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Author: Arc Dream (Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze)
Cost: $39.95
Reviewed by: Ron Edwards, 2003-01-27

Role-playing Godlike makes the most sense when you think of the comic book Strike Force Morituri. Never heard of it? It was published by Marvel in the mid-1980s, set in the near future after a bunch of pretty rotten aliens came along and conquered the planet. The rebel humans, however, have this "Morituri" process thing which gives people super-powers (no telling what), and they're trained more-or-less as commandos and freedom-force operatives. The catch is that the process is fatal - the recipient has a year to live, on the average, and the variation is both unpredictable and very high, from one to fifteen months.

Now, Godlike isn't set in the future but rather during WWII, and there's no particular "process" that people volunteer for to get powers, they just grow'em, psychically speaking. And the powers aren't themselves fatal. But otherwise, I think that the story/situation model set by Strike Force Morituri provides the ideal context for understanding Godlike, particularly the ways that it does not favor certain common approaches to role-playing games, especially super-powered ones.

Godlike is set during World War II, with the twist that people start manifesting super-powers (or Talents in the game jargon) all over the world, to the tune of over two hundred thousand individuals from 1936-1945. The key point is that most of them don't come home. In game terms, that point manifests as a variety of ways to be maimed, shell-shocked, and blasted into smithereens, most specifically even if a character does have "force fields" or "bullet-proof skin" or what-have-you. The text recommends Troupe play, which is to say, a primary character and a number of secondary ones which can be promoted when the primary bites the dust. The idea is to keep a rotating-in stable at hand, which not only permits but validates character deaths in terms of legitimate events of play.
So what's it about, then? Well, not exactly missions and assignments, although in the military context such things are important climactic or transitional moments, but rather just 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 (in the good sense) among the characters' personalities, lots of violent set-pieces, and way-unpredictable outcomes of any encounter. This isn't typical RPG supers at all. The powers themselves are fairly low-end and often quirky. Personal, ethical choices about powers-use are minimal. You're not fighting crime; you're a soldier in a war coping with orders and with other people on the ground.

Publishing points
Godlike provides me with the opportunity to go on a tear about creator ownership.
It is widely held that the ideal situation must be, when you, the genius write the game but can't be arsed actually to publish it, that some wonderful Angel Publishing company comes along who pays for the promotion, layout, print costs, and similar. When the game feeds bucks back, the company gets all its costs recouped, and then after that you split the take in some way. Sounds good, right? It hits the shelves looking really spiffy, right? You, the genius, get all the donkey-work done by these other guys, right? And you keep the IP/rights, so that when Hollywood comes looking for you on its knees, making slurpy noises, you'll make the money-buckets! This is great!

Well, here's the reality.

Before the Hollywood moment arrives, day to day, month to month, a lot of business decisions have to be made. Put out supplements? In what format? How often? Travel for promotion? How often? On what budget? That sort of thing. It all takes money, attention, face-time, and work, and the one lesson everyone learns is that it includes trade-offs. If you put out two supplements, you won't be able to travel. If you travel, you won't be able to pay for that promotional poster. If you pay for the poster, you won't be able to put out one of the supplements. Yes, more of that sort of thing.

Trying to decide on the appropriate trade-off when the author holds the IP and the publisher holds the purse is ... well, problematic. Even if everyone likes each other and would "never" do anything that "we all don't agree on," completely understandable and non-villainous conflicts of interest can arise. It's not because the company is evil or because creator-rights are some sacred thing. That's not the issue. The issue is that, by definition, when the publisher decides what they can or can't pay for regarding this one game, they have to consider all of their current investments and currently-negotiated projects. There you go: potential conflict of interest. It's as basic and inescapable as death itself.

Why I am raving about this? Because Dennis Detwiller and Greg Stolze wrote Godlike, and Hobgoblynn Press was the publisher on the Angel model. So a while later, the book appeared. And some while after that, one party said, "We want to change the deal," and the other party said, "We can't do that," and no amount of "We're all pals" could make this difference of views go away. No one was saying anything wrong and bad; it all had to do with perfectly reasonable business decisions that happened to be different business decisions. So after amicable discussions, a lot of paper-signing, and some bucks exchanging hands, now Dennis owns the Godlike setting via his new company, Arc Dream Publishing, and Greg owns the One-Roll-Engine system, leased to Arc Dream.

All of which now makes the game eligible for a review at the Forge, but my real point is that future game designers should review the perceived ideal of the Angel Publisher before seizing upon it uncritically. As I see it (as if you asked), the freelancer who takes his pay and lets go of the material as well as the creator-owned/self-publisher are both far less problematic options.

GNS ravings
The game as a whole is Simulationist, Simulationist, and totally coherent Simulationist. Its primary emphasis is on Setting, and in terms of my recent Simulationism essay, it's a High Concept game.

I have nothing more GNS-y to say.

To stick with the jargon for a moment, though, play isn't Illusionist. There's no "the story" to consider, as the war is The War and play concerns personal reactions and ongoing survival, and lack thereof, within it. The GM proposes a few interactions and a set-piece, and what happens is "what happens." It's been a while since High Concept RPGs offered this approach rather than "the GM tells a story;" it used to be the most common, and I kind of like seeing it again.

The setting
Oh man.

Some more pop culture discussion is required. All right, in the mid-1980s, a series of books was begun called Wild Cards. It was a multi-author shared-world thing, overseen by George R. R. Martin, basically an alternate-history with the addition of super-powers. The stories were set in modern times, but the first book mainly included back-story from the late 1930s onwards, with special reference to WWII and the McCarthy era. It ran for a ton of books, I don't remember how many, and featured many well-known science fiction authors. Godlike's setting is patently a personal re-write of the premise and ideas of the Wild Cards books.

Which poses a problem for me, as a warped comics-head who read Wild Cards to pieces as it was published. I have a real love-hate thing going on for a whole bunch of aspects of this. I could rant about the books' quality themselves, especially as the series continued (Godlike's version is much better, in my opinion). I could also go on a tear about the relationship between the books and this game; after all, we do already have the very extensive GURPS Wild Cards. However, the only actually-relevant issue is the interpretation, or need for explanation, for the super-powers in Wild Cards: all of them, regardless of their techno or physiological details, are psychic/psionic (whatever you wanna call it), which Godlike carries over in full. This is a big deal, which I'll deal with in terms of Godlike rules-consequences later.

So properly, the topic is the Godlike setting itself, which also poses a conceptual entry-level problem for me. It's alternate-history, and a very detailed one regarding WWII ... which means that the more work the author has put into the details, the more fun of speculating about alternative history ("how were Talents employed at the beaches of Normandy" e.g.) is being taken away from the gamers. It's a classic case of the creative enjoyment being passive or active. One has to accept that the alternative history is "already done," scooped, so to speak, by Dennis. Therefore, actual play has to be about enjoying the setting as created by him and enjoying play-decisions within it rather than making it. Is this an actual-play problem? Not at all, once it's recognized and accepted.

The only part that gripes me just a little is that the Talent-relevant details of Godlike's WWII are really detailed, with dozens and dozens of explanations about a given individual's role in the war. I would like to have seen more opportunities for Talents' interjections into the war rather than utterly fixed setting-material in the example boxes. Tastes differ, though. I'd have preferred about 80% of the specific identities and impacts of historical Talents to be shunted into questions and scenario ideas that would individually be answered through play, rather than as fixed elements of the setting. Another person might say 40%, yet another might say the material is Goldilocks-Just-Right, and yet another might say that the material needs more beefing up in this very way. Mileage, mileage. No real problem here either except for my hang-ups.

The last cranky detail concerns the non-U.S. Talents in the setting, which are almost all "national archetype" sorts like Lord Yama in India and similar. This is common in superhero comics (and in Wild Cards) - American characters gets to be colorful and bizarre and personal, but non-Americans are "British-Bulldog-Man," "Viking-Man," "African Spirit-Man," and so forth - and Godlike tends in this direction as well.

All that sounds pretty negative, right? Here's the payoff: taken on its own terms, the Godlike setting is awesome. The WWII context works very well; it's exciting, intellectually challenging, and full of opportunities for interactions. Potential scenarios leap to mind constantly as I design the next one, from straight-up Nazi fighting to ambiguous issues like a dangerous Talent who's a tortured victim of the Axis rather than a villain, or (ambiguous for some) a hard-line Marxist French Resistance character. It's very easy to get into the issues at hand and also to become interested in details of military hardware even if you're not into that as a hobby. I cannot overemphasize that Dennis has maintained respect for the historical war and its attendant issues, rather than invalidate it with his superhero stuff. That is one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time and it negates any of the cranky things listed above.

I really like the way a given group can can set their action into any point during the war; i.e. the game doesn't dictate, "Now it's 1944" for purposes of play or anything like that. My dream is to play "Soviets in the Snow," meaning a purely-Soviet group of characters engaged in the scorched-earth defense against Nazi pushes in the far north, in 1942-43. So far we've just been doing post-D-Day American grunts in the middle of France, but one day, I'll run that game. Another side to the awesomeness of the setting is the Godlike website, which has already provided me with massive forum and resources support, and I think it would do likewise for any WWII context that anyone needs help with.

The foundation system
Greg Stolze's One-Roll Engine works as follows: everyone rolls a handful of d10's. The key is to look for matching values. Their numerical value is called Height and the number of matched dice is called Width. Height sets the precision or excellence of the result; Width sets the speed and order of the results. In combat, height also sets the hit location and width also sets the base damage. Defense is handled, Width permitting (i.e. if you're faster), by negating attacking dice. Everything else follows from these concepts - called shots, duration, etc, all can be set from aspects of number of matches at different values ("sets"), Height, and Width.

The ORE works for its goals of packing a single roll with everything needed for resolution. It is the lowest-handling time system I know of per degree of information gained, depending on the features that one needs to look up (e.g. a gun which does "width + 1 in killing and shock"). As I've noted before, people spend a lot less brain-power finding things like "highest die" and "matches" than they do in any kind of arithmetic, regardless of arithmetic competence or enjoyment. Roll after roll, the ORE is neither tiring nor annoying.

Now for all the nuances, though - and some of them are significant.

#1: Get ready to fail
Matches don't come easy on d10's; this ain't Yahtzee. Godlike provides a probability chart, and without going into detail, basically, your character fails very, very often unless you've got at least five dice to rely on, and you're safer with more. Even with some hefty pools though, like many dice-pool opposed-roll games, it also displays at least one "upset" roll per game, in which Mr. Hugepool stares in shock at Li'l Weenie's outrageous success and has to eat a whole barrel of damage. Anything can happen in Godlike combat.

Therefore - and this harks back to my recommended mode of play - this is a game that thrives on dramatic failures and the occasional hard-won, bloodied victory. Anything that builds off the failures to make things more fun, not less, should be emphasized during play. Both failed tasks and failed fights should be fun, which means giving some thought to situations which are entertaining no matter how they "go" in terms of character success. Which means that gruesome death and maiming, and in Godlike, you'll see a fair amount, need to be fun too, in which case Troupe play is a must.

I think it's significant that my current players are clamoring for backup characters, and none of them have had a character die yet. Given the context of their request, I read it as looking forward to character deaths and their consequences on the drama and ongoing integrity of the many-protagonist storyline (to use the term loosely).

The point: the ORE is emphatically not a "universal" engine and its extremely non-linear curve (in terms of success rate per number of dice rolled) should be fully understood and turned to the game's advantage, or it will be no fun.

#2: Hard and Wiggle dice
Oh man.

Godlike has spawned immense reaction and much pained debate due to the rules that apply to the super-powers. OK, first of all, you construct the powers using a point-cost system, by buying them in dice. You can buy "regular" dice (just as described above) as well as Hard and Wiggle dice, neither of which are actually rolled. A Hard die is an automatic 10. A Wiggle die may be set at any desired value. Powers are built by spending character points - universally, a die costs a given set of points for a given power, a Hard die costs twice that, and a Wiggle costs twice as much as a Hard die. Power costs are therefore notated (e.g.) 2/4/8 or 5/10/20 or what-have-you. If I have two regular dice and 1Wd in the 2/4/8 power, it costs 16 points.
You can read some of the debate in the review forums at (search for Godlike here), and the following can only be taken as my particular position in the existing debates.

Hard dice, I'm sorry to say, are essentially broken in terms of their point costs and in their effect on play. Here's why.

a) One Hd by itself is useless (no match possible); 2Hd are devastating, far more so than their half-cost two regular dice and just as good as their double-costing 2Wd. Overall, multiple Hard dice become "automatic wins" that take over play quickly relative to any other dice in the game, especially since they're just as good and half as expensive as an equivalent number of Wiggle dice.

If you have 2Hd, it beats the snot out of anything else at the equivalent point-cost. Adding a regular die does nothing for its efficacy, and neither does adding two regular dice; but adding an additional Hard die (which costs the same as two regulars) is tremendously more effective.

I have not yet played with any house-rule re-tooling, but here are some that occurred to me. One could set Hd at 7 rather than 10, which distinguishes them from maximally-rolled regular dice or from maximally-set Wiggle dice. Also, and to address another potential problem, one might decree that Wd must be set to match a rolled die, and hence they could not be solely paired with 1Hd or taken by themselves.

b) Overall, the point-cost system for the powers is brilliant. It's basically the Hero System without the ratios and completely sensible. A typical power begins at 5/10/20 cost, and you can raise or lower the cost in units of 1/2/4 - in other words, a really good advantage (+2/+4/+8) could put the power cost up to 7/14/28, and then a frightful disadvantage (-4/-8/-16) can bring it down to 3/6/12. In terms of strict costs, the numbers are easy, fun, and never break. (See the Godlike website for a smorgasbord of powers that people have come up with, including the ones from my own play group.)

However, here the Hard dice problem rears its head again, rendering some options/combinations either useless or not representing enough advantage for their cost. Consider the options for what you can buy for a power with the default 5/10/20 breakdown:

5 points: 1d
10 points: 2d, 1Hd
15 points: 3d, 1d + 1Hd
20 points: 4d, 2d + 1Hd, 2Hd, 1Wd
25 points: 5d, 3d + 1Hd, 1d + 2Hd, 1d + 1Wd

I suggest that the options in italics are either non-functional (1Hd), or represent disproportionately low gains relative to other options at the same cost (1 Wd compared with 2Hd), or low gains relative to an option just "below" them (e.g. 1d + 2Hd compared with 2Hd). In other words, the distribution of options has "holes" in it in terms of the graded point-costs.

For a cheaper power, at 2/4/8, take a look at the options and work it out yourself, using the same reasoning across all the possible options. I think you'll see that grading evenly up the scale of costs doesn't necessarily mean grading evenly up the scale of effectiveness - basically, we're seeing either some meaningless options ("holes") or breakpoints (disproportionately low/high gains at particular places in the scale).

2 1d                
4 2d 1Hd              
6 3d 1d + Hd              
8 4d 2d + Hd 2Hd 1Wd          
10 5d 3d + Hd 1d + 2Hd 1d + Wd          
12 6d 4d + Hd 2d + 2Hd 3Hd 2d + Wd 1Hd + 1Wd      
14 7d 5d + Hd 3d + 2Hd 1d + 3Hd 3d + Wd 1d + 1Hd + 1Wd      
16 8d 6d + Hd 4d + 2Hd 2d + 3Hd 4Hd 4d + Wd 2Hd + 1Wd 2Wd 2d + 1Hd + 1Wd
18 9d 7d + Hd 5d + 2Hd 3d + 3Hd 1d + 4Hd 5d + Wd 1d + 2Wd 3d + 1Hd + 1Wd 1d + 2Hd + 1Wd
20 10d 8d + Hd 6d + 2Hd 4d + 3Hd 2d + 4Hd 5Hd 6d + Wd 2d + 2Wd 3Hd + 1Wd
22 11d 9d + Hd 7d + 2Hd 5d + 3Hd 3d + 4Hd 1d + 5Hd 7d + Wd 3d + 2Wd 5d + 1Hd + 1Wd
24 12d 10d + Hd 8d + 2Hd 6d + 3Hd 4d + 4Hd 2d + 5Hd 6Hd 8d + Wd 4d + 2Wd
20     1Hd + 2Wd 4d + 1Hd + 1Wd 2d + 2Hd + 1 Wd        
22     3d + 2Hd + 1 Wd 1d + 3Hd + 1Wd 1d + 1Hd + 2Wd        
24     3Wd 4Hd + 1Wd 2Hd + 2Wd 6d + 1Hd + 1Wd 4d + 2Hd + 1 Wd 2d + 3Hd + 1Wd 2d + 1Hd + 2Wd

In play, frankly, after discussing some of these issues around the table, people informally decided to avoid Hard dice in general. One person took a 2Hd power in order to see how an "automatic success" affected things; otherwise, we stuck to regular dice and the occasional Wiggle die.

Also, you might have noticed that the combat system partly reverses the roles of Height and Width in the ordinary system, which is to say, damage ("effect") is set by Width. Some alternate rules have been posted at the website which render combat mechanics much more like non-combat resolution, but note that these rules set Hd at 5 rather than 10, which itself has multiple repercussions.

#3: Squishing
One interesting optional rule is Squishing, which is to say, raising Height by decreasing Width or vice versa. This is a neat idea, but I think it would be necessary to abandon Hard and Wiggle dice entirely. I'd like to play this variant of Godlike quite a bit, and I think the results wouldn't necessarily be as four-color as the text suggests it would.

#4: Other system features
Godlike has little to no metagame mechanics whatever, which is usually the case in a Stolze system. One optional rule permits burning an Experience Point for very minor die adjustment.
Character improvement is very slow, and arguably not especially important in Godlike play anyway, if you're going with the Strike Force Morituri concept. I'd probably burn all my EPs for minor metagame improvement using the above rule, and sacrifice Will for improvement only rarely.

Will? Did I say Will?

And now for Will
Oh man.

All right, Will is basically "psychic hit points," and it starts somewhere between 10 and 20 or so, depending on how many points you spent on your powers. No Will left means you can't use your powers. You gain Will mainly by succeeding at important things (completing a mission, saving your buddy, etc). You lose Will left and right, mainly through failing at your powers, by getting bad news, and most importantly, by entering Will-Bid wars with other Talents who are trying to negate your powers or whose powers you're trying to negate.

That's right - any Talent can (a) sense another power going off, (b) identify its wielder if the wielder's in sight, and (c) cancel it by paying more Will points than the other guy is willing to pay. This whole thing makes players blink, and rightly so: underlying all the ORE and other system stuff is this other arena for conflict resolution during play, which potentially trumps every other aspect of power use. It sort of becomes Akira: staring at one another, eyes and heads bulging, battling for psychic mastery of the immediate reality.

Trouble #1
... is that the consequences of spending Will in a contest are severe, as it's easily lost and won with difficulty, but the consequences of not spending it are worse - if you're up against Hard dice, you gotta throw down in a Will contest or you're toast. Therefore, in many cases, one is forced into the meta-power Psychic Battle sphere, and furthermore, points are so precious that no one dare back off from a Will contest once it's started. It's a scenario-killer - everyone ends up with low Will values and everyone's powers are turned off or limping in the red zone. In many ways, it takes away the basic idea of the game, which is soldiers with quirks - instead we get psychics warring over the "right" to use the quirks.

Will Contests are like a corpse at a tea party. You can have the tea party, but you have to tiptoe around its implications and "not go there," because if you do, the tea party has to be abandoned as an activity and the corpse becomes the single focus of attention.

Trouble #2
... starts when the parameters for Will conflicts are explained. The basic explanation seems to work well: (1) if Dude is zapping you with his laser-eyes, and if he's right there, then spend a point of Will to negate the power, or rather, to initiate the Will-bid contest; (2) but if Dude picks up a tank and hurls it at you, you're outta luck - the tank, in the air, isn't interested in your opinion. But then, as explained in the text, this standard runs a-cropper when you bring the power-augmented abilities of an expert sniper into the picture. Given the rules and a not-especially-cunning player, a Hyper-sniper (as they've come to be called) armed with some Hard dice kills anyone instantly.

The solution? A rules-tweak. Apparently you can psychically detect the danger, as a Talent, a split-second before the guy squeezes the trigger, and you have a chance to kick in the Will point. But now you've added a "but" to the picture, as a fix, which is a slippery slope in gamer Simulationist-land, as the debates begin.

It all reminds me of the late-1970s debates in the Spider-Man comic book, when fans and new writers on the books locked horns repeatedly in the letters pages about just how th'hell the Spidey-sense works. Does it detect "enemies?" Does it detect intent? Does it actually evaluate "danger?" What if a kid who hates you points a toy gun? What if Aunt May hits you from behind, thinking you're a burglar? What if someone drops a bomb on your city? What if ... and so on. Regarding Godlike, the argument goes that if you can stop a Hyper-sniper, you should be able to stop the guy from picking up the tank (to throw at you) in the first place. About when the argument gets into what "intentions" are and what psionics "really" can or can't perceive, I lose it and click to some other website.

The take-home point, I think, is that "fixes" rules usually cause more trouble than they solve. I think that the real culprit is the Hard dice issue, as applied to sniping, and with them gone, the need for the Spidey-sense vanishes, and with that gone, the whole controversy does too.

Wow, what a bunch of hassles, eh? So why are Will Contests in there? I think it almost certainly goes back to the Wild Cards influence and the idea that powers are all psychic. But wait - Will Contests aren't observed in Wild Cards, which is mainly about thumpings and zaps and (lots of ) mind control. So why are they here in Godlike? I think there are two possible reasons, and neither one is especially edifying.

1. Plain gamer-author logic: 'cause "it follows." Basically, we're seeing the fallout from the initial explanation as taken to RPG design. You see, in Wild Cards, as series of books by people who really wanted to write colorful stories about super-powers, the psychic explanation was something to get past, not something to use and become a subject. The point was to avoid getting hung up on how-does and wouldn't-it and but-but. However, from a strong Simulationist mechanics and setting perspective, there's no such thing as "getting past" stuff - it's there, so it's important, and it's there to be used.

2. Rules-layering: because the Hard dice caused enough trouble in playtesting that they decided on an override system. As mentioned above, when rules-fixes are being layered on top of a problem, rather than stripping back to the bedrock and examining the problem, multiple secondary implications appear that tend to take over play.

One of the optional rules in the book suggests a blind Will bid and a one-time roll-off, thus removing the "I spend a point" - "I spend a point" - "I spend two points" exchanges that arise from the main rules. I like this rule a lot and plan on making it the Will Contest rule for our game.

One last small issue about Will stuff: characters may be improved not only by spending Experience points, but also by spending Will. I find this jarring, as I'm not quite sure what that's supposed to represent or be in in-game terms, since everything else in Godlike is aggressively in-game justified or otherwise explained. Seems to me that either Will does double duty as a metagame Currency for character-points in addition to its in-game role, or Experience is the source of character-points with little or no in-game role, but having them both confuses me.

Take it to videotape
The following are not-very-edited transcripts from my notes during play.

1) Again, the WWII setting is perfect. I was surprised and pleased to see how easy it was to get into character and to appreciate one another's characters without much actual histrionics. In other words, everyone is invested and comfortable with everyone else's "guy" without the need to role-play all kinds of accents or stuff. You can get right into the set-piece and yet feel very grounded in who's in the trench with your character. Godlike shares with Little Fears a very strong Char Exploration without having to force it with, e.g., five-page background essay. It's yet another reason why Troupe play works better in this game than in many others.

2) Skills are proving to be aggravating in terms of options. The rules say, "Oh, make up a bunch of skills," but as it turns out in play, quite a bit of author-game skills are assumed to be the ones we come up with. Sight, for example, is crucial in play, as I've only discovered by reading and playing the available scenarios.
Also, what's up with the 20 extra skill points for the TOG characters? (I'm speaking about the "commando package" option for player-characters for Talents who've been trained as special teams.) It seems bizarre; you can play TOG characters with a huge-ass extra bag of skill points or ... for some reason ... not do so.

3) I especially like the tendency toward funky little powers rather than developed "laser beams." It's both Wild Cards and Strike Force Morituri as well as being perfect for the WWII look and feel. The website includes a great menu for adding powers and seeing what people have come up with.

One problem, though, is the tendency to treat the extensive examples section as as menu. I can see how this happens; if you provide a toolkit then people look at you dumbly or call you lazy, and if you provide a ton of examples, then people seize upon them as a typical-RPG book list of powers, as in, "Nuh-uh, it says here, Harm works like this," or treating the examples as a menu of fixed options. One player in our group picked his powers from-the-book, and they turned out to be way less fun than the ones that people came up with on their own.

4) Make damn sure that you get all modifications on the power written out in full on the character sheet; looking that stuff up in the book during play is a huge pain in the ass, as it's scattered through the rules.

5) Play has been much more fun than any of the above objections would indicate. Please note that none of the characters had significant Hd. Also, I'm pretty hopeless as a hard-core Sim GM. I fudged an enemy Talent's power functions when it turned out that his Hard dice trapped two of the player-characters indefinitely. I fluffed the whole IIEE of the game by forgetting that combat announcements go in the order of the Sense attribute (I was using the "free and clear" concept from Sorcerer), and I finally figured out how guns' damage worked after the characters had lived, most dubiously, through a fire-fight.

I must say, there are a hell of lot of spot rules for guns, damage, and nuances of wounds based on the different types of damage. Width additions for damage are especially easy to miss if you're not obsessive about it. As implied, I suspect some of the characters escaped horrible maiming due to my occasional confusions.

More significantly, I also found it difficult, as the GM, regarding establishing the set-pieces. It seems to me that the GM has lots of power to establish the starting parameters of who-sees-whom, who gets where-when, and similar stuff, prior to the point of everyone announcing their intentions (in order of Sense, he reminds himself). When I do that, I feel uncomfortably like I'm taking the characters, placing them here and here and here, and then permitting the players to begin. My usual scene-framing skills in games like Sorcerer or Hero Wars don't apply in exactly the same way for this sort of play, so I have to revise them a bit.

6) I haven't mentioned Mental Stability yet, have I? It's a skill you can take, based on the Cool attribute. All right, the closest-to-powergamer player among us knew quite well that big guns mean dead enemies, much more reliably than funky powers do. So he spent lots of points on Body and combat skills and hefted a big ol' gun. His Cool was 1, and his Mental Stability (which I told them all to take) was 1 ... and that Mental Stability roll bit his big gun and his 4-point Body score on the ass.

The Mental Stability rules are not fooling around. Fail that skill check when you're grossed out or scared, and your character is essentially out of action for fifteen in-game minutes, which is a really long time. The overall long-term effects and possibilities are fun too.

(One question: can you bid Will during combat shock? The character had an uncontrollable power going off at the time, and when another player-character spent Will to stop it, the resulting Will contest became metagame because the power-using player-character was mumbling to himself in fetal position. Which really doesn't seem to fit the game at all.)

These rules bring up the point that combat has three outcomes: a character is dinged up, flipped out (which at least removes the character from the immediate action, maybe worse), or killed (subset: horribly maimed). The consequence for play is to define the length of a given set-piece length dramatically - they don't last long. No three-hour real-time fight scenes in Godlike, or if there is, someone's forgetting some rules. I recommend prepping many possible set-pieces for a given session, understanding that you probably won't get to most of them.

7) The game is full of great potential for enemy-as-people situations every so often, and the Will increase rules are just right for it. You get a Will increase for saving anyone's life; you get a Will increase for defeating an enemy. The choices arising from these rules are many, and I like that a lot.

8) It's pretty ugly that the GM can hose a character for half his Will with a Dear John letter. Oddly, the player seemed to enjoy it.

9) Everyone hated the Spidey-sense Will interpretation, which created kind of "sense perturbations in the Force" context for any conflict. It worked against our preferred "dogfaces with quirks" mode of play. I think I'll stick with the laser-eyes vs. truck-throwing example and let Hyper-sniping just get eliminated from play by fiat.

Finish-up thoughts
Overall, I think Godlike might be one of the strongest games around for extended play if you use the Troupe option, in that violence and death (a) are given a meaningful context in the historical WWII setting, (b) do not remove a player from play when his character dies, and (c) result from sensible rules and in-game events.

I also think it's an excellent game for showcasing role-playing to new people due to its accessibility. This is a big deal for me lately. (If we were still using the terms Vanilla and Pervy at the Forge, which we're not, then Godlike, like Dread and Call of Cthulhu, would be close to Vanilla Sim.)

All of this, however, is only realized after the group does some critical thinking and possibly retools how Hard dice, Will, and scenario design are to be employed during play. As such, I think Godlike suffers from its original high-gloss, get-the-book-out publication schedule and vision, which I think led to some expense in terms of the game system's interlocking functional parts.

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