I got round to playing/GMing this a few days ago, and had such a good time that I decided to write about it. The game in question – Something Went Wrong – seemed tailor made for my current requirements. At the start of each university term, my gaming society runs a few weeks of one-off games designed to give new role players a taste of what to expect should they choose to join us, along with experienced players a chance to try something new. One of the bigger problems I have when doing this is keeping a game at the right length for just one session. Sure, I could just cut it short come the end of the evening if it hasn’t reached a satisfying conclusion, but I always feel like that’s a let down for everyone.
Something Went Wrong though, was just what I needed. Character creation took a whole ten minutes, and that included the description of stats for the novice gamers. After that we were right into it. Well not quite, a lovely touch for the game is that after spending literally whole minutes pouring love and attention into your character, you hand it to the player on your left. There isn’t much scope for Munchkins in the game, but that little touch is beautifully thought out to keep everyone on an even playing field.
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, here’s a quick rundown. Everyone creates a character – even the “GM” – and strikes off into a dungeon, just like the kick ass adventures they are. They have done it all before and even have the +5 T-shirt of tourism. What makes this game special is that there’s no one GM; the first person to assume that role (myself as it happened) sets up the opening room in a dungeon with a random roll and some basic set dressing. They run one round of combat, which is mostly what the game is about, and then hands the GM hat to the person sitting clockwise round the table from them, and becomes a player again until it’s their turn with the hat. For the record, we didn’t use an actual hat as I was the only person who owns one in the group, and my head is bizarrely small so no one else could wear my spiffy touring cap.
Experience points gets handed out by the GM at the end of each round, and they are used when the player becomes the GM and allow them to mess around with the other players. This is done by random rolls on ‘misability’ tables, and some quick thinking on how to apply them to the current situation. Once a room is cleared, the ‘encounter’ ends, loot is handed out – again by a random roll or two – and the hat moves to the next person so they can set the scene in the next chamber. This carries on with player injury and death throughout until the end of the evening.
That’s basically it, and although it sounds simple it makes for a wonderfully well rounded game. I was a little nervous at first of putting control of a dungeon, and everyone’s playing experience, in the hands of someone who has never role played, let alone run a game before and at least two of my players fell into that category. I got round this a little by setting up the table so my most experienced player would be the GM after me, thus giving everyone else a bit of time to see how it all worked. When it came to their turn, I shouldn’t have worried at all. The system is so simple and straightforward, that they jumped into it feet first and did me proud! They were using the rules as a frame work, and then just having fun.
This was one the biggest selling point for me; the rules were so simple, and also so vague, that you could apply whatever you liked to the situation, and it would make sense without ever affecting the balance. If a player wanted to try that a spell that did no damage, but would be über powerful, the GM would quickly find a way to limit the potential of the spell without taking away from the fun of the caster. As an example, someone wanted to bubble-wrap themselves to avoid damage, the spell went off and the player was safe. The GM was quick to let them know however that they had neglected air holes, and for as long as they remained in bubble-wrap, they would lose that many turns afterwards as they tried to regain their breath.
What didn’t I like? Very little. I usually steer my groups away from combat, and as such thought that this game would get a bit repetitive and rote, but it never did. Once again I think this is down to the freedom that the players had to play the game in the manner they saw fit. We did end up dropping some of the modifiers for combat, just to keep the flow going a little, but this happened without any discussion; one GM rolled without taking them into account, and the next followed suit. It was only after the game finished that I realised we had done it at all. We were so engaged in the fun of a basic dungeon crawl, that we never let the rules get in the way.
In case some readers are thinking that this all sounds a little bit OSR, you wouldn’t be far wrong. That freedom is pretty much what I think of when people talk about system light Old School Role-playing games.
By the end of the night, we are a little drained, GMing and playing will do that to a mind, but we all had a great time. This gets a five star review from me, and a big recommendation that you click the link at the top of the page and get it downloaded.
Full disclosure: even though this game is available for free, the lovely people at Troll in the Corner Games sent me a code for a free Gold Edition download when they heard I was thinking about reviewing it for this blog. The Gold Edition adds so art and extra tables, but remains the same game.