Why I Won’t Be Playing The Other Two Worst RPGs Of All Time

A while ago, I played the worst RPG known to the Tabletop RPG industry, FATAL, and found that, even without all the offensive material, it lived up to its name. Needlessly convoluted with its skill system, its job system hopelessly broken, and the entire game is incomplete. And yet, of the three to be considered the Unholy Trinity…

This is the only game I can play. Today’s post is going to go into detail as to why I’m not going to be playing the other two entries in the “Worst RPGs Ever” category. Before you think that these are a no brainer, allow me to preface this with a question:

If it took me a while to wrap my head around FATAL’s system, how would I be able to wrap my head around these?

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The Quiet Year Post-Mortem

My overall thoughts on The Quiet Year are that this is a pretty great map-making game. So long as you have a good idea in mind for the setting, you can pretty much make a fun story out of it. As a solo game, however, it is rather difficult to figure out a way to play this solo without betraying the core rules of the game.

While the base of the cards and the rules surrounding them make for good worldbuilding, playing the game as written solo is a different story altogether. Not only did I have to invent a new rule (the Shadow Action), but also reinvented how the Contempt Tokens worked. The end result is essentially a different beast altogether.

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Thousand Year Old Vampire Post-Mortem

While not truly RPGs in a traditional sense, journaling games seem to have a large place in my heart, as some good stories can be told with just a prompt and a few gameplay mechanics to drive the narrative further. I had earlier said how Thousand-Year-Old Vampire was one of the best, if not the best, journaling games I have ever played. I’m going to expand on that by comparing it to the other journal games I have played, as I feel like Thousand-Year-Old Vampire fixed the holes I had with those games.

Now, I shall start with a disclaimer. Obviously, no RPG is created equal (even those that share the same system will have their differences), especially in the terms of quality, as some of these games were made for Jams. I love all these games evenly, as they each hold a place in my heart. However, it’s through comparing do we see how a game mechanic makes the game enjoyable, especially in examining through a solo lens. With that out of the way, let’s begin with…

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A Review of Alice Black: Blood Tribute

A couple of years ago, I purchased a Gamebook at a convention that uses the Fate Engine. I had been meaning to play it on this blog for some time and now, I feel like this is the right time. This is Alice Black: Blood Tribute (it’s also on Lulu). It is a pretty thick book at around 250 pages with a small enough pocket book size. One cool feature to note is that the game doesn’t go by pages but rather by sections. So, if you make some sort of choice, you instead go to a different chapter rather than a page.

Now, normally I would be playing through this as though this was an adventure, but I’m iffy on posting spoilers. I originally had the actual play written up to the end of the prologue (where it introduces you to the story and the premise of the gamebook), but I decided to use my better judgement and give a spoiler-free review instead in the same manner that board game reviewers do their reviews of Legacy games.

This may sound a little hypocritical, since I have tackled these kinds of gamebooks before and have spoiled the lot of them to the point where I gutted a few of them and broke down all possible routes, but allow me to explain: most of those game books were not only free to play (or pay-what-you-want), but were roughly twenty five pages at most. Barbarian Prince was also free to play and was old enough that, chances are, unless you’re new to the hobby like I am, you might have played it at some point.

While I have played a few pre-written adventures, the key difference is that those adventures are often just scripts for how certain aspects of the game would work. It’s mostly up to the GM’s discretion to figure out how those pieces worked and each story can be radically different depending on the GM, the players, the party make up, the rolls, and dozens of other variables. A CYOA Gamebook, however, doesn’t have this luxury. It gives you the story, asks you what to do, and then you read the result. It’s why I haven’t done a session on Welcome to Sand Hands.

Read more, though be warned that this may ruin your chance of playing this completely blind

Shining a Spotlight on: Foundry VTT (Featuring Astral Tabletop)

I’m going to be writing this a little differently than my other posts, since this is a first impressions of a Virtual Tabletop than it is me playing a game or testing out an RPG or Engine. Particularly, first impressions using Foundry as a soloist. 

The Virtual Tabletop is called Foundry, and what I can say is its claim to fame is mashing up the robustness and depth of Fantasy Grounds with the approachableness and API-integration of Roll20. It has a bit of a price, asking for $50, but the benefit to it is that you’re able to have as much, if not more, control over your campaigns than if you were to pay for a subscription on Roll20 and you (as in the GM) only need to pay once.

Starting up the program, you are greeted with a few menus arranged in a sleek array. The first is Worlds (your games), then the Game Systems, then Add-On Modules, and finally, Configuration and Update Software. You’ll have to download a Game System in order to make a Game World, but that’s as easy as going to Game Systems and picking one from a list to download and install.

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Reviewing All The Engines I Used In The Past

Back when I started Solo RPG Voyages, there were only a few available Engines one would normally need to play solo. There was at least five that most people pointed to, to which I made one of my very first posts a five-day marathon of playing the same game, same setting, same story, but the difference was how the Engines worked.

This was what I called the Solo Engine RPG Battle Royale Week and it was a means for me to get out of my comfort zone with the Mythic GM Emulator and try out Engines in a controlled environment so I could look exclusively at the Engines and not let any outside force like how the game plays or a plot point causing the game to drag and distract from the Engine’s overall quality.

However, as soon as I made that, I was given the request to review another solo Engine called CRGE. One month later, I find another solo RPG Engine for me to play with… and another… and another… Eventually, I wanted to do a second Solo Engine RPG Battle Royale Week, but I kept doing other things that occupied my time.

Now it’s almost impossible to pick just five Engines for a sequel. With solo gaming becoming more mainstream than ever before, more and more Engines are made to cater to various degrees of player. There’s even one author that creates Engines tailor made for certain RPG systems. What adds to this increase is how easy it is to make solo Engines.

For instance, I can take dice from the Genesys RPG system and use the symbols to interpret yes and no answers. Easy. I even made a system using the lowest numbered dice called the Coin, Tumbler, and Caltrop system or CTC for short. A coin is used for yes and no, a d3 (a tumbler) is used to see if it’s a “but”, “and”, or neither, and a d4 (a caltrop) would be a controller to see if a plot twist would be coming.

So now I have the situation of having so many Engines to try out and not enough games to pair them with. Granted, some are easy to pair, like PPM’s Engine or even cases like Ironsworn where the Engines come packed with their own games. However, it’s come to a point where it feels more pragmatic to read the Engine and make conclusions to how it plays rather than devote entire sessions to playing around with it.

Earlier, I made a review scale for RPG games based on how soloable they were, under the idea that any game can be played solo. The problem was that I had way too many variables and scored it on a ten-point rating. Worse still, it shot my own ideas and mission statement down and even made the system as a whole feel like more busywork than a two-paragraph review.

So, with this, I feel like it should be a little more restrained. Instead of numbers, I’d bring the Engine into a few categories based off ease of use, if the Engine is focused on mechanics or story (more on this later), and whether the game has a twist system. Rather than grading it, I feel like it’s more appropriate to see what sort of people would enjoy the Engines.

I’m not going to go into all the nitty gritty details like the odds of getting yes vs. no or how often you trigger an event, since that’d be edging towards reviewing and I’m only making recommendations for this list.

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Introducing my review scale!

I decided to create a review scale of how soloable a game is. How does one go about it? Well, I like to thank Todd Zircher for suggesting that I use a ten questions scale. I basically ask ten questions regarding the RPG’s soloability and then grade it based off how many it answered correctly.

As such, these are the ten questions and the criteria needed to answer them correctly.

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Onirim Review

So Tabletop Day is approaching us, which means I should get around to doing some solo board gaming. Now, it may be cheating to use a Steam game for this, as it’s pretty cheap to just launch a game, play against computers and say “hey, I’m solo playing!”, which is why I never talk about Roguelikes despite having a collection of them.

But this game in particular is very notable and I just can’t let it pass by me. Onirim is a game that is explicitly solitaire. Its Steam version is free to play and the expansions are dirt cheap. But what is this game about? How do you play?

Well, it’s a card game where you must unlock eight to thirteen doors by matching three colored Location Cards. Now, this isn’t as easy as it sounds, as there are many complications to this, ranging from playing the cards in a way where the symbols on the upper left corner don’t match, the occasional Nightmare Card that you draw that forces you to hamper yourself in some way if you don’t have a Key Card, and drawing cards that all have the same symbol.

You do get some help with this in the form of the Key Card. On top of being a Get Out Of Nightmare Free Card and being able to automatically unlock a door provided you draw it and it’s the same color as the key, you can also discard the card to get a peek at the top five cards, rearrange them in any order you wish, and discard one of them… But that’s all the help you can get. Personally, the expansions add to the gameplay experience, since they give you more variety in play options. The Glyphs expansion add a new kind of card called Glyphs which, not only adds one more symbol so that you have a little more breathing room, but like the Key, draws the top five cards, but puts them at the bottom and if there’s a door, automatically opens it. Another expansion adds two new kinds of cards: Crossroads give you multicolored cards that you can use for any row of cards while Dead Ends are just that: dead cards that you can’t discard on their own and need something else to discard it, namely a Nightmare Card to discard your entire hand. Lastly there’s the Door To The Omniverse expansion which adds a multi-colored door to the mix while also adding Denizen Cards which, at the cost of discarding a card, will be added to your arsenal and will help you do things you wouldn’t normally do, such as being able to play the another symbol in a row, trading one location card for another, or being a Get Out Of Nightmare Free Card.

Overall, the game is engaging, and I recommend playing it at least once. I will say that this game definitely requires some card counting if you want to be really good at the game, but thankfully the game does help you somewhat by counting how many cards are in the discard and how many Nightmares and Dead Ends are still in the deck. It is very hard to master and win, I will admit, but once you win for the first time, it will feel satisfying. Go ahead and check it out.