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White Lies Pay What You Want
Average Rating:4.7 / 5
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by David [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2023 11:48:32

I've just GM-ed my second session and it's a real "coup de foudre". The system is fluid and easy to learn. My players didn't have any problem to understand how they could use their abilities and tools to stop the russian mafia.

It's my first spy TTRPG and I think it will be the last. Thank you for this wonderful game :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Steven [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/08/2023 12:32:56

I don't like the fact that the first edition has been removed, but I do love both first and second edition. Thankfully I ordered a POD of the first edition. The second edition brings exciting additions to the base game, with changes that make sense. For example, the names for stats fit the modern genre for how you would define different spies. The features you get on leveling up are exciting and useful, something a rules-lite game like this really benefits from. Whole-heartily recommended for a group that wants to play a modern spy game that is simple enough to be taught in-session!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Pierre S [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/15/2019 17:24:33

Roughly coinciding with the release of the Bond movie SPECTRE, DWD Studios brings us "White Lies" with an appropriate gun-logo. Based on "white box" old-school rules, the rules system of classes and levels will be inherently familiar to the majority of gamers brought up on D&D. Combat rules can use either old-style Armor Class (AC; lower is better) or Ascending Armor Class (AAC; higher is better).

The familiarity is a powerful strength of the game. If people have the energy to explore a different rules basis, they could try DWD's game COVERT OPS, which also has an espionage setting.

The rules are written in a breezy, easy-to-follow digest size. Five character-classes are presented, suitable to the espionage setting, with progression up to Level 10. However, adding a Hit Die to your Hit Points when reaching a new level only succeeds if you have rolled greater than your last Hit Die advancement. There is a basic list of weapons, vehicles and other gear, more like distinctive classes of weapons, as the game says it will not detail fire-arms down to each model of revolver or hand-gun. Weapons and vehicles have various upgrades to enhance and distinguish a character's gear.

Not to be overlooked are several pages devoted to world-building. Akin to "random dungeon generation" but with a spy slant, this harkens back to several past DWD products and can be useful aids to players who are stepping over from the fantasy genre. The rules invite the Admin (GM) to roll on some random tables for the type of Enemy Organization, its location, descriptors, and its overall agenda. The Master Villain in the game can be rolled for Type, Motivation, resources, henchmen and minions, and a big d100 table of Quirks ("Here, kitty, kitty...") Missions have random tables as to the number of "scenes" or "maps" and what type of mission objective each scene involves, a random table for the descriptions of the location, and a dual d100 table to give your mission a snazzy (or totally meaningless) code-name! Of course, these tables should be used more to review the tropes of the spy genre, and the Admin should make some judicious picks of what should make the most sense, rather than a totally random determination.

A few stats for opponents and a few choice animals ("Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?") are given, including a few stats for alien opponents in a setting where nations are in fact controlled by aliens from an alien conspiracy! A suggested organization for the player-characters, Bureau 19, is given, and a short sample adventure.

Overall, an excellent product with the aim of drawing old-school rules-players into the espionage genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by David O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/13/2017 12:48:33

I keep going back to this book because it has so many wonderful ideas that inspire me in everything from my modern spy campaigns to my OSR classic fantasy game. It's totally worth it. I have the print copy because it is handy to pass around the table during a game. Great character classes and tables.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Judd G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/03/2017 16:36:58

White Lies is an OSR spy game from DwD Studios. It is a variation of the old white box rules (hence the name), and the classes are types of operatives in an intelligence agency.

The rules are simple and tooled to a genre best described as cinematic spycraft, but easily used to run more grim and realistic espionage as well. Support for the game is as well-wrought as the base rules.

The graphical presentation is on target with cool silhouetted spies doing spy stuff. The whole 'vibe' here is perfect for that Bond or Bourne feel.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Joshua H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/23/2016 17:15:25

I was on the fence about OSR-style games. I could certainly see the value in a lighter rules set, but why would I want an antique? As I started reading through White Lies I began to see the beauty of it. Most gamers already know the basics of it, they can roll up a character and get going right away. I began thinking I could use it to run games in a number of different settings, Leverage, The A-Team, Firefly, and the list just keeps going. There are a slew of tables for creating adversaries and their motivations and organizations to use as a springboard when my well of creativity is running dry. It even includes an intial adventure making it a great complete package at 132 pages. If you want a rules lite spy game that gives you plenty of room to create and hack and improvise it's hard to beat White LIes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2015 13:55:48
http://dieheart.net/white-lies/

Do we need another old school game? Do we need another game for modern espionage and military operations? Bill Logan from DwD Studios doesn’t ask these questions, he just writes games. White Lies is the second game in this vein, his first one was Covert Ops (aff) (together with Larry Moore), a game based on d00lite which is based on the system of Star Frontiers (?). Bill forked me a preview copy of the game, so I have it as a PDF on my computer right now.

While I’m a fan of old school games, I’m not really familiar with the espionage genre. I know that there are other contenders, but I haven’t read or played them (except for Covert Ops and Black Seven.

Please note that this is a reading review of an advanced copy.

What is White Lies?

White Lies (henceforth: WL) is based on Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox which is in turn based on OD&D (the original Dungeons & Dragons from 1974). WhiteBox is a cleaned-up version of OD&D with some tweaks and it is published under the OGL which makes it a good ruleset for game designers. In fact, besides the name White Lies and the logo everything is open content under the rules of the OGL. That’s really sweet.

So, basically WL is an old school D&D game for spy stories. Here’s the blurb (emphasis is mine):

"Welcome to WHITE LIES, a modern role-playing game of espionage and paramilitary operations. This game takes advantage of an existing and well-loved set of role-playing game rules called Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, a light and simple set of mechanics designed to be fast and loose, like the cinematic espionage genre this game attempts to embrace. This is a toolbox to design your own thrilling tales of modern adventure! If you read my blog, you know that I like S&W WhiteBox, so I am at least intrigued by having another old school game to complete my collection."

Content

There is a short introduction which stresses Rule Number One: The Admin (Game Master) has the right to modify the rules. As typical for old school games there are sometimes “gaps” in the rules and the Admin is free to interpret them.

Character Creation

Then we jump right into character creation which is pretty familiar. The attributes are the same as always. Some character classes may gain additional XP (experience points) for certain high stats. Attributes are rolled as 3d6 in order.

WL includes a basic skill system which is a “die+modifier”-mechanic: you roll 1d6, add your attribute modifier and try to score 4 or more (4+). Opposed skill checks are rolled against each other, higher roll wins.

Saving Throws are the same as in WhiteBox, roll a d20 and score equal or higher than your ST (Saving Throw value) which is based on your class.

So far, nothing really surprising although I like the addition of a rudimentary skill system.

A look at the character classes

Of course, you have different classes, this game is based on OD&D after all.

The Confiscator: types like cat burglars and thieves who are good at sneaking in and bypassing security systems, based strongly on Dexterity. This class is loosely based on the Thief and gets a bonus when attacking from a hidden position.

The Eliminator: soldiers, mercenaries – the Fighter class. Good with weapons and other martial stuff and gets extra attacks per round.

The Infiltrator: the Charisma-type, the Grifter charming you out of your money or other things and deceiving you. They are good at forgery, disguise and persuasion, of course. As a bonus, they have masterwork Cover Identities.

The Investigator: this class encompasses the P.I.s, journalists, detectives but also hackers (!). As an Investigator, you are good at solving problems, interrogation, and technology. As a special ability, they have a Network of Informants.

The Transporter: the guy behind the wheel, they get skill bonuses when driving vehicles and get one as starting equipment.

I would have liked to see a separate class for the hacker. He is rolled into the Investigator which also covers private investigators and cops. Mechanically, you can’t really play with cyber security. The Investigator gets Saving Throw bonuses on interrogation and deception which doesn’t necessarily fit the hacker archetype. That said, there are skill bonuses for computers, too. Still, I find the umbrella of Investigator too broad for a typical hacker.

Every class has its own XP table, basic attack bonus etc. – it’s like in Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox.

Equipment

Weapons do damage centered around a d6 which is true to WhiteBox, armor classes can be ascending and descending – again, nothing new. There is a nod towards the espionage genre by providing information for Expense Accounts and Mission Outfitting. I like that Equipment Kits are available, making staffing a character much easier and faster. The rules make sense and there is interesting material like “cleaner kits” or “halo kits” (for parachuting stealthily). Because this is modern espionage, you have stats for firearms like revolvers and rocket launchers, explosives and also other weapons like tasers. The game also includes rules for vehicles (dirt bikes, jeeps, motorcycles, pickup trucks, helicopters, jet skis and more) and vehicle as well as weapon upgrades. This is a useful addition to the game, especially in light of the Transporter class. WL doesn’t want you to track ammo, it is assumed that you have one payload full of bullets appropriate to your weapon. Fallen enemies might have suitable ammo which is up to the Admin’s discretion. Weapon upgrades, vehicle upgrades, and gadgets make the equipment list interesting and offer further incentive for the players in long-term play. The rules for gadgets are a bit free-form. Generally, this approach can be seen throughout the whole book: it’s some vague guidelines and ideas which should help the Admin but not hard and fast rules per se. For example, there is no list of ready-made gadgets.

Describe the gadget you want to your Admin. In accordance with his experience, knowledge, and sense of fairness, the Admin then assesses how plausible the gadget is. This determines the gadget’s reliability and cost. There are 4 categories: existing gadgets (cheapest and most reliable), plausible gadget, improbable gadget and super-science gadget (most expensive and last reliable). Still, the advice is solid and I like how the author came up with a “reliable rating” to make gadgets more intriguing. If you want to use your gadget, you need to make a roll on a d6 and if you can’t meet the reliability rating the gadget misfires.

Admin Section

Whereas there is still XP for defeating adversaries, the author also included experience garnered from Mission Payments. This is a clever idea and fits the genre. The payment depends on the scope of the mission (personal, local, national or international) and whether you met your objectives and other bonuses (i.e. discretion & secrecy bonus).

Combat

Combat is familiar, rolling for initiative and resolving tasks in rounds. Initiative is rolled individually (1d6 + DEX bonus). There are some special rules for situations like unarmed attacks, explosions, stun damage, rate of fire, automatic weapons.

You recover 1 HP per day as natural healing but luckily, you can also bind wounds or use a medic pack. Interestingly, the product also includes guidance on Investigating which I find suitable. The advice is basic, but I’m happy to see it here.

More tools

So far, I like what I see in the Admin section. Considering the broad-strokes-approach, it’s well done and now we come to more appealing bits. There is a cool method for Enemy Organizations, complete with random tables to roll on. I like that very much. For example, you can roll on the organization’s location purpose (i.e. propaganda site or training center), on the physical location and their descriptors (i.e. has an extensive pool of vehicles) and on the organization agenda (i.e. ascension or destruction of wealth). Furthermore, the author also gives you procedures to come up with Master Villains, including villain type (i.e. celebrity, cult leader, politician etc.), motivation and power base (i.e. economic wealth, secrets, technical superiority etc.), tables for henchmen and minions and statistics. Next up is a Mission Generator, again with tables (who doesn’t love tables?): mission scope, mission areas, area descriptors, area objectives, area obstacle, mission code name. I personally love the mission code generator which can yield funny names like “Operation Gomex Eel”. All in all, this section is the true gem of the book for me.

And other tidbits

Campaign Settings

This part of the book deals with general advice on how to set up your campaign world, i.e. scope, funding, agenda, how the law works, security systems etc.

Adversaries

The bestiary of the book. You have spies, soldiers, thugs, martial artists, animals (“realistic foes”) but also (alternatively) some stats for aliens.

Supplemental Training

This chapter includes optional rules which expand the game and make it characteristic and different from the so far S&W WhiteBox rules. Areas of Training allow additional bonuses for certain skill checks (roll 2d6 and choose the higher one). Moreover, there are also alternatives for Development (raising attribute scores).

Bureau 19 & Operation: Wounded Wolf

Finally, we have an example campaign setting. Bureau 19 is a highly classified agency in the US. It uses a fairly standard power level, so there is no weird stuff, just straight-forward military action/espionage. Operation: Wounded Wolf is an introductory adventure for 1st level characters.

Appearance

The product comes at 136 pages total (including cover and OGL etc.). The print version will be digest size (6″ x 9″). The PDF is bookmarked. The layout is basic and sufficient with one-column text style. It makes good use of color for headers. Generally, the product uses a black-white-and-red color scheme throughout the book with silhouette-style illustrations. This amounts to a modern look.

My take on White Lies

First, the name is genius. Second, WL spins WhiteBox into a good take on the undercover operations genre. The classes make sense, grant niche protection but are able to model most common modern archetypes. I would have liked to see a more differentiated approach to the hacker archetype but other than that I’m sure I can find a class for many standard concepts. I welcome the addition of a basic skill system and the optional Areas of Training. Obviously, Bill Logan has put some thought into porting the original fantasy game into the modern world with adjusting the equipment section and adding rules for weapon upgrades, vehicles, and gadgets. Like WhiteBox the game can be very vague and leaves things open to the decision of the Referee. This could be frustrating for people who want hard and fast rules. I admit that the broad-strokes approach can have its advantages as it gives you a framework to build upon but in parts I would have liked to see more “precise” formulas. For instance, a list with gadgets wouldn’t have hurt. I really appreciate the tools for creating enemy organizations, master villains, and the mission generator. In regards to “standard” military operations and spycraft, WL clearly succeeds in providing the Game Master with a toolkit. In regards to offering a wide staple of options for different takes on the genre, it’s a bit sparse, though. For example, scaling the power level is not possible, so it’s hard to change between a “realistic” way or a more cinematic, action-movie modus operandi. Clear guidelines for the inclusion of fringe powers or supernatural conspiracies are missing, too (with the exception of adding aliens to the Adversaries chapter). I also wouldn’t call WL a “modern role-playing game”. It’s an OSR game, nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, the game promises light and simple mechanics suitable for cinematic action. Being an off-shot of Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, I can’t imagine that WL succeeds here completely. Yes, the rules are easy (and familiar if you’re an OSR aficionado). However, old school D&D derivatives usually don’t offer cinematic play as low-level characters die easily. I can’t see any adjustments concerning the mortality rate. Thus, I argue that cinematic play will be difficult. I’m not sold on the idea that old school D&D is the best ruleset for cinematic paramilitary action 1 but IF you want to play D&D in the modern world this is certainly a neat game.

Where does that leave us? WL is clearly a professional, quality work. The minimalist artwork style serves it well. It’s a well-made adaption of Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox. I can recommend it if you like old school systems and want to use them to play modern day espionage games. It’s a rules-lite, easy to learn system. The price point for the PDF is very reasonable given the excellent content in the Admin section. Having said that, if you don’t have a soft spot for traditional D&D rules, you’d probably better be served by something different. WL is NOT a modern, cinematic RPG, serving different style of espionage gaming but a love letter to the OSR.

EDIT: The digital download of the game now includes Echo Team, a separate file with 5 pregens. Neat!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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White Lies
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Jacob R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2015 08:22:51

Do you like spy movies, police procedurals, detective stories or even just pulp adventures? If so, this game is for you. It's fast, it's fun, it covers all the bases, from Bond to Bourne to Alias, Get Smart and everything in between. The art is fantastic, there's no fat to trim, and it's an easy-to-implement system. Lots of sandbox elements. Thinks Stars Without Number mixed with White Star, but with fast cars and you've got the right idea.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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