Monday, July 4, 2011

RPG Review Recess - Remnants (Yay! Alliteration!)

Origins 2011 had a lot of great moment, but one of them was meeting Steve Bergeron and his crew at Outrider Studios, another Crazy Canadian designer out of Cornwall Ontario. They had even got a booth! Which was both insane and, well, insane but it allowed them to meet a pile of people. I was one of those lucky people, they were really cool and eager to show off their game. This is how this review was born, I was given a copy and I said I would have a review done in two weeks.

Here is this review.

Remnants can be described as Mecha Combat meets Post Apocalyptic game. You play people trying to survive on a planet where the ancient ones basically wiped each other out through by using their MAD weapons. There is barely enough to scratch out a living, let alone grow in a wild and inhospitable environment. However, there were pieces of grand technology that were left behind, most of them are small and insignificant, but then there are the Ishin, the Battle Remnants.

The system itself is a traditional RPG that works off of a single D6, and it a Margin of Success Game. The bigger the margin of success is, the more good stuff you get. The more damage you do, the better the result is for the action you're doing. The system, which is also used in their Fantasy Game, has a wonderful term for it called The Lead, which is something everyone should use right now when they have a MoS game. It's elegant, and to the point. I know I'm going to steal it if I do one.

What I liked about this game
Thematically there are a lot of lovely little moments in the setting. The fact that as the descendants of a highly advanced race you are all immortal. That doesn't mean you won't get killed when someone sharp stabs you, but you are the progeny of people who knew how to tinker with genes and so you're not going to die of old age, hooray! However, the amount of food you need after you hit 40 is more than what most cultures can sustain in this post apocalyptic setting which means you'll end up starving to death, boo! It's morbidly perfect.

I like the fact that the Ishin are actually the low end technology that survived because they were scouts that were meant to be self sufficient. This leads into the fact that in order to upgrade your Ishin, you need to put stress on it. The more dangerous a situation is, the more risks you take the more Duress you put on your Ishin and the more points you get to upgrade. When it gets damaged to the point where it's wrecked, it gains points to upgrade. It gives you mechanical incentive to push your Ishin to the limit.

The world feels deadly and dangerous, which is wonderfully in keeping with a Post Apoc game. Not only do you have to deal with other people trying to kill you, you have to deal with the environment doing its damnest to make sure you die.

The system works, and is pretty deadly. You can take about 5 hits before you're out of the fight and one more hit before you're dead. One good roll and you're looking at a spear through the chest. That means your players are less likely to jump into a fight right away after they learn the hard way that swords and spears are sharp and look good covered in your blood.

Finally, I love the economic system. Anything that can take the bookkeeping of most other RPG games and turn it into a concept called "Easy Living" is great. Easy Living is how many days you can basically live off the avails of your work. You can barter that away, since money really isn't used much outside of the few major cities and then each city has its own currency which renders it really useless, but it's nice and abstract. Good for getting what you need and then discarding the rest.

What I didn't like about the game
The Economic System. I know I just said that I loved it, and I do. I love the concept of how everything works. What I'm not too interested in are the guidelines provided by the book. I think at no point in time should a player have anything more than a week's worth of easy living. However, there are jobs that the book says that a player should get something like 60 days worth of easy living. In a world with very little, my acceptance of the fiction took a huge blow at that. My thought is that if it gets to be that big, you should just give them some land or something big and cool rather than a lifetime supply of kicking back with cold ones.
My personal suggestion is to take what the book suggests and then slash a zero from the back of number. That should be the figure of easy living you use when dealing with financial rewards in the game.

The art. There's nothing intrinsically bad with the art. A lot of it is really good, actually. The problem is that it looks that in a lot of places that they took colour art and just desaturated the photos in photoshop. A note for Steve in the future, there are better ways to turn colour images into B&W. You need to play with the filters, or else you'll end up with pretty flat images. I found that out the first time I went to take the images for Geasa and turn them B&W, they weren't nearly as clear and awesome as they were in colour and I knew there had to be a way to fix that.

Remnants is a pretty good mash up a Mecha game and a Post-Apocalyptic game. It pushes you to put yourself at risk in order to improve yourself, and uses a very fast and deadly combat mechanic. It needs a little tweak on the finance end, because the suggestions don't seem to apocalyptic, but that's pretty minor. For 20$ it's a pretty good deal, and a good gateway into Outrider Studio's House system which is called something I can't remember because I don't have the book on me this second.

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