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Tag search results for: "review"
ZDL
Mythic is, to quote the game's introduction, "a universal, improvisational role-playing game".  Designed by Tana Pigeon, a name you've likely never heard of (though you should have, because she makes some nifty stuff!), it is far more than what that unassuming little description says.  This review is all about teasing out exactly what Mythic actually is.

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ZDL

Today's review is gong to be from the person I consider the James Brown of game design.  Which is to say the hardest-working man in game design.  His name is Greg Porter and he is the owner (and sole member) of the game producer BTRC (Blacksburg Tactical Research Center).  Neither he, nor his company, are likely names you know … but you should.  In his own, quiet way, Greg Porter has created some of the most interesting, most innovative, and most playable RPGs out there.

(Of course he's also created some of the most unplayable games as well…)


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ZDL Mar 23 · Comments: 4 · Tags: fringe, review, btrc, corps
ZDL
Rolemaster

No history of RPGs would ever be complete without discussion of Iron Crown Enterprises' Rolemaster line of game products.  Despite its many epithets (most notably Chartmaster)—whether justly or unjustly applied (and I feel largely unjustly!)—it is hard to deny the influence this game had on role-playing games in general and D&D in specific.  First published in 1980 with the first component, Arms Law (a naming convention that set the table for all of the line), it began its existence as a replacement weapon/melee combat system for AD&D.  (They couldn't state it that flatly, of course, for reasons of copyright, so it was "for RPGs".)  It was rapidly followed with Claw Law (later packaged together) which added creature and unarmed combat to the mix.  This was followed by Spell Law for magic and finally, in 1982, Character Law, turning Rolemaster from a set of supplements into its own independent role-playing game.  1984's Campaign Law was the final component (and one of the earliest guidebooks for world-building for GMs).


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ZDL
Unlike my previous, starkly negative review I'm switching back to the generally positive again.  Today's fringe game is actually a game line, one that is proudly hailed as being for "beer & pretzels".  This is by no means the earliest beer & pretzels game in role-playing.  The first of the line's products—a game called Shriek—was published in 2001.  Games like Ninja Burger, Kobolds Ate My Baby, and other such games were released before that in the late '90s.  Indeed I'm pretty sure I'd played loads of small, simple, comedy games before this game line was published.  Hell, Macho Women with Guns, which exists right on the very edge of that beer & pretzels divide, was published in 1988.

But this one is different.


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ZDL Dec 19 '19 · Comments: 5 · Tags: hero force, 1pg, heyoka, deep7, beer & pretzels, fringe, review
ZDL
In my last, third, review I waxed reminiscently about the "halcyon years" of RPGs in the '80s, using Psi World, one of my favourite games ever, as an example of the feel of the '80s.

Unfortunately the '80s had its darker side as well.  A lot of very stupid things were done in that era and it would be remiss of me not to document some of them.  Further, to show I'm capable of more than twee paeans to my favourite games, I thought it time to show, too, what a negative review would look like.

And make no mistake, this review will be unrelentingly negative!

Avalon Hill

The Avalon Hill Game Company (AH) was a powerhouse in board gaming, especially wargaming, with a history stretching back to the early 1950s.  If you play board wargames in particular, even those not made by AH, you owe a debt to this one-time juggernaut.  Many of the standard things that identify wargames--hex grids, stochastic combat results, etc.--were a result of their innovation over the years and it is rare that a wargame can be found which doesn't trace its ancestry to something invented at AH.

In the 1970s, role-playing games started to get introduced and in the late 1970s they took off in ways that surprised hardcore wargamers.  In the 1980s, when it became clear that RPGs were not going to be going away, wargames publishers started looking around for games to publish in this new genre with varying degrees of success.  Simulations Publications, Inc (SPI) published, for example, Dragonquest and Universe, fantasy and science fiction games respectively to mixed success.  (I personally liked both games, but Universe in particular was rather gratuitously complicated in ways that weren't needed.  I could never have run either, but as a player I enjoyed both.)

AH was no exception to this.  They wanted to publish RPGs and in the end they wound up publishing three.  They published the third edition of Runequest (and I am one of, perhaps, five people in the entire world who liked their version of Runequest better than the previous two editions by far) to mixed reviews.  They published an intriguing-in-principle but deeply-flawed-in-execution game called Lords of Creation, and they published today's little gem: Powers & Perils.  (Technically the James Bond 007 RPG was also an AH property, but it was published by a wholly-owned subsidiary and I don't consider it part of AH canon proper.)


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ZDL
The 1980s were halcyon years for RPGs in many ways.  There was insane diversity of subject matter as every conceivable niche and sub-niche was explored, and madness infected a lot of game designs.  This was also, after all, very much the decade of the "crunchy" game: games with ever-more complicated and "realistic" rules.


FGU


The absolute monarchs of the '80s vibe were Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU)  There was not a crazy concept they weren't willing to champion and publish.  The first "realistic" medieval game (Chivalry & Sorcery) was theirs.  The first game to feature non-humanoids as the central characters (Bunnies & Burrows) was theirs.  The first popular superhero RPG (Villains & Vigilantes) was theirs.  The first medieval Japanese RPG (Land of the Rising Sun) was theirs as was the most popular one (Bushido) for ages.  And while not the first SF games ever, two of the earliest SF games (Starships & Spacemen, Space Opera) were theirs too, the latter of which still causes warm fuzzy feelings when I think back to its convoluted insanity but immense fun.


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ZDL Nov 30 '19 · Comments: 4 · Tags: psi world, review, old school, fringe, fgu
ZDL
Continuing my little experiment in reviewing little-known RPGs, past and present, I'd like to go in a direction directly opposite of my last review.  In that I introduced a game that was in all ways completely different from most RPGs that people in the hobby are familiar with.  Intead it is, as I put it in a comment, "RPG meets collaborative fiction with a dash of improv".

Today's game is nothing of the sort.  It is three perfectly ordinary things:

1. It is a free game and almost militantly so.
2. It is a joke game, or, at least, it started that way.
3. It is a so-called "Old School Rennaisance" game (and arguably the first actual such!).

So why am I reviewing a game so ordinary?  Because, naturally, it is in no way ordinary!


The game (and indeed, to a degree, entire game line) that I am reviewing today is the game Mazes & Minotaurs (M&M) written by Olivier Legrande.  If you've compulsively followed the link provided you got a taste of the rabbit's warren that is the secret world of M&M.  If you didn't, let me give you a quick history so you can understand the joyful, wonderful madness you're about to face.

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ZDL Nov 24 '19 · Comments: 4 · Tags: free, fringe, joke, osr, review, m&m
ZDL
This is an experiment.  I'd like to start reviewing little-known RPGs, past and present, as a way of introducing concepts and ideas that are not known at all in the mainstream of our hobby and are often barely known even among the more … shall we say "obsessive"? … elements.

(Yes, I include myself among the obsessives.)

The first game I'd like to review is a came by a small-press Canadian publisher called Spark

Spark is a decidedly non-traditional role-playing game.  Because of this I cannot work from assumptions that most would share.  Instead I will be using a form of critique I first saw in Goethe's writings when critiquing theatre.  In brief, I will be answering three questions:

1. What was Jason Pitre, the author of Spark, trying to accomplish?
2. How well does he accomplish this?
3. Was this a goal worth accomplishing?


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ZDL Nov 22 '19 · Comments: 2 · Tags: review, spark, rules-lite, narrative, fringe

 

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