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101 City Encounters
Publisher: Studio 9 Games
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/21/2023 05:43:38

This product is passable, but not better than that. It's overpriced for what it is, and the content is mediocre in a couple of ways. First, many people in the rpg world have pointed out that what DMs need is material that they couldn't think of on their own. However, in this product, many encounters are so generic that you could have easily just thought up something equally good up on the fly. Second, for my taste, the encounters have a video-game feel where the primary upshots are mechanical, not narrative. As one example, there's an encounter which tells you that a funeral procession passes down the street near the PCs. If the PCs are "reverent" they gain a luck point, and if they join the funeral procession and are especially reverent, they get even more mechanical bonuses. That's all there is to it, and that encounter is fairly typical of what you get in this product.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
101 City Encounters
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5B
Publisher: Dank Dungeons
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/30/2023 19:41:24

I rate this ruleset 4 of 5 stars because it has certain goals in mind and largely achieves them. You and your gaming group might or might not share those goals, so the game will be right for some but not others.

The basic design goals seem to be to make a game that's largely compatible with 5E but also OSR in some ways. Part of its OSR-ness is that it tries to mimic the sensibility that is associated with OSR, like 'rulings over rules' and things like that. There are only brief explanations of the OSR sensibility, but that seems fine since if you're seeking this rules system out, you probably already know a lot about OSR to begin with. Or if not, there are other places to read about the OSR sensibility.

Another part of its OSR-ness is that it tries to be rules lite. I think it largely succeeds but there are some limitations.

One way to make a game rules-lite is to just cut things. For example, the bestiary is short -- 30 monsters or so, with some of the common favorites ommitted. This shrinks the rulebook but it means that DMs will have to spend some time cooking up stats. If you're super-savvy about 5e and its math, you might be able to make parallel 5B stats quickly, but for some people it will be work. (Caveat: in a post on DriveThru, the designer says a creature book is forthcoming. Fair enough.) Other things are ommitted too -- rules about common things like conditions, difficult terrain, overland travel, etc. I think it makes sense to skip some of these in a rules-lite game because they don't come up a huge amount and you can swipe rules from other games when you need them. But still, part of the "lite" aspect of the game is coming from the designers just leaving stuff out.

Another way in which the game is rules-lite is that there's very little customization within classes. That suits some of us, including me, but of course many people get a huge thrill from character/class customization, and if you're like that, this is probably not for you. That said, it's worth noting that thief and fighter talents in particular are cleverly done and allow the talents to be used in a variety of ways.

One more way in which the game is rules-lite is that certain things which would be mechanized in other games are hand-waved in this game, with players and DM asked to just 'work them out.' Whether this works for you will depend on how comfortable you are with it. For example, characters are supposed to have 'talents' that individuate them, but players/DM are just to told "describe why the character is good at something and then work together to pick a few specific checks that you get a skill bonus for." If you've played a lot of games, you can probably make that work decently well, because you have a list of pre-fab talents in your brain already. However, in other, similar systems I've found it challenging to know how to ad lib features like this without unbalancing the game in unhelpful ways. Probably the most problematic example of this has to do with spellcasting. Players essentially make up spell effects on the fly, and the DM then has to adjudicate the specific effects. How big is that fireball blast you just created? How many creatures does it hit? Or how long does your illusion last? Basically the answers have to be made up by the DM. In similar systems I've found this to be problematic. Once you make a 'ruling' about how big the fireball blast is, for instance, there's a question of whether it becomes canon -- a rule in the game. If yes, then you're going to start collecting a bunch of house rules that no longer make the game as rules-lite as it was, and the designers might as well have included the answers to begin with. If not, then your players might be frustrated that their spell effects and other action effects are variable from session to session. So, in this case, I think the game ends up being rules-lite only because it pushes rules work onto others. It's also worth noting that even the rough guidelines given in the rules seem inconsistent to me. In the example of play, for example, a player succeeds at a "supernatural-level" spell casting and manages to levitate several people in the air for several minutes. But the rough guidelines also say that supernatural-level spells can only have the power of a 'typical person', and I don't see how a typical person could hoist multiple other people in the air. So, you're going to be house-ruling even the rough guidelines.

A lot of the review so far has been about the game's limitations, but overall I think most things are really well done. If you've wanted an OSR-ish version of 5E, then when you read this ruleset, you might react the way I did: whoa, this is REALLY well done! The designers have done a lot of thoughtful work simplifying 5E so that you don't have to make up yet another one of your own homebrew rulesets with the same aim. It's short and elegant, even if it's probably not not quite as simple or rules-lite as it first appears.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
5B
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Vatermorder
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2020 09:12:36

This is fine for what it is, but really it's an adventure location and not an adventure at all. Here's what you get. You and your band of heroes are sent to a certain location where seven people previously lived. When you arrive you find each of them dead in a different spot, with a few details about the manner of death thrown in. And then...that's it. What happens when you investigate? Apart from the description of the corpses, the adventure leaves that "up to the GM." What happens after you find the bodies, and what's really going on? The adventure says that "rather than provide any kind of solution...this adventure hints at possible causes, allowing the gamemaster to write any ending she wishes," and then it gives 6 possibilties which are described in 1-4 sentences. That's it. It's a fine setup for an adventure, but you'll have to write most of the adventure yourself.

A few more things to note: (1) This is very short -- about 3000 words, or maybe 5-6 single-spaced pages in a regular word processing document, (2) it involves finding murdered children as part of the adventure, though that could be changed pretty easily since the adventure has no plot or story arc at all, (3) it could be easily adapted to any system for the same reason. In fact, the adventure has no stat blocks or rules references since there are no real descriptions of encounters or events.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Vatermorder
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The Deadly Tower of Derisive Doom - A Dungeon World Adventure
Publisher: Sandy Pug Games
by Alex R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/19/2019 23:37:41

There's nothing wrong with this product but you can get equivalent things on DriveThru for free or PWYW. It's a short, very jokey adventure that's about 8 pages of text plus a few more pages of maps, stat blocks, and handouts.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Deadly Tower of Derisive Doom - A Dungeon World Adventure
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