Elfs Playtest Review by Powergamer on 09/09/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Elfs -- A spanky little role-playing game that breaks many rules. Jay and Silent Bob meets 'Fellowship of the Ring'; if bathroom humor and furious ass-kicking is your thing -- look no further.
Author: Ron Edwards
Company/Publisher: Adept Press
Page count: 55
Year published: 2000
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Powergamer on 09/09/02
Genre tags: Fantasy Comedy
Elfs playtest review
Elfs is a humorous role-playing game written by Ron Edwards of Sorcerer fame. In his own words, Elfs is...
A wicked funny RPG that kicks traditional fantasy role-playing in the kneecap. It looks like beer & pretzels light-hearted fun, but it's more than that ...
- Mechanics to create comedy, so that the game is funny to play as well as to read
- Dead-on and not-especially-nice satire of all those familiar fantasy RPG motifs
The actual game is a 55 page PDF file, available directly from the creator at Adept Press. It is well, if conservatively, laid out in a format well suited for printing. Several humourous black and white illustrations by Jeff Diamond are interspersed throughout the text. Elfs has no index, but is as easily searchable as any other Acrobat file.
Basically elfs are scum. They are not etheral and wise; they are dim-witted, opportunistic little bastards. Most can easily be pigeonholed in one of three categories: 1) The Anal elf who is endlessly fascinated by stuff that goes poopy-kaka, 2) the Oral elf who likes to suck stuff, and 3) the Genital elf who likes to f*ck stuff. Their demeanor is that of a 13-year old powergaming Rifts munchkin: Kill, loot, party. Repeat. When not in the throes of one of their mental handicaps, elfs run across the world, hacking and slaying for fun and profit.
You play one of these losers and try to get your grubby little hands on as much loot as elfinly possible, preferably while hosing your buddies.
Rules-wise Elfs is quite simple. A character has three stats, a sort of alignment, a one-sentence description, a kill list, and an equipment list. For reference I present one of our playtest characters:
Lystria, Spunk: 3, Low Cunning: 2, Dumb Luck: 2, Oral personality, ego-tripping bimbo.
All in-game actions are resolved by first stating your intent and then rolling 3d10 versus Spunk; dice that roll Spunk or less are counted as successes. If you can narrate your stated intent as being especially sneaky or childish, you get to add your Low Cunning to your Spunk, thus increasing your chances of success.
However, Dumb Luck is what makes Elfs stand out from the crowd. To get the Dumb Luck bonus added to your Spunk, you must make two action statements; one for what your character would want to happen, and one for what you want to happen.
'Let's see... Sleazy desperately wants to split the bastards head, but I want Sleazy to fall and slide on his ass off the snowpile, across the icy floor and out the door.'
If you get three successes, your character's action succeeds. If you get one or two successes, your action succeeds. And if you fail, you fail. This novel mechanic is the source of much of the silliness of Elfs, as using Dumb Luck is an excellent way to hose your buddies.
Combat is unusual in that the GM need not control non-player characters or monsters. With the addition of some Godlike-like initiative rules, and the fact that players continually must come up with inventive narrative action statements to obtain their bonuses, Elfs can deliver some very detailed and exciting battles, while still being about as rules-light as RISUS.
Rules for magical items and spells are equally simple, and the experience rules are a stroke of genius: You gain experience by spending your loot. As there is only so much equipment your elf can lug around, he or she will eventually have to spend the booty on booze and bimbos. In other words: Drinking and whoring will make you powerful, just as in real life (See: George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Skull).
I GM'ed Elfs for three friends of mine, all experienced old-school AD&D twinkies -- the kind of players that KotD is based on. I ran them through 'Ice & Fire', the supplied starter scenario. It concerns the hunt for a magical pipe and features such diverse elements as investigating a tribe of ice elfs overwintering in an abandoned castle (roleplaying), exterminating monsters (killing stuff), and dubious moral choices (roleplaying and killing stuff).
The PC's did surprisingly well at investigating the tribe, especially as most of them harbor an open dislike of roleplaying ('gayyy!'). Although they didn't actually find any clues to the whereabouts of the pipe, they succeeded in antagonizing half the tribe with their arrogant demeanor, and the high point would be when they gang-banged the ice elf princess. After climaxing they quickly became bored and decided to investigate the abandoned castle. As the group voluntarily roleplayed, I consider this start a success, even if they failed to uncover any useful clues.
Once inside the castle, the action picked up. And this is where people really started to enjoy themselves. Elfs' combat system is very exciting, and as you are forced to come up with inventive combat starements -- at least if you want your Low Cunning or Dumb Luck bonuses -- it is also very detailed and unpredictable. The guys put the furious smackdown on many worthy opponents, but the polar bear-type monster who got its face(s) burned by by two elfs, while the third snuck up behind it and penetrated its colon with a nightstick, still gets chuckles out of me. Elfs combat was a definite hit with our group. It is fun and exciting, yet takes only a single roll per character and it needs minimal bookkeeping. I would personally love to see this combat system in a sci-fi setting.
As for the climax... I would rather not go into spoiler territory. Suffice to say that our elfs made some extremely dubious moral choices, and came out smelling like roses. Afterwards, my players spent several minutes congratulating themselves on how smart they were, so I would also rate this part as a success. All in all, it was a very entertaining and satisfying session of Elfs, and I consider it an evening well spent.
Two things about Elfs stand out: Elfs are nasty and petty, and that means it is almost impossible not to roleplay when you play this game. And the actual role-playing is funny, often disgusting, and always entertaining.
Secondly, the combat system is really, really nifty. We were all surprised that you could get so exciting fights out of a system as light as Elfs, but you can, and it rocks.
We had a lot of fun playing Elfs and judging from this session, Elfs would also work well for campaigns. When we get the time, we plan to run our version of the 'Lord of the Rings', with an all-elfs cast. It will be glorious.
Elfs is a well laid out PDF, easy on the eyes. And it has its very own spin on certain fantasy chestnuts.
Elfs is a humourous game that is actually fun to play, and the underpinnings of its 'fun factor' is build right into the system. Said system also provides kick-ass combat, and is simple too.