Free RPG Day Review #3
The inaugural Free RPG Day was held on Saturday June 23rd in the USA and Saturday 21st July in the UK. Its aim was to bring gamers and potential customers into their local games store by making available a number of free mini supplements kindly provided by the publishers. Each is intended to introduce and showcase a particular RPG or range of supplements, either already available or forthcoming. The purpose here is to review as many of the following as possible in a series of mini-reviews, taking into consideration how well each stands on its own, how good each serves as an introduction or prequel to another fuller product, how well it stands up as Free RPG Day product, and just how good it is in general.
I have access to the following items, for which I would like to thank Roj at Wayland's Forge:
- GamesMastery Module D0: Hollow's Last Hope
- DCC #51.5: The Sinister Secret of Whiterock
- Wicked Fantasy Module #0: Temple of Blood
- Tunnels & Trolls Quick-Start Rules
- Mutants & Masterminds Beginner's Guide: Quick-Start
- Castles & Crusades Fantasy Role Playing Game Quick Start Rules
- Dungeonbattle Brooklyn for Xcrawl
- Changling: the Lost -- Free Rules and Adventure
- Little Boy Lost for In Dark Alleys
- Call of Cthulhu Quickstart Rules
- The Pig, the Witch and her Lover -- Free Adventure for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
- Flashpak for Cyberpunk 3.0*
- The Rifter #38*
- Return to the Tomb of the Five Corners*
- GURPS Lite Fourth Edition*
- Scion: the Hero*
These do not constitute the full list of items available on Free RPG Day. There were some items that I was not able to get hold of and there cannot offer a full review.
* To be fair although I have a copy of The Rifter which was given away on the day, both time and personal prejudice will probably prevent me from giving a fair review. I declined a copy of the Flashpak for Cyberpunk 3.0 as I did not think that I could do a fair review of it following the extemely unfavourable review I had to give Cyberpunk 3.0 elsewhere. Similarly, Return to the Tomb of the Five Corners, GURPS Lite Fourth Edition, and Scion: the Hero have been covered elsewhere in detail, though all do a decent job of introducing their respective games.
Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn was originally made available on Free RPG Day in the UK, but Goodman Games has since published as one of its $2 adventures. As the title suggests, it is designed for Xcrawl, the d20 System RPG that turns the traditional dungeon crawl into a spectacle, essentially the modern equivalent of "bread 'n' circuses" complete with corporate sponsorship and rampant celebrity culture. In its own way, as a friend siad, Xcrawl is the d20 System's equivalent of SLA Industries though with a trashier treatment of its media and with less horror. The political allegory is there though, in SLA Industries it being Thatcher's Britain, in Xcrawl that of 80s America complete with Emperor Ronald I.
In Xcrawl dungeons are run as televised pay to view sports events, complete with live audiences and referees. Events are organised into Divisions, the upper divisons of I, II, and III hosting more difficult, designated as Full Lethal, and thus more popular crawls. Division IV is the lowest, being non-lethal and is primarily for amateurs and professional Xcrawl athletes in training. Dungeons are designed to be visible and built around tests as much as combat, allowing for potential Xcrawl stars to excel in all areas and to grandstand to the public. Indeed, every Xcrawl star is as much a performer as he is an athlete, because both the successful completion of dungeons and performing well when doing so will gain an Xcrawler fame and sponsorship.
Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn is designed for a party of 1st level characters and as an opportunity for an Xcrawl team to gain a little fame and fortune, and hopefully give them the leg up to go professional. The simple fact is that the Division IV finals are not great money spinners, but have to be held every year. This year, the Xcrawl Commissioner has decided that to make it worth everyone's time by making it Full Lethal for the very first time. Which means that if the Xcrawlers are killed, they stay dead -- this is a world without resurrection.
With Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn you get a 15 room dungeon, though less of a dungeon in the classical sense and more a dungeon combined with aspects of the Gladiator television show including in-game referees. The dungeon's (and Xcrawl's) lethality is tempered with restrooms where a party can eat, heal, and take a comfort break! It can be played through in a session or so, at most two sessions. It can played straight from this booklet without reference to the Xcrawl main book and just the core Dungeons & Dragons rules, as everything is explained and four pre-generated characters are provided.
Physically, Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn matches the quality of the other titles made available on Free RPG Day by Goodman Games. It is well written, it is reasonably illustrated, and above all, it takes time to explain itself and the Xcrawl setting whilst still giving a decent introductory adventure. It even suggests what an interested group should buy and play next from amongst the few books available in the Xcrawl line as well as adding several items that will find their way into a campaign. Which is exactly the point of Free RPG Day.
Xcrawl might be one of the d20 System's odder settings, but Xcrawl: Dungeonbattle Brooklyn is the perfect introduction to that setting. It is informative, it is fun, and it should provide an evening's entertainment.
Highs: A good solid introduction to one of the d20 System's wackier settings with some clever use of a higher level monster.
Lows: The wacky setting might put off those players who prefer their dungeon crawl to be more traditional.
Overall: Worth a go just for the $2 price tag alone.
For Free RPG Day: A perfectly done introduction from the bright eye-catching cover to the little items that can be added to an Xcrawl campaign.