DriveThru RPG Reviews: Nights of the Crusades

Who says you need a book thick enough to stop a bullet to have a heavy simulationist game?  Nights of…

Who says you need a book thick enough to stop a bullet to have a heavy simulationist game?  Nights of the Crusades proves that it can be done in only 106 pages.

As may be inferred by the title, Nights of the Crusades is set in the Middle East during Medieval Times.  It is a time of conflict and bigotry of all sorts from racism to sexism to religious intolerance.  But the historical crusades are not the only inspiration for Nights of the Crusades.  The famous 1001 Nights also plays a role in the game, with the mythical creatures and supernatural dangers from those stories added to the already dark themes of war and conquest.  This is not the Disney version of these stories and the djinn in the game are malicious, massively powerful creatures that delight in tricking and tormenting mortals.

Obviously, given these source materials, Nights of the Crusades is a very dark game.  Even if a player does not particularly want his character to dislike another character, whether player or game master controlled, there is a system of allegiances which insure that it is much easier to be aggressive against people of opposing allegiances than it is to assist them.  Of course, whether or not the character acts on these hatreds is up to the player.  The ranks of these allegiances can change so clever players can manipulate their ranks to make it easier or harder to attack or negotiate with a particular group depending on the groups the player wants his character to be allied with.

DriveThruRPG Reviews: Gimme Some of That Good Pie Shop

Let’s face facts: most adventurers are homicidal, if not genocidal maniacs. Even in the best of circumstances, they beat up…

Let’s face facts: most adventurers are homicidal, if not genocidal maniacs. Even in the best of circumstances, they beat up the bad guys in less than legal circumstances and more often than not, they simply slaughter sentient beings and loot their dead bodies. In darker games, the characters are not even expected to have a moral excuse for performing such slaughter; they are simply giving in to their accursed nature. Pie Shop takes this often overlooked fact of role playing to all new levels. In fact, the game takes it to a level where it is the very core of the game. In Pie Shop the characters (it is impossible to think of them as heroes in even the loosest terms, even “anti-hero” is too nice a title for them) are serial killers.

The author goes to great lengths to convey the skewed, dark and downright creepy nature of his subject matter. Each chapter begins with a scene from Alice in Wonderland but the excerpts are altered so that Alice is a killer who leaves a bloody path in her wake as she travels through Wonderland. The game text itself is written in a twisted, slightly insane style and from the perspective of one killer talking to another, a sort of psychotic mentor. This writing includes the obligatory piece of flavor text but even this is knocked sideways from expectations by taking a sudden, violent, dark turn in the middle that is all too appropriate for the game. Reading Pie Shop gives a feeling not unlike reading the novel American Psycho. You’re travelling through a strange land that is the mind of someone almost completely alien, yet disgustingly human and it is hard to look away.

DriveThruRPG Reviews: A Fun, Freeform RPG …In Spaaace!

Some sci fi games feature hard science settings with very realistic rules for gravity, faster than light travel and high…

Some sci fi games feature hard science settings with very realistic rules for gravity, faster than light travel and high tech weapons. Other games are basically designed for space operas. These games feature artificial gravity, ship travelling as fast as they need to to get to the plot and the only limitations on weapons are how cool they are. Then, there is …In Spaaace! by Greg Stolze. If Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a genre and there are other stories in it, this is the game to play them.

The game is fairly short, both the setting and rules encompassing only 15 pages but that is really all that’s needed for the subject. The setting information takes up the first half of the book but in those 7 pages players get all they need to know about the ridiculousness of living in this particular future. Much like the world in Hitchhiker’s Guide, the ideas presented in this book are nothing more than the trends that currently exist in the real world taken to their logical, ridiculous extreme. And there’s more than a hint of philosophy thrown into the descriptions for good measure. For instance, Artificial Stupidity is just as important a part of Machine Consciousness in …In Spaaace! as Artificial Intelligence. This makes perfect sense since we constantly rate whether or not a computer is self aware based on how much it acts like a human. A computer can be perfectly logical, far more logical than humans and thus quite intelligent but it is not considered sentient because it does not have emotions. And less face facts, emotions generally make us do stupid things in one way or another. Thus, it is the flaws in the machines that make them self aware just as it is our own flaws that make us individuals. Other science fiction tropes like cloning and aliens are presented as well and given the same insightful yet ridiculous treatment. A surprisingly complete vision of the world of …In Spaaace! ends up being given in those 7 short pages.