Monday, May 23, 2011

Tommy's Take on Chav: The Knifing

Disclaimer: As I begin my first review of Postmortem week, please be advised that I did use a tad saltier language than I normally do in my reviews. It seemed...appropriate, somehow.

If I hadn't watched Harry Brown on Netflix recently, I don't know if I would have had a real world context for a "Chav". Chav the Knifing is the second full game in the Shadow World line (yes, I'm going in reverse...sue me). It is a rather odd little game about street toughs who gain special powers from the Bus Stop God Chavthulhu (although they don't realize it).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Chav uses the XPress system, which I detailed in my WizKid review last month, and is part of the greater Shadow World universe with Bloodsucker and WizKid, but is also a standalone game in its own right, not requiring the other two to play. Chav does also have a supplement out now: The Call of Chavthulhu.

As part of the "Materials you need in order to play", they recommend hip-hop music, and playing Chav in a public place...which would require me to be listening to hip-hop music in a public place, and isn't likely to happen.

The Character Creation chapter uses a very similar point buy as WizKid does, although instead of Houses, you have Credoz and Talentz. Oh, and you also need a Schtick which can be easily referenced for humor (speech impediments, being fat, dressing in clothes way too small, etc.). Anywho, Credoz are basically the crap you do that defines you. Chemistz make drugs, Hoodiez are the thugs, Muppetz are crazy daredevils, Pikeyz are kleptos, Slagz are whores, Walliez are poseurs, Wiggaz are a step up from Walliez, and Yardiez are the real, true shit. There are ten Talentz, with everyone getting Chav Sight, which lets you identify supernatural creatures. Brapp makes you a better gunman. Chav Speed, Chav Strength and Chav Toughness should be fairly self explanatory. Cloud is kinda like a limited invisibility. Musk lets you manipulate the opposite sex. Parkour lets you do crazy stunts. Slash is kinda like Brapp, but for knives, and Voodoo gets used a lot with drugs. Chavs are also vulnerable to Corruption, which is Bad.

The Credoz have the White Wolf Clan/Tribe/etc feuds/relationships with each other, detailed on each Credo's page. I did like how the Chemistz seem to get along with everyone well enough, even if the others are not quite as sold on them.

Chapter Two gets into the rules, and they are largely similar to WizKid, although they diverge when it comes to powers. Rather than the four types of magic(k), Chavs have Bile which power their abilities, and regain Bile in some very Chav-specific ways, like listening to hip-hop and hanging out at bus stops. The system itself is an interesting dice pool: Your appropriate skill sets the Target Number, and you roll a number of six sided dice equal to your attribute, re-rolling anything that hits the target number.

Chapter Three brings us the Skills chapter (what, no z?), which seems to cover the same 40 skills as WizKid, although it does use different examples. Brawl, Demolitions, Art (hey, you gotta have some skill when painting your tags, right?), Melee (which is like Brawl, but with weapons), and even Spellcasting.

Many of the Merits and Flaws are unique to the game, however, like Benefit Baby. That is, you have a kid that you get money for. Other Merits include Voodoo Thing (an item infused with Voodoo power), Looming (ya big freak), and O.C. (Original Chav, not a Fox Teen Dramedy). Flaws like Cliff Notes Satanist (you say you're a Satanist, but you're really talking out of your butt), Batty Boy (Chavs are homophobic, and you're gay...do the math), Ganja Induced Laziness (you smoke too much weed, basically), Furry (I'm not explaining this one if you don't know what it means already) and Weekend Warrior (you hold down a respectable job during the week, you're just a douchebag thug With Powerz on the weekends).

Money is handled by the Pay Scale Merit/Flaw, and a handy chart is given for making your own.

The Talentz Chapter lays out the Talentz in detail (each one scales up to three levels). Many of them just provide extra bonuses (like Brapp), but others such as Parkour let you do crazier shit the higher you go...(at the highest level, you can flip over your opponent and attack at the same time).

The Background Chapter is the important stuff about Chavs and their culture, such as how the Crew is sacred to them. It also details the Corruption system, and its "Sins". I say "Sins" because the level 1 Sin is Snitching...the level 10 Sin is refusing to commit an act of gross perversity. Yes...if your Chav is pulled towards the light, the Crew turns on them and you lose your character. It's THAT kind of game.

The rest of the chapter includes a 20 question questionnaire and the equipment section, covering various weapons and accessories.

The Voodoo Chapter is awesome. First off, it is partially based on your ability to bullshit. Chavs are naturally superstitious, and Chemistz play off of this. Level 1 Voodoo includes Minty Fresh Breath, powering an Ouija Board and covering their conversation in gibberish that only spellcasters can understand. Level 2 Voodoo includes a Theatrical Vanishing Act, Telepathy and making a Zombie (so, er, kind of a step up). Finally, Level 3 allows for out of body experiences, stitching body parts together to make a composite zombie and mesmerizing people.

For the Combat chapter, I am blatantly copy and pasting my explanation from my WizKid review: Initiative is a set number, derived from combining Speed and Perception. Rather than Hit Points, characters have Wound Levels that, unfortunately, look like a bad parody of wounds in the Storyteller system.

It is worth noting two things, however: Chavs can expend Bile to absorb damage, and they take extra damage from anything older than 70 years old, which helps explain how Michael Caine kicked so much ass in Harry Brown...which, hilariously, was referenced as the example in the book

The next chapter details just how Chav Society breaks down. Crews are ran by Bosses, but each Credo also has a Main Man, who may or may not be a Boss as well. Chavs can also call a Ruckus in very serious situations, where they name a Massive Boss. Two Cred systems are given in this chapter, one for the Crew and one for the individuals.

The Shadow World chapter shakes the idea that a despised, hip hop appreciating underclass is uniquely British, providing examples from around the world. Apparently American Chavs are REALLY full of themselves, and the Chavs in the Middle East may or may be heavily influencing radical Islam.

The Opposition Chapter includes a nice range of satirical antagonists, such as Bible Bashers (because Bible Thumpers aren't strong enough, I suppose), Dead Kids, Dogboys and Wizkids (which, of course, are covered in their own book). If you want Bloodsuckers, though, they are covered in their own book line, one of which I will be reviewing tomorrow.

The Campaign chapter is really more of "No, seriously, you're supposed to play this game", and includes 20 plots to use (like a Ruckus being called because Crews are disappearing, an arcade is holding a beat-em-'up tournament (but an obsessivr Dead Kid is sure to win), and hoodies are banned at a local college!

The appendix includes vehicle rules that seem a bit more at home here than in WizKid, a nice looking character sheet and an index.

WHAT WORKS: Well, the writing is top notch, as usual. Underneath the gags, jokes and cheapshots, there is a perfectly playable game here. Although the art style was very similar to the WizKid art, it didn't bother me as much here, for some reason. Also, I am really glad I watched Harry Brown before I read this. I love the BS factor of the Voodoo.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I don't know why, may just be personal preference, but the game just doesn't work as well to me as WizKid does...although the fiction is a tad less on the porno-lite side. The game still, at points, seems to be a bit much for a comedy game, with the bloated amount of Health Boxes and so on. I am pretty sure that the Credoz, while cool, are not balanced, for those worried about such things...(especially comparing Walliez to Yardiez.).

CONCLUSION: While the game and writing are, in many ways, as good as or better than Wizkid, I do prefer Wizkid a bit more. However, if you ever wanted to play magic(k)-powered street thugs, this is a pretty spot-on game for that. I won't say the material is for a MATURE audience, exactly, but I will say it's for an ADULT audience, and unlike Wizkid, their shameless cash grab in this book only requires you to buy Bloodsucker to get everything you need since it pre-dated Wizkid. Great product, if slightly less inspiring than WizKid.