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Path of the Healer
Publisher: Legrand Games Studio
by Ranjith B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/20/2019 11:02:31

Please note that I write my reviews starting with the bad and then moving to the good, so please bear with me and read the entire review.

The biggest annoyance about the product are the options for non-humans that are listed in it with the suggestion of using specifc ways in combination with them. The annoying thing is that those optional ways are not described, thus leaving you wanting if you want to include those options.

The other not so strong point is the lack of a detailed example of play dealing with the conversation and usage of the mechanisms. There are examples of play giving details of the NPCs, the situation and a summary of what happened, but how exactly the game is played at the table is not shown. Mind you, given the simple rules, that is not a mortal flaw, but it would have been nice if an example could have given a feeling for pacing.

The writing is concise, which is a stated design goal, sometimes maybe hindering itself as there is a self-imposed limit of one page per item. While that limit has been followed through, deviating from it on occasion might have been useful.

There are also a dozen adventure seeds for those stumped for inspiration.

The game itself scores by having two relatively unusual aspects, each being quite interesting in a positive way.

First of all, you do not have any randomizers in the game. They are replaced by a simple mechanism of characters automatically succeeding at simple, unproblematic tasks and requiring the payment of one or two points of character resources to resolve difficult tasks. Very simple, but also very effective.

The second and much more interesting aspect is that the PCs are all pacifists. There are no rules for combat save for escaping combat or defending yourself. PCs have no means of causing harm to other living beings (the way of the unliving does allow to banish those, though). This is really an unusual approach I have never seen before as strongly enforced. And it is supported by quite some discussion on how to help get players used to it and how to create interesting stories with it.

All in all, the game has convinced me, and its focus on smaller groups and short adventures is also a plus in my eyes. And playing a complete pacifist in a world of war seems like a very interesting challenge I really want to take up as a gamer.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Path of the Healer
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Succession
Publisher: consilium games
by Ranjith B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/30/2019 08:05:31

Hello!

As usual, the review is structured from bad to good, so please take the time to read it in its entirety.

The worst aspect is the lack of explanations. Starting with not stating explicitly how the function of the GM is to be handled (although it is hinted at that all players do world-building, and it is stated that moves of the adversary of a PC are to be described/determined by a different player) or using scenes without defining the length or scope of them, down to painting things like the revelations (boons you get as experience) in really broad terms leaving them basically undefined. There is a working game in the book, but there are a lot of details that are not explicitly defined.

The design goal is to be open-ended so that players build their own worlds, but the gaps I am talking about are on the level of game rules, and I think those should be complete, especially if the world is to be build from very few hints.

That lack of explanation is somewhat mitigated by the author being quite responsive to questions. I tried out the reddit community, but there are also other channels of communication available.

An aspect that can be either good or bad for you may be the openness of the setting. We have kind of a fantasy setting, with only three deities defined - and even they are rather vague and in broad strokes and it is hinted at that they can be split into various deities with different detailed outlooks/fields of interest within the basic definition. Beyond that, the book offers some names of creatures and places but does not even define them - is Shardvale a village, a town, a valley or maybe even an entire kingdom? Are banewights undead spirits or some kind of goblinoids? And what can they do? Those are all things the players have to determine, the names are just there as inspiration, save for sample artifacts/items to use in your campaign.

The system is GMless or GMfull as the author called their approach in a related, different product, which means that there is no designated GM, instead giving all players the duty to build the world and narrate the NPCs actions.

It is statless, creating distinction mechanically by having different optional deeds (similar to moves in PbtA games) for the characters as well as their narrative description. Over the course of the campaign, the characters may gain relevations that may give them additional dice for some rolls.

It is a narrative system with a tactical dice mechanism which encourages risk taking especially in the early career of the characters. Should characters persevere, they may eventually reach a point where at least moderate success can be reached without taking additional risks, although each action has at least one additional risk besides the risk of failure. Supporting other player's characters means taking a risk where the other player gets to determine in the end whether your character has to endure that fate.

It is kind of a small dice pool system - for each aspect of the action, you add one die to the pool, then roll the dice and distribute them among the aspects as you see fit, one die per aspect and low results being bad, high being good. So, with a mixed result, you may have to choose between succeeding in your action but suffering some harm, or maybe avoiding that harm at the cost of failing at the action.

Add to this that each character has a quest with an adversary (which may also be an environment or situation) whose behavior is linked to the success or failure of the aim of the characters action and whether the main misfortune of the action comes true (bad news in either of these result in the adversary also doing their thing).

Personally, I find this mechanism (with the rules for additional risks that automatically get attached to a roll) quite elegant. It encourages taking risks to get a greater dice pool, which is bound to lead to stories of great risks and great losses, where the price for success may be steep. Thus, the mechanisms also influence the likely tone of the campaign, as the standard rules make it relatively difficult to get positive additional dice for your rolls instead of those linked to risks.

This multi-dimensional aspect (every die rolled is related to some detail of the situation) also assists in the story telling as the dice do not only tell you about failure or success but also about other mishaps or dangers that are part of the situation. So, you are encouraged to be creative before rolling the dice but also supported and inspired once they are rolled.

On a special note, while the rules are intended for multiplayer usage, I see a lot of potential for solitary play because of that inspirational aspect and the way the rules encourage risk-taking.

All in all, I find this to be a very nice game, although some more explanations and details would have been helpful. In a way, it is an unpolished diamond. If you are looking for a rules-lite tactical narrative game for grim or at least serious fantasy adventuring, I would recommend it - with a sidenote, that in the basic rules, all magic players use are wonders granted by their deities and that deities are an important aspect of the game.

Note that the author also provides supplements, one per game, which are all PWYW, with variant rules or settings. Do note, that because all titles use the same core mechanism, supplements can usually be ported to more or less an extent to other games. Especially the supplement for The Queen Smiles, One Red, actually gives much more aid for new ways of playing Succession than dealing with The Queen Smiles.

Yours, Deathworks



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Succession
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Lovecraftesque
Publisher: Black Armada
by Ranjith B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2019 04:15:19

Hello!

Please note that the review is sorted from negative to positive. So, please do read it till the end where the good stuff comes.

The most significant weakness of the book lies in the lack of actual play examples. Together with the overviews missing some details (like the roles moving to the left after each scene), this makes visualizing game play and checking on the rules sometimes difficult. Mind you, generally, the rules are clear and usable as written, but sometimes obscured by those design decisions.

Some things are actually not really explained, for instance the list of locations you generate in the beginning - is that an exclusive list, should you try to include all of them, or what other impact do they have on the game? I had to ask for support there and was informed that it was not an exclusive list.

While some may argue that the following is the biggest problem of the book, after analyzing it, I have come to the conclusion that it is not as bad as it feels. Lovecraftesque discusses two problematic issues found both in Lovecraft and his writing as well as in many derivative works, including RPGs. These are racism and distorted depictions of mental illness. There are quite interesting articles on them in the book, which I consider useful. However, that useful look behind the curtains (which even includes some thoughts on real life PTSD) is overshadowed by a preaching tone. In addition, when the book discusses the hopefully standard discussion before playing a horror rpg of what things are to be avoided because players feel uncomfortable with them, the authors seemingly belief that allegorical racism and comic depictions of mental illness are the main issues people may have. Personally, I find it much more import to check if anyone has arachnophobia or something similar, as the game is meant to provide detailed descriptions, which could easily make people with the appropriate phobias feel uncomfortable or even get a panic attack, rather than delve into academic fields like allegorical racism. Combined with the rather unfortunate "should" instead of "may" in the sentence introducing the examples of items to be banned, we get that unfortunate impressing of heavy-handed preaching. On a personal note, if you wish to avoid allegorical racism, I am not sure you are well-adviced to play a game that features alien creatures/monsters, as they can always be seen as allegories for other races or groups of people.

Another item that some people may have a problem with are a few pieces of poetry in the vein of Lovecraft's own poems. Some people may find them a waste of space, while others may find them useful to get into the mood. In either case, it is a noteworthy and unusual design decision.

One very good thing about this product was customer support. I mentioned above that I had a rules question. I went to the homepage to see if I found some clarification there, and as that turned up no result, I used their contact form to ask the question. I received an answer within 24h and got the impression that they cared about their customers.

The core rules are rather versatile, the game is statless, allowing players to change the premises of the game. If you stay within a framework of horror or mystery, you will probably not need to do much beyond agreeing upon such a story. Otherwise, you may need to alter the rules for Creeping Horror or the Force Majeure. The one element that is rather inflexible are the special cards - each player gets one card and by playing the card, an element can be introduced into the game that would usually violate the rules for the (early) game. The elements that are added by the special cards are focused on supernatural horror; while some can still be used more generally, others may be a bit more difficult to port. Still, that is not an insurmountable hurdle, so I could imagine even warping the rules so far to do a classic tale of dragon slaying.

As I said above, the game is statless. The main character, called Witness, has traits that describe their personality and gains them through play, but they have no mechanical meaning instead being a guide to keeping the character consistent. Conflicts and challenges are judgment calls for the current game master, called Narrator, and much is based on the phase of the game (3 phases with fixed number of scenes (with some variations in the second phase)). This means that the game does not come to a halt when a stat is needed or statistics for a roll are calculated. The game is diceless and has no randomizers besides the special cards which are introduced at the whim of the player that holds them. It is an unusual approach, but one that clearly puts the story in the forefront.

The game does include advice/rules for campaign play - which could refer to the horror or to the witness or to both.

The game itself has a clear structure with three roles that are rotated after every scene: The narrator, who is the game master, the witness, who plays the one and only player character, and the watchers, who work as kind of assistants to the narrator adding atmospheric details to the narrator's description and playing NPCs in multi-NPC situations to lighten the burden of the narrator. The roles are clearly defined and each one has their space within the narration. This, in turn, makes this unusual game relatively easy to play and keeps things orderly. Having just a single NPC keeps players from arguing about what their characters will do next, and indeed, the game itself is in general about narrating separately but building on each other - no one is to discuss what someone else says (unless the rules are violated) and within their realm, each one rules supreme.

With a rotating narrator, any concept of a prescripted adventure is bound to fail. Instead, the game is about an emerging story which is rather cleverly handled. In the first two phases, clues are generated, which are explicitly marked as such. And after each scene, each player is tasked to interpret the clues presented thus far - alone and for themselves without any sharing or discussing. This may seem insignificant, but is actually a very clever design. By actively interpreting the clues, each player thinks about the story and develops a logical interpretation. And when it is their turn to provide clues, those clues are likely to be logical. At the same time, the rules ensure that the clues are not too explicit, leaving room for various interpretations, so that no one can tell where the tale will lead in the end.

This leads to another nice aspect. Scenarios for Lovecraftesque are not complete adventures. Instead, they are adventure seeds with most of the setup information as well as some inspiration for the later game provided, so that even a single seed can be reused and yield completely different tales. And the book comes with a lot of scenarios and there are even more on the homepage, even two that were published in other magazines. So, there is a lot of material you can use for inspiration if you don't want to play a freeform adventure.

All in all, this points above make it also a good candidate for solo roleplaying and maybe also a good game to practice playing/emulating several players while soloing. With the roles being so strictly separated, you are less likely to worry about when one player or the other may shout in. With no finished adventures but rather adventure seeds, it has exactly what you want for normal solo gaming. And the clue mechanism yields itself to forcing you to explore different lines of thought and in the end surprising yourself. Finally, the lack of stats can be refreshing as you don't need to stop to consider whether climbing that wall is a difficult or very difficult challenge. Mind you, soloing is not an officially supported option, but I think it shouldn't be too much a problem with some outside material like a player emulator, oracle, or random content generator.

My vote is that it is a recommendable product, especially for solo gamers, despite its flaws.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lovecraftesque
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Passage - A Storytelling Exploration Game for Exactly One Player
Publisher: Cloud Monster Press
by Ranjith B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/07/2018 05:38:28

My review structure is always from bad to good, so please bear with me.

First of all, the bad: The price is a little bit above average, for 13 pages, some people may find it relatively expansive. However, since these are just a few pages and thus only very little money, I think that the price is okay. And the product is good enough an idea so one should encourage the creator to do more of it.

The layout is functional, although having the domains table separately at the end of the book would have been nice instead of having it in the middle on a page with other text. That table is the core mechanism and constantly referenced, so having it separately would improve the ease of use for the reader.

The example does not include tools or skills or does not clarify when they are used. Not a big bad, but something that would have been useful.

The good: There is a lengthy example of gameplay giving the reader a good impression of what the game is about.

The mechanisms are straightforward and easily memorized.

The balance/crisis variant seems highly recommendable as it adds to the unpredictability.

Summary/Description: This title is an extremely rules-lite solitaire roleplaying game. It boils roleplaying really down to roleplaying by removing all stats and checks instead focusing on the narration and the interaction with the oracle. Many approaches to solitaire gaming focus on checks and mechanisms, so it is quite pleasant to have this game around. If you are a tactical player thrilled by finding the best solutions using your stats, this is definitely not your game. If you need oracles that spell everything out, this is also not your game as the oracle gives just general keywords that you need to interpret freely. But for those who like to focus on the narration and who enjoy being creative based on simple, small key words, this is a highly recommendable title and well worth its money.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Passage - A Storytelling Exploration Game for Exactly One Player
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Warrior Heroes Legends
Publisher: Two Hour Games
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/27/2015 15:06:51

Please note that this review is written from bad to good.

In my eyes, the campaign system feels somewhat lacking. There are mechanisms for travelling around the world, having random encounters and various things, but when you first start out, the game does not help you give a motivation for your character to actually do so. There are quite a few aspects where you need to fill in such gaps, giving the character reasons and motivations in order to justify decisions made purely in order to activate the mechanisms - or the other way around, filling in gaps that the system leaves. The latter can be seen with cities, villages and towns. While there are some differences, there is no real incentive to visit a city as most benefits of it over towns are rather marginal or dependent on getting lucky to get an involuntary encounter to begin with.

Mind you, those things can be handled by house-ruling, but even though that is really easy to do, I think it is not the way a product of this price category should be. Especially since the description claims that the engine provides you with a "why" for your adventures, which it does not, most of the time.

Another, personal, failure of the game is based on the information on the homepage of the designer (which is in turn information that is on the back of the book). "Legends aren't born, they're made" is the motto, followed by an explanation that suggests that you may start as an "inexperienced spellcaster" (among other things), and that you are nothing special when you start the game. Then you read the rules and they are designed in a way (and is suggested that you abide by it) that you start as a REP 5 character. REP 5 is defined by the game as "veterans of numerous successful encounters. Knights and Veterans would have a Reputation of 5." That does not really sound like nothing special, does it? An average soldier is REP 4 and someone who has limited combat experience would be 3. And as far as character development goes, REP 7+ is the highest category reserved for incredible creatures. Basically, you start in a position, where you could - if you are really, really lucky - reach the highest standing in the game in 2 fights (admittedly, you have to be very lucky, but it is still quite possible). The promise of development seems to be undermined.

As with the 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl, the price is also rather steep, although not as extreme as with the Dungeon Crawl. However, if you remove the material that is virtually identical with Sword Play rules, which are given away for free, things become dimmer, as we are left with the campaign system, the dungeon crawl system and additional interactions and magic items.

This brings me to the next negative - the dungeon crawl system. Personally, I think it is inferior to the one that comes with the 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl. While the 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl system creates potential encounters sometimes not in your current location but nearby and then has them chase you through the dungeon, Warrior Heroes Legends resolves all random encounters immediately. In addition, it adds quite a bit of fiddliness by using a deck of cards to generate and map the dungeon. The rules as written also basically expect you to constantly move forward, never going down the other corridor or checking alternative routes (which are rather rare thanks to the design anyway).

However, there is also a positive as the crawl system does add random events, which is a nice touch.

This also comes into play with another positive - if you also own 2 Hour Dungeon Crawl, you can easily integrate it into Warrior Heroes Legends with only minor adjustments needed (and maybe a decision whether to use the Big Bad and Minions tables of one or the other). In my opinion, that is a great advantage, as this combination greatly improves the experience.

There are also a lot of very nice details and gadgets - like the tables for NPC generation and interactions with them. Also the job opportunities and the encounters are well-designed and quite usable.

In the end, I have the impression that the design somewhat stopped between having only individual encounters and having a complete campaign generator. The components that are there are really good (except for the dungeon crawl), so if you are willing to fill in gaps and design the general situation, this book could be useful, although it is rather costly for what it does.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Heroes Legends
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2 Hour Dungeon Crawl
Publisher: Two Hour Games
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/25/2015 05:22:26

Please note that this review is organized from bad to good.

The biggest problem I see is also something that people who have not purchased the game will have noticed: it is extremely expensive. Nearly 30 cents per page is rather extreme, given that many very good RPGs are sold at 10 cents per page, sometimes even less. So, this is an investment you should probably think about.

Contentwise, the biggest problem I faced was with the structuring of the rules, which at places felt counter-intuitive. Mind you, it is not anywhere near the rules of Level 7:Escape in that regard, but I feel that it makes it unnecessarily difficult during the first sessions. Like, for instance, that you can search for secret rooms only after facing the PEF that is automatically generated for any room - but the rules first give you explanations about secret rooms and then the PEF information - which can possibly get important for you much earlier than the secret rooms. Likewise, a few clarifications or maybe even repetitions at times would have been helpful. Traps can be generated by PEFs, but the only information about them is given for traps generated in a special type of secret room.

Some rules are rather sketchy, as for instance the melee rules - it seems that once a character starts melee, that single melee has to be done to the end before other melees can be handled. And how you can get into multicharacter melees is left somewhat sketchy.

The absence of a character sheet is also disappointing given the high price and small size of the book. Surely, there would have been space for one more page. And the way characters are created and handled, designing such a character sheet would have been feasible, I think.

"Grunt" is used ambiguously - defined as any NPCs early on, but later on also any non-leaders of the group (which could also be PCs). In my eyes, a rather unnecessarily confusing word choice.

Not as much of a problem, there is another tidbit that can confuse people on the first reading of the book: in several places, the word "table" is omitted when telling the reader to consult one of the tables that are placed at the end of the book. Until you notice the omission, this is rather confusing as the main tables have the same title as the sections they belong to.

A very slight negative in my book, as it is about optional content, is the lack of variation for traps and lack of theming for rooms or secret rooms (there are different secret rooms, but they are not themed as the minions).

Personally, I didn't find the stop boxes at the ends of sections as helpful as intended most of the time. A detailed step-by-step example of a somewhat more complex fight would have been really helpful in my eyes.

In addition, I like to start with insignificant youngsters who may have a spark but not yet the experience, and the system advices you to use a character that is defined as an experienced adventurer (although this is mostly fluff, so you may ignore it).

It is a little sad that levelling up quickly becomes meaningless because of that (your starting adventurer is supposed to be REP 5, and REP 7+ is already said to be legendary).

On the plus side, the book is very light on the ink, making it easy and cheap to print. Typeface is clear and readable as are the tables.

The dungeon generator is simple but seems well-balanced. It is also easy to use.

The rules in general are rather simple and straightforward, although initially, you may have to check out a few situations to really make them click.

All the tables are placed in the back of the book, which is a very good design decision as it makes playing the game easier once you have grasped the basic rules and don't need to reference the text proper.

The game really shines in my eyes in three nice aspects: First of all, there are four different missions that may be the cause of your dungeon crawl, killing the boss monster or getting the treasure being only two of them. Thus, combat may actually be something you don't need to fulfill your mission. Secondly, there are several different bosses (10 if I counted correctly), one of which is selected randomly at the start of the game taking also your general power level into account (okay, only slightly, but still). Whenever you encounter monsters in the dungeon, which monsters you encounter is influenced by who the boss is; unless you meet a rival adventuring party... Thirdly, the PEF system is really great, adding a dynamic element to the crawl. Enemies do not simply sit in a room waiting for your crew to burst through the door (okay, some of them do that as well), but they move through the dungeon and hunt you down as well. And the rules for that are extremely simple.

All in all, the game is a lot of fun as a solo dungeon crawl with many neat details despite playing very quickly and simple. The different missions and boss-based minions give a good sense of theme while the PEF system adds a lot of suspense and foreboding to the game. However, it is, at its heart a dungeon crawler, but definitely one of the best I have come across. Personally, I found it worth the investment despite the rather tall price tag.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
2 Hour Dungeon Crawl
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
Publisher: Encoded Designs
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2015 12:42:40

This review starts with the (this time very few) bad things then gets to the more positive things. Please keep that in mind.

First of all, having all those indexes is neat - except for the rather awkward fact that they are using page numbers instead of the plot numbers. Each plot is numbered in the book, with the number printed in big letters in the same line as the individual plot's title, really easy to see. Thus, I don't see a reason why the plot numbers are not used for indexing. Instead, we get page numbers in plain face and in bold, depending on whether one or two plots on that page fit the index criteria. Definitely not elegant, especially since the plot numbers would immediately identify the genre under which an item is initially presented (1-167 = Fantasy, 168 - 334 = SF, 335 - 501 = Horror)

Secondly, it is a bit disappointing that the individual plots are not clearly marked as being one or more sub genres as presented. Instead, you only know the main genre (fantasy, SF, horror) and to which sub genres it can be adapted easily. It would have been nice if next to the title of the plot, there was also in lighter colour the sub genre the author had in mind when writing the plot.

Third, on a personal note, I find the definition of anime actually used in tagging plots rather ideosyncratic. That is, I would have expected it to be strongly linked to emotions and emotional issues, but I have the impression that the easily adaptable to column more joins it with action stunts.

Fourth, it is noteworthy that there are no real repetitions, not even cross-genre. Each of the 501 plots is unique, maybe sometimes similar in the initial situation to an earlier plot, but in its meat a beast of its own.

Fifth, this is definitely noteworthy given just how much material is in there. Think about it, 501 plots, each of which is a small tale with one or more surprises or twists. There is a lot of inspiration to be found.

Sixth, combined, this also results in there being probably something for every taste, although I sometimes had the impression that certain genres and certain styles combined rather often (like a seemingly high adaptability of horror plots to action horror). If you are looking for inspiration, you are likely to find it. Especially if you consider the broader usage of the plots - many include ideosyncratic NPCs which you can add to your own campaigns adventures without necessarily adopting the entire plot. There is really a lot of material you can mine to support whatever you are up to.

Personally, I think this is a very good product, which is why I gave it the top rating despite the minor negative points I mentioned above. If you want some inspiration or just a nice read of various plots, I heartily recommend this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Spider's Dance
Publisher: Vulpinoid Studios
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/31/2015 11:06:26

This review is structured to start with the negative and end with the positive, so as to end with a hopeful sentiment.

First of all, the product has several problems with its content.

  • The number of sentences spiders after the first write is given incorrectly in the text - twice, once even before listing each individual sentence, thus proving the number wrong in the same paragraph. The table giving the numbers seems to be correct, though.
  • Mother Spider's Advice text blocks are sometimes partial repetitions with no new content; the block about sentence/paragraphs and tedium is presented completely early on, and then only the first part at the end of the text, likewise, the advice on maps for others is first presented only partially and completely on the next page.

Secondly, the product is relatively expensive, even at $2.95. The font is rather big and due to the nature of the game, there are a lot of illustrations to clarify concepts.

Third, there are no page numbers, which is a minor annoyance.

Fourth, there are some typos (like 'ands' instead of 'lands' in Mother Spider's Advice on maps for other players), but they are very few and do not hinder enjoyment of the text.

Fifth, the author seems to have never made good on his promise to publish variants/ideas at his homepage. His blog, at least, does have only one entry on the game, namely when it was published.

Sixth, the game has a lot of potential for various variants on the setting/tone; unfortunately, the text only touches lightly on it.

Seventh, while fulfilling the requirements of the rules, coming up with new situations is probably the bigger challenge, especially if you play the game several times. Varying the setting/tone is probably helpful there.

Eigth, while I don't have children to play the game with, I find the advice on how to add/change small elements to adapt to that situation a nice idea of the author, thumbs up.

Ninth, the sample actually gives you a clear impression of what the basic rules are like. So, you can make a well-informed decision whether you want to encourage the author by making the purchase.

Tenth, this game (I am not sure whether calling it an RPG is technically correct; it is more something of a story-telling game in my eyes) requires little material - just pen and paper, not even dice. This makes it very portable (especially since you can memorize all the rules easily.

Eleventh, although the ideas and mechanisms are extremely simple, this is a really interesting way to encourage creative writing/storytelling. Personally, I think this a splendid idea and really like the game and recommend it itself (had it not been for the aforementioned problems with the implementation, I would have rated this five stars). If you tend to have some time to yourself, maybe commuting to work, this is really a nice way to have some fun. And since it is basically a solitaire with everything noted down, you can play at your leisure, take breaks and resume however you like.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spider's Dance
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review, this is one of those many projects of mine that I\'ve been planning to revise and revisit. I might do that revision sooner rather than later now, and it might be time to start the long-promised follow-up book.
The Description System
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/19/2014 04:40:35

First, I want to point out that I start reviews with the bad things and then get to the better aspects.

This being said, I have to admit that I have trouble finding anything bad about this system. All things that may be considered negative are not negative once you take into consideration what this system aims to be. It is a very light generic RPG system, and as such, things are not that crunchy. The experience system may seem a tad flavourless, but the more I think about it, the more I like it; although the rate experience points are handed out may be a bit low considering the costs for things...

As a rules light system, it does not have many small rules for this or that situation, but then again, they are not really necessary for what it aims to achieve.

The system is a true generic system in allowing you to explore whatever you want. The structure of the core mechanisms do not hinder any decisions. This being said, there are, of course, a few caveats, the most prominent probably being magic. The game comes with a relatively open magic system as an option for fantasy settings, but does not give an example for a crunchier, fixed spell-based system. While you might put together a fixed spell-based system (that is, a system with individual, fixed spells that need to be acquired separately), I think it goes against the spirit of the game.

A really nice aspect of the game is that the descriptors do not get any additional numbers added. So, you simply write the description of your character, and you already have all the vital stats there, without the rather awkward intrusion of numbers. This makes its appearance quite elegant and also stresses the goal of focusing on the descriptions. However, it does come at the cost that you have to count things manually to get the dice pool, but this is a minor issue, I think.

Personally, I think the greatest strength of the system is that dedication to focusing on the descriptions, thus encouraging focusing on the narration before anything else. I think this is quite inspiring and in a way intuitive. And the rules do a very good job at really keeping that focus without any undue alien elements.

This is definitely not something for people who want a crunchy or tactical game. But for people who want a rules light system that puts the narration first, I think it is quite recommendable.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Description System
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Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
Publisher: Encoded Designs
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/07/2014 11:13:00

Please note that this review is sorted from bad to good, with a problematic caveat at the end, though.

The biggest problem I see in the document is the repetition, though. I got the distinct impression that about half the essays suggest using a seemingly standard approach from improvised acting (as in theatre acting). Sure, each contributor takes a slightly different approach to it, and some are easier to understand than others, thus making the variants interesting, but in the end, it is basically the same advice clothed in slightly different apparel.

If you take this into account, the 105 pages of text become maybe some 50 to 60 pages of effective text. Still quite nice, but it may appear a bit pricey.

In addition, each individual essay is rather short. At times, you get the feeling you would want to read a bit more on the suggested approach or get more details. Mind you, the essays get the message across, but I personally would have liked to have some of them longer (maybe double their current size).

There is indeed some very solid advice there and a few approaches (despite the repetition) to try out for GMs. As such, I think the book can deliver for GMs who want to switch from rail-roaded role-playing to more improvised approaches or those who feel overwhelmed by the surprises that come up during play. While there are essays dealing with the planning of the session, the majority focuses on actually handling the situation (and even those dealing with the planning turn towards the actual play, of course).

As a bonus, the essays in this text are all really well-written and an entertaining read. Anecdotes and examples are often amusing and drive the points described home.

I also want to mention that I didn't notice any typos or grammar mistakes (save maybe a single time where an unmodified "weird" is seemingly used as a comparative, albeit that may very well be a deliberate decision of the author rather than a mistake). While this may seem a minor point, I personally find it rather distracting if an item is full of typos or mistakes (like using "dice" for the singular of our favorite randomizer!). I really want to send some praise to the authors and the proof readers and everyone else who helped keep the quality that high. It is really appreciated.

Now, for the special caveat, I need to point out and explain an easily over-looked aspect. Besides your standard, multiplayer RPGs, there are also solo or solitaire RPGs, probably the most successful engine being Mythic's Game Master Emulator. Those RPGs allow gamers to enjoy RPGs all by themselves without the need for other players. This becomes possible, at least with Mythic's engine, by keeping the answers of the GM Emulator very vague and requiring the player to interpret the controlled randomly generated and abstract results. As a consequence, solitaire RPGs played using this or a similar engine is highly improvised gaming where the player is partly GM (providing details) but mainly player. Therefore, a game about improvisation for GMs sounds like a good tool for anyone wishing to play solitaire RPGs. Unfortunately, only very few of the essays center on the GM by themselves. Instead, improvisation is mostly defined by a style of interaction between GM and players. Therefore, while there is some good advice even for solitaire gamers, it is rather little, so I am not sure whether it is worth it for exclusively solitaire players.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Unframed: The Art of Improvisation for Game Masters
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The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
Publisher: Covetous Poet Publishing
by Ranjith E. M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/13/2014 03:43:37

Please note that this review is structured from bad to good.

Things I Disliked:

The biggest problem I have is with the claim of a "Solo GM Guidebook". In my eyes, this should go a little bit beyond "just play both GM and player(s) and use a little bit of randomness as you see fit." The advice and instructions for solitaire play are rather vague and leave the player more or less at the same situation as if they picked their favourite RPG and used its random encounters to liven up a published adventure module. Granted, there are some nice additional random tables but in the end, the entire project runs contrary to the core approach of a pre-planned, strongly structured adventure. The suggested dealing with hidden information clearly illustrates this, as it struggles to combine both the pre-planned nature with an openness. In the end, there is a suggested mechanism that either requires an extreme vagueness, lots of additional work, or, at its worst, a contradictory story.

Personally, I think that the approach taken is simply not compatible with the idea of solitaire play as the approach itself requires deleting or minimizing hidden information - which on the other hand is a crucial part for solitaire play.

Another thing I noticed was the rather weak importance of the acts and scenes. Yes, they do structure the adventure and they structure the information required and provided, but beyond that, they are not mechanically relevant. This becomes clear when looking at the difference between one act and three act structures. A one act is basically not different from a three act, just that it has fewer scenes. This then makes me wonder why to call it a different structure at all.

Finally, while the random tables are large, they are also rather specific. While this can be useful for getting inspiration, having all tables so detailed leads to a lot of contradictions. While this can be inspiring, it can also be rather frustrating, especially if you really want to use the system as a support tool in a world/genre you don't feel too much at home in and thus want to get the most input inspiration out of the tables (including the optional items).

Things I Liked

The structuring of adventure design is an interesting idea and may be inspiring at times. Raising awareness of the interconnectiveness of the narration is definitely a plus.

The plot device table is probably my favourite table - it is very detailed, and gives a lot of good inspiration that can usually be integrated rather well into your design. Personally, I think that this table should stay that way while some of the other tables might be better off with a little less detail.

My Thoughts

As a tool for solo gaming, I don't think it is recommendable, and I have doubts whether its approach can be used for that kind of gaming. For designing multiplayer adventures, it can be very inspirational, however, you probably get the most out of it if using it with an RPG/setting you are really familiar with as that in turn allows you to handle contradictory results.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
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Creator Reply:
Hey Ranjith, Thank you for trying my book, and I\'m sorry it\'s not what you were after. But I appreciate that you at least gave it a fair and thought out review based on your experiences with it. Even among us solo roleplayers there are a lot of personality types and tastes, and I knew it wouldn\'t suit everyone, I myself created the system because I was unhappy with the solo products available even though some are quite popular. The solo system is designed to be very open and freeform, but in an effort to not tell you what to do, I recognize sometimes it may provide too little direction for some players. I think everybody who is into solo roleplaying is bound to be pretty creative on some level, but the book is aimed more at the kind of player who enjoys making up a story as they go, and the authorial challenge that goes along with that. And it\'s a legitimate point that if that\'s not what you really want out of your solo roleplaying games then you might not enjoy the system as provided in the book. Again, thanks for taking the time to try it and giving it a fair critique, -Frank
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