This review originally appeared on ENWorld.
Gun-Fu: Balletic Ballistics
By Corey Read.
Featuring Artwork by James Jarvis
E.N. Publishing- E.N. Mini Games
14 page PDF, $3.95
This is not a play-test review.
Gun-Fu is the first of EN Publishing?s new line of mini-games, and they started off with a bang. At first glance one wonders what kind of valuable content can be packed into 14 pages, but as fans of Polyhedron?s much-missed foray into the genre can attest, a good writer can pack a lot of gaming goodness into a small package.
Presentation & Readability
This product is written in a simple, conversational tone that may put off some readers, as it gives the impression that the game designer is speaking to you; rather than the dry recitation of the rules that one comes to expect from major publishing houses. Which of course, he is. This however, is not a bad thing, as it is more akin to an excited parent introducing you to a favored child. The writer is walking you through his work, and explaining it to you in a manner fitting to the genre.
There are typos, but they are few and mostly minor. One of particular interest, however, is critical. In the section describing Damage Saves the DC is listed as two different values, and the correct one (DC 10 + Damage) is different than those who are familiar with this system would expect (Mutants and Masterminds, whose system this is based on uses the DC 15 + Damage noted on the table).
As for artwork, let me first say that I?m not a visual person, though I will agree that appropriate art certainly makes a product more appealing. That said, the artwork herein is simple, but fitting to the subject matter. It depicts a lot of action, but without much detail. All in all, no one is going to buy this product because of the art, but it in no way detracts from the experience.
Gun-Fu makes no attempt to present a setting of any kind, but of course that is not the intent of this product. A brief section at the end describes potential adventure hooks, and does a good job of showing GMs what kind of adventures the game is suited for. A recommended viewing list might have been nice in place of actual setting material, but in reality, people who would be interested in purchasing this product probably already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
This product is all about providing a game system for playing in a wuxia/gun-fu world, and here is where it really delivers. Much like the Call of Cthulu d20 game, characters are members of one of two classes, one geared toward offensive play, and one geared toward defensive play. This works well in a world governed by violence, and a system that focuses primarily on combat. Skills and Feats are modified in minor ways from their d20 Modern counterparts, but all in all this part of the system will feel natural to d20 players.
The real value here comes from three unique system elements: Panache, Flaws, and the Damage Save. For those who are familiar with the Damage Save made famous by Green Ronin?s Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose games, this will be very familiar. For those who are unfamiliar with this system, quit reading this review and go buy this PDF. If nothing else, this product is a great introduction to this extraordinary damage resolution system, and few other systems could fit this genre so well.
Panache works similar to Action Points, but are much more versatile, and the unique methods for acquiring more points really encourages characters to play it to the hilt.
The only real blemish in the system, for me at any rate, comes in the form of Flaws. Though a genre staple, the rules here seem to breakdown badly. Even though players are given the option of choosing their own Flaws and determining what effects they have on their characters, there are few options here that anyone would likely choose. Who would play a character that passes out whenever he is forced to pick up a gun, or who goes blind whenever he sees a police officer? Certainly choices like becoming enraged when a witness is murdered are reasonable, but the majority of the choices here are not.
Though the Damage Save featured in this product is hardly new, it is underutilized in the industry, and it certainly fits the feel this product was attempting to create. Likewise, its classes, skills, and feats are adapted from other products. Though it does not cover a lot of new ground, it certainly makes good use of a great many of the best features of other games, adapting them well to its needs, and putting them together to create an interesting amalgam.
At less than $4.00 the price tag on this product is low, but 14 pages is an awfully small product, and those who are unfamiliar with these kinds of online PDFs might be shocked that it?s over so soon. More likely, however, they?ll be wishing for more. The author has done a good job here packing a lot of punch in a few words.
Still, the font is large, there is a lot of blank space, and the product contains a two-page character sheet as well as the expected cover pages and OGL notice. In short, the page-count is somewhat artificially inflated with wasted space.
This book is a good value, but this is a testament to the quality of the product rather than the quantity of material provided.
The product gives no indication of future expansions, nor does it direct you to any website or other source for support. In effect, at this point at least, this is a stand-alone product.
This product is what it is, a small, low-cost product that sets out to do one very specific thing: To allow players to sit down for a night of Hong Kong style action. It accomplishes this in spades.
I gave this product a four star rating, but only reluctantly. Though it isn?t quite five star quality, but it?s definitely worth better than just a four. Let?s call it a 4.5 and split the difference.
If you are interested in the genre and you enjoy the d20 Modern or Call of Cthulu d20 systems, buy this book. If you are unfamiliar with the Damage Save, buy this book. If you are just looking for a system to mine for use in another game, buy this book. There is a little something here for everyone.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied