Quick Start Commercial GamesI have been avoiding reviewing any free versions commercial games since the start because companies proferring quick start rules can point their planet devasting marketing budgets at them. The quick start rules bob along on the full-price-product marketing tsunami. I prefer to stand up for the philanthropist (or clusters of them) who produces games for the love of it. Free Quick Starts tend to be beautiful but all lack a certain depth that you can get from other free RPGs.
Call of Cthulhu Quick Start is a horror RPG that is set in the 30s pulp world of H.P. Lovecraft. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you've heard of Cthulhu. The mechanics are mostly there and there is just enough flavour in the setting to run it. The adventure is not bad.
Castles and Crusades Quick Start is an old school fantasy game that appears (from the difficult to fathom quick start) to be stock fantasy - so stock you should add it to your fantasy RPG soups. It's pretty but not very well set up for quick start.
Eldritch Quick Start is a remarkably complete Fantasy RPG with a slightly historical tinge. Although it claims to not be just another Fantasy RPG, there's not enough in the Quick Start to really divine that. There is just enough system to play but the setting information is light.
Fuzion rules is a full roleplaying game system from R. Talisorian games. It's a good core system (point buy, attributes and skills), not surprises and although there is no setting included, there are lots to choose from online. Testimony to how long its been around. Fuzion was used by lots of game settings and as such many of the settings are for purchase.
GURPS Lite is a quick hit of the full GURPS generic ruleset. It has all the main elements of the commercial game stuffed coherently into the 32 page book and is well laid out with the usual attractive line art. There is plenty here to get stuck into.
Hunter the Vigil Quick Start is a White Wolf roleplaying game that reads a little like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. You play monster hunters that appear to wander around killing archetypes from the other White Wolf games. I like the idea of killing all the characters from the last campaign! It's 40 odd pages, most of which is the free adventure - only 6 pages of rules.
Savage Worlds Test Drive is a core rule book for pulp style games. At 16 pages, there's not a lot here but as the topic is pulp, there is enough system to screw onto your own setting.
Shadowrun Quick Start is a game set in the near future where cyberpunk ideas hit magic head on. It has pregenerated character and a full adventure to go on but a lot of the flavour that made Shadowrun popular is missing.
Songs of Ice and Fire Quick Start is a roleplaying game set in George R.R. Martin's best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire. The Quick Start is 32 pages and contains a stock fantasy setting, a little bit about the rules, sample characters and an adventure. The print out maps are detailed but I do wonder if they print well in black and white on a standard home printer.
Here be Gamers ExtraHere be Gamers is my favourite gaming podcast. Nathan and Marty have a jolly Australian flair to them and in each Episode Nathan reviews Free RPGs! Not only that but Nathan has also taken part in the 24 Hour RPG challenge. Sounds like I'm about to propose marriage? You bet! Although this might sound like a hand/feet/arse kissing exercise, Nathan and Marty have put together a splendid magazine called Here Be Gamers Extra. Its as lively and well produced as the podcast and only costs $1 (USD). Crikey! Me helping flogging something? In this rare case, yes. The cash is to go toward podcast hosting, which I am all for. If that wasn't reason enough to expend a digital greenback, I've donated a cut down review of Zenobia and will be doing this for as long as they'll let me.
The Ennies Nominations for Free RPGsThe Ennies nominations are up and I am rather disappointed with the Free RPG section. It appears that 3 out of the 5 Free RPGs on offer are Quick Start rules. The nominations are:
- Hunter The Vigil Quickstart
- A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplayng Quickstart
- Swords and Wizardry
- Trial and Terror: SVU
However, I think it's a shame that S&W and Trial and Terror aren't listed amonst peers. They deserve to be voted on amongst similar free games, rather than chopped down commercial games. I imagine that people will vote for more because of their paid counterparts than for their content. I have known White Wolf fans in the past and they tend to be zealots, hell bent on WW wining everything. Quick Starts are designed to leave you wanting more. If I was to try and review a game like that, I'd stop and send comments to the author to 'finish the bloody thing' before resbumitting to me. This is a missed opportunity for the Ennies and I will be thinking up some sort of campaign to stop a commercial quick start from winning. All ideas and comments welcome!