02 June, 2018

200 Word Reviews (Part 1 - 1-20)

Here starts the epic journey through 752 game entries written for the 200 Word RPG Challenge.

If you are an official reader, or judge for the contest. I'd recommend not reading these to avoid my thoughts tainting your opinion of the various entries. Of course, if you are a reader or judge, feel free to come back and see how your opinions compare to mine.

Entrant
Name
Premise
Rules
Definition
Agenda
Coherence
Total
1
The world ends behind you – Xalarion
3
3
3
2
1
12
2
Sentience – Mostafa Haque
4
1
1
2
2
10
3
Five Summers – Morgan Morningstar
4
3
2
3
3
15
4
Harmony – Ben Tapper
3
2
0
2
3
10
5
Has this ever happened to you? – Matt Flager
2
2
1
2
2
11
6
Impin’ Around – Emma Glasscock
4
2
0
4
3
13
7
The Returning – Zane Smith
4
3
3
3
3
16
8
Can’t Teach an Old Bot New Tricks – Eric Fritz
3
2
0
1
3
9
9
Bad Roommate – Clara Boyer
2
2
2
2
3
11
10
United Narrative Opportunity – Millia Sunrise
1
3
0
3
3
10
11
That’s Not How It Went Down – Tim Pruyin
4
1
1
2
1
9
12
A Joyous Rebellion – Morrigan Crow
4
3
1
2
3
13
13
Wayfarer’s End – Alexi Sargeant
4
1
2
1
3
11
14
Uber Share – David Olsen
1
1
0
0
0
2
15
What’s my Motivation? – Andy Haynes
2
2
1
0
1
6
16
Life Behind Screens – Luke Pullen
4
3
3
1
3
14
17
Legacy – Jonathan Yildiz
3
1
1
1
2
8
18
Cold Hearted – John Backers
4
3
0
2
3
12
19
Fade From Black – Aaron Lim
3
2
2
0
1
9
20
Start Making Sense - Patrick Pfeifer
2
2
1
2
3
10

The world ends behind you
I really want to like this game, it has all the pieces for a complete game but feels disjointed. First you create a world, it seems like it needs to be a world in the throes of apocalypse. Then characters play through a narrative where they gain and lose things according to playing of cards. But there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection between the card play and the narrative… it’s just, “Here’s a system, there’s a story.” Connecting the two more coherently would be good.

Sentience
OK, so everyone is a planet. Cool… I’m getting vibes of Ego from the Marvel Cosmic Universe. Now you tell a story of the planet’s evolution until the heat death of the universe. Everyone takes actions… but how? Harmonic convergences occur… but beyond allowing the players to take an action. what does this mean? Again, it wants to be a game but there’s a lot of minutiae missing.

Five Summers
Five sessions of 20 minutes, players are the type of people who only  run into each other occasionally, we watch their lives unfold. This one feels almost complete, a few extra words would be useful to clarify the bit where every five years each character has a new defining moment in their lives. I could play this, and would even consider using it as an atmospheric life-path system to set the tone for another RPG.

Harmony
Roll 2 dice, choose one, do stuff. Previous rolls have no impact, there is no narrative… but if you believe it from within, you can feel good about yourself, and that turns life itself into a game. Does it offer an aim beyond making the world a better place? No, not really. Am I a bit cynical because it feels like using dice to define a random self-help manifesto and cult recruitment program? Yes, probably.

Has this ever happened to you?
Create a product, sell it to the other players. It’s like a segment on “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?”. The points don’t matter, and it’s all about the kudos… hang on, is there a single Consumer while multiple operator’s spruik their wares? Do you play multiple rounds with everyone getting to be the Consumer. Generally, it feels more like a parlour game than anything else, not that that’s a bad thing, if you’re after that sort of thing.

Impin’ Around
I like this game, it’s simple it has a premise and an objective. It’s about kids in a house trying to stop an Imp, but there’s nothing to define the kids. The game mechanism is simply, “Roll High and the GM will tell you what this means” which is pretty vague and could do with a bit of extra fleshing out. Even if the Imp rolled as well to determine who succeeds in opposed actions. It’s a fun start and it feels really close.

The Returning
Robots preparing for the return of humans to a corrupted planet. The die system is similar to what I use in The Law (with potential positives, negatives, or both on each roll), so I naturally like that. Again, there’s a lot of GM fiat here, because there’s no measure of success beyond the description of the GM so it feels like a bit more could have been added to clarify that. On the whole though, this one feels like something almost ready to play, with minor adjustments necessary to really make it sing.

Can’t Teach an Old Bot New Tricks
As an exercise for teaching students about logic, or programming, this is brilliant. As a roleplaying game, probably not so much. I can see what it’s trying to do, and what it is doing is clever, but it might be more interesting if scientist players gave each other objectives which they then had to program into their robot players. Just something to add a bit more depth. Similarly, robots might be more interesting if they had some kind of restriction to them (has no hands, only has rollers to move around on, etc.)

Bad Roommate
This is the kind of game I usually don’t like, but there’s something here that I find interesting. Characters define themselves through the objects they take from the trash, they build up relationships to each other and flesh out the world between them, there is even an end goal where a single piece of trash is kept. There are no points, no outside mechanisms, but there is a clear “winner” as agreed by consensus. It’s still a bit of a parlour game where characterisation has minimal influence on outcome, and systems of play are social rather than mechanical.

United Narrative Opportunity
Whether you’re actually playing a character in this game is a bit of a meta argument. Players tell stories that may interconnect by laying out Uno cards in a manner similar to dominos. Different colours indicate different elements added to the story. It’s a clever collaborative storytelling system, and again a good parlour game, but is it really an RPG?

That’s Not How It Went Down
This feels like a simple system to tell a single scene of a wider story. Roles are identified, but they are basically static. Dice are used, but it’s not too clear as to how. I’m not sure if different pieces of evidence added into the narrative are defined by their own die roll, but there seems to be some indication at the end that roll-offs can occur. There’s a lot of fragments here, but something feels missing.

A Joyous Rebellion
A subversive game about rebellion, using the trappings of Candylyland. I want o love it, but like Candyland the game ending is inherently predetermined due to the movement (players simply move to the next unoccupied square , unless it’s a “3 dot” square). It feels like here should be something more regarding the movement, maybe there wasn’t room to explain it, or maybe it’s a critique on free will (or lack thereof).    

Wayfarer’s End
I do like games that derive inspiration from props. A vintage cookbook is great, and the types of characters in a quirky small town are interesting to play with. I’m finding a lot of games about telling stories, rather than portraying characters, this is another one. There’s no real system here to determine the outcome of a scene, or how many scenes to tell, beyond simple consensus of the group.

Uber Share
I knew it was a matter of time before I hit one of these. This entrant offers a context, then just relies on the word “freeform” to justify why it doesn’t offer any rules, motivations, or anything else.

What’s my Motivation?
This feels like a really stripped back Primetime Adventures, but seems to lose quite a bit in the contraction. I’m not sure what the aim is here, beyond providing a platform for improvisational theatre. I’d like to see a way for players to trade “sway”, rather than simply have this as a currency that accumulates once per scene, and then spent in a limited number of ways. It feels like it could be something good with a bit more refinement.

Life Behind Screens
This one feels like a complete game, but also feels like it could be translated easier to a simple card game rather than an RPG. Courtiers vie for the attentions of a Debutante, but it feels like a character’s opening hand will determine the outcome of their story. Again, this might be a critique on courtly society, but feels a bit unbalanced for a fun and competitive game experience. I feel like some further details about the courtiers would help here.

Legacy
One player creates a fictional item, the others are people who have come into contact with the item. The game basically tells the story of this item, using a series of questions for each player who has held it. Again, minimal characterisation, it’s all about the item and it’s legacy… and nothing particularly game oriented about it. But as a worldbuilding/item-building exercise it fulfils a certain goal.

Cold Hearted
As an emulation of the survival horror genre, this does a pretty good job. There is a clever complexity to the way characters develop relationships with one another through alone time, and gradually reveal the horror that is picking them off one by one. I might suggest some way to give the characters some kinds of quirks that might help them in their adventure, but there’s certainly enough going on here to make a solid one-shot game experience.

Fade From Black
This fits into the structured freeform category. With character defining their relationship to every other player on a piece of paper, then tearing it into three, before resolving each torn third, a two player game would be short, a three to four player game would be long, and a game with five or more players could really drag. It’s all about talking through feelings, with no randomisers or ways to break immersion. It could get really dark. Looking back on it, I guess it’s a game for two players, because it state that the characters are in a relationship and have just had sex… but then again we could be talking about a threesome or an orgy here. It’s certainly one of those “let’s pretend we’re doing something artistic and meaningful, because angst is cool” games.

Start Making Sense

So, “Inside Out” the RPG…almost. Everyone plays a sense, or a fractured segment of a personality that has access to a single sense from the host body. They answer questions about the world around them, but there seem to be little point in this. Senses can take control of the body, once per day… but what is a day in the game? There’s a bit of existential mystery here, but nothing about how it resolves, or why. Again, it feels like there could have been more here, and it’s quite vague. 

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