The Good Bad and the Ugly Review
But in reverse order.
You might get the initial impression that I don’t like this game. No so.
This is a zero-edition game. Like a pre-pre-alpha in the computer game world. On publication it won’t look or read like this. I hope.
Firstly, yuk. This is surely a word document uploaded as a PDF. Don’t except a professional layout or presentation. Even a neophyte such as I could do infinitely better with Mac Pages in layout mode.
The tables have thick black lines and black headings, they just looks messy, out of place even. The flavour text, is frankly awful. The intent is good but egad! Dump it or rewrite it please.
There is no consistency in the document — bullet points for example. Sometimes the lines are double-spaced, sometimes indented far beyond those earlier of later.
Commas and apostrophes find their way into all sorts of nooks and crannies and are not welcome when improperly used, which is often.
Many sentences have words missing, confusing the intent. This is near disastrous for a rules document and makes the flavour text almost unreadable and clunky. This is one of the main sticking points for me. There are many examples but here’s a very minor one, “…crew of the Flying Circus, brought the sky ship around in the sky…” Sky ship? In the sky? Surely not.
Newt’s writing is normally very good. Not here.
These are perhaps minor assaults on good grammar and presentation but having editing dozens of technical documents these either pop out at me or genuinely force me to re-read a passage to see where Newt is going wit it.
The author isn’t entirely sure whether his game is Skyraiders of the Floating Realms or Floating Worlds. A small distinction you may think but if you can’t get the name of your product right, what chance has the game got? Lots in fact so you’ll need to read on.
This is stream-of-conscious writing with absolutely no editing OK, you don’t expect editing in such a hurried method but, I am paying for this booklet.
The author tells us, this game is not about dungeon delving or looting magic and treasure. However, there are numerous references to gaining riches and magic through the time-honoured act of dungeoneering. No issue for me but which is it? Dungeons or no dungeons?
Character generation. Each step of the creation process is broken down into discrete rules. Good. The instructions for those elements are listed as a line of text below each rule. There’s no summary of these steps, instead you must read every section to learn what it is you must do to create your character. This will become second nature very quickly but this is an example of poor layout out and testing — I’m not sure this game has a been play-tested but this is a poor design choice.
Often words are capitalised, becoming proper nouns. There are many, many examples, Caster versus caster, Strength and strength (this happens a lot) Referee or referee. I could go on and on. I doubt the hodgepodge use of such elevated nouns is intentional but, surely some of these words are just your run-of-the-mill words.
Combat is a bit broken. Grappling — just a regular attack, it doesn’t matter whether the target is in plate armour, with sword and shield at the ready or dressed down to his britches and ready to wrestle. An initial successful attack locks the target in a hold — immediately. Bit powerful perhaps? On the next round the wrestlers make an opposed roll using either their Close Combat or the Athletics skill. There is no Athletics skill. If the attacker is successful the target takes damage and his armour offers no protection. That’s the same as a critical hit right there. Suddenly the grapple (or Grapple) is the best melee attack in the game.
Magic is completely broken. There are no Power (see, a capitalised word used as a proper noun) point costs for casting a spell. You can keep on casting the same spell until you get it right and then cast it again and again. Futher, you can blow out a candle with the spell “Blow Out” — a truely awful name for a spell — or blast a foe with 2d6 damage, and yes, the spell name is, “Blast”. These two spells, one far, far more powerful than other are technically identical as described by the rules of casting.
I’m not sure I like the purchasing mechanic. The player rolls their character’s Trade skill with a modifier based on the desired item’s rarity. The reason I’m not sure is because a character begins play with a list of useful gear and the game is not about bookkeeping. Still it would be nice to see an example or two.
An adventure is included. This is a must for all new games, in my opinion. I'm about to explain a major plot point so pease skip this if you're going to run or play.
The adventure is comprised of 7 linear encounters. Some are fights but others require a bit of role-playing. However...the plot. A pair of witches finagled ownership of half the sky island where they adventure takes place. They want the other half. To orchestrate a full takeover they are systematically destroying the island. Hey, what now? To gain ownership of the other half of the island they're destroying it. Those witches should have a chat with me and I'd explain that if they destroy the island...well you can fill in the blanks.
I’ve played the game. I had to house-rule many of the broken bits or those that just didn’t work for me.
It’s great fun.
You can create your character in an instant which is nicely old-school. The mechanics are d100 based; which are quick and easy to introduce new players. Tell a newbie to throw a d20 versus a cross-referenced table and there may be some confusion. Tell them they have a 56 percent chance of success and all become clear.
I like the treatment of armour. When the character is struck, the player throws an armour die which reduces the hit points lost.
Movement is handled simply, described by four range categories. Although I don’t think rules for moving between these ranges presently exist.
There’s a bit of swashbuckling thrown in for good measure. No rules. The referee adjudicates on the fly based on players’ description and the intended result. I like this, the game is to be played fast and loose.
You can readily wing the oft-mentioned sky ships. There are no rules for them but this is the zero edition after all. A hint would have been nice.
There are good, but short sections on monsters, guilds and religious orders. Examples show how easy it is to create an interesting monster or an element of the game world that might quickly become key and grant the player characters a true place among the realms. Or worlds.
The game is designed for one-shot and mini-campaigns. You can turn this into a longer campaign by reducing the number of improvement points awarded or increasing the cost of advancement. I’d favour the latter but one shots are well received by my crowd.
The game finishes with an adventure. Every new RPG should come with a basic adventure. Nothing sets thee scene so well as the designer’s own imaginings. Some are included here. Your learn that the game is meant to be a bit of a giggle. The main mover and shaker in the area is Boris the Bad'un. The area includes two villages with no means of obtaining their own food. The villages are Big and Little Humbug.
Will you like this game? I do. You might.
If you are looking for a detailed tome with options for every situation. This is not it. Massive bestiary? No. Detailed background? Not yet. On-the-fly style with matching rules? Yep.
At the mo, it’s nice and cheap but in need of a little TLC.
Is this game not for you? If you don’t like the sound of the preceding paragraph, no.