The link to this game appeared in my inbox a few days ago. What a pleasant surprise.
Here is a game, nominally set in the post near-apocalyptic world of 1884. I say nominally as the only real reference to the period is a brief timeline setting out the calamity that struck, and forever changed, the earth.
Firstly, a very few negatives, some of the prose seems a little haphazard and despite the low page count, rambles a little in places The Precis rigourous level of editing, seems lacking. Secondly, this world-shaking (literally) event is referred to in the book as “The Tremors”. I don’t know whether this is intended to be ironic, but it sounds a little underwhelming; a bit like describing The Great War as, “A bit of a misunderstanding”.
Two neutral points: As mentioned above there is no real background to the game, no sense of setting. However, the author quite rightly suggests turning to Google. Indeed, a wealth of information is merely a click away. Also, the game is described as entry into the wealth of OSR material. I am not so sure about this but the basics are there, the iconic abilities, Armour Class, HP and so on.
Now the good stuff; tempered by a few observations.
Character generation is extremely fast and a hoot. It turns out capable characters and includes a selection of skills to further distinguish them even those belonging to the same class. Each ability is generated with a 4-dice roll and each class gains to bonuses to the result. All characters have key secondary statistics such as AC and Health (HP) determined by reference the abilities rather than consulting a class-based table.
Characters have two additional stats, Moxy which is spent to use Advantage in the same manner as D&D fifth edition; and Sanity which serves in a similar fashion to Cthulhu Sanity points.
There is a very small shopping list of equipment but I’m OK with this, I don’t want the players to be pouring over a table of irrelevant items. Additionally, new characters start off all but destitute so a list of goodies would prove irrelevant. The weapons and armour are defined by damage, range, and categorised by utility: Light, Medium and Heavy.
Character generation includes a few spells for a new Arcanist (magic-user) to select from. It’s a very narrow range with most not only being combat-related but some are duplicates of others presented in the same list. Different names but identical effects. This is not a huge issue as the players are encouraged to create their own and there is an excellent table to assist with this.
The basic mechanics are discussed in the chapter “GettingThings Done”. I’m curious about this…to succeed in an activity other than combat the player throws 1d20 and adds the character’s ability score aiming for a result of 21 or more. To my mind this makes every action just a little bit easy. Abilities are generated with 4d6, dropping the lowest die giving an average of 13. That sees a typical character requiring 8+ to succeed. In the example play-through, none of the players fail an action check.
Combat is concise and applies no modifiers, with the exception of Advantage. I see this as a good thing, all the characters are equally capable, and I enjoy a simple resolution system.
Health, Moxy and Sanity are recovered through short and long rests; similar to D&D but the scale is grittier – with the intervals lasting 3-hours and long rests lasting up to 8 hours. This doesn’t seem quite gritty enough and when I ran my first game, I used a short rest of 8 hours and a long rest of 72 which suited me much better.
Spell casting requires a Wisdom roll which negates the need for the target to make a saving throw which I like. Failing a casting roll results in Sanity loss. Dropping to zero Sanity requires a roll on a short table describing possible effects of temporary or permanent insanity. Fun for all the family.
The monsters are an excellent mix of evocative enemies: The Devil Sisters are evil nuns; Injectors are sadistic women holding grudges against men (is there a trend here?) and the Razormaw is a technologically altered horror that can move on two or four limbs.
Referee aids contain a slew of 1d20 tables that quickly generate scenarios, new and yet more horrible monsters, colourful NPCs, exotic weapons, magic items, and spells. Excellent.
Finally, I was delighted to find not one but two adventures. Many games fail to provide an adventure that reveals the author’s intentions for his world and this is always a mistake.
The first is a basic dungeon crawl, and the author admits as much. I imagine it serves the purpose of introducing players to a new game and new-ish system. However, next we have a full-blown sandbox adventure that is quite simply excellent. This chapter alone is probably worth the asking price. It includes great locations and fascinating characters, fully defined in the same manner as the PCs. Brilliant.
Finally, although you may or may not like the sound of the game from my review as it needs a tidy up and drifts a fair distance from your typical OSR ruleset. However, you cannot deny that for the quality of content, this game is ridiculously cheap.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to the adventure I wrote for my first session.