GODLIKE Playtest Review by Daniel Pond on 09/08/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
A unique, thought-provoking take on the superhero genre, combined with innovative game mechanics. I played a pre-release demo at Gen Con and had a blast!
Author: Dennis Derwiller & Greg Stolze
Company/Publisher: Pagan Publishing
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Daniel Pond on 09/08/01
Genre tags: Historical Superhero
My lovely fiance was good enough to direct me to the Pagan Publishing booth at Gen Con when she discovered they were running demo games of GODLIKE. I had stumbled across the preview on Pagan's website (via a post to the Unknown Armies mailing list) a few weeks earlier and was intrigued. In fact, it was one of the few items on my wish list for Gen Con; unfortunately, it won't ship until late September or early October (as I understand it).
I highly recommend taking a look at the preview. It has some really great artwork and tons of tasty setting tidbits. Check it out at http://www.tccorp.com/pagan/pp_previews.html
So here's the deal: It's World War II and people with superhuman talents are crawling out of the woodwork. Entire nations are held in awe by those on their side, and terrorized by those allied with their enemies.
But the "supermen" themselves don't always share the sentiment. After all, they're just people, too. Sure, you can lift a tank over your head or fly faster than sound, but that doesn't mean you can't end up in a shallow grave like any other soldier. This dichotomy between the outward appearance of power and the inner experience of self-doubt seems to form the thematic core of the game. I applaud Co-Author Dennis Detwiller for coming up with such a thought-provoking angle.
During our playtest, the theme certainly made itself apparent. One of our deadliest characters, a man who could kill at a glance, was taken out by a single sniper's bullet. In the end, we found out that our special abilities were just tools, no more and no less significant than a Nazi machine gun nest, tank, or grenade.
It's an interesting take on the superhero genre, and one that promises plenty of fertile ground for character-driven gaming.
But an interesting premise isn't all GODLIKE has going for it. The RPG industry's premier rules monkey, Greg Stolze, has contributed a fluid, fast-playing set of dice pool mechanics. One roll gives you everything you need for an entire combat round, from initiative all the way through weapon damage. Our action sequences (and there were a _ton_ of them!) flowed seemlessly into the rest of the narrative and I don't think I ever felt like I was waiting around for my turn to act. Plus, there are a couple of gimmicks thrown in to reflect the game's theme of self-doubt. (But what else did we expect from the guy who brought us Unknown Armies' Madness Meters?)
Both of these authors seem to thrive on innovation, and GODLIKE looks to me like a unique and innovative game. In an age of D20-powered RPG standardization, it's certain to be a breath of much-needed fresh air. Based on the style of the preview pages and the substance of the demo game, I'm giving GODLIKE a pre-emptive 4/4 rating.
(Looking back on what I just wrote, I think I should make it clear that I am in no way on the payroll of Pagan Publishing, Dennis Detwiller, or Greg Stolze. It was just the best game I played at the entire convention and I thought that deserved some positive press. Bite me.)