Our reviews have one, single purpose: to inform you of enough about the game to help you decide whether you want a copy for yourself. We base our reviews on the following pledge: any game you see here has actually been played by the reviewer, with actual players, for at least one entire story's worth of sessions.
Reviews at the Forge specifically do not recommend that you purchase or not purchase a game. Nor do they score or rate games against one another. All such judgments are solely your responsibility.
My Life With Master [Author: Paul Czege (Half Meme Press)]
Reviewed by Heather Barnhorst on Oct 5, 2004
Imagine a world where fear pervades everything you do and the "Master" has the right and the ability to command you, his minion, to perform his every wish. No, I'm not talking about a job with corporate America but of My Life with Master published by Half Meme Press.
kill puppies for satan [Author: lumpley games (Vincent Baker)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Nov 14, 2003
This game is to role-playing what Howl, by Alan Ginsberg, is to poetry. This is the real-deal punk role-playing game, full of actual satire, actual contempt, and actual savagery.
Donjon [Author: Anvilwerks (Clinton R. Nixon)]
Reviewed by Wulf Corbett on Apr 7, 2003
Donjon is a rather ordinary seeming RPG with a very odd effect on normal RPG gaming. Stating its intention to reproduce good old-fashioned dungeon crawling RPG play with a new twist, it does so admirably. However, actually coping with that twist may take a bit of work for players and DMs alike.
Fvlminata: Armed With Lightning [Author: Thrysus Games (Jason E. Roberts and Michael S. Miller)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Apr 4, 2003
Fvlminata is a beauty of a game in terms of feel, play, and vision, especially because the setting/atmosphere inspires the imagination and provides rich conflicts, without becoming an exercise-in-itself.
Dread [Author: Malignant Games (Rafael Chandler)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Apr 3, 2003
If you're frustrated by existing games whose "horror" slides into railroading and/or maundering, and just want to get down to the point of the moment in the right atmosphere of grunge and black bleakness, then Dread's the way to go.
Legends of Alyria [Author: Seth Ben-Ezra]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Mar 21, 2003
Alyria is Setting-based Narrativist design without quite enough Setting yet. The basic idea: a storm-wracked plateau in a sea of terrifying mist, with bizarre mixes of cannibalized technology and low-tech societies. There's plenty of Color: mist ships, Aliens-like dragons with glowing green eyes, metal arches framing sprawling cities, and so on. Just a bit more to go: what does a city look like? What do clothes look like? What kind of social niceties go on?
I suggest that a package compiling the scattered Alyria material would sell and play like gangbusters. I say this without reservation: Alyria is, or is almost realized as, the best science-flavored, slightly-surreal fantasy role-playing game I have ever seen.
octaNe [Author: Memento-Mori Theatricks [Jared Sorensen]]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Feb 13, 2003
No doubt about it: the text of this game brilliantly captures the source material. It's a great read, as well as supplying the reader with immense trash-film cred for coffeehouse or on-line chat. You'll learn all about Grindhouse and Psychotronic film, as well as Art-house and Cinema Verite to some extent, through enthusiasm rather than boring exposition. Even if you don't like this stuff, after reading octaNe, you will want to, and you'll want to play.
Godlike [Author: Arc Dream (Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Jan 27, 2003
Godlike is an excellent game for showcasing role-playing to new people, due to its accessibility. Although characters are Wild Card-type supers in WWII, It's about the "soldier's story" - we're here, it's dangerous, what it's all about can be confusing, every man must choose how to handle it, and no one knows who's going to come home. I think of it as low-key soap opera among the characters' personalities, lots of violent set-pieces, and unpredictable outcomes of any encounter. This isn't typical RPG supers at all.
Universalis [Author: Ramshead Publishing (Ralph Mazza and Mike Holmes)]
Reviewed by J B Bell on Dec 16, 2002
If you're interested in a no-GM game that creates new and interesting stories in any genre, playable in a single session of a couple of hours or over many sessions, and you don't mind having a "GM perspective" on your characters, Universalis is a powerful, compact motor to drive making stories.
Universalis [Author: Ramshead Publishing (Ralph Mazza and Mike Holmes)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Nov 25, 2002
In Universalis, play starts mainly as a round-the-table contribution session in terms of people, places, things, contexts, and events, with no fixed GM (or rather, everyone is GM). In this sense, the game resembles some modern games greatly, but all these are just influences or parallels - Universalis really is doing something different.
The Riddle of Steel [Author: Driftwood Publishing (Jake Norwood)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Jul 24, 2002
"The Riddle of Steel" isn't just a snappy title: it's the focus of this highly-enjoyable sword and sorcery game that asks, "What is worth killing for?" A detailed, realistic combat system combined with story-driving Spiritual Attributes let you answer that question.
Dust Devils [Author: Matt Snyder]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on May 21, 2002
Dust Devils is not just "Um, a western." It presents, articulates, and almost unerringly drives at the key Premise, which is basically, "Shoot, or give up the gun?" Every player-character is a walking time-bomb regarding this issue.
Bedlam [Author: Matt Machell]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Mar 8, 2002
Each player plays an incarcerated criminal mastermind (at least in his own mind); you are trying to one-up one another regarding your exploits and the goal is to clean out your "hand" of keywords by using them in your narration. The point is that people can challenge (Veto) your use of a given keyword and get control of the narration. Does this strike anyone as fun and entertaining? If not, then I fear for you.
The Pool [Author: James V. West]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Jan 1, 2002
There is a two-page freebie available on the internet that may be the beginning of a whole new wave in RPG design. It presents an amazing concept, astonishingly strong, and so pure. It is The Pool.
Little Fears [Author: Key20 Publishing (Jason L. Blair)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Dec 5, 2001
Here's another triumph of creator-owned role-playing publishing, in terms of creating within the context of the grassroots community and then moving to book-and-store level publishing. Little Fears' history is a poster child for how RPGs should be done if they go to book. I also stress that its content, and consistent faithfulness to that content, could never have been done except as an indie.
Orkworld [Author: Wicked Press (John Wick)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Oct 1, 2001
The primary concept relies on a shared RPG concept of "ork": basically humanoid pigs - hungry, crude, rude, tribal, not especially clean, and regarded as animals with no right to live by all and sundry. Wick converts this template to a Noble-Savage model. What makes this conversion excellent and powerful instead of trite is Wick's central mechanic and the philosophical foundation of ork culture: Trouble.
InSpectres [Author: Jared A. Sorensen]
Reviewed by Clinton R. Nixon on Aug 17, 2001
Half Ghostbusters, and half startup.com, InSpectres has the characters as members of a "paranormal investigation and elimination service based in California and dedicated to safeguarding the human race from extra-dimensional hazards and supernatural manifestations." The mundanity of running a startup company married to the extra-normal weirdness of hauntings, vampires, and possessed pets works well to throw both of them into stark relief, and Sorensen's mechanics support these twin sides to every InSpectres story.
Munchkins [Author: Mike Sullivan]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Aug 1, 2001
Munchkins is a few pages of free text that begins and ends with a single joke: what if tiny, dim-witted people lived in our houses and worshipped the television? Such a one-joke pony isn't going to go far in play, but its value lies in any insights it might afford for further play of all kinds. Munchkins ends up scoring pretty high in the insight index and also had a bit more potential for in-game events than meets the eye.
Human Wreckage [Author: Scott Knipe]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Jul 1, 2001
This game is a 10-page freebie based on violent action-suspense movies, especially those which sacrifice nuances of character and theme for plain old gore and scary camera angles. It's shallow, sure, but what's really going on here is an experiment with players, characters, GMing, and scenes.
Soap [Author: Ferry Bazelmans]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Apr 1, 2001
Soap is the kind of RPG publishing which either shows up, years later, in the store-bought books as someone else's so-called innovation, or, most commonly, gets incorporated into the "but that's how you obviously do it" canon of design, as the previous modes are conveniently forgotten.
Thunder Rebels (for Hero Wars) [Author: Issaries Inc.]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Mar 15, 2001
At last, this is the book I needed as a kid, trying to play RuneQuest and knowing there was SOMETHING interesting and cultural behind it all, but hampered by the rules' assumption that all players wanted to do was kill things and loot their stuff. Now, we have the Orlanthi culture in all of its physical, spiritual, and social glory. I have seen what it's done for my players, who are starting to scare me in their table-thumping, deeply-felt enjoyment of this fictional people.
Dead Meat: Ultima Carneficina Dello Zombie! [Author: Sean Wipfli]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Dec 1, 2000
Dead Meat is a four-page freebie from a man who knows zombie movies, and who then read Extreme Vengeance. "Hey," he said. "This can be done." The result isn't yet a fully-functional role-playing game, but it's better than half-baked, and with some development we might have something well worth the time.
Hero Wars [Author: Issaries Inc.]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Nov 1, 2000
After 19 years, Greg Stafford's game of myth and legend in Glorantha is fully realized with amazing design work from Robin Laws. Here's why it's the next big step in Narrativist role-playing, and the best Glorantha yet.
Obsidian [Author: Apophis Consortium]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Oct 1, 2000
Basically, hell has cracked open, anything resembling current life is in the proverbial handbasket, and the very small and beleaguered remainder of humanity struggles to survive amid the near-daily clashes of spiritual absolutes, as well as with its own internal conflicts. In Obsidian, the year is 2299 and Earth is a blasted, blackened wasteland; the only vestige of social normality is huddled in an enormous multi-level cube called the Zone.
Story Engine/Maelstrom [Author: Hubris Games (Christopher Aldridge)]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Sep 1, 2000
Christian Aldridge has presented one of the first owner-owned, owner-published RPGs to break into the business at the high-end of production and distribution, and it offers an innovative scene-based resolution system that should be required reading for Narrativist GMs.
The Window [Author: Scott Lininger]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Jul 1, 2000
The Window deserves all possible accolades for what it is: a classic one-man's-dream system that's steadfastly defended itself since the bad old days and served as a witness for new-form RPGing.
Army Ants [Author: Michael T. Desing]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Mar 1, 2000
In Army Ants, you take your own back yard, or any actual plot of land near you, and map it out as the "game world" for your characters, who are all about 6 mm high insect-like humanoids, battling and adventuring across this (to them) huge landscape. It's funny, inspiring, and charming to players, who start raving about characters and possible scenarios as soon as they grasp the concept.
Puppetland [Author: John Tynes]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Oct 1, 1999
This game is a good example of a semi-serious knockoff that turned out to be a major innovation. The premise is simple: you're a puppet, living in Puppetland, which is a magical realm invented by the big Puppet-Maker-guy, which is now a living hell because the puppet Punch killed the Maker and took over. Go!
Swashbuckler [Author: Jim Dietz]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Sep 1, 1999
Swashbuckler emphasizes Fortune by its unique duelling system, which offers another approach to match-and-show, streamlining it into a very modern cinematic dice method.
Wuthering Heights [Author: Phillippe Tromeur]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Aug 1, 1999
Despite its parodic and overwrought subject matter, Wuthering Heights is a solid role-playing package. It's playable, it's fun, it's original, and it works. Its behavior mechanics deserve serious scrutiny from all RPG designers interested in such things.
Ghost Light [Author: Doug Bolden]
Reviewed by Ron Edwards on Apr 1, 1999
Ghost Light exists only as a few pages download from the Internet. No sourcebook, no pictures, no "what is role-playing" section - it's basically a premise, a character creation section, and a dice mechanic. Yet this game, even in its present form, has more potential for a powerful and creative role-playing experience than any hard-bound, multiple-supplement RPG on the shelves in the gaming stores today. Guaranteed.