[The Coyote Lode] An unofficial review

Started by Dan Maruschak, April 28, 2012, 01:28:04 AM

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Dan Maruschak

I wasn't officially assigned to review The Coyote Lode by Troy M. Costisick but I wanted to post one anyway.

This is a very complete and playable game. It obviously leverages a lot of OSR thinking, but doesn't make you feel like you need to be steeped in that culture in order to play. I like the old-west theme, and the explosion / chemicals / opium-stash / gateway-to-hell setup seems like the right kind of semi-gonzo setup to get people in the right frame of mind for a dungeon romp.

I worry that two somewhat abstract mechanics might threaten my engagement with the fictional situation: dealing with "replacement" characters and "respawning" monsters. The principle of having characters in reserve is good (and I like that you're supposed to generate one of each type), but the game doesn't really give you much advice about how to introduce the new character after the first one dies – handled inartfully it could undermine tension that ought to be associated with exploring a dangerous haunted mine. The monsters that "re-appear out of thin air and attack the players" seem like they push suspension-of-disbelief past the breaking point. I recognize the need to keep players from grinding for gold forever in one place, but it seems like there could be a more elegant way to address it. The game is also unclear about when and how feats can be used. Once per fight? Once per game? Whenever you want?

The mine flooding mechanic is interesting (although I was confused when I read it whether the GM should be coloring on the official or player map – at first I thought the player map since that was the most recent map mentioned, but the section header says official map, and which one is used has big consequences for which rooms are available to flood), although I think I'd be more comfortable GMing the game if the choice of which room to flood were more mechanically guided than just my arbitrary decision (I hate deciding how hard I ought to punch when I'm GMing, and the choice of flood pattern seems like it can have a big impact on how dangerous the mine is for the players so it could be a consequential decision). The idea of using a real-time clock to control the flooding is interesting and ought to introduce some tension into the game, but time references in the rest of the game should probably be clarified to be in-game hours (if that's what they're supposed to be) to remove some ambiguity.

I've never played an old-school game so maybe this wouldn't be a big deal in actual play, but since so much depends on the players having a good map I'd be a little concerned as the GM that the rooms in the mine have such irregular features. If my descriptions of the geography aren't up to scratch then the players' map won't be able to do the job. I'd be tempted to constantly cross-check their map with mine, and keep describing until they synched-up, which I think would undermine part of the purpose of the map-making part of the game.

I suspect that parts of the game suffered from being forced into the Game Chef wordcount (which can be a bit draconian for games that require some crunch in their rules), so I look forward to seeing what the game can do when it has a chance to breath.
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