Okay, we still have over a hundred and fifty pages to go and we're at the DMG section.  This game is explicitly a collaborative storytelling game.  This is hammered home right here if you didn't believe me before.  The Narrator has "rights" including being able to Veto things and "play too".  There are pages and pages about how to narrate things and tell stories and make characters and this is just so boring.

Then we get a whole chapter about exploring the books.  I know this is based off of the books but didn't they already say I didn't need to read the books?  I guess I don't need to read them because the world information is laid out here in this chapter.

Then we get a chapter on how to make a story.  Don't forget to add a twist!  That's step three.

Pretty much this whole book is how to be a narrator.  Chapters 8 and 9 have characters from the books and general NPCs, and chapter 10 is making your own NPCs.  There is no rules text in Book Three.

Final Thoughts

I hate it.  I hate it because it is a storytelling game, I hate it because Brandon Sanderson is obviously a very rambly writer who writes a paragraph when a sentence would do.  I hate it because I don't know what happens if your roll your dice pool and you don't get doubles so there are giant rules questions about the very basics of how the game works.  The layout is terrible.  Everything is terrible except for Book Two.  I liked Book Two.  If you want ideas about metal based magic then look at Book Two and use it in a different game.


I have been informed that the only part of the book that I actually didn't have a problem with (Book 2) was written by Brandon Sanderson and that he didn't write any of the rest of it.  Apologies to Brandon Sanderson, you are a good writer.  You just teamed up with crappy writers to write this rulebook.

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