The Alexandrian

Archive for the ‘Reviews’ category

Tagline: A great bargain for a wealth of material, and a wonderful little taste of history.

Dragon Magazine ArchiveAllow me to salivate.

The Dragon Magazine Archive collects, on five CD-ROMs, the first two hundred and fifty issues of Dragon Magazine, as well as all seven issues of The Strategic Review (the house organ which Tactical Studies Rules published prior to Dragon). It thus collects more than twenty years worth of material – thousands and thousands of pages of the finest roleplaying material ever set to paper.

For forty bucks. (Some places are selling it for as much as $70 – don’t let ‘em fool you. Amazon.com is selling it, here, for $28.)

So, like I said: Allow to salivate.

Elsewhere on RPGNet I have written a lengthy “100 Issue Retrospective” which covered the magazine from Issue #162 (the first issue of Dragon I ever owned) through to #262 (the most recent at the time I wrote the retrospective). In it I discussed at quite some length the merits and history of The Dragon, and I heartily encourage you to take a look at that for more background information concerning the magazine.

To summarize my feelings, I consider Dragon Magazine to be one of the most significant icons in the roleplaying industry – and certainly one of the most enduring. I remember well removing the subscription card from my red-boxed Basic Set of D&D (hands up everyone who was introduced to roleplaying through that nostalgia-ridden product), mailed it in, and waited with eager anticipation for my first issue to arrive in the mail. When it did, I felt instantly connected to a larger world of roleplayers.

Because so many roleplayers are introduced into the industry through some form of Dungeons & Dragons, and because it is a natural progression to purchase a subscription to Dragon (particularly in the years when TSR was advertising the magazine in the introductory sets of their games), I imagine this is feeling which I share with many others. To a very real extent, Dragon (like D&D itself) serves as a major portal into the hobby of gaming.

Thus the Dragon Magazine Archive, in addition to providing you with an amazing wealth of material, lets you take a peek into what was passing through this gateway in years past. For years when you were in the hobby (particularly the early years), it’s a nostalgia trip of immense proportions. For the years when you weren’t, it’s a glimpse into an “arcane past” which is fascinating and invigorating.

But, lest we forget and assume there is nothing here but nostalgia, let us remember that within this archive you will find thousands of articles and reviews and columns. You simply cannot find a better bargain, in terms of a dollar-to-content ratio, then you will find in this package.

FAVORITE BITS

Despite owning the Archive since my birthday (about four months now), I’ve been able to do little more than skim through the thinnest layer of material – most of it concentrated in the earliest years of the magazine. As a small sampling, let me point out some of my favorite bits:

Strategic Review #1: After a lengthy discussion of spears in man-to-man combat, Gary Gygax writes: “Coming Next Issue . . . POLE ARMS, and Their Relationship to CHAINMAIL.”

Maybe I’m just warped, but I found this intrinsically amusing. (If you have no idea why it would be, you’re just too young.)

Other notable “before they were famous” moments including one of the earliest discussions of the dual-axis alignment system (complete with the diagrams that would later crop up in first edition). My favorite, though, is the article of random dungeon design (for solo play) which would later serve as the basis for one of the most famous sections of the 1st edition DMG.

One of the first things most people will take a look at when they get their hands on the Archive is the very issue of Dragon – and with good cause. It is a major milestone, and I have met old hands who divide the entire history of roleplaying (at least during the first couple of decades) into “before Dragon” and “after Dragon”.

The very first words of the editorial content of The Dragon are: “This issue marks a major step for TSR Hobbies, Inc. With it, we have bid farewell to the safe, secure world of the house organ, and have entered the arena of competitive magazine publishing.”

I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so unintentionally hilarious in my life.

Perhaps the most valuable resource I found in the Archive were the early Tékumel articles – articles which are otherwise very difficult to obtain. While they wouldn’t fully justify the cost of the Archive, except for the true Tékumel fanatic, they come awfully close. Easily worth $10-15 to anyone with the slightest interest in Tékumel, which doesn’t leave a lot of the purchase price left to make up with everything else. (I have posted a review of Tékumel elsewhere on RPGNet.)

Any summary of the Archive would not be complete without perhaps the most noteworthy inclusion:

Wormy!

SnarfQuest and Yamara, the other two comics of serious note in Dragon’s history, in my opinion, have been published in collections, but Wormy never has (because it’s creator simply disappeared). (I believe the Yamara collection is still in print from Steve Jackson Games; while a new (and more complete) SnarfQuest collection is on its way from Dynasty Publishing – which will also be publishing new(!) SnarfQuest strips in their Games Unplugged magazines. But I digress.)

Wormy is one of the most memorable icons of the gaming industry, and has long been unavailable in any form. Now, at last, it is possible to read the strip in its entirety at an affordable price. If the Tékumel articles almost make the Archive worth the price all by themselves, then Wormy definitely has the cover charge under control.

PROBLEM PARTS

Every single problem with the Archive can be summed up in one word: Interface.

The interface, quite frankly, sucks. It’s not just bad, it’s atrocious. The pages take too long to turn, the general controls are unintuitive to the point of stupidity and are sluggish to respond. The provided Table of Contents for several issues is screwed up (although you can always just look at the magazine’s contents page and work from there).

For a product like this, printing is of the utmost importance – but here the problems seem to multiply. I routinely had the printer simply print blank pages. And, unless you set the printing to grayscale, the program will print the black ink by using your color cartridge to print all the colors in the spectrum (a massive waste of expensive ink). Plus, they don’t have the page numbers of the digital document match up with the page numbers of the actual magazine (because they don’t take the simple step of not counting the cover and inside cover as pages).

Worse yet, though, this monstrous program takes up 40MB of RAM! It slows any attempt to multitask down to a crawl.

Bah.

Fortunately, all of the magazines are presented in Adobe Acrobat format and thus, with their free viewer, you can access them directly and without any problems – bypassing the clunky interface entirely. (Although you may still occasionally use the program for the search engine it employs – which quickly and efficiently searches through the entire collection.) There’s still no way to bypass the faulty page numbering (because that’s embedded in the document format), but at least in the Acrobat Reader the digital page numbers are displayed right on the screen – so that you won’t be reduced to guessing how large the off-set is for this particular issue.

CONCLUSION

The Dragon Magazine Archive is a fantastic bargain. Don’t pass it up.

Style: 3
Substance: 5

Author: Various
Company/Publisher: Wizards of the Coast / TSR, Inc.
Cost: $40.00
Page Count: Unfathomable
ISBN: 0-7869-1448-3

Originally Posted: 2000/03/21

“Worse yet, though, this monstrous program takes up 40MB of RAM!” … speaking of things rendered hilarious through the benefit of hindsight.

The Dragon Magazine Archive remains one of the best bargains in the history of gaming. And that remains true even though it’s currently priced at $155 on Amazon.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Sherlock - Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin FreemanI’m generally a fan of Sherlock (the modern reimagining of Sherlock Holmes by Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss that’s so ubiquitous I’m just going to assume you know about it). I have some rather lengthy thoughts on how Moffat’s handling of Doctor Who has gone off the rails that I may spew across the Alexandrian at some point, but Sherlock has managed to mostly avoid those problems.

Mostly.

Unfortunately, there’s a real danger that the problems Sherlock is currently laboring under could turn into a metastatic cancer on the series (as evidenced by Doctor Who).

Let’s first consider the decision to simply not resolve the cliffhanger at the end of the second series. The ambiguity they attempted to embrace is arguably interesting, but it’s a burnt earth approach to writing: They presented a seemingly insoluble, implied that the solution to it would be amazing, and then deliberately failed to deliver. Fair enough. But that means the one thing that won’t be effective again is hanging a cliffhanger on a seemingly insoluble mystery: No one is going to take it seriously because you’ve already made it clear you have no intention of providing a satisfactory conclusion.

And yet what do they do literally three episodes later? Present the exact same cliffhanger a second time, but this time featuring a different character.

That would be lazy and uninspired writing at the best of times. But it’s particularly anemic because they’ve already established that they have no intention of following through.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I stop watching your show.

The more insidious problem, however, is the sloppy writing in the third series. (Exactly the sort of sloppy writing that we’ve been seeing a lot of over in Doctor Who.) A key example is the end of the season finale: It depends entirely on Magnussen failing to search them for weapons, despite the fact that the episode explicitly established that Magnussen has everyone he meets with searched for weapons. (It’s particularly silly because the only thing establishing Magnussen’s paranoia about weapons accomplishes is to render the ending of the episode into nonsense.)

In order for Sherlock to work as a series, it has to deliver sharp, clever scripts that support the conceit that its main character is sharp and clever. If it stops doing that it’s going to die a quick death, no matter how sexy and talented its two main stars may be.

Tagline: A really great card game, although with fewer twists than we’ve come to expect from Master Garfield.

THE CONCEPT

The Great Dalmuti - Richard Garfield - Wizards of the Coast“’One day I will ride a horse like that,’ said the child to the woman as they watched the noble procession. ‘Yes dearie.’ ‘And I will have a palace, and lots of cake.’ ‘Maybe,’ she said, remembering the marble-lined halls of her youth. ‘But today let’s just to try to finish planting to the stream.’ The only place that peasant and princess change places faster than in a fairy tale is in The Great Dalmuti!

Life isn’t fair… and neither is The Great Dalmuti!

According to the introduction of the little multi-lingual instruction pamphlet of The Great Dalmuti (English, Spanish, German, and French rules are all presented in one), Richard Garfield first encountered the rules for this game while attending graduate school. As he says: “I had never seen a game like it before; it rewarded the player in the lead and penalized the player who was falling behind. The game was played for no other purpose than to play. There was no winner or loser at the end; there was only the longest-lasting ‘Dalmuti’, and the ‘peon’, the player most talented at grovelling.”

THE RULES

There are twelve ranks of cards. The ranks symbolize various levels in a fantasy society – with the Great Dalmuti at Rank 1; the Baronesses at Rank 4; Peasants at Rank 12; etc. The rank also doubles as the card’s effectiveness (with lower numbers being more effective) and as the number of cards of that type in the deck (thus there is one Great Dalmuti in the deck, four Baronesses, twelve Peasants, and so on ). There are also two Jesters, who are assigned Rank 13 – but can also act as wild cards when played in conjunction with other cards.

At the beginning of the game everyone draws a random card, which assigns their rank: The player with the highest card is the Great Dalmuti; the second highest becomes the Lesser Dalmuti; the lowest becomes the Greater Peon; and the second lowest becomes the Lesser Peon. Everyone in between becomes a Merchant (of varying ranks depending on where their cards fell).

Here’s the really cute part of the game: You have to change the seating arrangment according to your rank. The Great Dalmuti can stay where he is, but everyone else needs to array themselves out to his right, until you finally return to the Greater Peon to the Great Dalmuti’s left.

All the cards are dealt at this point (by the Greater Peon) and the goal is simple: Get rid of all your cards. Before play begins, though, is a stage of taxation – in which the Greater Peon gives his best two cards to the Greater Dalmuti in exchange for two of his cards (which the Dalmuti selects), and the Lesser Peon gives one of his cards to the Lesser Dalmuti in exchange for one of his cards.

The Greater Dalmuti then leads the first round by playing one or more cards of the same rank. Play proceeds to his right (through the Lesser Dalmuti to the Greater Peon) with each player being able to play either more cards of the same rank which was last played, or a set of cards in a higher rank. The round proceeds until no one can (or will – you’re not forced to play just because you can), and then whoever played last wins the round and leads the next.

The first player to run out of cards becomes the Great Dalmuti in the next round; the second player out becomes the Lesser Dalmuti; and so on until you reach the last player (who becomes the Greater Peon).

There are some other flairs (for example the ability to call a Revolution and an optional scoring system), but that’s the gist of the game.

SUMMARY

You may be asking yourself why you should buy this game. After all, I’ve told you almost all the rules; Garfield didn’t invent it; and you can play it with a regular deck of cards.

Well, quite frankly, because the deck of cards which is being furnished to you is really great – and cheaper than buying the several decks of cards which you would need to in order to assemble the specialized deck needed to play.

Win-win.

Which, of course, leads to the obvious question: Is the game worth playing?

Absolutely. The bigger the group, the more fun it is. It’s open-ended, while remaining competitive, and the interactions (both socially and strategically) which the dynamics of the rules lead to are really entertaining.

Garfield says one thing in the instruction manual that really captures, I think, why he has had such incredible success in designing (and, in this case, presenting) card games that capture the minds and hearts of their players: “If you’ve enjoyed The Great Dalmuti and don’t usually play regular card games, give them a try. For me there are more hours of amusement in a single deck of cards than in all the world’s movies combined. And I love the movies.”

Amen.

Style: 4
Substance: 4

Author: Richard Garfield
Company/Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Cost: $7.95
Page Count: n/a
ISBN: 1-880992-57-4

Originally Posted: 2000/03/12

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse is End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse - Fantasy Flight Gamesthe first in a series of RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games, each featuring a different apocalyptic scenario: Zombies, Gods, Alien Invasion, Robot Revolt.

The primary conceit of End of the World is that you’re playing as yourself. The game’s default modus operandi is that you and your friends are sitting down to play an RPG when the apocalypse starts. At that point reality kind of bifurcates: The version of you playing the game stays at the table while the version of you in the game presumably leaves the table to go deal with the apocalypse.

If you’re an experienced gamer, the odds are pretty high that this concept immediately fills you with skepticism: There have been quite a few games that have tried the “play as yourself!” thing. It mostly doesn’t work very well, with the primary problem being people either painting themselves as paragons of virtue, becoming insulted when their fellow players dispute their self-assessments, or both.

End of the World, however, has a very clever method of steering around these problems.

Characters in the game are defined around three categories: Physical, Mental, and Social. Each category has two associated characteristics (Dexterity and Vitality in the Physical category, for example), features (either positive or negative) that affect task resolution, a stress track, and associated traumas.

Character creation basically consists of two steps: First, you get a pool of 16 points that you can use to model yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 in each of the six characteristics.

Second, the rest of the group secretly votes on each of your character’s categories: They can either agree with your assessment, vote that one of the characteristics should be higher, or vote that one of the characteristics should be lower.

The combination of the point buy system (which makes it clear that you’re just modeling a version of yourself, not trying to objectively measure some sort of fundamental truth) and the secret vote (which allows for anonymous tweaking while still giving you final control over exactly which characteristic in the category is adjusted) go a long way towards mitigating the common problems of playing yourself. But the clever twist is that the outcome of the vote also impacts your character’s positive and negative features: If the group decides one of your characteristics should be higher, then you gain a negative feature in that category. If they decide one of your characteristics should be lower, then you gain a positive feature in that category. This incentivizes you to be honest in your self-assessment and also rewards you if the group passes the harsh verdict that you’ve over-estimated your abilities. (It also lets you play the system a bit by, say, deliberately ranking yourself higher than you think you deserve in a category: Either you get a nice ego boost when people agree with you or you get the positive feature you were fishing for.)

The other nice thing about this system is that you can easily use it to create a character other than yourself. So the game pushes you in an interesting direction, but is flexible enough to really let you do whatever you want to with it.

Character creation is easily the game’s best feature.

SYSTEM

Task resolution in End of the World revolves around pools of positive and negative dice. (All the dice are six-sided.) You start with one positive die and you add additional dice for positive features, equipment, assistance, and situational benefits. Then you add negative dice based on the difficulty of the task, your negative features, the traumas you’re currently suffering from, and any situational hindrances.

Then you roll the pool. Each negative die result cancels out a matching positive die result. If you have any surviving positive dice that are equal to or less than the characteristic being tested, you succeed at the task. If you have any surviving negative dice, however, they inflict stress in the matching category.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to run away from a horde of zombies. You have Dexterity 3 and the positive feature of long-distance runner. You also have a twisted ankle from when you jumped out of a hayloft yesterday (that’s a trauma). The GM rules that the number of zombies involved in the pursuit makes escape more difficult, so he adds a negative die to the test. That gives you a pool of two positive dice (one base and one for long-distance runner) and two negative dice (one for your twisted ankle and one from the situation).

Let’s say you roll 3 and 2 on your positive dice. You also roll 5 and 2 on your negative dice. The negative 2 cancels out your positive 2, but you still have a positive 3 (which is equal to your Dexterity score) so you succeed. Because the negative 5 also survived, however, you suffer a point of stress even though you succeeded.

There are a couple of wrinkles to this: If you sustain a certain amount of stress, you suffer a trauma. The more stress you’re suffering from, on the other hand, the more difficult it is to sustain additional stress (as you become hardened to your circumstances). In combat, weapons will grant you additional dice and/or modify the amount of stress you inflict on a successful attack. Suffer enough stress in any category and you are either dead, insane, or catatonic.

But that’s basically it. Ultimately, this system is vapor-thin. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly robust and it doesn’t really have anything unique to say. (It does have a weak focus on the concept of stress and trauma, but it’s less of a spotlight and more of a 20-watt bulb.)

The couple of places where it does occasionally try to offer more than the most basic support are, unfortunately, kind of laughable. For example, there’s a table of “common gear” which consists of thirteen items featuring descriptions like, “Water Bottle: Storing and transporting water.” Thank god they included that table; I never could have figured out what a water bottle might be used for without it.

(I’m not cherry-picking there, either. They’re all like that. “Flashlight: Spotting things in the dark.”)

The system will get the job done, but it’s not really a selling point for the game. Which means, at the end of the day, that End of the World is going to live or die on its scenarios.

SCENARIOS

Unfortunately, the scenarios are the biggest disappointment in the game.

End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse includes five different versions of the zombie apocalypse: In one version the zombies are the result of a meteor. In another they’re the result of disease. In another they’re purely supernatural. And so forth. The game covers the gamut of possibilities.

Elsewhere in the book, the designers recognize (although not in quite so many words) that any apocalyptic tale basically breaks down into five parts:

  • Discovery that the world is coming to an end.
  • Acquiring weapons and the means to defend yourself from immediate threats.
  • Gather food and medicine and the other supplies necessary for mid-term survival.
  • Establish a safe house to provide stability and defense for long-term survival.
  • Find long-term safety by figuring out what permanent survival looks like in the new world order.

Where the game truly flirts with genius is in realizing that the specific manifestation of this five act structure depends heavily on the circumstances the players find themselves in and the decisions that they choose to make. So rather than trying to pre-bake a particular package of events, the scenarios in End of the World feature flexible, generic locations.

For example, the first scenario includes a Farm. It describes some of the useful features of the Farm and how those features are likely to be tied into the five part structure of apocalyptic survival (although once again, unfortunately, not in so many words or with so clear an understanding). It lists a half dozen or so events and encounters that could occur on the Farm.

What makes this potentially brilliant is that the GM can take this richly developed generic material and instantly contextualize it in response to the players. If one of the players says, “We need to get out of the city! My Aunt Patty has a farm north of the cities.” Then the GM can flip to the Farm and immediately figure out what happens there. If the players are later driving cross-country when their car breaks down and the GM says, “You can see a little farmhouse off on the horizon.” Alternatively, if the players decided to go to the Mall to gather supplies, then the GM can readily reach for a different location while contextualizing it to whatever local mall the players are familiar with.

I say this is potentially brilliant, however, because End of the World face-plants pretty hard on the actual execution.

The first problem is that it’s not clear that the designers fully understand the potential of the structure they’ve adopted. This leads to a lot of the material shying away from strong choices and instead coming across as mushy and less useful than it could be.

The bigger problem, however, is that there simply isn’t enough material. The first scenario, for example, contains just six locations (and one of them isn’t actually a location): Farm, Horde of Ghoul Rats, House, Mall, Hospital, and Sewers.

What End of the World needed was for each scenario to be fully developed so that, no matter where your players decide to head in your local community or surrounding countryside, you’d be able to flip open the book and find material for it. Instead, the material presented is so thin on the ground that I’m not really sure what the point of it is.

Where the approach becomes particularly ridiculous are the post-apocalyptic scenarios. End of the World also features five scenarios describing what the world is like after the apocalypse (with each of these being paired to one of the apocalypses). But these post-apocalypse scenarios only include three of the generic locations.

You can kinda get away with pointlessly describing six locations in the modern world because, well, it’s the modern world: We presumably already know our own communities. But these post-apocalyptic settings completely transform reality as we know it and then the designers pretend that giving you three unconnected locations qualifies as meaningful guidance for running a scenario there.

CONCLUSION

End of the World features a character creation system with a couple of clever ideas. It features a rule system that gets the job done.

But where it falls apart are the scenarios: In the decision to cover five apocalypses and five post-apocalypses (or possibly in the decision to limit the book to 144 pages), it’s really clear that End of the World has simply spread itself too thin to do any of its scenarios justice.

What makes this bitterly disappointing is that if any one of these scenarios had gotten the attention and the depth of support that it deserved, it would have almost certainly pushed End of the World into being a brilliant game.

Instead, it’s just kind of pointless.

Because the scenarios aren’t developed, they all boil down to, “There are zombies and they wreck shit.” If you’ve ever watched a single zombie movie, you’re not going to gain a single piece of useful information from this book. Meanwhile, the rule system is so simplistic that it, too, isn’t really adding anything to the experience.

What you have, basically, is a book that doesn’t actually do anything. There’s no value being added. Once you’ve read the title, you basically have everything the game is going to offer you.

Skip it.

Style: 4
Substance: 2

Author: Andrew Fischer
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Cost: $39.95
Page Count: 144
ISBN: 978-1-63344-055-5

Tagline: The best character sheets done for any game, ever. Period.

WHAT IS THIS?

Sailor Moon - Sailor Scout Character DiaryThis is a review of three associated products for Guardians of Order’s Sailor Moon Role-Playing Game (which I’ve reviewed elsewhere): The Knight Character Diary, the Dark Warrior Character Diary, and Sailor Scout Character Diary.

Essentially these are character sheets from a company that dreams really big (each 56 page pamphlet is for use with a single character). Each diary contains a 14-page character sheet, forty diary pages, a title page which you can personalize, and a dozen or so pictures (appropriate for each type of character) which you can use for your character portrait.

HOW GOOD IS IT?

Very, very good – surprisingly enough.

Personally, I don’t buy character sheets. The last time I bought a packet of character sheets was back in 6th grade, when I was an avid AD&D player and those of us in the group who could afford to splurge on store-bought character sheets (instead of writing it out on notebook paper) became possessed of a certain prestige.

In point of fact, I didn’t buy these – they came in the form of reviewer comp copies from GoO. But if I was playing in a Sailor Moon campaign I’d be sorely tempted to break my habit now that I’ve seen these.

For starters, the 14-page character sheet is absolutely wonderful. Often when you see extended character sheets like this all that’s really contained on them are lots of lines which are supposedly dedicated to “character history”. There are certain elements of that here (a page dedicated to it, but laid out rather nicely in segmented portions of your history – “Silver Millenium” and “Earth Childhood” in the Sailor Scout diary, for example), but by-and-large the extended sheet consists largely of closely targeted questions meant not only to spur your creativity, but also to facilitate ease of reference.

What this reminds me most of is another memory from my avid AD&D days (it’s nostalgia time). Back then I participated heavily on the FidoNet AD&D echo (like a Usenet newsgroup, but propagated at a much slower speed between individual BBS message boards). While there I happened to pick up something called the “Personal Code”, which was designed by a wonderful young woman named Alesia Chamness. It was a Sailor Moon - Knight Character Diaryreplacement for AD&D’s alignment system which encouraged the individual player to develop his character through a series of targeted questions. It was useful for defining your character in writing, for spurring creativity, and for developing your existing ideas. Really great stuff, and highly reminiscent of what you’re getting in this diaries.

The diary itself is done really nicely. The left-hand pages are plain white with a border which is evocative of the character type in question (a rose is in each corner of the border in the Knight Character Diary, for example). The facing pages, on the right side, takes advantage of the rich wealth of artwork which is available to GoO for this game line (in the form of animation stills) – the entire page is taken up by a grey-muted image (again, appropriate to the character type). Because they’re muted images you can easily write over these, and they end up providing a fantastic feel to the entire product. You’re not just buying a book of blank pages, you’re buying something that really ends up enhancing the recording of your character’s life and exploits.

Finally, the stock pictures at the end (which are designed to be xeroxed, cut out, colored, and pasted onto the title page which leads the book) are useful for the artistically-disinclined.

WHAT WOULD I CHANGE?

Sailor Moon - Dark Warrior Character DiaryNot much. I’d probably drop the price down to $4.95, rather than $5.95. Crossing the $5 barrier to $6 makes these books seem just a little too pricey to me. On the other hand, I’m sure that GoO has priced these where they have because that’s where they can make a profit.

As for the actual content of the pieces, the only I’d change – or rather, expand – are the stock photos. I feel rather limited by the fact that the only picture they have are of the characters from the animated series itself. It’s really bad in the Knight Character Diary, because all you’re basically getting are a variety of pictures of Tuxedo Mask. Again, though, I don’t see any way for GoO to have done anything differently – they’re constrained by the artwork which is available to them.

IS IT WORTH IT?

If you’re the type who buys character sheets as a matter of course, then I would say definitely yes. The price may seem a little steep at first – but, trust me, you’re getting your money’s worth.

If you don’t typically buy character sheets, then there’s a goodly chance you aren’t going to break the habit with these. On the other hand, I’d suggest taking a peek at them next time you’re in the store. They just might surprise you.

Style: 5
Substance: 4

Author: Karen McLarney
Company/Publisher: Guardians of Order
Cost: $5.95
Page Count: 56
ISBN: n/a

Originally Posted: 2000/03/12

What I said about not buying character sheets was nothing but truth: When I first started roleplaying, I photocopied the sample sheet off the back of the BECMI basic manual (which produced the double-sided 8.5 x 11 character sheet 2-up on a single sheet) and got so used to using it that when I bought a pack of the official sheets they seemed weird to me. I don’t think I’ve ever actually paid for an official character sheet ever again.

Of course, in the digital era that doesn’t mean as much as it used to: Although I don’t buy them, I have used a variety of official sheets over the years. And a really great character sheet — like the Sailor Moon Character Diaries — really can transform a game. Most recently, the character sheets for Numenera and The Strange are like that: The former through sheer beauty and utility; the latter through the excessively clever method it uses for handling characters shifting between alternate realities.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

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