Monday, January 2, 2017

RPG REVIEW: Breachworld

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Breachworld
Title: Breachworld
By: Jason Richards
Published By: Jason Richards Publishing
Scouted by:  J.L. Duncan

Welcome to a review of Breachworld which is currently available for purchase at drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com in print as well as Portable Document Format (PDF). Breachworld offers an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic theme and features a system with a light approach towards game mechanics.  

Breachworld uses a system known as Mini Six. I had heard about Mini Six, but until this review had never read or utilized it. Mini Six is a variant of OpenD6, licensed under the Open Game License (OGL). Like most D6 systems, the dice mechanics are rules light and meant to provide simple and fast game play. You can get a free PDF of Mini Six Bare Bones Edition at the above mentioned locations, produced by Antipaladin Games, or at their website. As you might guess, the mechanics do in fact involve the exclusive use of six sided dice.
What is appealing about the Mini Six system are that all game actions or conflicts are essentially resolved in similar fashion. A player’s dice roll is used to determine success or failure. The number of dice rolled is based on skill ability and attributes with a Target Number (TN) determined by the Game Master (GM) to reflect how difficult the specific task is. On the crunch scale, this system is indeed very light.

What isn’t appealing is that some small gaps do exist in the system. This will be especially noticeable for players who prefer medium to heavy crunch RPGs. Some of this is reflected in Breachworld though it is certainly not a game killer. Overall I have very few criticisms of Breachworld (though I certainly have one) as a whole and really enjoyed the post-apocalyptic world that Mr. Richards has created.  
Apart from system and which is the strongest aspect of Breachworld is the setting. Stargate meets Rifts is a pretty accurate summation. I’ll let the game speak for itself:

“The Earth is an untamed wilderness, unrecognizable from centuries ago when humanity enjoyed a Golden Age of peace, abundance, science, and art. This era of enlightenment was brought about by the discovery of a new global teleportation technology known as Gates. The end of human society was brought on decades later by the sudden, total, and catastrophic malfunction of this technology, when control of it was lost and the Gates opened random doorways through space-time. These permanent, uncontrolled rips in the fabric of the universe are known as Breaches…”  (Pg. 9)

Even for its post-apocalyptic theme, Breachworld does an excellent job of toeing the line between giving a good amount of setting detail, while leaving a good amount to the imagination. There are also some aspects of the writing that seem in my opinion, be closer to what “would” happen within such a setting. A short example of this is the lack of monetary currency. There are no credits (or currency) in Breachworld-goods and services rely on a barter system.

There is also a wealth of material that will assist a Game Master (GM) with getting a game or campaign going. The basics of a world overview are highlighted by three town-settings, all of which are mapped a ready for game play. The Breach Creatures section is a bit light, though the majority of creatures therein are original concepts each with its own full color art.
For now, let’s move on to rolling up a character.  

What’s really cool about character creation for Breachworld is the number of humanoid character races that are available to the player. Not to mention the art and writing that brings them to life. Choices-choices; should I be a Tusk, River Folk, Reptilian Raider, Pathos, Morlock, Machine Man, Holy, Grim, Elder, Dru, Demonkin, Climber, or a Human? That’s thirteen playable races.
What’s great is that each race offers something unique, written and stated out in a way that promotes playing them. Certainly, plenty of kitchen sink post-apocalyptic games (boy that’s a mouthful) provide plenty of playable races, but none I’ve read as of yet make each as equally appealing.

Characters in Breachworld have four attributes: Might, Agility, Wit and Charm. Races have a number of dice (12-14) which are distributed among the four attributes. The player chooses how to distribute these dice. Each race has a minimum and maximum amount of dice for each attribute. Earthlings (humans) have twelve dice while Elders have fourteen. An Earthling’s minimum for any one attribute is one dice, while the maximum is four.

At character creation a player also has the option of distributing the dice as pips and some races also have pips to include with attributes. Pips explained, are +1’s or +2’s and roll over to an additional dice at +3.
Example: Lorraine has the distributed eleven of her attribute dice for her human character, Salapang (MGT: 3 AGL: 3 WIT: 3 CHM: 2) and is deciding how to distribute her twelfth and final dice. She could provide any attribute with one additional dice; and increase (Charm to 3 or Might to 4) the attribute one full die, give three “+1’s” to three different attributes, or give a “+2” and a “+1,” bonus to two different attributes of her choosing.

Rounding out character creation each race has a number of skill dice they can distribute among skills, a move rate, as well as racial perks & complications.
Some skills give a short list of specializations which the player can buy with skill points. A specialization is a sub skill of a main skill, such as a specialization of Athletics is Climbing. A point of criticism however, is thou there is an explanation of how this works and how dice are spent; the description is unclear in its application, beyond the example itself. Certainly what’s provided could/should have been less specific, with a description of how this generally applies.

Racial Perks can be gained by spending skill dice or are included as part of a Player Race, while Racial Complications can be chosen are as well a part of the Player Race. The selection of two of each category is recommended. Racial Perks are just what that, perks. Ways in which a character can get bonuses with specific actions as well as some meta-game bonuses. Racial complications award Character Points (CPs) when role-played within a gaming session.
Character advancement in Breachworld breaks away from typical level advancement. Character Points (CPs) are awarded by the GM at the end of each session and these points can be spent by the player for character advancement. The Breachworld experience point system allows for just about any advancement of any ability that works as a mechanic in the game. The more accomplished the ability the player wants to advance, the more CPs a player will have to spend to advance that specific ability. The section is clear, very well lined out and an interesting take on the experience point system.

Beyond character creation a good amount of game rules cover all manner of game/role play situations. One interesting aspect is the lack of character alignments. I’ll be honest; I’ve never been a fan of light crunch games and being more of an old schooler with a medium to high crunch preference. I have been looking over more than a few dice exclusive systems (D6, D10) lately and good deal of them “light” or “flexible” systems-Breachworld is on par in this aspect. Mini Six is light and flexible.     
If I have one major criticism it has more to do with Breachworld as a product. This may come off as nitpicky-and neither does it change my opinion that Breachworld is still worth the asking price. The writing is excellent. The layout is professional. The art is a mix of very good to awesome. The features and descriptions are spot on. But-there is this, quoted from the beginning:

“The core volume of this RPG was not written specifically for novice gamers. For the sake of brevity, I would refer anyone new to role-playing in general to www.breachworld.com and the introductory document and example of play found there as a free download. Pulling out the basic “how to” for beginners allows this RPG to be packed with as much gaming material as possible.” (Pg. 12)
My first problem is that an RPG should be a product unto itself, especially one with the subtitle, “A Complete RPG.” My second and third problems are to create a book which references the internet for an example of play, then leaves me in the dust, because if such a document exists-I’ve yet to find it. Keep in mind I wanted to be fair on this, so I did spend a couple of hours looking for said document. I’m aware that referencing the internet is something that is common even among larger RPG publishers, but (and get off my lawn-while you’re at it) it’s not a strength. If my opinion, exposes my age so be it.

I hope that doesn’t come off too harsh. My criticism of Breachworld has nothing to actually do with what is contained within game itself. Being fair this is probably more to do with the budget decision of a small independent publisher. That said-and example of play is an important aspect to players new to roleplaying games-an audience that Breachworld was not specifically written for…
For the most part, Breachworld is a very well put together RPG. Gamers who enjoy rules light systems or are looking for an alternative might do well to give Mini Six a look. Breachworld provides a unique post-apocalyptic setting that I’m certain, many can enjoy.

Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer and Company, republished here with permission, and may have been modified by the author.