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The Essential RPG List
Topic: The Essential RPG List (Read 10877 times)
Acts of Evil Playtesters
The Essential RPG List
Reply #15 on:
December 06, 2001, 06:14:00 AM »
Nooooo! That's the game allright, but the review you've cited...
The review you've cited is one of the reasons that Mytholder, AKA Gareth Hanrahan (sp?; not to be confused with Gareth Michael Skarka, or our own Contracycle Gareth), LARP and Con scenario author extrordinaire, decided to write his review of DeadEarth. You see, the designers got their "friends" (many believe that these friends were actually the designers themselves even) to write glowing reviews of what is arguably the worst RPG ever created (OK, that may be overstating, but might I suggest excremental?). This is not the first time this tactic has been used (was it Synnibar or Senzar, I forget which), and it is one way to make people dislike you intensely. It is usually accompanied by the authors lauding the game in advertising and in their comments as the best RPG ever.
The worst part of it is that the designers have obviously done no research at all (except for into medical science where it appears that they quoted several texts verbatim and possibly in their entirety) into RPGs in general. Anyhow, after a while this behavior got to several people, and Gareth decided to write what is the most scathing review that I have ever heard. Just thinking about the level of vitriol and sarcasm he included is enough, as I mentioned, to make me laugh just thinking about it.
Is there a copy around here, anyone? Can we put one in the review library? If not, could someone retrieve it and post it here for everyone's edification? Would that be OK Gareth? Do you have it posted on
I think it's still on GO and I cannot get in over there. Worth looking at again as a warning on how not to make and promote a game.
-Get your indie game fix online.
The Essential RPG List
Reply #16 on:
December 07, 2001, 04:42:00 AM »
Here it is:
OOH, maybe it'll just settle out. We're not being inundated with jerks, so maybe after his threads settle into the muck of the virtual sea floor, he'll pack up his ego and go away. Don't post to his threads, don't visit his website, don't let him get under your skin. *deep breath*
PREEEESENTING....in the tradition of such classics as SJ & Mythie raid the DoomTower....and the level of intelligent discourse normally found only on the worst Usenet groups....
*****MYTHOLDER'S GUIDE TO dEADEARTH*****
I went, I saw (it's quite a nice site, technically speaking), and I downloaded the deadEarth player's guide and the deadEarth's GM's guide. This entire review is based on material found in them - I didn't bother looking at the rest of the site. I guess this review could count as a derivative work, and as the book says "You do not have the right to create derivative works of or makea profit via deadEarth without the prior expressed written consent of Anarchy inK Corporation. If you disagree, feel free to fuck off!"
So, anyway, here's something "something new, fresh and different", to quote spamboy. Y'know, I wouldn't dream of posting something like this if you morons hadn't spammed the Blue Planet forum.
The Player's Guide
Ooh. 51 pages long. Cunningly, it's actually only about 25 pages long. The pages use two text columns, but they only put text in one of the columns on each page. And they alternate which column has text in it each page.
Stop the revolution, I want to get off.
Hmm. I wish I had the money ($25.00 + shipping) to get the print version. Not only is it twice as big (maybe they use four columns per page), but it's also got "a chapter that helps
explain how dice are used in dE and where to get them." I await the supplement on how to purchase stationery and snacks with eagerness.
"This is a game; it is not real. Any harm that comes to anyone
before, during, or after playing deadEarth is not Anarchy inK
Corporation's responsibility or concern. With a little creativity
and a lot of insight, deadEarth will be the most realistic role-
playing experience you will ever have. Never give it up."
Bugger. Can't sue 'em for mental anguish after reading the "rules". The above paragraph is correct though. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of insight to make deadEarth the best gaming experience of your life. Specifically, the insight to play something like Unknown Armies instead.
But I'm nitpicking. Let's get onto the game itself.
Four pages into the .pdf, we get a big honking "removed from online version" notice taking up an entire page. I wish I could be.
Ooh! Background. Setting material! It's 2023. We've done nuked ourselves, boy. Apparently 95% of the Earth's population are dead (ah, I get it...dead+Earth. Whoa.). Africa and South America are the least badly hit, along with Antartica and possibly Australia. Ok. This could be good. It's not your usual post-apocalyptic game (sorry, apparently deadEarth's a "post-apocalypse game") where you get to mulch around in the ruins of America. No, they've taken the interesting spin that now the third world....oh. Wait. Nope. It's mulching around in the ruins of the USA again.
It's at the bottom of the page of background notes that my brain exploded in laughter. Despite 95% of the Earth getting wiped out, despite technology being knocked back to the Iron age, despite the whole goddamn planet being a radioactive wasteland, "The people of this wasteland called Earth now use a unified
currency. It is called $tandard. A $tandard is equivalent to about a dollar."
"Bob, I've been thinking. We're sitting here in the glowing ruins of America. There are mutant beasts everywhere, and my skin's peeling off. Y'know what the real problem with the world is?"
"What's the real problem with the world, Bill?"
"Those dang exchange rates."
I am Jack's paroxysms of laughter.
Next, we get politics. Um. There's the World Defence Initative. The US, Russia, Japan, and Great Britain "excluding Ireland". (I feel honour-bound to point out that Great Britain already excludes Ireland...) Then, opposed to WDI, there's the Brotherhood of Nod. I mean, the Brotherhood of Freedom. Yeah.
After this detailed overview of world politics (should I bother to point out the minor, niggling inconsistencies, like Russia and the US jointly forming a totalitian superstate seven years after nuking the hell out of each other?...nah), we get onto the rules.
How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb
For those who want to skip down to the section on the gm's guide, I will now summarise the deadEarth rules in a nutshell.
deadEarth makes Rifts look like Blue Planet in terms of realism. Toon has a better grasp of reality.
Ok - your actions are based on Moves - action points, basically. Fine. When generating your character, you roll to see how many moves you get. Specifically, you roll 2d6. That's how many moves your character has. Essentially, a character who rolls a low number of moves doesn't have a hope against *anything*. Oh, did I mention you're only allowed generate three characters ever?
The actual combat system seems to hang together quite well. You've got different actions taking a different amount of time, and resolving at various points during the round. It's fairly elegant, in fact (so much so that I half-suspect it was, um, inspired by some other game...). But basing EVERYTHING on one 2d6 roll at the start of chargen... dear God. It's like spending hours setting up two armies for a wargame, then both players using Russian Roulette to work out who wins.
But I'm getting sidetracked. You've got more stats. Resistance. Strength. Age (rolled randomly on a table that made my eyes bleed). Encumberance rules (to apply the G/N/S paradigm, this is a Simulation of lunacy...). Gender (amazingly, not rolled randomly. I'm shocked).
Finally, after all the random chargen stuff, you get to add an edge to your character. You can add to any of your stats.
Bob: "Gee, Jeff, I think I'll add to my Weight Carrying Capacity."
Jeff: "Ahm'a gonna add to my Moves."
Bob "Yeah, increasing my effective ability to act by a third does seem better than increasing the amount I can carry by a few percent".
I also note you can add to several stats not yet mentioned, like Shielding....but that's not all. You could also gain extra skill points (yeah, there's a skill system), or roll on...the mutation table.
*cue dramatic music*
Yes, folks, being Nuked doesn't kill you, it just gives you Super Powers! Wow. New and exciting!
I am Jack's increasing sense of surrealism. A few sample mutations...
Belly up. (The next time you come in contact with a body of
water, you will die.)
(These are MUTATIONS, folks. You get these things by walking the deadly radioactive soil of deadEarth).
Repertoire. (You have a great collection of stories and jokes
that you can quickly call on to impress others.)
It's with a sense of relief that you get onto things like
Vegetative hybrid. Your genetic structure has permanently
changed to include mutations found in plants.
Normal wierdness, as opposed to:
Persnickety. You have an obsession with your personal
appearance and your cleanliness.
Prudence. You have the reason and insight to make good
judgements and to hold your ground in the face of discord.
Of the one hundred entries, about a fifth are instant or near-instant death, another few are your usual Mutant Powerz, and the rest are....housekeeping. Roughing it. Etiquette.
Or bizarre religious rites. Or virtues, like Prudence.
The danger on deadEarth isn't that the Giant Radiation Ants will eat you. It's that they'll call to your house with pamphlets. Or iron and fold your clothing.
This is not what the apocalypse should be.
Then we get skills. There's nothing surprising, funny, or even interesting in here. Brawl. Haggle. Drive Cart. Drive Plane. I am mildly amused by "Genetic Engineering. Design of DNA through exposure to radiation." Yeah. To engineer a new virus, you microwave it until it's what you want it to be. Or, more likely, it develops a Lead Coat (mutation number 79) or Vanity (number 41).
Then there's an equipment list. It's long. Do you want to know about sailboats? They have sailboats on deadEarth. They're "a sailing vessel large enough for 2-6 people, in working condition with all accessories." Strangely (STRANGELY!? Why am I even considering anything in this book strange, after the Good Housekeeping Mutation)....um, In Perfect Keeping with the game so far, a sailboat costs 600$. $ is the symbol for $tandards, the planetary currency, which - co-incidentally enough, has exactly the same purchasing power as a US dollar does today. Draw your own conclusions.
Then there's a big weapons table.
And an armour table.
I am Jack's overwhelming ennui.
Then the combat rules, which I talked about earlier.
And that's it.
When the bombs come, my friends, we will all dance naked in the fallout, and with a bit of luck gain useful mutations like "Hospitality. You can use your charisma to charm anyone
into giving you a bed for the night and some food, if they have
any to spare." Then we will go and glory in the purchasing power of the $tandard.
To quote spamboy in the General RPG forum, "What could be more fun than a world devastated by a nuclear bath and radiated mutants ravaging what's left? " One wonders how they're doing their ravaging. The book opens with a quote from Nietsche. On deadEarth, though, what does not kill you makes you well-educated. Or nice-smelling.
Onto the GM's guide.
It starts off a lot better than the player's book. For one thing, it's got a nice list of terms, like "scenario - A single mission, task, or goal that a group of players is given by the game master. In other words, the premise of the story that all the characters will create through game play." And the layout has stopped weaving from one page to another.
Chapter 1's a fairly good intro to GMing. I begin to have a small glimmer of hope for the game. Chapter two...
"Well, I wanted deadEarth to be a little different than other role-playing games. In most games all you have to shoot for is to become the most whoopassinest character that you can become. In Dungeons & Dragons your goal might be to become a 15th level elfish thief, while in Star Wars you may want to be a master Jedi..."
In deadEarth, you can get Reknown. Get enough Reknown, and they'll make your character part of the setting. Which is cute.
Chapter three is about training. Ok. Yeah. Not especially interesting, but that's the narrativist git in me talking. Seeing as deadEarth's mechanics are firmly weighted towards the type of player who likes number-heavy games (especially numbers that don't actually make sense, in this case), lots of training tables might be useful. Oddly...or In Perfect Keeping with becoming the most whoopassinest character possible, all the training packages are combat-oriented.
D&D might have let you become whoopassinest. deadEarth will post your whoopassinness on the net.
Chapter four's all about skill specialisation. We veer towards Gor territory.
"Appraise: Female Slaves - Evaluate the condition, experience, and worth of female slaves."
There is the most wonderful skill specialisation ever, though - "Genetic Counselling". Do you feel unhappy with your genes? Do you worry about your helices?
I think it's about now that someone went to Med School, because there's a sudden influx of medical terms.
"Jury-Rig: First Aid - Creativity and experience in treating minor or severe injuries with little to no equipment; includes pine-branch gurneys, neck-tie tourniquets, garbage-bag immobilization devices, oil-burn cauterization, etc."
I wonder if whoever wrote this section even saw the mutation table in the player's book. I hope he didn't, for the sake of his future patients.
Chapter five is all about PRMAs, which are like classes. Only classes are "cookie-cutter nonsense", according to the book, and PRMAs aren't an official part of the deadEarth rules. I'm not sure why they're in the offical deadEarth rulebook then, but anyway...a PRMA is basically a focussed mutation table. How this is supposed to make sense in the setting is beyond me.
Bob: "Yeah, stranger. Anybody who goes into that desert tends to change in horrible ways. Horrible, medicine-related ways."
The example PRMAs are the Medic and Psychic. Both PRMAs have big long tables of more random mutations. If you thought the Generic Mutation table was wierd, the PRMAs blow it out of the water in terms of sheer "let's throw everything into one big table"ness.
Once again, I remind you that there are supposed to be mutations.
Voodoo. You are a mad whack voodoo ninja.
Stroke. You immediately begin having a stroke, which will last for D6x10 minutes.
Using my Genetic Counselling skill, I want to ask the creators of this game if a player character hurt them deeply in their childhood? The level of sadism in some of these results is nothing short of remarkable.
Ossuary. It's time. Your time to die. You must find your burial grounds so that you may rest in peace.
What the fuck?
Bloody palm. You are completely unable to determine which end of any bladed object is sharp.
I begin to suspect that deadEarth is semi-autobiographical.
Animal speech. You are able to talk to animals as you would a human.
I would point out at this time that "all the aspects of the game engine are designed for realism first and ease of use second."
I skip over the rest of the Medic PMRA. It just gets worse, and more desperate. At some point, they started using a thesaurus for synonyms of "nothing".
The Psychic PRMA mixes the usual blend of super psychic powers, instant death results, handy life skills, and bizarre oddities. Just as a sample, the following four mutations are all in the same section of the table.
REM phase - only need 10 minutes sleep/day
Verve paladin. Have you ever wished you could have done something to protect someone, so they wouldn't have died? Now you can! As the keeper of death, Moloch, comes from the netherworld to harvest the dead you may challenhe him for the life of the individual that is dying.
I think I've worked it out. There are four or five people writing the book. They each do one paragraph without looking at what anyone else has done.
Chapter six is a sample adventure. To avoid giving the plot away, I'll only describe the basic points of the adventure: The characters go to Paris to get a box and fight lots of monsters. Wait...that's pretty much the whole thing. Oh well.
Chapter seven is a monster manual. It's got mutant animals. *yawn*.
Chapter eight has artifacts and talismans.
deadEarth guys! Hey! You! HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN AN RPG THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE LAST TEN YEARS?
Chapter nine...has gambling rules. Lots of gambling rules. For several games. Hey, why not?
Chapter ten has vehicle design rules that make my head hurt. And they're only two pages long.
Chapter eleven has a random encounter table. Literally. You could meet animals. Or quicksand. Or a kid who wants to hear stories. Chilling. I can smell the burnt-flesh winds of the post-apocalypse.
Chapter twelve has a civilisation generator, which is another big random table of mundane buildings.
Chapter thirteen has Legends...npcs, basically. They're very whoopinass. And dull.
You may note that the chapter reviews have been getting shorter.
This is not intentional.
It's just that there's only so much I can take.
I've managed to get this far without breaking the cardinal rule of reviewing.
Should I break it now?
I think I will.
Remember when the medical terms started creeping in? Well, in chapter fourteen, the med student murders the other writers and goes utter bug-freaking nuts. To quote chapter fourteen, "Neisseria meningitidis is the next disease you might contract in your respiratory system. If infection occurs the organism makes its way to the meninges (the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord).
It's educational. It's probably scientifically accurate, which are two words heretofore inapplicable to deadEarth. But when you hit "Ear Infections: If you don't clean your ears out periodically you allow bacteria the chance to accumulate in the
ear wax, called cerumen, which could bring about an ear infection. If an infection occurs you will suffer migraine headaches for D6 days that cause a minus two to all skill rolls until treatment is administered." you begin to wonder if the piss is not being taken.
Page 92 includes rules on milkbourne diseases. Can't accuse them of not being thorough. Not sure if I'd accuse them of sanity, either. The medical chapter is TWENTY PAGES LONG. Of dense - really dense, MJ Young big fucking words dense, medical-textbook dense -text. Twenty pages of a hundred-page book are taken up with information on mundane diseases.
Of the entire book, this is *easily* the best section, mainly 'cos it makes almost no reference to the setting or rules of deathEarth. It's quite useful stuff, actually.
The whole thing finishes with list of references, to such things as ""The Physics of Radiation Therapy," 2nd Ed. 1994, by Faiz M. Khan". If someone can tell me how they got from scientific papers to the drek in the books, they win a cookie. I suspect the main use of the scientific papers was to get adjectives for mutations...
Oh, and imperial->metric conversion tables. Yeah. The game will missing those.
I'll end by quoting the man - no, not the man, the failed turnip who began all this, Mr. Evan Moore.
deadEarth is unique in many respects.
Can't argue there.
For one thing, it's not about keeping track of how much ammo you have--like Twilight: 2000 was.
Hence the massive list of firearms.
It's not about the military--like Twilight:2000 was.
Hence the only two organisations mentioned are military ones.
It's not about silly-ass mutations that do nothing but make characters into "guys in (bunny)suits"--like Gamma World was.
No. Gamma World's mutations were probably closer to the actual effects of radiation than deadEath's are.
It's not confusing or disordered--like all TSR products are.
I throw up better organised vomit.
It's not a lot of things.
Good, for example.
What it IS, however, is in your face, gut-real, kick you when you're down and eat you when you're dead attitude.
You haven't read the book, have you?
It's about surviving the horrors and the reality--and the real horrors--of a dead, dying and devastated world.
No, seriously. You haven't read a word of the book.
It's about the fact that life doesn't give a shit about you and you have to work--hard--just to scrape a living out of the blasted world.
With the purchasing power of the $tandard?
It isn't about game mechanics or rules or ROLLplaying--it's the nitty, gritty, in your face reality of a world rent in half.
Thank God it isn't about mechanics. Then you'd be in real trouble.
If you can't hack it, go play with a fairy in DND3E...
Sir: you are a disgrace to the noble family of turnips. Your perception of reality bears as much resemblance to everyone else's as deadEarth does to a good rpg.
Damn, that was therapeutic.
Go in peace and spam no more.
Acts of Evil Playtesters
The Essential RPG List
Reply #17 on:
December 07, 2001, 09:22:00 AM »
-Get your indie game fix online.
Joe Murphy (Broin)
The Essential RPG List
Reply #18 on:
December 07, 2001, 10:03:00 AM »
I really do.
I may make that review my .sig everytime I post to rpg.net.
The Essential RPG List
Reply #19 on:
December 07, 2001, 05:27:00 PM »
A list like this completely depends on why you want the games in the first place. If you want "definitive" in that they changed the way people look at RPGs, this is the list I'd suggest (in order of appearance, and a brief explanation why):
1. D&D 1st Edition - Because it was the first.
2. Traveller - Because it made each character unique.
3. Runequest - Because Stafford wrote it (nah - because it let the fans play along).
4. Call of Cthulhu - Because it made each character
(i.e.: emphasised smarts rather than hack 'n' slash).
5. Champions - Because it used points.
6. Ghostbusters - Because it used Target Numbers.
7. TORG - Because it used Meta-Plot.
8. Over the Edge - fnord.
9. Vampire - Because it emphasised relationships.
10. The Adventures of Baron Munchaussen - Because its where we need to go to get non-gamers gaming.
Off the top of my head, that's what I'd put together as a list of games that most influenced the game industry. I'm probably wrong on most of them. :wink:
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