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Whitehack Third Edition
Publisher: WhitehackRPG
by Brett M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2021 10:06:10

I've been a huge fan of Whitehack for several years now and have been incessantly begging for an official PDF. I am so genuinely happy that this wonderful game can now become a part of gaming libraries around the world!

There are other reviews that explain the nature of Whitehack better than I could and probably aren't as biased. That said, I'll briefly try to explain why I'm so passionate about this game.

  • Mixing old school games with collaborative elements is hard to pull off. Whitehack does it beautifully.
  • Universal mechanics can often feel stale if executed poorly. Again, Whitehack triumphs.
  • So many old school games have the same pastiche fantasy tropes baked into the character options. Whitehack breaks this norm in a smart way.

It's amazing to me that Whitehack achieves all of the above while also innovating other brilliant mechanics like its Auction system (which helps simplify macro-level scenes like chases, large scale battles, etc). And it does all of this in so few pages.

The only feature that might turn some players off is that Whitehack doesn't have much in the way of art. I actually appreciate this design choice though because it furthers the notion that the fantasy world is for you and your players to build together.

Whitehack 3rd Edition is well worth your money. It's my go-to system of choice, and even if your goal is to make your own OSR hack, you will almost assuredly be inspired by the mechanics Whitehack has to offer.

Also, if you find yourself loving this game, I strongly encourage you to check out the desginer's other work; I recently purchased his fascinating sci-fi game called Suldokar's Wake and it's dense in the best of ways. Still crossing my fingers for PDFs of this game :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Whitehack Third Edition
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The Black Hack Second Edition
Publisher: Gold Piece Publications
by Brett M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/25/2018 22:33:18

The Black Hack's original iteration started a new sect of the OSR/DIY D&D movement and became one of the most hacked games since D&D.

However, the original TBH made a lot of compromises to speed up play. Some of the rules were weird and wonky, and on top of that, the game made odd decisions for the sake of uniqueness (I mean, let's be honest, calling Wizards "Conjurers" was...interesting)

I think the slightly odd rules almost demanded that each table tailor the game to their liking. Which in a way has its own merits. But out with the old and in with the new.

Simply put, this new rendition of The Black Hack is a masterclass in design. Not a single rule made me scratch my head. Each page made me nod in agreement. The armor rules are awesome. The class abilities are great. The leveling system is fresh and will make sessions way more fun. And adding backgrounds finally brings TBH up to Whitehack's level of worldbuilding. So much amazingness in just the first 20 pages!

The art, the Game Master sections, and everything else are not just functional, they're wonderful. The page layout is so good it makes me emotional. This book is full of tools, tables, generators, and much more. $6.00 is a ludicrously low price for what you're getting.

If you want to try simpler D&D, look no further.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Black Hack Second Edition
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Knave
Publisher: Questing Beast Games
by Brett M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/07/2018 00:58:46

There's really nothing too special about Knave. But it's because of this that it might just be one of the greatest additions to the OSR that I've ever seen. A lot of brilliant OSR games out there do one of three things: emulate the wheel, attempt to reinvent it, or a little of both. (read "wheel" as D&D) Labyrinth Lord? Emulation. DCC RPG? Reinvention. LotFP? A little of both

Here is what I believe lies at the core of the OSR: There are as many unique systems as there are gaming groups. Every group has different tastes, and the easiest way to match those tastes is by taking away or adding rules to the game.

However, all of the games out there, including old-school D&D, have assumptions built into them. DCC RPG assumes that your gaming group would rather have a crazy romp than a serious hexcrawl. LotFP assumes the opposite. ACKS assumes you'll make it to the later levels to use its subsytems. Even OD&D had the assumption that characters should be differentiated by classes/abilities. These assumptions are what create followings behind certain games. But what if there were a game that focused on having as few assumptions as possible?

In comes Knave. It doesn't try to emulate or reinvent the wheel. Instead, it seeks to be the axle that turns the wheel. The easiest way to explain Knave is to say that it just "is". It's like if you took the math problem 1+3=4, but got rid of everythning except the 1. Knave is the integer of role playing games. The lowest common denominator. You can't really say it's objectively bad, because it possesses no inherent meaning; that's something you and your group will flesh out as you play.

To wrap things up, I'll say that fantasy adventure games are meant to inspire wonder in players because of all the choices and freedom. Knave still does this. But it inspires Referees too because there's so much freedom to hack and add to the system.

Knave need not be your system of choice, but if you're interested in crafting your own game from the ground up, save yourself some time and use Knave as your foundation.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
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Vagabonds of Dyfed
Publisher: Sigil Stone Publishing
by Brett M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/03/2018 18:04:06

TO PREFACE:

  • The OSR community is often bustling, intriguing, and is constantly putting out great content to use for games new and old. A couple of shortcomings (in my opinion) with OSR games is that they typically focus solely on the player and never the character, and also, combat can get really swingy for groups that are less initiated.

  • Apocalypse World has changed the face of tabletop RPGs for better or worse. Mixed success (while not necessarily invented by AW) is a fantastic mechanic that keeps play at the table compelling. Some of the shortcomings with most PbtA games (again, in my opinion) are that they rarely challenge the problem solving skills of the player, and also, events can move too quickly for players to feel truly immersed in the world. Finally, PbtA games aren't usually lethal, which can definitely be a good thing, but lethality brings out qualities in players that are rarely seen elsewhere.

  • I love both of these communities greatly despite being near-polar opposites of each other. But just like Romeo and Juliet, forbidden love is always interesting. Vagabonds of Dyfed is the baby that PbtA and OSR had out of wedlock. Nobody asked for it (well, maybe some people did), yet I truly believe that it is the chosen one.

TO BEGIN:

The book is objectively well put together. It's a neat little 8.5" x 8.5" square clocking in at approximately 105ish pages. The page layout is among the finest of OSR games. Most elements or subheadings do not go beyond the page they start on, making it incredibly easy to read through the rules as well as reference them later when needed.

The artwork probably won't make your jaw drop, but it gets the job done. The pieces, like the rules, are concise as well as easy on the eyes. The star of the show is honestly the cover art which is well colored and does a good job at showing what the game's about. The old man looks like he has the lid of a coffin for a shield which makes me smile. And the tattoos on the face of the knife-holder are mysterious and intricate. Also, if you look closely, the characters are battle-damaged. A nice touch.

I would imagine that character creation could take a while for a brand new group as they carefully decide on their traits, but the examples provided in the book are helpful tools whether it's for use or inspiration. Lineages are cool and enticing depending on the player, and Techniques are fun little feats/abilities that can go a long way in an adventure. The equipment section is awesome and provides the GM with the skeletal framework of how to make more which is great.

I don't think I need to go over the mechanics too much because it's all so well laid out on the product page.

Overall, this game really shines from the Game Master perspective. All rolls are condensed into a single mechanic, so GMs can spend their time focusing on the important stuff: making traps, puzzles, magic items, adversaries, plot hooks, and a more believable world

TO CONCLUDE:

Vagabonds of Dyfed is simultaneously quick and dirty, and beautifully elegant. I have yet to test it out, but it looks more than capable for handling great adventures as well as stories with interesting characters. This game piqued my interest with its fusion of my two favorite RPG communities, held my attention with excellent mechanics and great page layout, and blew me away by changing the way I look at OSR. This is the first RPG book I have ever read cover to cover (and I've seen a LOT). Do yourself a favor and buy the PDF at least.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vagabonds of Dyfed
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
Publisher: Chaosium
by A customer [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2016 10:25:11

One must understand two things about 7th Sea: Second Edition before playing it.

1) This is not the same game as 1st edition, so prepare for the big bad change monster 2) This RPG, like pretty much every RPG out there, is not for everyone

The faster that those two facts are realized and accepted, the easier it is to fall in love with this game. I truly believe that 7th Sea: 2nd Edition is one of the most brilliant systems I've ever seen. Since 1st edition, John Wick has clearly become much more of a storyteller. I don't think it's even possible for a rule in this game to stop play for more than 45 seconds. The system is so intuitive that the action can just keep on going. Seriously, players could probably achieve campaign-level drama/adventures in the time it takes players to go through a dungeon in D&D. It all just depends on the GM, which brings me to my next point.

The raises system is really neat and it adds a small metagame to rolling dice that's just easy enough to keep the story moving, but just different enough to make players take a second and think about how they want to make their raises. All of the other rules in the game are so simple to add on that it truly makes 7th Sea: Second Edition a breeze to play. So it really is completely up to the GM to move the drama in unique and interesting ways. The GM is to be constantly (and creatively) setting new consequences for the risks the players take, while simultaneously thinking of opportunities that are enticing enough for players to risk taking the consequences for. It can be a little daunting because the difficulty of the game is 100% in the GM's lap, but ultimately, I love how much freedom I have to tell a compelling story with my players.

I'm not going to lie, crunch in a game can be a fun time. But at the end of the day, I don't want my players to feel like they cheated death because of some mechanic, I want them to feel like they've surpassed their obstacles by being creative and pariticpating in telling a good story. It's the stories we remember most about gaming. Of course, many games still work great if you just ignore some of the rules, but 7th Sea: Second Edition is meant to be a game built from scratch for the purpose of telling an elegant, cinematic tale of swashbuckling, sorcery, romance, intrigue, and adventure.

In conclusion, I think John Wick and his team took a huge risk by making such dramatic changes to this beloved game. However, while this might not be a system for grognards, it certainly is a masterpiece for the purposes of storytelling.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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