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kumada1

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Down We Go is a single page OSR dungeon crawler.

It's got lovely art and layout, and the font choices feel whispery but readable.

Mechanics-wise, your default roll is a d20, trying to hit a DC 15. You add your level in your most relevant class to your roll, and this is where the system gets interesting. There are four classes, Holy, Sneaky, Bloodthirsty, and Mystical, and you can freely assign your levels to any of them. In addition to boosting your rolls, each class comes with a set of level/day abilities. And your highest levelled class determines your hit points.

Combat in Down We Go uses the same dice system, with effectively a coin flip to determine which side goes first. Damage is typically 1/hit, and HP totals are low across the board.

All of this makes for an extremely tight, quick system that still retains flexibility and crunch, but the real standout is the game's optional rule: if you drop a die on the floor, you die.

This optional rule catapults Down We Go from a solid single-page dungeon crawler to a game with a complicated meta about maneuvering people into rolling near the table's edge.

Overall, I'd strongly recommend this. It's a satisfying engine. It's great for pick-up-and-play. And it's got a strong sense of character. It's genuinely fun.

Crow Island is an Oregon Trail style deck-crawl in which you guide your clan across Crow Island in order to secure a proper burial for your chief, in the wake of their heroic sacrifice.

The PDF is 54 pages, with lovely, charming artwork and an easy to read layout.

Right off the bat, the game makes a great visual impression. Its map is charming and its fonts pop. There's also a high density of custom artwork throughout the book, and all of it is playful and colorful.

Mechanics-wise, this is a solo game, but it's got a good crunch to it. You use a deck of cards to randomize the events your clan encounters, but you also track stats and make choices, and there are even different character classes that will set you up for different gameplay experiences, as well as two distinct routes across the game's map.

The writing is excellent, and it shifts easily between sincere and quirky. There's a Bay Of Wolves in which Eel Spears can be found, but there's also fairly stark descriptions of moose hunting and cougar attacks.

Overall, if you like solo games, if you like resource management, and if you like engaging settings, I'd strongly recommend this. It's easy to pick up, it's a solid experience, and there's even replayability in terms of different routes and classes. Definitely grab a copy if you can.


Minor Issues:

-Page 10, "Taking longer than that the situation becomes dire" maybe 'means the situation becomes dire'?

-Page 9, can dogs go a day without food, or do you lose them if you do this?

-Page 35, "Their antler's" antlers

-Page 37, river crossing, does a clan member die per 1 rolled, or if the Crossing Difficulty is reduced to 1, or just if all three dice are 1s?

-Page 38, "your total is how much food the fish you were" how much food in fish you were

-Page 39, "when the is at it's" when the sun is at its?

-Page 39, same rules ambiguity as on page 37 re: 1s and clan members dying during the crossing

-Page 48, "how much food the fish" how much food in fish

Lost Order is a Fate Grand Order trpg.

It's 21 pages, with a lot of neat interior illustrations and an easy to read layout.

It's also probably the single best crash course on Fate lore out there. There's a lot of Fate, and it's all super tangly, but Lost Order does an excellent job of explaining the basics in a quick and comprehensive way.

For folks who haven't played FGO or engaged with Fate media, I don't know if this is the best place to start, but also that's true of everything else in the franchise.

Mechanics-wise, this is a relatively complex game, and it reproduces the in-universe mechanics of Heroes, Masters, and Demi-Heroes. Mana exists as a universal currency, but all three classes use it differently, and each has different innate powers, limitations, progression strategies, and peripheral mechanics. 

Rolls in Lost Order use basic PbtA, with some modifications. Heroes have higher stats than Masters, but Heroes need to roll higher to attain full heroic-level successes. Rolls can also be Enhanced or Weakened by circumstances, in which case they use 3d6 and the best/worst 2 dice.

Character creation feels satisfying---in that you have a lot of control over your unique build---and you can have multiple different game plans within the same class. Heroes have access to a wide Skill list, which consists of powerful tactical options and enhancements that can suddenly tilt the balance of a fight, but every class has at least one unique core mechanic that affects their play.

Lost Order is, at its heart, and combat game. And combat-wise, Lost Order is a little weird. The central loop is tight---roll an attack, deal damage if you roll high enough---but everything else has a lot of deliberate gray area. Attack damages loosely follow a chart, but will need some GM interpretation. Different attributes can be used under certain circumstances to block attacks, but there are tradeoffs to doing that. Masters can shore up Heroes with Mana, and Heroes can set up Mana barriers to deflect attacks, but running out of Mana can cause a hero to degrade or de-manifest. Masters can spend Seals to boost or command their Heroes, but Heroes can otherwise easily one-shot Masters. Add all this to a setting that deliberately encourages asymmetrical fights, betrayals, deoptimized characters, and tragic struggle, and the result is potentially very complex.

Progression is also asynchronous in Lost Order, and can involve leveling up to grow your stats (a process that is different for every class,) or it can involve fulfilling a variety of other Skill or class-linked conditions to grow stronger or weaker.

For GMs, there aren't a ton of resources provided here. There's some general advice about creating enemies, but nothing pre-cooked and mechanical, and likewise no intro scenarios. There *is* advice about safety and respect, and guidance throughout the document on how the game is supposed to work.

Overall, if you like Fate, I think you'll like this. If you're neutral about Fate, I think you'll still like this (I am, and I did.) If you have no former knowledge of Fate but you like big, fraught battles over ideals and loyalty, liberally peppered with re-interpretations of history and folklore, you might like this. I'm not sure how easy it is to perform the game's intended play without setting knowledge, but as long as someone in your group sort of knows the franchise, you'll likely be alright.


Minor Issues:

-Page 1, "and even experimenting" experimented with

-Page 4, two instances of 'resting' instead of 'resisting'

-Page 6, the + and - rules are repeated in a way that's a little confusing

-Page 10, Independence, "you can't make fight"

-Resistance and Determination feel weaker than every other Skill.

-Unnatural imposes an extremely steep cost, to the point where the 1/session limitation doesn't feel necessary. Maybe you can't use it if all your attributes are Weakened?

The Quiet Life is a game about a group of nuns that have recently arrived at a remote convent.

It's 11 pages, with easy to read layout and excellent illustrations. There's a few public domain pieces, and they sort of clash with the style of the custom pieces, but the art density is solid throughout the book and it's hard to overstate how good the custom illustrations look.

Mechanically, this is *sort of* a worker placement game, but there's a lot more going on here than that. You play with a deck of cards, which is divided into faces and numbers. The numbers are used to generate chores, and the faces generate challenges. Each PC plays a nun with a different statline, and those stats are useful for chores and challenges, but players can't reveal their stats to each other, meaning that everyone has to in-character make a case for why they should take on a certain chore or challenge.

Dice-wise, you roll d6 + attribute, and you have a total of three dice that you can roll per day. You can assign them to your own chores---or to other people's chores, provided your chore cards share a color.

Helping other characters with chores can also trigger a relationship mechanic, which makes future help very effective but risks random botches on rolls.

Failing chores, or failing to complete chores, causes Punishments. These are mechanical effects that make completing future chores more difficult.

After six rounds, or days, of gameplay, the players can rotate the GM or reach one of several endings depending on their choices and successes during play.

Honestly, Quiet Life being so mechanical felt a little strange to me given how much the art focuses on smooching nuns, but it's still absolutely a game that takes well to roleplaying. You just have to prioritize it as a group.

Overall, if you want a game with some fun crunch and unexpected fluff, and if you're willing to focus more on roleplaying than on trying to solve the mechanics, I think Quiet Life is an excellent pick. Alternately, if you want a purely mechanical game, I think this works fine in that capacity too, and you could even assign point values for different chore difficulty levels and make it competitive.


Minor Issues:

-Page 2, "Or occasional an easy day" occasionally

-There is a cheese strat where one player can repeatedly talk about their statline, giving other players a chance to call "Immodest!" and buff their own Modesty. Then, all the cheese player needs to do is go on a successful date and they can flip their Modesty way into the positives.

Thank you for the review!

More fishing techniques and fisher types are planned in a supplement, as well as some variant rules for combat. They were definitely the trickiest thing for me to write, but I'll double down on them and make sure I have a good quantity.

Heroic Chord is a heroic fantasy rpg in the style of Xenoblade, Rayearth, and Final Fantasy X. It has a pastoral aesthetic (think Ryuutama or Blue Rose,) and it's primarily about helping people and repelling monsters while picking up after an apocalypse.

The game is currently a 93 page rtf document, but since it's still in playtesting, that will change.

PCs in Heroic Chord take on the roles of Rangers, wandering pilgrims who have bound themselves to one of seven godlike creatures. All rangers have access to magic, but using that magic causes them to Scatter, or disassociate. Mental illness is a topic that Heroic Chord covers in a number of different ways, but it's positioned as normal. Neither the text nor the mechanics construct it as a Flaw, just a normal feature of reality.

Mechanics-wise, Heroic Chord is a medium crunch game. It uses a d6 pool where you succeed on 5s and 6s, and where you can accept complications to take 1s as successes too. If you can learn D&D, you can definitely learn this. And if you like the wealth of character build options in D&D, you'll like HC's offerings too.

Every character has a class, five stats, spells, skills, an ability, a combat specialty, and a bunch of other neat flourishes. Those flourishes are sometimes just roleplaying color, but also there's stuff like Lessons. Lessons are ways characters want to grow. Each campaign, every PC gets a character arc dedicated to their Lesson. When a character clears their arc, the whole party gets new skills.

 Character growth is frequent, but it isn't EXP-based. Instead, it tends to happen around character development and the ends of sessions. This promotes a more organic feeling to the game, at the cost of a little bit of crunch.

Character gear is likewise simplified, in that the game doesn't really track it. You have whatever it's appropriate for you to have, and Heroic Chord doesn't want to dwell on the minutiae any further than that.

However, when Heroic Chord hand-waves these things, it's in order to focus deeper on the game elements it cares about. Character creation is full of choices, both stylistic and mechanical, and the kit for each Class feels diverse and inviting. Will you be a lancer atop a cloud elk, galloping through the sky, or a full-plate crusader conjuring specters and letting dead warriors guide your hand?

Magic in Heroic Chord is sort of an edge case on the complexity spectrum, because it's not tied down by any particular spell list or component system, but it does have some very nice gameable crunch to it. The basics of magic are, you create spells from keywords tied to your character and your environment, and then you work out with your GM what your spell does. You pay a cost in Scatter for the spell, and your teammates can join in by shouldering some of that cost, or you can draw on the Scatter reserve in your Class' kit for a consequence.

Choice, consequence, and cooperation are all center-stage in the spell system, and it feels fair to say they're center stage in Heroic Chord itself. This is definitely a game where the GM isn't out to protect or kill the PCs, but to play the middle ground and push them towards excelling.

Combat has a similar feeling, and has the PCs making progress towards different kinds of Goals, any of which can be used to resolve the situation. Different Goals require different dice and benefit from different abilities, so individual character builds can still shine, but combat is flexible enough to be used for social situations or enduring harsh weather just as easily as it is for swords out fighting.

Lore-wise, there's a *lot* going on in Heroic Chord, so I don't have time to cover it all, but this is a very setting-focused system. If you like high fantasy stories about maintaining a kingdom rather than building or destroying one, you'll like this.

Overall, this is a big, hefty system with a lot of stellar design decisions and opportunities to build a ton of cool stories on its foundation. If you like high fantasy, if you like teamwork, if you like pastoral aesthetics or Mercedes Lackey or Princess Mononoke, definitely give this a shot.

Keep It Together is a pulpy zombie rpg that digs into the complexity of being a still-living corpse.

It's 5 pages, with an excellent, clean, and visually cohesive layout.

Mechanically, it's played with a d6 and a d8. The d8 is used to pass checks by rolling at or under a target number. Target numbers are between 1 and 6, and depend on where your limb is. More on that in a second.

As a zombie, your body has slots. Each of the six slots can mount a limb, and where the limb is mounted determines the difficulty of checks associated with that limb. So, for example, your 6 slot is easy to roll under, so if you mount a head on your 6 slot, communication will be an easy task for you.

You can lose limbs, and this cuts down on the kinds of tasks you can attempt, but gives you a bonus per empty slot on certain kinds of aggressive actions. You basically become faster and more dangerous as you shed your encumbering limbs.

When you take damage, you roll and lose a random limb. If there's no limbs in the rolled slot, you die. When you die, you can come back at the end of the scene provided any other party members survived.

I'm dwelling a lot on the mechanics here, but that's because they're genius.

This is the tightest zombie system---and one of the tightest pulp systems---I've seen.

Story-wise, Keep It Together is a bit stranger.

It's not quite body horror. It's definitely not a comedy either. There's significant irreverence to it (rules-wise you can swap out your genitals for a chainsaw,) but it's unexpectedly grounded too.

The GMing section contains a lot of guidance on different possible stories you can tell with the system, from simple B-movie-from-the-zombies'-side-of-things combat scenarios to more complex explorations of the past and attempts at building a new civilization for the risen dead.

Advice is also give on how to check for topics your group might want to avoid---although I think it's worth having safety tools on deck for this one as well.

Overall, if you like pulp and zombie horror and want to look at it from a new angle, or if you like incredible mechanics and want to see what a game can accomplish with just two dice, I'd strongly recommend this. If body horror isn't your jam, this is likely not your game. But if you want to run this a little lower on the ESRB scale, I think it's moddable, and the genitals limb location could be safely replaced with 'torso' instead.

I Love And Adore You is a two-player game of letter-writing and longing.

It's 6 pages. The text is slightly dense, but it's still plenty readable.

Gameplay-wise, this is a relatively long-term time commitment, and its material is fairly intense by default. You play by writing romantic letters to each other---in character, as people from the past.

The bulk of the game is guidance on how to do this that amplifies the intensity of the roleplaying. There are directions to remain in character, to 'break up' and end the game under certain conditions, and to gather and burn your letters at the end.

Safety tools are provided, as is a lot of cool historical context.

Overall, if you want a game that first and foremost centers strong feelings of romance, this is that. It takes time and dedication, but I don't think that's a drawback. I'd definitely encourage checking this out.

Volley Boys is a high school volleyball team anime trpg, influenced by material such as Free!, Sk8 The Infinity, and Haikyu.

The PDF is 34 pages and relatively easy to read. There's no illustrations, and I think they'd add a lot, but Volley Boys is quite formidable even without them.

Mechanically, Volley Boys is built on No Dice No Masters and Pasion De Las Pasiones. To that end, the goal of play is to tell a good, compelling story, and there aren't a lot of mechanics jumping in the way of that.

Anyone can GM. Anyone can move NPCs. NPCs don't roll. Players don't really roll either. Player characters are based on playbooks, which do have Moves a la PbtA, but the Moves are token based. Do something powerful, spend a token. Do something weak, take a token. Effectively, the game's spotlight is managed through a sort of mini-economy, not through the whim of the dice.

Volley Boys is absolutely a homage to Haikyu, but it doesn't require you to be a fan, just to be willing to get swept up in that same kind of energy---where you're suddenly caring a lot about a sport, even if you didn't expect to. To this end, Volley Boys doesn't get bogged down in the technical play of the game. It wants you to focus on your characters' emotional states, and it's perfectly willing to let you handwave the exact rules in favor of good drama.

Overall, if you like enthusiasm, if you like character drama, and if you're willing to find yourself caring more than you thought about a sport now that it's seen through a personal frame, Volley Boys is for you.

Time After Time is a two player game about a person who is unstuck in time reattaching themselves to linear time in order to be with a mysterious person they have decided they cherish.

The PDF is 11 pages, with a consistent and readable layout that also feels a little intentionally disorienting. It's not a super pronounced effect, but it's still neat.

Gameplay-wise, Time After Time is based on Carta. You use cards and tokens to build a gamescape and then navigate across it. Each player gets one move of their token per turn, with the first player representing the time-traveler and the second player representing the person they care for. When you move onto a card, you trigger its prompt, which can give you Time Sickness. Accumulate enough Time Sickness, and you become a living vortex, destroying the board as you move. If both players can find a joker and land on it together, you win.

Story-wise, this is a non-linear narrative, and you have to flex some brain muscles to tell it. The prompts on the cards are all interesting, but the real trick is storytelling in such a way that the whole continuum makes sense. To that end, you're listening to what your partner is saying and trying to build on it or build a foundation under it. And that degree of cooperation and focus on your partner makes a lot of sense in a romance game.

Time After Time has both positive and negative endings, depending on whether someone hit 5 Time Sickness or not, but neither ending is wholly good or wholly bad. You can tilt them in either direction to align with the story you've been telling.

Overall, I think this is a fantastic concept that's predisposed to create tight, compelling stories. The nonlinearity is a challenge, but it's a good challenge, and with the mechanics being so simple you can devote a lot of energy to it. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes the kind of not-quite-a-drama-or-a-romance-or-a-thriller story that anchors itself into the bedrock of a character relationship and then uses that relationship to make you think. Time After Time is a solid game, and a great addition to your duo game library.

Pangolin Prom is a one page rpg based on the Lasers & Feelings engine.

You don't need to know Lasers & Feelings to play it. In fact, it's perfectly self-contained, and it makes good use of L&F's rules-light engine to pitch an excellent hook (you are pangolins at prom) while also being easy to learn and effortless to run.

P&P doesn't make a lot of modifications to the L&F engine, so in most circumstances you'll roll a number of d6s based on your advantages and try to score under or over the appropriate stat.

Weirdly, Pangolin isn't a stat. Instead your character is a mix of Textbooks and Dancing. Also, the +1 die bonus that you'd normally get for being an expert is a little undefined. Every character starts with a hidden talent, though, so it's easy enough to say that's what the PCs are experts in.

Still, the big selling points for Pangolin Prom are its premise (you are a pangolin at prom) and its random adventure table. That adventure table is chock full of giant robots, zombies, cthonic gods, and sapient punch bowls, and it's guaranteed to produce something fun and charming and compelling.

Overall, if you want a no-prep one-shot, it's tough to do better than this. Grab a copy if you can, and bring it out the next time you get a chance to run a one-shot.

Liminal Yearning is a solo journaling game about wandering in a dreamstate. It also contains kissing.

The PDF is 10 pages, with a nice, textured, easy-to-read layout.

Gameplay is a guided series of questions, which you write in response to. The questions are very specific and follow a set story, so the feeling is almost closer to a guided meditation than a game.

It's a very quick read, but it's sweet in nature and a nice concept.

Overall, if you're looking for the feeling of romance from a solo game, this definitely delivers that. It's neither especially mechanics-y nor narrative-y, but it *is* nice.

(2 edits)

Reviewing trpgs is sometimes a bit like entomology. You'll think you know what they all look like, but then you'll lift up a rock and find something wholly new and bright staring back at you, forcing you to reevaluate all your preconceptions.

Cuticorium is one of those games.

It's loosely PbtA, in that it uses Moves and most rolls tend to produce success with a complication, but it's evolved in so many different directions that it feels like a fully different system.

In Cuticorium, you play as an insect that has been affected by the radiation from a unique stone. As long as you stay within the wide area around the stone, you can think and socialize and suppress your instincts. Many other bugs in the vicinity of the stone have done the same, and have built up a society of peaceful, self-aware critters.

I went in expecting Hollow Knight, but Beastars or Animosity might be a good point of comparison too. And unlike any of those stories, combat is *not* a point of focus for Cuticorium. In fact, if anything, I'd say it plays like a larp.

Most of your Moves as a PC are social, and many deal with personal growth and transformation. One Move is used for combat, but violence is positioned as a terrible thing that results from insects falling back on their basic nature.

Instead, the gameplay revolves around Webs. Webs are like Strings in Monsterhearts, in that you gain them on other people and places and can spend them for bonuses to rolls, but Webs are also your HP. Run out of Webs and your moveset is severely reduced, not to mention a single bad roll can kill you. This incentivizes you to socialize with other bugs, build up webs, and play a peaceful game instead.

Gameplay in Cuticorium is divided into scenes, and scenes take place in locations, which players can spend webs to claim or transform or link to other new locations. The point of a given scene is often defined by the players, but the GM can introduce an overarching plot as well and use that to stir up player conflict.

The interaction between PCs feels like the soul of the game, and it's what I'd suggest players lean into. Don't be an emotionless slate looking for battle. Have needs. Have regrets. Fight the nature your body was built for. There's a *lot* of room to customize PCs with unique Features that add new Moves, and every Feature plays into the serious physical differences between the types of bugs that all are trying to coexist in the Cuticorium.

There's *tons* of illustrated examples of these bugs in the book, by the way. It's dripping with high quality art. Every piece is gorgeous and creative and clever. Even if you never play it, it'll *still* be an inspiration to look at.

But the book does have some weaknesses.

One is purely a matter of expectation-setting. If what you want is Hollow Knight the rpg, this isn't that. Or at least, it's Hallownest before the fall, not after. Things are peaceful and busting, and you're not going to have cool nail-duels in the streets.

My other critique is a little more mechanical. Cuticorium's gameplay encourages you to dig into the thoughts and emotions of your character and slowly build up their relationships with the other PCs and characters of the setting. But if you leave the range of the Cuticorium and a beast shows up, there's a chance they just autokill you.

Beasts are monsters that can show up in scenes that take place at the edges of the Cuticorium's influence. When they show up, they roll a d20 and everyone present opposes them with a d4. You add the d4s together, and if you meet or beat the beast's roll, it *doesn't* autokill a random PC. So if you don't have enough PCs in a scene, and a beast rolls randomly to show up, and it rolls decently on the d20, one of the characters you've been building evaporates.

There isn't a ton the players can do to prevent this if the dice go the wrong way. So while this does create a cool threat that makes some areas terrifying to visit, it feels like it also has the strong potential to randomly zero out player agency. If this is something that might put you off, I'd recommend adding a "wound" system to your home game, where players can survive a beast attack at a cost.

Overall, though, I think Cuticorium is a gem. If you like the roleplaying part of rpgs, or if you're looking for something a little unusual to run as a larp, grab this. And if you're looking for fantastic character art, double grab this. Character creation in Cuticorium is fun, the web system is great, and there's a ton of potential for amazing storytelling in this system. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who's reading this.

Your Body A Landscape is a game about mapping out a landscape on someone's body.

It's 6 pages, with a really cool art and layout mix that mirrors the colors on the cover in broad patterns across each page. The book itself feels like a landscape, which is super neat.

Mechanically, you play by the 'landscape' defining which areas are okay to map, and then the 'compass' describing how they look and what they signify. There are also supporting mechanics built in to give the 'landscape' the ability to withdraw or modify consent, and the game provides excellent safety tools without really announcing that it's doing so.

Overall, I think this is a cool and probably intense intimacy game. If you know someone who would like you to draw a map on them, absolutely check this out.

Thank you for writing the expansion!

Unadvanced Classes is a small expansion for Leek Lancers, adding five new classes to the vegetable combat larp.

UC's PDF is a single page, with a bare but easy to read layout that highlights the new classes without a lot of preamble.

And this is good, because the new classes are excellent.

Leek Lancers core has Agile, Brawny, and Technical classes. These allow you to dual-wield, take more hits, and throw your weapon respectively.

Unadvanced Classes gets way more creative. Tricky allows you to throw a non-damaging "handful of sand" attack by keeping beans in your pockets. Precise lets you dual-wield a smaller weapon and deal double damage if both weapons connect. Savage gives you a chance to launch a flurry of blows on an opponent after they've hit you, dealing damage back to them if any of your swings connect. Sneaky lets you win off of a rare backstab. And Monstrous lets you use non-vegetable weapons at the cost of lower HP.

Essentially, every class here adds an optional higher skill mode of gameplay. And Monstrous potentially adds PvE through the inclusion of a non-vegetable faction.

If you have or are planning to get Leek Lancers, I would strongly recommend also picking up Unadvanced Classes. It's fun and creative and makes for a great expansion to the game.


Minor Issues:

-Under Tricky, "you may throw then" them

Warmer In The Winter is a Powered By The Apocalypse Hallmark holiday romance trpg.

It's 18 pages, with a bare-feeling but well organized layout and a couple of appropriate pieces of photo art.

Mechanically, Warmer is based off of Monsterhearts, so you'll see familiar stuff like rolling 2d6 to activate Moves, gaining strings on people, and gaining exp by failing rolls. Or---if you haven't played Monterhearts---you'll hit the ground running. There isn't much preamble to Warmer, just a quick overview and then the mechanics start.

The rules are careful to set expectations, and the mechanics reinforce this, so you'll know going in that there isn't likely to be much physical combat in a game of Warmer. However, you'll also know that emotional hurt is just as dangerous, and PCs *can* get taken out of the picture if they accumulate enough of it. It also heals very slowly, at a max of 1 hurt per session, lending a real weight to any emotional showdowns that occur.

Warmer has a surprising feeling of intensity to its stakes, and it reinforces this with its Dangers and Bigger Pictures mechanics. Dangers are bad outcomes that will occur if no one specifically acts to prevent them, and they can group together into Bigger Pictures. Both of these elements add a clear threat to the story, and they help to keep the players pointed towards their objectives.

Character-creation-wise, ten playbooks come with the game, and they're all extremely charming and genre-appropriate. They're also relatively open to interpretation. The Youngster, for example, might just be someone who's young at heart. The Elder might just be an expert. 

Overall, Warmer In Winter is a great Monsterhearts variation, and it's also a great game in its own right. It fully inhabits its genre, but it gives groups a *lot* of room to tell stories within that genre. Your Hallmark movie might be about an avid blogger saving their family ski lodge from the cold, uncaring corporation that wants the land, or it might be about Santa Clause's literal daughter leaving her high-paid executive job in New York and falling for a reindeer rancher.

If either of those things sounds like your cup of tea, I would strongly recommend picking it up.


Minor Issues:

-Page 4, Take Off, "you accidentally leave forget something" remove leave

-Page 4, Give A Gift, this feels a little more like it's Give Encouragement, as it's a buffing move. Or at least I think it is. It says to 'add 2 to their roll,' but it isn't specific if this is a Forward or if it's meant to be used in conjunction with another roll.

-Page 17, Someone To Emulate, "gain a hearstring"

No Love's Land is about two battle robots falling for each other in the far future.

It's 20 pages with a clean, readable layout and some nice robot illustrations.

Also, and I can't stress this enough, every bit and byte of the game is charming. The writing is sweet. The art and layout manages to pull off a sort of technical manual look, which is great comedy when paired with the writing. And the cuteness of the gameplay leaves those two elements in the dust.

To play No Love's Land, you build a pillow fort. Your partner builds a pillow fort. You raise flags and throw objects back and forth.

In the fiction, this is happening because your programming would force you to fight if you got close, so you're inscribing flirty messages on artillery shells instead. The more messages you exchange, the closer you get to disabling the programming keeping you apart.

Also, in sort of a rare twist for a trpg about robots and romance, this one ends happily.

Overall, if you want a game that's sweet and romantic and funny, I cannot recommend this enough.

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In A Week is a game about being a spirit guiding lovers to the afterlife.

It's 6 pages, with an interesting layout and clean, readable text.

Mechanics-wise, the game is class-based, but otherwise random. You choose a type of creature which comes with a bonus for interacting with a specific type of memories. Then you escort the spirits of the lovers, and in doing so call up memories from their past.

The game is divided into days, during each of which a player rolls to curate a memory for the dead couple. Rolling under a randomized difficulty causes the memory to be lost, and losing two memories can cause a player to leave the game for two days.

The concept and atmosphere are really cool, and there's a sort of magic to the way the game presents its setting. Not everything is defined or definable, which is perfectly fitting for a story about spirits and death.

That said, if what you want is mechanical crunch, this might be frustrating to play. You can control your narration and your character's opinions, but you don't get any real influence over the dice.

Overall, I think this is a great flavorful, atmospheric game. If you want to experience a slightly warm, slightly eerie, very reflective game about the passage of lovers from this world, I would definitely recommend In A Week.


Minor Issues:

-The advantage that creatures get when rolling isn't defined. Is this like 5e where it means you roll twice and take the best result?

Edit: I realized that the game page has flavor text that's not in the game itself, and that provides a bunch of extra context. I'd strongly recommend to anyone who skimmed the game page blurb (like me) to go back and read it before reading the game.

Live Love Die Remember is a game about being a war machine that has fallen in love with their pilot.

It's 5 pages, with a clean, extremely well organized layout and a nice evocative cover.

Gameplay-wise, LLDR is exclusively about decisions and descriptions. You don't roll dice to overcome obstacles. You reflect on your memories with the pilot you love, and then you make a choice about your future.

And every option hurts.

The writing of LLDR is really good, but its pacing is even better. Unless you check out and disengage entirely, I don't think it's possible to play this game without being drawn into it and being moved by it.

It's also not heavily anchored to its mecha space-war setting, and you could easily re-flavor it as a bond between a pilot and a plane, or between a wolf and an ancient human. 

Overall, if you like worldbuilding, description, emotional intensity, and one-shots, you should absolutely check out Live Love Die Remember.

(1 edit)

Two Hearts Beat As One is a short intimacy game about heartbeat synching.

It's 8 pages, with a layout and graphical style that feels intentionally rough. It's not hard to read, but it does have the energy of something printed out on an old photocopier.

Mechanics-wise, you play by taking your own pulse while also taking someone else's pulse. They do the same, and you try to synch your hearts into the same rhythm.

There's suggestions for roleplaying, but they feel sort of so-serious-they-wrap-back-around-to-silly. The advice on consent and safety, on the other hand, is extremely grounded.

Overall, I think if you're looking to experience a moment of unexpectedly intense intimacy with another enthusiastic participant, you should check this out.

Into The Forest is a multi-player Wretched & Alone style hexcrawl about exploring an ominous woods.

It's 12 pages, with solid layout and some nice graphic design.

Unlike most Wretched & Alone games, Into The Forest deviates from the basic premise in almost every direction. Multiple players are supported. The game uses its own hex map. Players have tracked stats and resources. And there's a safe zone in which you can decide whether to play deeper into the game or to simply return home to safety.

There's also some unique gameplay modes provided, all of which give you different objectives at the outset and color your gameplay experience. There's even a competitive variant, turning things into more of a narrative boardgame with a clear (or possibly unclear) winner.

To this, Into The Forest also adds a number of difficulty / game complexity modifiers, introducing new ways to spend resources, new difficulty elements, and new context for existing game elements. If you'd like, you can simply turn all the mods on and have a medium complexity, pvp, flavorful woods exploration board game.

But if you skip that, play unmodified, or play solo, what you get is still a little different than a typical Wretched & Alone.

Yes, you have a deck of cards. And yes, it serves you dangerous prompts as you explore. But those prompts have as much decision-making in them as they do randomness. You can still get unilaterally killed by the RNG if you go too deep and don't have an exit strategy, but you have a lot of control over things otherwise.

The writing and atmosphere are also worth a mention, as the game effortlessly generates a kind of Southern Reach style atmosphere. The woods are spooky, ancient, and strange, and every prompt in the deck uses this combination to good effect.

Overall, if you like crunch, if you like hexcrawls, if you like cooperative/competitive board games, or if you simply like immersive journaling rpgs, I would strongly recommend checking out Into The Forest. It's excellent.

Gender Repeal Party is a gender euphoria oriented larp about destroying your birth certificate (facsimiles are provided if needed.)

The PDF is 19 pages, with a clean, readable layout.

Mechanically, this larp is played at a space decorated for a party. It has a happy, upbeat tone, but it also specifically involves confronting the ways society's processes might misgender people.

Gender Repeal Party centers trans and nonbinary characters and players, and its core mechanic is that at any time during play, a character can grab the attention of the party and monologue about their feelings on gender.

There isn't a lot of background information provided outside of this, and it sort of feels like the intent is that you play yourself. That's almost as high-bleed as a larp can get, so a lot of safety tools are provided and the game spends a lot of effort on heading off potential issues. Straight and cis characters are deliberately de-centered, and the feeling is that only trans or nonbinary characters should be monologing (although this is me interpreting the text, and may not be the actual intent.) 

This focus on safety also runs through the entire book, and it's treated as less of a state to set up and maintain and more of an active, dynamic process that takes work throughout. A debrief is provided, but it's opt-in only. Rules guidance is given constantly, with a priority towards safety.

Overall, I think this is a really cool concept, and it's also practically a how-to manual for building a larp. All of the essentials of safety and incentivizing intended play are here, and they're all explained really well. I can't speak very well to the gender component, so I'm avoiding doing that, but I do think this is a good read and would recommend picking it up.


Minor Issues:

-Ls and Is are glitched, I think? They all show as a big bold line. I'm not sure if this is intended.

Anamnesis is a solo journaling game about memory loss. In practice, it's a mystery, but that mystery is one of self-discovery.

The PDF is 10 pages, with a relatively bare layout but a cool cover and a good structure.

You play as a person who has woken up in a state of anamnesis. 

Mechanically, the game uses tarot cards to add detail and color to its story. Gameplay is divided into five acts, with each act consisting of three card draws. Each drawn card is a prompt, giving you a chance to explore another facet of your lost memory.

I think a lot of games would use this framing device to weave in some slow-burn horror, but Anamnesis resists that temptation. There's emotional intensity, but it comes from you, not from the cards. Prompts like "You realize you are crying. Why?" hit hard with an economy of motion. All of their force comes from you.

This can make the game a bit tough and intense, but it swerves in an interesting way at the end, and I don't think it's ultimately about putting the player into an intense emotional state. It's about asking the player to consider who they are.

Overall, this is a really cool solo game that explores a condition rather than a setting. If you like journaling games, emotional intensity, or introspection, I would strongly recommend giving Anamnesis a read.

Thank you!

(+23 Archivist Points)

Ah, dang. I went back through it a couple times and missed it every time.

Crossfox is a 26 page solo game with a great, creative, old-school-feeling layout that nevertheless doesn't skimp on good learning aids and charm.

You play as a fox in a typical wilderness. Your goal is not to amass treasure or kill monsters, but to play out the typical ecology of the animal.

This *is* a crunchy game, and you do have resources to track, such as stamina. You also have a hex map with randomized placements for things like food caches, predators, burrows, and mates.

The hex map populates as you explore it, meaning the initial generation isn't very cumbersome. You'll learn something new on basically every turn, and every hex comes with potential opportunities for storytelling and resource gathering.

The storytelling is a little loose outside of the random events you can encounter. There are rolls for weather and atmosphere, as well as for random events, but you're also instructed to sort of GM yourself, providing resource bonuses based on how you roleplay encounters.

The dice are also a bit detached from the resource system, and involve rolling d6s on oracle tables, where each outcome is weighted evenly. This is flavorful, but creates a lot of randomness and might not perfectly gel with the more mechanical stamina tracking and action economy.

That said, at its core, Crossfox is extremely fun. It has a sense of innate wonder and peril, and it generates fairly organic stories through play while at the same time providing a challenge in the form of stamina and health management.

Overall, I'd strongly recommend this to anyone who likes solo play, hexcrawls, or games about animals. It's a very well made book, and it provides a fun, replayable, all-ages game based around a simple and easy-to-engage-with subject.


Minor Issues:

-Page 7, Basic Hex Flow, "Once your in a hex" you're

-Page 14, Fighting A Wounded Animal, "but they can still injure you and does not follow" and this combat does not follow?

-Running vs Exploring. Exploring says "move to a hex." Is that an adjacent hex? Anywhere on the board? If it's the latter, running seems to just be a worse version of exploring, since it costs a ton of stamina.

-What happens if you would lose stamina when you have none?

-How do you determine your stats? Apart from your 3 Stamina and 3 Wounds, I was a bit lost. I couldn't find any info on what your attack, defense, and speed dice are. It might be helpful to have all of your stat info in one section.

-Can you spend Stamina to shift your result on the outcome tables? This feels like it would decrease the randomness a little and let players have more control over their gameplay.

From Out The Boundless Deep is a two-player game about customizing and sortie-ing a mech on dangerous missions in the depths of space.

It's 29 pages, with relatively bare but readable layout for most of the document, and then a really good layout in the back half of the book where the cards are kept.

Yes, cards. Boundless Deep is tarot-based, but not in the way most tarot games are. The vague associations of the cards are less important than their concrete stats.

Yes. This is a *crunchy* two-player tarot game.

The basic structure of Boundless Deep is that one player is a pilot, one player is a mechanic, and you both share custody over a mech in deep space. The mechanic allocates a limited pool of action points after each mission to repair and upgrade the mech, while the pilot takes the mech out afterwards and tries to accomplish an objective that will bring both players closer to their goal.

Both the pilot's and mechanic's phases of gameplay feel interesting, provide a good challenge, and refrain from hogging the spotlight. Neither player's role feels like an afterthought, and the overall game balance feels tight.

However, this mechanical tightness is sort of at the expense of the roleplaying. There are cordoned off spots in the game's structure where the two players can roleplay, but these spots feel kind of incidental. Likewise, the overall narrative isn't super clearly defined. You'll have to figure out on your own what the Boundless is doing in deep space before beginning play.

I don't think these are flaws, but they do make the game feel a bit more like a solid board game with optional roleplaying and less like a roleplaying game with good crunch. You can center the roleplaying more in your own play, but you'll have to put a little extra effort in to do it.

Overall, I think this is a gem. It's got a cool premise, the mechanics are fun and fresh, it's easy to learn, and it's satisfying to interact with. A lot of two-player games lean on the intensity that such a low player count adds to the roleplaying, but here that's kind of secondary. Yes, you can roleplay, but you can also ditch it and just go on cooperative two-player mech missions for your own (and maybe for the galaxy's) survival.

You Are Quarantined With Adam Driver And He Is Insisting On Reading You His New Script is a short, extremely well-written, comedy concept rpg.

It's 7 pages, with a clean, readable layout that leans in on the film script angle and feels like a document from the game's setting.

That setting, by the way, is your apartment. Where you are quarantined with Adam Driver, and he is insisting on reading you his new script.

To play, you randomize a hypothetical film script's topics, then try to loosely play it out. Whenever your acting or storytelling feels forced, you roll a d20 and risk the stability of your quarantine with Adam Driver.

After you've finished, you have a final phase of the game where you write a short review of the movie Adam Driver has ultimately created.

Spelled out like that, You Are Quarantined might sound a little flat, but that's because I am severely underselling how good the writing is. It is extremely worth the price of admission.

The game is also somewhat mutable, and if you don't have any particular connection to actor Adam Driver, you can swap in most other actors instead without changing the nature of the game.

Overall, if you are looking for a short game with a clever concept that'll give you a memorable experience, you should get this.

Thank you for writing the game!

A Great Miracle Happened Here is a game about a Jewish cell during a 1900s era workers' revolution.

It's 13 pages, with a cool and evocative piece of cover art and a good layout structure. It *does* feel bare, but this also puts the focus on the text, and that's not a bad thing.

Gameplay-wise, it's pretty short. Or probably condensed is a better word. It has a runtime of two hours, and the mechanics feel like a mix of Blades In The Dark and Belonging Outside Belonging.

You have gelt tokens, called Chaim, that you collect from and spend into a communal pool. You also have a dreidel that you spin in place of dice, both to randomize mission objectives and to randomize the costs of certain actions. Every action has a cost in Chaim, so a central objective of play is to try and keep some Chaim in the communal pool so your teammates can recover it when they need to.

This isn't a game where the core part of play is overcoming mechanical opposition. You don't have to beat a DC or reduce someone's Hit Points to win a mission. Instead, you narrate what seems appropriate based on the actions people have taken. This can lead to a happy ending or a more restless one, depending on which outcome feels appropriate.

Character creation is class-based, and has a lot of cool roles, but feels somewhat restrictive. Each class has a small pool of available actions, and they're all in-theme, but having some general actions that anyone can take would give players a little more breathing room.

Overall, I think A Great Miracle is a a cool storytelling game anchored in an interesting historical context. It has a structure that encourages storytelling without the randomness getting in the way, and it has plenty of flavor and very clear directions. If you have an interest in history, labor, Judaism, or the way a game's rules can shape the tone and cadence of its story, I'd strongly recommend checking it out.

A Space I Don't Know is a solo trpg about asexuality.

It's 17 pages, with a clean, easy to read layout and some cool custom graphics.

Because gameplay can involve confronting intense feelings, robust safety and anchoring tools are provided.

Setting-wise, you play as an outsider in a space. The default reason you're an outsider is asexuality, but advice is given for altering the game to fit other reasons as well. The nature of the space itself you'll need to define on your own, but a few suggestions are also provided.

Gameplay-wise, you play by encountering cards from two piles in a split tarot deck. One is people's outward attitudes towards you. The other is their inward attitudes towards you. You're instructed to stack the decks if there are any cards you don't want to encounter, and this is a nice touch that makes calibrating the game's safety a lot easier.

As a solo game, Space does some creative things with how it approaches NPCs. Specifically, they're the Arcana in the tarot deck. They start showing up as you play. and you can choose how and when to interact with them, having small conversations in your head as you build their character based on prompts and associations with them.

I'm used to seeing solo games that rely on very direct, one-shot questions, but Space trusts you a bit more. You're building a worldscape in your head, and it wants you to do that at your own pace, to whatever extent you'd like. It's cool.

Resource-wise, Space has a comprehensive guide to tarot meanings, plus a guide to their meanings in the context of this game. It's thorough, it's easy to use, and you'll have to refer to it a bunch while playing, but it doesn't feel troublesome to do so.

Overall, this is a cool, social-feeling, solo game with a lot of great design choices. It explores a topic that can be personal and complex and intense, and it does so in a way that lets the player put a *lot* of themself into the game if they want to. If you like solo games, emotions, or explorations of identity, I'd strongly recommend checking this out.


Minor Issues:

-Page 8, Coming Out, "if you want to coming out" to come out

Current Year is a near-future cyberpunk rpg largely focused on data management and surveillance.

It's 33 pages, with a clean, readable layout but a bit of a monotonous feel. That feeling might be intentional, as the overall atmosphere of the game is serious and technical.

Setting-wise, the game begins with a tech company, Moirai, gaining more or less total market saturation with its data monitoring program, OPTICON. OPTICON gathers and collates personal data from anyone with a device in sort of the same way companies and organizations already do, but it's much more centralized---making for sort of a softer, easier to disrupt dystopia than our current one.

Simply put, OPTICON has vulnerabilities, and the PCs learn about them. This is the 'They Live' style hook to most games of Current Year.

Setting-wise, Current Day doesn't define much outside of its basic premise. It does, however, give you a toolkit for building your own corner of the setting. This is neat and helps encourage a 'shared universe' kind of situation, where multiple groups can play Current Year independently and still have all of their stories be canon.

The game system itself has some good crunch to it, with attributes and skills and random roll tables as well as a point-based character creation. Attributes have mechanical meaning, and there's skill trees and a money system as well.

Current Year's core dice mechanic is a 2d10 roll in the style of PbtA. Most of the time, you'll be succeeding with a complication. Sometimes you'll succeed without a complication. If you're got points invested in your relevant attribute, you'll rarely get a straight failure, but scoring failures is how you improve your stats.

Honestly, it's simple, flexible, easy to use, and it encourages taking risks and growing. It's a good game engine.

Overall, Current Day has an interesting set-up and a cool engine---and it turns both of these over to you almost immediately and tells you to do what you will with them. If your group likes worldbuilding, if you like a bit of crunch, if you like modern day tech thrillers, I strongly recommend this. You'll have a good time.


Minor Issues:

-The idea of skills and risks is introduced twice without a specific pointer to the skills section. I'm not sure everyone will get tripped up here, but I did both times.

-+$10,000 for black market price markup feels a little weird in some cases. Like for $10,050 brass knuckles. Maybe 10x price?

https://kumada1.itch.io/rod-reel-fist

The Wretched & Alone SRD is a ten page resource for building your own works in the Wretched & Alone engine.

It's very user-friendly, concisely worded, and gives a great explanation of the system and how to make your own material using it.

Restrictions-wise, it primarily just asks you to credit The Wretched and also to be a good person.

For designers, this is a fantastic SRD---and I think that statement is supported by the considerable number of great Wretched & Alone games that can be found here on itch.

For players, this is likely not as useful, and may spoil your game experience if you read this before playing The Wretched or anything else in that engine.

Yeah, it's pretty beefy. This was my first go at doing layout for a project, and I did want to frontload all the section headings I could in the ToC, but there's probably a better way I can walk the line between it being comprehensive and it feeling bloated.

Dukk Borg is a Mork Borg supplement that swaps the somber cold of Tveland for the wild high energy colorful cartoon gloom of Calisota.

The same rules set is used, and it's fully possible to port over human characters from Mork Borg to Dukk Borg, but there's also plenty of new mechanical options like clans, and it has the energy of a standalone.

Dukk Borg being released in stages, so both the length and content will increase, but its round 1 (the only round available at the time of writing) is eight pages. Like Mork Borg, the layout is expressive and punchy, and there's a high density of amazing art and cool design.

Writing-wise, Dukk Borg is glorious. It knows exactly what it's doing and how silly its straight-faced Duck Tales OSR concept is, but it commits. It's easy to get immersed in this tale of duck liches and cruel wealth, and that takes some serious chops to pull off.

Content-wise, the addition of clans is very welcome, and adds some extra cohesion and tension to the PCs' party. There's a lot of color here, some of it literal, and clans also add extra mechanics and hooks for the squad.

There's also a new class, and a few enemies, and hirelings. The class---treasure hunter---has some potential extra wealth, but doesn't feel especially powerful compared to the classes in core. However, the monsters and hirelings scale with it, so this is likely the intended balance for the setting.

Overall, if you're looking to get in on the ground floor of something that's fun and an absolute treat to read, and if you don't mind the Mork Borg ruleset, I *strongly* recommend Dukk Borg. I can't wait to see what the other rounds are like.

Thank you!

The good news is, if your Game Lamprey is ever doing too much harm to your core book, you can just install a Game Lamprey on your Game Lamprey. Five or so feedings later, the core book will be cured.

That's a sentence I never expected to write.