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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 74 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Umlaut: Setting Challenge review  (Read 4365 times)
Malcolm Craig
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« on: January 05, 2007, 09:27:51 AM »

Every one of the settings I was given made me feel something different and out of all of them, Umlaut, by Rich Stokes, produced the most wry smiles, nods and laugh out loud moments. It’s Friday night Battle of the Bands writ large. Unlike, for example, my own ‘Contenders’ based setting ‘Revolutionaries’ which gives the setting as a guide to place, ‘Umlaut’ very much evokes the setting through its modification of the mechanics and the additional little tweaks that it adds to ‘Contenders’.

The random name creation tables for opposing ‘NPC’ bands had me giggling in the aisles, I could just see the lead singer of glam band Lust Rocket bestriding the stage as a colossus or the greasy lead guitarist of thrash band Carnage Kingdom smash his amps in a fit of rage.

The concrete setting material, such as venues and promoters, we simple and provides good guidelines for coming up with locations and NPCs of your own.

What can I say? Umlaut is a journey back to the days of Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks, Vain, Skid Row and all those other bands you thought were so cool in your youth (I’d like to say I didn’t think that, but I did. My excuse is I was 14). It’s a knowing, tongue in cheek homage to a totally overblown genre of music that still manages to show love for the very things that it parodies.

Would I use Umlaut? Without a doubt. There are many people I know who would love to play a game of this type (Joe J Prince, I’m looking at you!) and start rocking out with Warbastard and The Apocalypse Dolls. Now, normally I would prefer a setting with a little more meat on its bones, but this one really did grab me. The only downside is that I found it extremely difficult to give this a different rating from The Engine, which I thought was good for wholly different reasons.

Nutshell Review

How well is the game system integrated? How well does it seem to fit?
– A very good adaptation of the Contenders mechanics.

How will the game presumably work in play, especially with regard to how the setting facilitates a certain kind of play? - From a few read overs, it appears to be very workable but only some actual play will really reveal how well the mechanical changes work. It may require some small tweaks here and there.

How complete, accessible and well presented is the material? - The setting is mostly integrated with the mechanics, which make it a very accessible, compact read. The 4 Paths of Metal are an inspired design inclusion.

How interesting, original, stylish and “juicy” is the setting? - It’s our own world (sort of) but it takes all the best clichés of metal and creates an amusing, believable whole out of them.

Cheers
Malcolm
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Malcolm Craig
Contested Ground Studios
www.contestedground.co.uk

Part of the Indie Press Revolution
talysman
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2007, 11:15:52 AM »

Since I'm not interested in boxing or boxing movies, I didn't get into Contenders, although I remembered the details from when it was a 24hour RPG. And I'm not into metal; my primary experience with it is through Spinal Tap. But somehow, the two concepts jammed together were pretty entertaining, maybe *because* the game play sounded like it would resemble Spinal Tap more than a serious approach to metal. In fact, I thought it was the best of the four games I judged. Maybe it's the random band name tables, or turning scenes with connections into behind the scenes interactions with other band members. I liked it. I'd play this game.

The only flaw I could find was that the text seems to de-emphasize the needs of connections, which would seem to me to be even more relevant to a heavy metal setting than to a boxing setting. The threat to hope (and heavy cash drain) for a band should be stuff like the lead guitarist's heroin addiction, the drummer's tendency to pick bar fights (and lose,) or the bass player's troubles with his girlfriend. This stuff was in the 24hour version of Contenders, which is the only rules I read; it should be in here, too.

Great job!
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Sam!
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2007, 02:29:57 AM »

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Sami Koponen
Graham W
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2007, 05:16:03 AM »

Sam,

I find it a surprising point of view. I absolutely agree that setting is tied to mechanics but, to me, that's the challenge: to find another setting that's supported by the same mechanics. If the setting needs too many different mechanics, I think the author should write a new game instead.

It's a little unfair, I think, to dismiss "a couple of pages of new colour". Colour often gets dismissed and I think that's such a mistake. In this kind of competition, for me, the colour is incredibly important.

Oh, yes, my girlfriend loves this game. She told me to mention.

Graham
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Rich Stokes
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2007, 07:47:04 AM »

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The poster previously known as RichKS
Sam!
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2007, 09:42:48 AM »

I find it a surprising point of view. I absolutely agree that setting is tied to mechanics but, to me, that's the challenge: to find another setting that's supported by the same mechanics. If the setting needs too many different mechanics, I think the author should write a new game instead.

I see. Maybe I've should have spent more time getting familiar with The Forge and it's language - now I just seem to be disagreeing with the rest of the judges, which causes some mixed results. Anyway, my defense is that the challenge is to mold the system so that it can be connected to a different, yet somehow similar setting. I don't wish to pick up a fight, but just finding a new setting instead of some game designing just seems to be too easy. Naturally, when someone makes a new setting for an old system, the line between a version of old and a totally new game is blurred. I, for an example, refer to Lords & Ladies as both a game (though not an independent one) and as a setting.

Quote from: Graham Walmsley
It's a little unfair, I think, to dismiss "a couple of pages of new colour". Colour often gets dismissed and I think that's such a mistake. In this kind of competition, for me, the colour is incredibly important.
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Sami Koponen
Rich Stokes
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2007, 09:57:55 AM »

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The poster previously known as RichKS
Graham W
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2007, 10:07:29 AM »

Oh, hey, Sam, you're not picking a fight. We're disagreeing, but in a good way.

You see the challenge of the contest as moulding the game mechanics to support a new setting. I saw the challenge of the contest as finding a setting, which was as interesting as possible, while changing the game mechanics minimally. Or, to put it your way, recolouring the game. They're both valid points of view.

I like the idea that, when you design a new setting, you're halfway to designing a new game anyway. Nice.

Graham
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Joe J Prince
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Posts: 99

Putting the fun into dysfunction!


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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2007, 06:10:38 AM »

I'm trying to remain neutral until the judging is officially over...

But this setting totally rocks!

I'm going to try and get a game of umlaut organised for tonight.

Cheers
JoE
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Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2007, 11:17:40 PM »

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talysman
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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2007, 11:32:07 AM »

Here's my more detailed review. Since this is a Round 2 entry, I should explain that I allowed half-points when I re-evaluated the games. This game and The Engine wound up earning half a point in the second round.

- How well is the game system integrated? How well does it seem to fit?
I don't have Contenders, but based on the earlier 24 hour Ronnies submission, the setting seems to match perfectly. 2.5 points
- How will the game presumably work in play, especially with regard to how the setting facilitates a certain kind of play?
Not many problems here, that I can see. I like the idea of gigs better than the prizefights in the original game. However, I was a little confused about some of the events during a gig, like showboating. 2 points
- How complete, accessible and well presented is the material?
Some of the rules just didn't make sense without a complete set of the *current* Contenders rules, like the way gigs play out. I think a future edition should include more details and suggestions about connection scenes. 2 points
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I'm completely uninterested in metal. I'm completely uninterested in prizefighting. But somehow, by substituting metal bands for boxers and layering it with a good dose of humor, Rich turned this game into something I really enjoyed. I'd probably tweak it and use new wave or prog rock, myself, but that's close enough. 3 points

Total: 9.5 points (9 points in Round One)
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Mikael
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« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2007, 01:02:18 PM »

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Sam!
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« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2007, 07:11:56 AM »

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Sami Koponen
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