So, how do I celebrate a year of enthusing and celebrating other people's work? By picking to death my own free game. Think of it as a mix of healthy self critique and an inevitable backlash of being nice for a whole year.
Icar - a dreadful vat of excrementIcar by Rob Lang is a free science fiction roleplaying game set in a bland, plagiarised future. The fat of other genres has been scraped off and boiled in a stinking vat to produce a stock kitchen sink Sci Fi. Unintelligible rules, disparate formatting and penis inspired space craft are wrapped in a deceptively colourful cover. As we will discover, if you paint a turd then what you end up with is a painted turd.
Character CreationIcar goes as far to provide a torturously long character creation mechanism that relies upon character classes called 'Skeletons' but fails to provide any. Every familiar term you have become accustomed to in roleplaying has been changed. Classes are 'Skeletons', Attributes are 'Stats' and Skills are... well, Skills but that's purely by accident.
You begin your journey into Icar with defining a character concept. How you are supposed to create a character concept without any idea of how the universe is put together is beyond me. After that, you define your Deviant. A Deviant is a representation of your characters personality. Are you Selfish or Generous? Foolhardy or Prudent? By how much? TELL US NOW! This must all be set from the start - a constricting fascistic approach to character creation. There is no room for exploring the character as you play in the Icar Third Reich.
Statistics can be rolled randomly or point applied (a good example of Rob's indecision - including both systems to bloat an already bursting tome), roll some skills (of which there are hundreds). It goes on. A never ending ocean of options, tables, detail, location based hit points, height, weight, age, hat size and underpant colour and texture. Still with me? Still awake? I forfeited my front teeth when I collapsed against my insufficiently padded keyboard.
Finally, you have the option for rolling randomly for Advantages and Disadvantages (confusingly named Psychotheatrics). Random selection will ruin the character concept you loving crafted at the start. It seems like a cruel final blow in the long struggle to create a character.
All of this is written down on a decimated copse load of paper, the first character sheet looking like the product of teenage nightmare.
MechanicsRob is not averse to packing a huge number of different mechanics into a single game. There's one for skills checks. One for close combat. One for firefighting, one for vehicle combat, one for hacking and one for space combat. There might as well be one for doing the dishes and breeding alpacas. Complexity is piled onto complexity, leaving your head spinning and eyes bleeding with the strain.
The close combat system is barely damaging and the weapons make firefighting lethal to the extreme. With no healing rules and no armour in the equipment section, your character can be vaporised in an instant. A horror that sends to back down the snake to square one, character creation. Hacking is so utterly complex that attempting it should be a MENSA entrance exam. It isn't fun. It isn't like hacking. As they say in flying circles: see and avoid.