Feb 082013
 
Click for Kuro page

Click for Kuro page

Welcome back everyone to this, the final part of my review of Kuro, published by Cubicle 7. If you’re feeling a little left behind, all of the previous reviews can be found by clicking the following links. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. This will be a slightly shorter review than the others, mainly because a lot of the things that excited me about the last part of the book are chock full of spoilerific goodness, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who clicks the word Kuro above and buys their very own copy of this awesome game. So, broad strokes for this one then…

First off we get some great pieces of inspiration in the form of several secret societies and clans that one could encounter while playing Kuro. The descriptions given are short and to the point, leaving a lot up the GM about how to write them into a campaign and even how to present them. What’s never missing though is a seed of inspiration. Without fail I could think of a use for every group in this section, and there were a couple that I think could be seeds for an entire campaign without too much effort. This is exactly the kind of thing I want, and one of the reasons why I don’t tend to buy full expansions for games these days; give me some basics, then I want the game’s designers to trust me to do something with their product, and not prescribe to me exactly what I should be doing with it..

Following on from this we get some choice nasties to play around with. These run the gamut of ghostly apparitions, creatures from Japanese mythology, and even a Lovecraftian feeling horror or two. All very well done, with stats beneath the descriptions; and these cover motivations, personalities and the physical look of the creatures too. Again, we have plenty to work with here, but I found myself thinking of them more as bad guys to be inserted, rather than plot hooks. Might just be me though…

We also get some Kuro themed GMing tips. This seems like quite standard fayre, but with some nice touches. Kuro probably won’t play like most other games, due to the characters you will be playing and their individual motivations. Time is well spent here going over this section in detail to give yourself an idea of everything that is possible, and how to avoid falling into some clichés of the genre. We also have a whole bunch of examples of the genre, and again, this is worth paying attention to, as everything could be used for more plot hooks and ideas.

We end with a introductory adventure, and I don’t want to spoil anything other than to say that it looks like a very strong way indeed to get a disparate bunch of people into the thick of the action without too much exposition as to the whys and wherefores. Based on my own experience of character creation – done before reading the adventure – there would be little to no challenge getting him involved in this plot, and I think the same could be said for any character that could be created.

All in all then, a rather nifty end to the book. Setting the GM up very well indeed for whatever concepts get thrown at him, and making sure that they should have no problem maintaining the right amount of fear and suspense.

Feb 042013
 
kuro-cover-500-233x300

Click for Kuro website

For those just joining us, you might want to jump back a few pages, and take a look at the previous parts of this review, looking at the setting information, and character creation. Now, if you’re all caught up, we’ll take a look at how the system works.

Carrying on from character creation, you will remember that each character has a list of eight traits, spit into mental and physical, and a whole bunch of skills and specialisations. All these numbers are used to work out the likelihood of passing or failing to perform anything other than simple actions. To give you an example, I’m going back to my still unnamed spoilt brat gambler kid I made earlier. Although his primary focus is his gambling hobby, I picked out a couple of extra skills that would be useful for him. Within the ‘Deception’ skill group, gambling was an easy choice to turn into a specialty, but right there next to it was sleight of hand. Had to be done really didn’t it? In a situation where the character needed to palm a card and replace it to give himself even a chance of staying at the table, he would need to make a skill roll. Difficulty would be set by the GM and then the dice wold be rolled.

As this is a test of manual dexterity, the base statistic is easy to determine, but the game encourages creativity in this regard, with no solid tie-in between skill and trait, instead allowing the players and GM the chance to play to their strengths, wherever able. In this case it’s fairly straightforward, but there could be an argument made to use Charisma instead to distract the other gamblers, but that might be a stretch. So, we take the trait number, and grab that many six sided dice; in my case a paltry two. We then take a look at the score I have in the skill. Deception comes in at three points, which would be correct for any specialisation that falls under it, unless you’ve whacked a few specialisation points in it as well. I did that very thing and raised my sleight of hand to lofty height of four. This means I have no ‘Gimikku’ (gained if a specialisation hits five points) to give me any extra bonuses to this roll, so lets just take a shot at it. I roll both d6, and add the skill rank to the total.

Here’s where it gets interesting though, and reminds why I love games where the system becomes more than just a means of randomising success, and instead adds to the feel of the setting. Not only does it throw in my favourite mechanic - that of the ‘exploding dice’ – but it adds its own touch. In Japanese, the number four is ‘Shi’, which also means, quite literally, death. This means that any roll of a four on a d6 is not included in the final score. Might seem harsh, but what with exploding dice, I think it should balance out with no real problems. It also gave me an idea for a particularly sinister house rule.

Imagine a skill check that is almost too important to fail, but fail it does. All because of the player staring down at the dreaded number four on his freshly rolled dice. If the four was included, they would have just scraped by. If only there was something to be done. As the GM, you offer to put that malevolent die back into contention, on the understanding that Death will notice, and seek recompense. Maybe not straight away, and maybe not to anyone immediately connected to the PC, but Shi will take its due…

You must also take into account the degree of any success or failure based on how far away the result was from the target number, but this is simple maths and should not impede game play at any time. All this sounds great so far, but as mentioned in the last review, there are five different ‘Gimikku’ and I think that until the players get a few games under their collective belts, this could slow things down without a cheat sheet for each player. A minor quibble at most though, as I think the system stands up very well, both in how it allows players a certain freedom to play to their strengths, and how well it helps with immersing the players into a highly superstitious game world.

Combat works much the same as regular skill checks, although a lot more of them will be opposed checks, which work exactly as you would imagine them to. One addition I do like though is the simplicity of the combat maneuvers that are available. In either close combat or at range, you can choose to sacrifice accuracy for damage or vice versa. Both are simple to work out, and mean that players can once again adapt to suit the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. Add to this a bunch of situational modifiers that should be fairly standard to most people who’ve played an RPG with a tactical combat system, and you’re done.

So far, I have to say that I’m loving what I’ve been reading. the system seems to flow quickly while being easily adaptable to the fluid situations one would expect to encounter, and even a few one might not. Number of dice plus modifier might seem a less than simple way to calculate a chance of success, but having played original Deadlands for several years, I can attest to how quickly it becomes second nature. There’s just one bit left of this review, and if I get the chance I will treat you all to the GM’s section by the end of the week.

Feb 012013
 

myfarog-adventure1-front-page1I announced that I had applied to join this play test on the Facebook page for the blog a few days back, after getting the tip off from wonderful blogger – and fellow extreme metal fan – Cirsova. I jumped at the chance, but with a hint of nervous apprehension. You see, the game has been created by someone who is considered controversial, even in Black Metal circles: Varg Vikernes. I really don’t feel like listing here the reasons for this, as I spent a lot of time doing so for my one of my final year projects at university, but if you feel the need, it is easy to search for the information on Google (other search engines are available).

Suffice to say, ‘controversial’ doesn’t quite do it justice. Why then am I writing about this man, and doing so in a way that is going to be supportive? Do I agree with his politics and religious views? Absolutely not. What I can do though is differentiate between the man and the art. For instance, I adore his latest re-issues of the old Burzum material, as well as his later stuff. I also know that he is heavily inspired by the work of Tolkien, taking on a stage name of Count Grishnackh for a time, and even the band name ‘Burzum’, means ‘darkness’ in Black Speech. His personal background also included paying war-games and RPGs, something that I’m sure those people who oppose our hobby would be more than happy to tout as a reason to stop impressionable youths from doing so.

So, with all these things considered, I thought I had nothing to lose from just registering my interest. And Last night my mobile beeped notifying me of a new email, and lo and behold, it was the play test packet arriving in my inbox. It was a bit late for me to get into it by then, but I was very excited indeed and jumped online this morning to take a look. This post is not going to detail what I have found out so far, other than to say that it all looks good, and professionally put together. I had to a nondisclosure thing when I signed up, so there actually be big bits of the game that I won’t get the chance to go into detail on, we shall see… I’ve also been going back through the game’s website to download a couple of extra things to get myself prepared.

Now, as followers of the blog will know, I’m in the middle of reviewing Kuro, and will be finishing that review before I get too deep into MYFAROG, so have no fears there. But expect occasional updates about how I’m finding it on any of the social media channels I use, such as the aforementioned Facebook page, my Twitter account, or even on Google+. Let me know what you, my dedicated readers think about this, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.