Sunday, January 28, 2018

Graphic Novel: a game review

SYSTEM: Graphic Novel

TL;DR version: Graphic Novel is not a game that I would enjoy. There are some nice world-building elements that you can steal for your games. However, the mechanics are so loosey-goosey that they make me wonder why you'd buy this as a game rather than as some GM advice. That being said, I suspect that those who find it works find that it works well.

This is less a review and more of a personal reaction.

Graphic Novel calls itself "A Free Form Supers Roleplaying Game" and it certainly is free-form. That grants a lot of freedom to the players, which is generally a good thing. However, I think I can summarize the mechanics in five points. I'll try, without infringing on the text (except for the term "Destiny Points").
  • Describe your character.
  • Give your character the number of Destiny Points decided on for the campaign.
  • When it's important, roll a d20. High numbers good, low numbers bad. How good or bad depends on your view of the character's competence in that area, but 20 is always success, 1 is always failure.
  • If the result is bad, you can spend a Destiny Point to re-roll as many times as you have Destiny Points.
  • You get one Destiny Point back per hour, or when you do something that "fulfills your Destiny."
Could this work? Of course. And if it works for you, great. As Abraham Lincoln reputedly said, "For those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like."

It is too free-form for me.

As a GM who has gotten into arguments with players in several different systems, the third point is an issue. Expertise for rolls is decided from the vantage point of the character, so Awkwardman might succeed on that roll to defuse the nuclear bomb only on a 19 or 20, while Reed Richards might succeed on a roll of 5-20.

The fifth point is also problematic: do you get Destiny Points back at one per hour of game time ("You sleep for 8 hours, so you have 8 Destiny Points back") or one per hour of play time ("I know we elided over a month in game, but you spent your last Destiny Point ten minutes ago"). I presume it's the former, but the game doesn't say.

It also doesn't tell you to define your destiny: writing it down has to be inferred from the rest of the text. (My question to the author didn't get answered directly; maybe I misunderstood the response, but my question about the answer hasn't been answered.)

The game does provide a lot of fluff, though: it has names of various people, organizations, and cities that you can plunder for your own game.

Production values are low, but I suspect that's intentional. It looks like it is meant to evoke an older, simpler age of gaming, with self-published and mimeographed gaming aids.

So for me (and I speak only for me), it's not useful as an art object, and it's not useful as a game system. It is useful to me as a source of fluff. Is it six bucks worth of useful? Not for me, but others differ.

So, final verdict: not for me. I hope that this brief discussion tells you whether or not you'll enjoy it.

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