The World of Synnibarr
Author: Raven c.s. McCracken
Company/Publisher: Wonderworld Press, Inc.
Cost: $30 (US)
Page count: 478 pages
Playtest Review by Bradford C. Walker on 02/23/98. Genre tags: none
This is one of the worst role-playing games ever made.
The World of Synnibarr bills itself as a single-book system that imposes no limits on a character's abilities nor on a player's imagination. Someone should sue Mr. McCracken for false advertising, because there are limits and those limits have a solidity no other game can fathom.
Is it in the variety of character types? Nope. There are over 50 character classes, and each of them can reach 600th level. There are more spells, items, cyberware and so on in one book that most games publish in an entire line. There are more skills than most games dare to create, let alone publish. With all of these classes, abilites and toys why is it so limited?
Because this game is designed for one thing, and that is all-out power-gaming. Despite all pretensions of character development, all that matters is how much ass your character can kick and how much loot he can haul off. Everything revolves around this premise, including the rules by which a Synnibarr GM ("Fate") labors under.
Power-gaming limits the character types down to those maximized for ass-kicking. Consequently, non-combat abilities are neglected (if not ignored) while combat abilities are honed to super-human perfection. It's all of the wet dreams of munchkins cobbled together and published under one volume, which is one reason for this game's bad reputation.
What really makes this a waste of good paper is that this game has a great premise that leads to a great setting. In short, Synnibarr is a planet-sized generation ship crafted out of Mars by the god Ardius. Earth is about to be blown away by a passing comsic storm, so humanity goes aboard this "worldship" and sets sail for a far-off planet called "Shalom" about 50,000 light-years away. 400 humans are mutated into the first adventurers. Two of them, both Mutants, cause and save Synnibarr from disaster. Over the next 50,000 years billions are born and die in one series of genocidal wars after another, until the Plague comes along and makes everyone stupid for a while. Then Ardius (fresh from beating on another god all this time) arrives to clean up the mess. The game's default is 500 years after this "Dark Age" ends, with everything in a state of flux. It feels a lot like one of SquareSoft's Final Fantasy games, save that the mechanics really suck. (Palladium's system w! ould be an upgrade.)
Part of the insanity of Synnibarr's mechanics regards the creation of new items or spells. As pg. 304 says, "The weapons created by young engineers are devastating. However, there are limits. No matter how efficient a weapon can be made, it cannot exceed the capabilities of a weapon already in existance." The excuse is this (continuing from the same paragraph) "The Alchemists have had 50,000 years to perfect their science, and no one can make something more efficient in power consumption or in damage-to-size ratios then they can." What? Sorry, I don't buy it. Does it matter? Nope. Why? The rules for GMs forbid any variation. As pg. 332 clearly dictates, "Fate has absolute control during the game regarding rolls and interpretation of the rules. Fate may not, however, deviate from the rules as they are written, for if he or she does and the players find out, then the adventure can be declared null, and the characters must be restored to their original condition, as t! hey were before the game began." Don't think you can tell the munchkin to bugger off if he cites this. McCracken successfully instituted the only Game Police in the industry by writing the following: "Players may attempt what is known as "calling Fate." This means that if a ruling is disputed by a player and he challenges Fate and is found to be absolutely correct, the player may receive double gaming points ("XP"- BCW)for the entire adventure." These passages are but a small sample of the insanity rampant throughout the game.
Finally, there is the designer's bio at the back of the book. He claims that everything in Synnibarr is a result of his direct experience, from combat down to engineering. (I'd like to know where he directly experienced magic and psi powers.) It "rings with authenticity" because of this. (If you've read McCracken's letter to InQuest, you know that he wasn't kidding when he wrote that bio.) I can tell you from direct experience, by playing this game, that he's full of it. Nothing brings out the worst in gamers like playing this game does. (Where else can a 1st. level character legitimately jump straight to 20th lvl., earn and spend $500M and still be considered a wuss?) My friends and have horror stories about this game and the things that went on by playing it.
This game sucks. Play at your own risk, but you'd be better off having a root canal.
Style: 2 (Needs Work)