Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tommy's Take on Killer Thriller


Killer Thriller is the first RPG from Timeout Diversions, the new small publishing venture by Tony Lee, who I am most familiar with through his work on the WWE Know Your Role RPG...he's setting this imprint up as the "Cheapass Games" of RPG, barebones PDF products with more substance than style, at a low price.

Killer Thriller It's a b-movie horror RPG, designed to be very tongue in cheek, a slightly less serious Slasher Flick, if you will and unlike a traditional RPG, every player is meant to play three (or more) PCs, and any character of any consequence who isn't The Monster is meant to be played by the PCs.

VICTIMS OF CIRCUMSTANCE

As noted, everyone plays multiple PCs, ensuring that no one gets kill "off screen". Character creation is simple enough, as PCs have three Inabilities (Unwise, Unluck and Undone) and you have a 7, 8 and 9 that you assign to each stat. When you roll against an Inability (2d6), if you roll under, something not great happens...if you roll it exactly, something epically bad happens.

Unwise is a measure of how not smart a PC is, and thus how likely they are to make...questionable...decisions...like when the lights go out and you hear a noise in the basement.

Unluck is a little better than Unwise, as it's just like likelihood that something will go wrong, not that you screw yourself up. Note: It's still bad. Unluck is used when you're trying to climb through the half broken window on the second floor, for instance.

Undone is both the social stat, and what you use to keep your crap together...i.e., seeing if your PC completely loses it when he boyfriend is found nailed to the bedroom door.

There is also Unharm, which is Hit Points, essentially.

Next, you define all of your PCs with a stereotype (although I might recommend starting with the stereotype and then going to the stats, but that's me). Every Stereotype gets a "free pass", which is something related to their schtick that they don't have to roll for.

Finally, characters get Unreal (think Advantages) and Unthinkable (Disadvantages), of which there are only about four each, so we're not talking a complicated system here.

For a pretty dirt simple system, the author does a GREAT job of suppyling all kinds of examples, both in-game and from films, about how the Inabilities work. The three stats might be a tad simplified, but it's a beer-and-pretzels horror movie game...let it go.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

THe way the group of PCs thing works is that when a character kicks it, you get to add their Unharm to another one of your characters. If you describe the death scene well, you can get more Unharm. This leads to one of your PCs eventually being big enough and bad enough to stand up to the bad guy.

When it's down to the Monsters vs Last Surivors, the Monsters have Inabilities that finally kick in, essentially putting the Monsters and Last Survivors on even footing. Last Survivors ALSO get to reroll doubles, making them even more efficient.

Finally, we get a list of common weapons, and their damage and any special notes that might apply (like getting tangled in barbed wire, or taking damage from electricity until something kicks you loose).

Again, the chapter abounds with examples, including a chainsaw weilding maniac performing an Epic Fail while trying to slice up a victim.

DEAD THINGS WALKING

This is all about Monsters, and the types of set-ups you can use...like a Boss Monster and Minions, like if you wanted to do Dracula and his Brides. This would also work with The Lost Boys, although I think that one would qualify for two bosses.

Among other things, it helpfully reminds you to give your monster a Weakness...with the helpful advice that you can ignore that Weakness come the sequel (see any Nightmare on Elm Street).

The rules for making a monster are real similar to the rules for making a Victim, and take up about a Paragraph...and a lengthy list of alliterative entries as inspiration for your Monsters, ranging from insane animals to demons to zombies and even using unearthly natural disasters are your baddy, each with a relevant movie quote for flavor (the PDF is filled with relevant movie quotes).

RUNNING THE SHOW

This is, essentially, a pair of horror "films" for your game, complete with relevant Monsters. The first is a slasher flick set in a mining camp, complete with three different "twists" to choose from. The second is a combo alien invasion/wheel out the monsters montage.

Even if you don't use the "films" as written, there are some very nice examples of monsters to use to build your own, including (essentially) The Blob, Dracula and Jason Vorhees.

The book ends with the author detailing the 15 year evolution of the game, and his apprehension about releasing it.

CONCLUSION

It's fun.

Seriously, it's a good fun game that can be a blast with the right group. It makes Slasher Flick (with 100 premade archetypes) look like GURPS in comparison, it's that light...but it is very detailed. There shouldn't be much confusion about how to do anything in the game, and the writing is very witty to boot...(seriously, I've never seen so many footnotes in a 25 page PDF)...so if you're wanting a dry, textbook read...this isn't it.

It's definitely NOT for someone wanting a gritty horror experience...it is meant to emulate the schlockiest excesses of the horror film genre, not that that's a bad thing.