Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The RPG Folder from the Pits of Tartarus

A continuation of this erudite series.

Hack: the RPG is an RPG hack written by Eric Bloat, lifted from his zine Valor Knights. It is basically an amalgam of The Black Hack and The Blackest of Deaths.

Eric's idea here is to provide a really basic, loose, fast RPG framework from which you can hack your own games, worlds, and adventures.

The core mechanic of this game is to roll 1d20 vs. a target number. At the same time, roll 1d6. If the d6 is a 1, there is a Hindrance. If it is a 6, there is a Benefit. It's an elegant way to establish a non-binary resolution mechanic that isn't too fussy. Most of the time that d6 is ignored because it'll be 2-5. And hey... if that bugs you, then you can create your own house rules for what 2-5 means. Right?

In Darkest Warrens by Scott Malthouse is a "minimalist fantasy RPG". It lives up to the title.

In the most basic sense, this is D&D with massively simplified rules. It uses totally different names for stats and things but it's the same basic concept. You have attributes, classes, and levels. Everything is resolved by a 1d6 roll. The game is 5 pages long and includes all the rules, advanced rules, magic, monsters, an adventure, and a setting. And it has really great art plus a map by Dyson Logos, no less.

Metahumans Rising is a superhero RPG by T. Dave Silva.

I literally have never looked at this or head of it. I clicked it open and I have to point out that the first thing I see is the PDF contents tab showing me the word "offensive" twice in a row as the first two items listed. This is a link to page 61 of the PDF describing boons or something related to offensive powers. Funny little editing snafoo I guess.

First impressions are that this is a labor of love. It starts with a memorial to St. Julian Perkins Jr, R.I.P., who was one of the game's playtesters. Very nice to see this right up front. It shows that this is truly someone's love project.

Ok, so the text formatting is not good. Lots of gaps between words on the memorial page. Perhaps that was just a last minute addition and didn't benefit from a second pass. Dunno.

The chapter headers are not attractive. They remind me of cheap desktop publishing. I would prefer to see this simply with big bold words instead of the generic header images. But I'm being mean about the aesthetics.

Lines and Veils... is a great idea. I don't know if it is original to this game or not, but I dig it and I'm happy to see it here. Basically players decide at the start what are the Lines and what are the Veils. And I'm guessing these can be updated. A Line is something that does not happen in the game. So I'm guessing maybe a player might say that any depiction of rape or child murder is a Line. You don't cross the line. A Veil is softer... it's something that can be referred to, but not "shown". Like... the villain Mad Mad Daddy might have blown up an orphanage, killing a bunch of kids. But this isn't experienced at the table, just referred to. This is a great rule to have right up front.

Ok, so this is a fairly detailed, dense game. I can see by skimming it that there are ample examples of character creation and design of setting. It's a game that seems to encourage you to create the comic book universe you want to create. Lots of stuff related to the various ages of comics, and so on. What I'm not seeing much of is game mechanics. The crunchy dice rolling bits don't seem to be mentioned until page 80+, and even then I don't readily see how it works. Not necessarily a gripe, I just haven't invested the time and energy into reading all of it.

The art is not bad. My overall impression is that this is a heartfelt supers game with a lot of love put into it. I feel like it's a bit bloated and the organization isn't entirely intuitive to me. But that's me. If you're looking for a supers RPG I believe you should give this one a look see.


  1. 1) love this series; 2) Lines and Veils are Ron Edwards terms from Sorcerer & Soul.

    1. Ah! Yeah it sounded familiar. I have that book on the shelf right behind me.

  2. I like this series of brief reviews. I always want to play rules-light, 4-page systems or whatever, but I rarely actually do. Only Knave captured my table well.

    1. I might post this on Twitter, but I'm wondering to what degree repetitive dice rolling becomes a problem with simple systems. Someone commented that the Dying Earth RPG's d6 system quickly became repetitive at their table. Which lead me to think about how D&D, for example, has several dice mechanics which break up the types of dice rolls a little bit. And not just dice rolling, I guess, but the mechanics with which you interact in general. Like... a core mechanic to rule them all means you're pushing the same button over and over.