Tuesday, May 9, 2017

50 Shades of Vorpal review


"No one knows what offense the Taurian Empire gave to the Lich King, perhaps he was just being a dick."

I was not a part of the 50 sHAdes of VORpal kickstarter by Arthas Soulgazer (cool name), though I checked it after reading Tenkar's non-review last week.

Based on the kickstarter page and free preview on DriveThruRPG, I decided to give it a whirl.  Even if the whole thing is a pile of humorous excrement - at least it's funny!

Last night, I purchased the PDF for $5 and here is my impression...

Comparisons have been made with Encounter Critical.  While both games are comedic pranks on gamers, allowing readers to peek inside the fantasy heartbreaker minds of the authors, there are several differences.  Encounter Critical is a sophisticated, innovative, old school, labor of love by one or more slightly confused yet well-meaning amateurs.  It's meant to be a product of the mid-70's that reaches for the stars.

50 Shades of Vorpal comes from the mind of one or more contemporary dudes who purposefully set out to emulate something like old school Dungeons & Dragons, but way more juvenile, idiotic, and single-minded in its love of hack and slash.  It's like if HackMaster 4th edition were re-imagined by Beavis and Butthead.

While Encounter Critical and 50 Shades of Vorpal have similarities, they are completely different games with night and day approaches to the ultimate goal - making the awesomest parody game possible!  Although, this being 2016/2017, the latter not only wants to set down their idealized dreams of dark magic, deadly swords, and touching boobies in concrete, effectively cementing their glory in the halls of RPG fame and infamy - this is also clearly a way to make some cash.

Is there an actual system here, an actual RPG?  No, not really.  There's a bit of setting, a few monsters, loads of character classes and several races, but combat consists of adding a silly list of bonuses to a couple d30 rolls and comparing that with an opponent's ARMOR RANK.  If you hit, you do damage.  That's the core of the engine... pretty much the entire engine.  The rest is badly spelled window dressing like deth magic, preoccupation with loot, and sexism.

And that's part of the joke.  So many aspects of 50 Shades is phoned in that the game feels incomplete.  Various sections are blank, many earmarked with notations for adding future content - content that never actually made it into the book.  While that, too, is funny, after the first couple times, it loses something.

However, it is the attitude on display that provides the most humor.  Laser-focus on what makes an awesome character class and race shines a light on the worst gamer stereotypes.  But unlike the negative stereotypes which we, hopefully, don't embody, like living in our mom's basement well into our thirties and not showering regularly, 50 Shades brings up traits that are present, albeit in small quantities, in almost every gamer...

Awkward phrasing, typos, and combining tired fantasy cliches with not-well-thought-out flashes of inspiration all in the pursuit of that ever elusive awesomeness.  I've chased that particular crimson dragon myself on a thousand occasions.  The only difference is that my unsightly excretions get edited over and over again, or should I say flushed down the toilet of bad ideas implemented poorly.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading these 64 pages - including several blank pages - and got my money's worth.  Before I go, let me showcase a few of my favorite things from 50 Shades of Vorpal...

  • It uses a d30 because that's 10 more than a d20, reminding me of the amp that goes all the way up to 11 in This is Spinal Tap.
  • It has weapon coolness ratings based on how awesome someone looks when wielding a certain weapon.  
  • The illustrations - right out of high school study hall.  Most are decent in a youthful amateur hand-made kind of way, though some are actually fairly badass!
  • The never-solved divide between warriors and wizards.  Both sides feel they need to escalate the cold war and so each struggles to become even more ridiculously awesome.
  • Going further than explaining the rules or giving helpful advice, the text pretty much tells you what to think and occasionally comes up with raw truthisms such as, "Bosses get to boss."
  • Diving into the dark recesses of this male-dominated hobby with both feet.  Here's an over-the-top offering, "Female characters retire after making babies, so don't get pregnant.  This is a fantasy game, so you can't just go making stuff up that you didn't get pregnant when you really did."

Well, that's all for my review.  While neither version of Crimson Dragon Slayer goes anywhere near this level of awesome/awful, I was inspired to create a d30 random table for only the most "deth knight" kind of fantasy roleplaying!  Also, this!!!

VS