Saturday, July 23, 2022


I wound up backing this after all. I already posted about this game's Quickstart rules and during that post, I dithered a bit about whether I was going to back it on kickstarter. Turns out, I did. I can't remember exactly why I decided to spend 30 bucks on a physical copy, though I do have a vague memory of being impressed by the design and creativity and somewhat conflicted about the large portion of my gaming budget that was going to used copies of out-of-print books. I think I had some quixotic idea that I was going to start shopping mindfully and use my dollars to support indie creators. My subsequent commitment to that resolution has been . . . inconsistent. I'd say, in the past year, I've bought or backed about 10 truly "indie" rpgs, though that number increases if you include companies like FASA or Onyx Path. The rest of my recent purchase history has been used copies of supplements for Earthdawn, In Nomine, and various d20 systems.

I don't mean this as any sort of deep, dark confessional, though. Really, I'm just wasting time to distract from the fact that the bulk of what I want to say has already been covered in my post about the Quickstart. In retrospect, it was a really good Quickstart, that streamlined the rules of an already streamlined game, while still maintaining the essence of what made that game compelling. The stuff that was cut out - cooperation rules, randomized character creation, and additional spells, monsters, and equipment - was nice to have, but I'd say only the cooperation rules really strike me as an oversight.

So am I advising you to skip the full version and make do with a free version that's one of the most creative mini-rpgs I've ever read? Well, it would be pretty shitty of me if I was, especially considering my stated motive for backing this thing in the first place. Upgrading was definitely worth it, even if I preferred the Quicksstart's condensed, straight-to-the-point presentation of the actual rules. What you get in the full version isn't necessarily a superior game, but is a beautiful reference book filled with charm and creativity that you only see pieces of in the Quickstart.

For example, the Gear section of the Quickstart is stripped down and functional, whereas the full core has an entire category of "Oddities and Valuables" that includes stuff like shrunken monkey heads or a vial of a divine being's blood. What are you supposed to do with them?  Thes charts where you can randomly determine your starting equipment were a lot of fun, though I wonder if maybe their limited size (you roll 3d6, giving each category 16 entries, center biased) may lead to repetition over the long term.

The biggest benefit of the core, to me, was the expanded bestiary. It's well-curated, even for being short, containing a mix of D&D staples (like mimics, lamias, and sirens), strange inventions (like the noblins - rabbit-folk - and petal ambassadors - manipulative illusionists whose head is a single giant eyeball surrounded by flower petals), and Filipino folkloric monsters (like the manananggal - a vampire-like creature that detaches its upper half to fly around by night, preying on those foolish enough to be outside). Like comparable sections in other books, my only complaint is that I wish it was much longer.

Also, the book itself is beautiful. Momatoes, the designer/artist/writer/layout artist really went all-out. Every page is visually interesting, with fonts and headers chosen to draw the eye towards important system terms. On a personal level, I could find it distracting at times (which may be why I thought the simpler layout of the Quickstart was easier to follow), but maybe that's just because I'm the sort of hyper-focusing fuddy-duddy that prefers blank walls to decorated ones. 

The art is great, though. Each piece sets a mood, from creepy to mysterious to cute and though the tone varies, the style is consistently gorgeous. Nothing feels out of place and though the individual pieces are sometime unconnected to anything in the text, the cartoony, impressionist style feels just the right amount of unreal for the game's apocalyptic fantasy. My favorite piece, though, was the chicken in the equipment section.

Look at that cute little lady. Totally justifies her inexplicable inclusion.

Overall, I'd say that this is a game with a lot of potential. It's an easy-to-master rules-light system with a unique real-time mechanic and a whole hell of a lot of character. It definitely has a niche as a go-to system for unexpected one-shots and introducing newbies into the hobby. Pretty much the ideal case study for why it's a good idea to take a chance on indie designers.

Ukss Contribution: There's a lot of fun stuff in this book, but my favorite thing was one of the sample PCs. Sartis the Black Tentacle is "chipper, friendly, gregarious, and extravagant," but also "serving an unknown cult." She likes telling fortunes and is strangely comfortable with violence, and she's an octopus. She'd make a great lieutenant for the Assassin Priest.

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