Yet another generic roleplaying game... or is it? Karma is actually a good engine for people who are tired of the complexity of OGL, but familiar with its basic tennants. Although the game bears little in common directly with OGL, you will get the feeling of familiarity as you read the rules.
The way in which ability checks are made is elegant and the skill list (called abilities) is concise and nicely organised into logical groups. Spells are created by individual players making them unique to their characters, but this can be a little time consuming so you should probably purchase the grimoire if you want to see more ready to use spells.
There are no monsters in the core rules, aside from a smattering of NPCs. There is a larger monster compendium available to make up for this short fall, and guidelines are provided for creating your own creatures in the Races section.
If you want to see how the basic game might play, download the free quick reference. The game uses d20 + two attributes + skill _ target number. Although the game can be used to play any genre fairly easily, you should be aware that if you intend to play a modern game there is only very cursory information provided. For example, there are no rules for vehicles. The combat system is cinematic, and works in “real time”. Which essentially means you don’t roll for initiative. In practice, I found this a little unweildy, so I introduced a minor houserule to bring back a little organisation to the chaos.
The PDF package comes with a colour and greyscale version of the rulebook, which sensibly removes the rather pretty, but ink gobbling side graphic.
Should you buy it? I think the game shows promise. If you like collecting games, then it’s definately worth adding to your collection. The engine is an intelligent and elegantly applied mechanic. It does rely on the 1-20 random roll and when you consider that the most you will normally be adding to that roll is 15, you might decide that such a huge random component to checks is something you dont want to use. (I’ve tried using 2d10 instead for the nice probability curve). There is enough detail in character design to offer many ways to make diverse and entertaining characters, while not requiring fixed classes or levels. It might be a little much for a total novice to get to grips with, but all told a good job.
[4 of 5 Stars!]