Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tommy's Take on: Gnomemurdered 2e

Okay, I've been kicking this one around for weeks...and I'll come right out and say it: I don't get it.  Well, I DO.  I mean, I get most of the jokes and all...but I can't imagine that they would have much traction if you weren't the type to frequent RPG message boards.  Heck, even if you DO get the jokes, there's a decent chance you would be annoyed at them, because there's probably a better than 50/50 chance that you're the butt of the jokes.  Anyway...without further ado...my review of Gnomemurdered 2e.

Gnomemurdered 2e is, ostensibly, a rules lite RPG written by the infamous RPG Pundit.  You can download the PDF from pigames.net for $7.95, and for an additional $9 + shipping, get a softcover printed up and mailed out to you.  The PDF is 103 pages, which includes the cover and an ad, the cover in color and the rest in black and white.

INTRODUCTION

The introduction is a humorous warning about the dangers of gnomes, and also spells out the mission statement of creating the ULTIMATE rules-lite RPG.  The second half of the intro is an over-the-top self indulgent back-patting for writing 2e “almost an entire month later” after writing 1e.   After all, nearly eight billion people played and loved the first edition of the game.  That said, Pundit comes clean with his intentions to release this as a cash grab.  At least he's being honest, right?

The introduction offer footnotes to clarify the text in places, such as the margin of error on the algorithm they used to determine number of players and so forth...in the interest of transparency, of course.

The introduction had me chuckling out loud at points, and perhaps a little frightened about what the remaining 90+ pages might hold.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I'll give 'em credit...I don't know if this was Pundit's doing or Brett Bernstein's, but this is a GOOD Table of Contents...so good that I'm inclined to say it had to have been all Bernstein.  Its not just chapters and page numbers, but subheadings in chapters as well...I tend to REALLY appreciate that in games.

SUMMARY OF BASIC RULES

Chapter One jumps straight into the meat of the rules.  There are two whole rules: 1. Make up your character using whatever means or description you like.  2. Any action with a chance of success of failure, you roll a d6, on 1-3 you succeed, on 4-6, gnomes kill you.  The upside is, I don't see a ton of rules disputes over this.

Optional & Alternative Methods of Task Resolution

 Since Gnomemurdered is seeking to be truly innovative, Pundit offers a series of alternate methods of task resolution, starting from the basic coin toss, and including such methods as a high-card draw between player and GM, physical challenges between player and GM and culminating in a humorous, and non-p.c., paragraph regarding Collaborative Group Therapy.  That final method utterly neuters the gnomes, though, and kinda defeats the purpose of the game.

The chapter concludes with a handy one-page summary of not only the rules, but the alternate resolution methods.

EXPANDED CHARACTER CREATION

At this point, the game starts creeping towards being an actual roleplaying game, offering character generation with more depth than just “make it all up”...but only barely.  After all, the attributes used are dictated entirely by the GM, but it does wisely also warn players off of fifty page mininovels for their characters backstories...advice that should be adopted by all games, in my view.  The author DOES make a special point of noting that even though the players are still defining skills and powers, they CANNOT play gnomes...because that would just be ridiculous, right?

Moderating Levels of Play

The levels of play range from Gritty to Heroic to Super-Heroic to Demigodlike, and determine how often the players have to roll to succeed at an action – and thus how often they are in danger from the gnomes.  Yes, even Superman and Thor must fear gnomes.  Luckily, however, if the GM decides that you fail without rolling, your character isn't killed by gnomes...that can only happen when dice are involved.

Creating Character By Example

This chapter makes me wonder if Pundit hasn't sat and tried to run a few games where character attributes are all pre-defined by the players' choices...'cause frankly it reads like a realistically written pain in the butt.  One girl has no flaws what so ever, one guy is chock full of superhigh everything, one guy just wants to be evil, and so on.  If I thought this were a real RPG, that would have turned me off of ever wanting to run it.

Reference

A handy, one page reference of the expanded character generation and the Levels of Play.

RUNNING THE GAME

The game is broken down into two sections: The Pre-Gnome Game and the Post-Gnome Game.  Simply put, Pre-Gnome is what happens before the gnomes arrive.  Fighting bank robbers, investigating a haunted house, battling through the swamps to the dragon's lair...and Post-Gnome is what happens once the gnomes arrive. 

Gnome Foreshadowing

Helpful hints for building up the tension before the gnomes arrive, including such subtle clues as missing underpants.

Combat!  Hey...Hang On A Second...

A helpful reminder that the only thing that can kill you in the game?  Gnomes.  Say you're recreating Superman vs Doomsday and Superman finally fails his roll...Doomsday doesn't kill him, no...a gnome shows up and perhaps tears his face off.  Though, they do sometimes operate subtly, so maybe they only pounce on Superman's face, allowing Doomsday to set up the killing blow.  Although, since Superman and Doomsday killed each other, I have to imagine that the gnome then shot Doomsday in the face.

The Post-Gnome Game

Once the gnomes are there, they are THERE.  Be it to blindside you, kill your adversary or what have you.  You can press on with your original plans, in hopes of finishing your task before the gnomes get you...or you can take on the gnomes head on...at which point you run a much greater risk of dying, obviously.

Gnomes and Power Level

This section details the effects of power level on gnomes...which is minimal.  That is, except for the fact that Gritty level character can only kill gnomes with much luck and planning, while Demigodlike character have the expected 50/50 chance of killing a normal gnome.

So, You've Been Murdered By Gnomes...

This section details rules variations for death and campaigns.  The standard game allows players to bring in new characters upon death, while surviving characters get GRIPS, or Gnomish Resistance Points, which allow them to reroll Gnomemurdered checks.  The Elimination Game allows no new characters to be added in, and is more likely to lead to total gnomish victory.  Two other styles exist, one imposing a waiting penalty before a player can add a new character, while the other forces the player to perform some kind of task...maybe breakdancing in the kitchen or paying the rest of the group five bucks...and if you have someone in your group willing to pay everyone five bucks to play any RPG after dying, you collect on that.

THE AWFUL TRUTH ABOUT GNOMES

This is for GM's eyes only.  The pure, unadulterated truth about gnomes, including their secret motivations, which I won't spill in this review.

Presenting Gnomes in Different Settings

Handy tips for incorporating gnomes into five different genres, such as horror and supers.  Perhaps the most amusing setting is the one omitted: There is no discussion of gnomes in a fantasy game, though there is discussion of historical settings.  How are you supposed to know how to treat gnomes in a dungeon crawl or in a dragon's lair without these guidelines?

Generating Gnomish Groups

How many gnomes appear, and how do they look?  That is covered in this section, including six options for gnomish special forces, such as paraglider kamikazes and gnomish illusionists...and yes, lawn gnomes are present as well.

Helpful hints are included for making your own gnomish special forces, as well as gnomish leaders, complete with helpful tables for giving said leaders names and titles.  However, this section also points out that, in most circumstances, if a gnome group and its leader are killed, it means there were never any gnomes present to begin with.

Gnome Assassination Tables

Need help deciding how the gnomes attack?  Tables of options follow, with handy descriptions to match the terms, such as how gnomes waterboard (which involves water and boards).  Very handy if you just can't grasp the gnomish mentality for the attacks.

Gnomish Loot

Gnomish loot covers what you may find on a dead gnome, including the Book of Forbidden Lore often carried by gnomish illusionists, and the mental scarring brought on by daring to read such a tome.

Six tables of gnome-appropriate loot follow, with one table filled entirely with underpants and Mjolnir. 

Gnome Lore

Gnome Lore is an impressive, six page treatise on anything you could possibly know about gnomes, such as how, despite appearances, they are less like humans and more like Things Man Was Not Meant To Know, and that gnome eggs sure look a lot like gnome hats, but usually aren't.  Thankfully, gnomes DO have weaknesses, one of which being tobacco, which explains why Pundit smokes to much tobacco, as he's clearly paranoid about gnomes.

Gnomes have a few obsessions that can be played on, gnome of which include money, but which do include cookies.  Nearly two full pages of the six in Gnome Lore cover the obsessions of gnomes and how to turn those to your advantage.

The book reveals that consumption of gnomish materials, spawns mutations, of which there are six tables full, which include such gems as turning beings into evolutionary throwbacks, and turning people into, basically, living bombs.  The end of this section even includes some art featuring mutated humans.

As is tradition, we get a reference page, which summarizes basic gnomish groups, assassination methods and taint from the Book of Forbidden Lore.

Sample Gnome-Laced Scenarios

Five sample scenarios are provided, covering an impressive range: Swords & Sorcery, murder-mystery, sci-fi, Godlike fantasy and pulp action.  Each setting provides a breakdown of the genre, the suggested power level, relevant gnome lore, and a breakdown of the scenario.  The sci-fi scenario turns into an Aliens vs Predator like three way battle, while the murder-mystery had a completely separate murder mystery going on...with gnomes possibly popping in at the end.

Pundit takes the opportunity to plug his Forward...to Adventure! line in the swords & sorcery setting, while giving much deserved props to Two-Fisted Tales in the pulp setting.

AFTERWORD

The book wraps with an over the top afterword that trumpets the popularity of Gnomemurdered, while also vilifying gnomes and warning against them once more.

Final Thoughts

I am very torn on this book.  On one hand, it's a funny read.  Very amusing book, with a lot of ribs on the rules-lite crowd, and an absurd fascination with trumping up gnomes as the worst threat to mankind at all, ever.  The art isn't anything spectacular, but none of it is bad, either.  To my mind, the introduction and the afterword are both perhaps a TAD too over the top, but its not like the book is meant to be taken seriously while including all of that.  That said, the fact that he absolutely refuses to break character at any point in the book, including the Introduction and the Afterword, is incredibly impressive and earns the book points.  The much-deserved plug for Two-Fisted Tales helps as well.

If you're the kind of guy who bought the Munchkin's Guide to Powergaming by Steve Jackson Games, or you just like humorously written RPG-style books, then pick it up.  It is pretty funny.  If you are looking for an actual RPG to play? I can't, in good conscience, recommend this book.  However, if I WERE to try to run this, I think I would go with the Player vs Gamemaster “High Card Draw” variation...even though it is still totally random, it at least isn't just a straight, 50/50 shot every time.

If you want something funny to read, or a completely absurd comedy game, go ahead, pick this up.  Otherwise, spend your money on the books that this product plugs, like Two-Fisted Tales or Forward...to Adventure!