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Hellcats and Hockeysticks
by Lorne F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/25/2016 16:41:47

I'm not usually a reviewer, and am not affiliated in any way with the writers or publishers of this game except that I've bought a copy and played it.

The potential humour within these pages made me think hard about buying it several times, but the price put me off - just how much COULD a game about a bunch of uppity 'it-girls' at high school playing hi-jinks on one another be worth, given the limited mileage?

So I bought it anyway; I'm weak like that. This is one of those occasions where I am glad I'm weak in the face of temptation. This game is a little gem.

Firstly, the book runs to about 160 or so pages. It's printed in a one-column-per-page layup, which normally doesn't appeal much to me, but in this case it's done in such a way that it's easy to print two .pdf pages to one print page, and still read it fairly easily. This cuts printing to about 80 or so pages, give or take, and I find that appealing. The book has enough artwork (of a cartoonish and amusing style that suits the subject material) to be easy on the eye, without having any amazing graphics, plates or other distractions. Some people may find the artwork lacking in either quantity or quality, but for what it's worth my opinion is that the artwork included suited the book just fine. The text is easy to read, easy to understand, and is broken into sections that logically follow one another. You can found most of what you need by looking at the Contents in the front of the book.

The setting is very English, and full of English tongue-in-cheek madcap humour. It's at first glance a very limited setting - I mean, really, just how much CAN you do with a bunch of uppity school girls in a slightly off-beat English school for girls? - but there are enough scenario seeds, hooks, and listed inspirations that you can pretty much turn this into whatever you like - a supernatural game in the style of Buffy, a spy game, a simple competitive angsty teens vying for number one game, or a reform school for little freaks game.

Some players or GMs might be put off by the fact that you apparently have to play teenage school girls; however if this is beyond the scope of your role-playing abilities or your willingness to delve into that field, there are options presented in the book to make it an exclusive all-boys school, and the format of character creation and rules mechanics is easily adaptable with little work to just about any other setting if you have a little time and a little imagination.

Character creation involves selecting a class, which grants a special ability and 5 skill points to spend on 4 'curriculum' or core skills. You then get 15 points to spend on any available skills, including the curriculum skills. Curriculum skills can have a higher level than others. This could easily be adapted to other settings, for the record - you could have classes of soldier such as SAS or Para, or have a medieval game with Knights, Archers, Rogues, Wizards, or whatever - and with very little work and a little imagination, and probably a custom characater sheet, you could easily adapt this system and the rules mechanics to whatever you like. Having allocated skills you select a secret fear, a rival, a best friend, and a secret loathing for your pals (i.e. you think Charlotte's great, but you HATE how she bites her nails all the time).

The biggest surprise about this book - and the thing that to me justified the price - was the rules mechanic. This is a very rules-light system, but having said that, it is a robust system that works rather well. It's easy again to tweak the system if you're not happy with the numbers or probabilities.

Essentially you roll a pool of dice equal to your skill level plus one; for instance if you have Physics at 3 and are attempting to build a bear trap, you would roll 4 dice. For most purposes you keep the highest die in your dice pool, and compare that to the target number of the task at hand (as set by the Headmistress, who is scarier than the average GM). You may spend Willpower to increase the number of dice in your pool. In combat, damage rolls are a 50/50 split between 'slapped' and something more annoying and debilitating, but in keeping with the light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek flavour of this madcap setting, nobody dies in this game (at least in the setting as presented). The worse you're hurt, the longer you suffer penalties of a steadily increasing nature.

There are some basic rules for magic, potions, building weird tech and explosives, and for various combat and healing effects. It's all very simple, really, and yet for a rules-light system it's very nice. There are also rules and guidelines for rejecting a friend or best friend, fracturing groups as a result, and petty rivalries. These things actually seem amusing and 'in context' to the game, but with a little adaptation might easily be used as a framework for an alliance, political, or guild relationship system in another setting.

There is a handy 2-page reference sheet provided at the back of the book; this has the basic difficulty level table, damage table and weapon modifiers, and a few other interesting notes. That and the provided character sheet are really all you need to get playing once you've read through the rules.

The first session I ran with this was a total scream; many laughs were had and despite the silliness inherent in the setting and the attitude of those playing, the characters still seemed to have some depth.

If you want something amusing and rules-light, or are keen to find a relatively simple system open to creative adaptation to other settings (for your own gaming use, of course), then I'd thoroughly recommend this. If you find it on sale, even better.

At the time of writing this title is listed as $12.00 U.S. or about $17.00 AUD, and at that price, I consider it well worth the buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hellcats and Hockeysticks
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Hellcats and Hockeysticks
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/09/2012 12:07:45

This is a fun little game from Andrew Peregrine (of Cubicle 7). In this you play a student at the all girls St. Erisian’s School.

Right off the bat, er stick, you are warned that the "Headmistress" (the Game Master) will not be fair, but arbitrary, has favorites, will smack your hands with a ruler if you do something stupid, and can be bribed. You know this will be a fun game! Also I should point out that this game is about the English school system rather than that of the American one.

Character creation is really fast. You start off thinking about who your student is (the introduction reads like you are sending your daughter to the school, which I thought was clever). Pick a Clique (like a class/archetype), Curriculum (clique based skills), other Skills, Willpower, Traits, Rivalries and Secret Fear. Pretty much any clique you can think of is here; the nerd, the goth, the sporty girl, the pretty one, the ninja foreign exchange student. If you ever watched the movie "Spice World" and thought the girls needed to have more action scenes, then you should stop reading this review and pick up this game now.

Skills are ranked 1 to 5 (novice to expert) and cover a wide variety of subjects. To resolve tasks you roll a 6-side die and then an additional die for each level of the skill you have. So if you are trying to blowup the chem lab and you have a 3 in Chemistry then you roll 4 dice. The Headmistress compares this to her rubric (table of difficulties) and lets you know what you have done. Some levels are impossible to reach, but the Headmistress will make you roll anyway because that is the kind of evil person she is. Willpower is your main "Ability" and can change from game to game.

Of course my favorite part of this game is picking your "Best Friend" and "Rival" from the other player characters. You also have to pick something about each characters you also loathe. Yes you are encouraged to be a bunch of smiling back-stabbers. It's like "Pretty Little Liars" or "Heathers" the game. I like that, you can revoke a friendship. There are some fun rules around that as well.

Combat is detailed (and thus tacitly encouraged) including a really neat idea of "Bidding". Using this adds a little extra realism and drama to the combat. For example a character want to club some guy on the head with her hokeystick (I should point out that this is field hockey, not ice hockey which uses a different stick), she bids "I'm going to fight dirty" and "HE'll never hit a girl". To give her an extra edge. The Headmistress, being the wholly vile human she is, bids back "He is bigger than you" and "You have been running all the way here, your knackered." The idea is you and the head mistress go back and forth like this, adding a bid each time, till one your can't think of anything else. Page 60 has a whole list of ideas. Damage is represented in loss of willpower and how long you are out of the action. No one actually can die in this game, but you can be hurt. A lot. Since the loss is to Willpower that also effects how well you can do other things. The system hand waves things like swords and guns by saying basically if you get hit with these you are going to be out of the game for a long time if you even survive. How's that for deadly? Besides, there is a fun in that? Combat in this game should be about cat-fights, the occasional brawl and maybe knocking out a boyfriend or two.

There is a section on fears, car chases, and all sorts of other mayhem. There are also great sections on Weird Science and Magic. Just in case you also wanted to "The Craft".

There is the Headmistress' guide to the school (background) and faculty as well as other schools in the area. After all there has to be an all boys schools as well.

There is a section on running games for H&H, including how to run Player-Driven plots including a great 2d6 adventure generation table. By my calculations that gives you over 1,450 plots. We are also given a number of adventure seeds to use and a complete short adventure.

Finally the list of inspirations is notable for the only RPG I have that lists D.E.B.S. as must see movie. But it also lists "Hex" and "The Craft", two faves of mine.

This is a really fun game and one I'd love to try at a Con sometime.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pie Shop
by shawn r. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/30/2011 15:59:53

Not a real game at all. More of a joke that looks like an RPG. If you have a dark sense of humor this is good for a laugh but not much more.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Pie Shop
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Technogrammaton
by Tim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2011 14:47:21

This has an a very promising start, so I give it three stars. But it needs a lot of work, and was hard for me to create a player character. The background (you are a scholar who normally resolves disbutes about Islamic law and belief) has very little help. That, and the setting stops just frustratingly short of the big change to the setting (people are being changed and transformed by strange Hebrew characters appearing on the Internet) AND the lack of some traditional cyberpunk-drama-inducing checks (no Corporate wars, no cyberwear, no genetic engineering) makes it a hard sell.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Technogrammaton
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Pie Shop
by Thomas A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/14/2010 09:11:15

Pie Shop is a thing of beauty -- twisted; disturbed; horrible beauty, that won't leave many readers untouched. Buy at your own risk.

The writing is intelligent and funny; especially the fictional interludes in wonderland (which is a very apt metaphor for what this game is: a trip so deep into the rabbit hole that few players would actually manage to roleplay this game seriously), and it describes the concept of serial killers well, without glorifying or glossing over -- except for taking everything with a good portion of dark humor that I'm sure many would find highly inapproperiate.

The rules are pretty bare bones and require a D12, but then again playing is more geared to role-playing and story telling than roll-playing and character advancement. Character creation is the best part of the rules, easily allowing you to create diverse characters with their own idiosyncracies, motives and preferences for killing. There are comprehensive lists that help this process without limiting player imagination.

The rules for combat are easy and fairly streamlined, but combat in Pie Shop is a very dangerous thing. If you get hit, or attempt to protect yourself without striking back, your chances of survival are slim -- or at least in the hands of your assailant. I haven't play tested the rules, but I imagine they make for short, intense fights that do not take up much game time. Modifications for other things than injury is left to the GM.

The entire system is easy, and leaves a lot of choices in the hands of the GM -- even which skill and attribute to use for a normal test. It's all quick and dirty but most of all flexible and 'loose', containing just enough structure for the GM and player to have a semi-solid frame for their stories.

The thing that stands out the most about Pie Shop is the dark twisted humor, and the way the author skillfully (or desperately?) balances on the edge of what can be considered tasteful.

All in all, I think it is quite a good product, and although it doesn't really seem meant for actual play, I can see it working.

I loved it -- but then again I am at least as twisted and deranged as Mr Toad...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pie Shop
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A Slice of Pie
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/07/2009 08:47:13

Ostensibly, this is an ordinary D20 prestige class, which could be taken by any character in any type of game. It's well-written (apart from some gratuitous potty mouth which the author probably felt he had to use because it's labelled 'adult') and conforms to standard D20/OGL design so you could use it for a character or perhaps an NPC.

Maybe better as an NPC, unless you really want to be a serial killer, which even in the alternate reality of an RPG is not a Good Thing. A real, amoral, doing what he does because in his twisted reality it's the right thing to do serial killer. This prestige class has got the twisted mindset right. Once taken, you cannot be anything else, cannot take another level in any other class. But you can justify every action, as it serves your higher moral purpose.

Serial killers are nasty. This prestige class reflects that very well. But if you want to introduce that sort of nastiness into your game, this will fit the bill admirably.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Slice of Pie
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Pie Shop
by James H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2009 22:26:48

A game in which the PCs are serial killers. Yes, really. Overall, Pie Shop is a mediocre roleplaying game, though it's an above average bit of witty satire that jabs fun at consumerism, society, and the roleplaying hobby. Buy it for these reasons. Steer clear of it if you're looking for mechanical innovation, a complete set of rules (it lacks clear rules for creating NPCs or animals), or a game to play with the children.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Pie Shop
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review, Fair points, however... Pie Shop was designed primarily as satire so I'm glad you enjoyed that aspect. The system is designed just to be playable not some impressive set of mechanics, although I believe combat is actually quite innovative (I've certainly not seen it anywhere else). I don't write or play games for the sake of interesting rules, rules just allow you to tell story which is the important part, so if rules are your thing I'd agree, try something else. It is a fair point there is no specific NPC section (I will have to address that if I do another edition) although that should be easy to extrapolate. I'm unclear why some system for creating animal npcs is required in such a game though. In general my intention with this game was not to make a game you can play long term. You'd have to be more twisted than me to actually do that. :-) Pie Shop is designed to offer people who think these sort of character are 'cool' the chance to play them in all their horror, to point out that evil is not about wearing black and looking cool but something truly nasty.
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