If you like playing mash-up games, Splinter from End Transmission Games is one you will want to check out. There are several levels of combinations taking place in this game, and like the caveat reads when you first open up this book "If this is your very first RPG...put this book down, play another one first, and then come back."
Splinter is set in the future in a dystopian society where you (you), are playing a player (player), who is playing an avatar (character. This multiple level of play can get confusing to new player because even though the two characters you are playing are connected, they also remain separate.
There are strong elements of 1984, Brave New World, Metropolis, and Rollerball (more the original) in this game. Your player is a member of the dystopian society of the future. There is only one entity in power, the Entertainment Broadcasting Company (EBC), and they are in absolute control. The social classes are deeply divided and strong controls are in place to maintain the order. Being a player provides mobility that doesn't exist anyplace else.
Players choose, or are drafted (depending on where you start out in the social structure), to play in the Splinter. There are a variety of blood sports and story based games players, through their characters, are involved in. The player is working to achieve a fan base to gain stardom and the perks that go along with it. It is not an easy thing to do because the main goal of the EBC is to maintain control by providing entertainment and they have found that death is entertaining.
Players, however, also live in the real world. The real world is filled with the haves, the have-nots, and the in-betweens. The players are part of this real world. As players they have moved beyond the have-nots, but they are not part of the haves. Players may also have their own personal agendas, including politics, and they may have to choose to by joining the structure of the society, or fight against it.
Having both a player and a character in the game provides two games to be played. In the world you decide from what background your player comes from. There are those who have trained to be a part of the Splinter and those who are playing because they have been found to be criminals. Coming from either background provides benefits and penalties. When creating a character I found the system maintained a balance between the two, allowing you to build on the personality you want to create for your player.
There are more choices with the character. There are different races, bloodlines, in the Splinter and they have different abilities. There is also an element of power, harmonics, which is a form of magic. Characters also have three states of being: man, middle, and beast. In a sense each character is some form of lycanthropy, just not the types we are used to seeing. For example, one is golem or steam-punk style that can change out body parts.
Splinter uses two sets of mechanics for game play. When you are the player you are using the Dicepunk System. When you are the avatar you use another d6 system. This does provide some confusion to beginning players, but it makes for a defined difference between the settings.
There is some overlap between the settings on the basis of what the player and character can do, but there is no physical transference between the settings. To help with this a suggestion in the book is gives is to have two sheets defining each the player and the character. Then, only one sheet is on the table at any time.
I reviewed the PDF version of Splinter. Being able to bookmark a PDF makes for a quicker and easier reference document for playing. This applies to any PDF, but with the two settings depicted in this game it was very helpful. There is also no back coloring to the text areas, so the material was easy to read.
Concepts are introduced through story. The stories helped in understanding the concepts of what was taking place. I can see where this setting could be a strong setting for fan fiction work because of the tie between the dystopian and the fantasy.
The artwork was helpful in the placement and the understanding of the game.
Splinter, from End Transmission Games is a good game for people who are looking for something different. The players and characters are in a high risk setting, which gives to high fatality. Some of the EBC entertainment or straight out blood games placing characters against each other so they have to kill or be killed. This means a game master can set up games, and from some of the reading it appears to be encouraged, that result in player/character deaths. If you are not comfortable with the possibility of losing a character I wouldn't recommend Splint.
Splinter lends itself to both one-shot and campaigns. The blood-sport, short form games are good for a time when you want to run the characters in against each other and see who survives. These are very much like running gladiator fights. The Splinters long-form games for characters (avatars) and the dystopian society setting allows for the building of a longer campaign as you, and your players work on their agendas of supporting or fighting against the controlling EBC.
There is a lot of unique material in how the game is set up beyond the split setting. Not so much in the dystopian side, you will find hints of a number of books and movies beyond the ones I listed above. But, the information of the Splinter and the characters who reside there was interesting.
The results are mixed from the people sitting around the table. Some like the setting and some don't. Those who liked it stated it was because of the split between the player and the avatar, preferring to play just one or the other, while those who didn't like it said it was because of the split. One players was interested in playing a campaign based in the Splinter and not concern themselves at all with the dystopian setting.
Originally published on Guild Master Gaming.
[4 of 5 Stars!]