Tuesday, August 1, 2017

RPG Review: Crime Network

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Crime Network
Crime Network, Cosa Nostra
Written By: Brendan Davis, Steve Bowden and William Butler
Published By: Bedrock Games
Review By: J.L. Duncan

Welcome to Crime Network, Cosa Nostra. This review concerns the portable document format (PDF). Print and PDF products are available through the company website at Bedrockgames.net. As I recently watched The Godfather trilogy I’m feeling inspired to write this review. We begin by letting the game speak for itself…

“Crime Network is a fast-paced, gritty role playing game, set in the underworld of organized crime. Players control mobster characters as they rise through the ranks of the American Mafia. In the spirit of Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco, and The Godfather, players will work with and against each other in their pursuit of infamy.” (Pg. 5)

Crime Network is exactly the above; a mafia themed role playing game (RPG), which utilizes a basic system of rules which are just as easy to learn as apply.

In regards to mechanics, the system is for the most part what I call a skill based and utilizes a unique D10 dice system. This system doesn’t include incremental +1 or +2 modifiers to damage etc. but relies on the number of dice to increase the chance of success, given a specific situation.

In short, dice rolls involve the player rolling against a target number (TN) set by the Game Master (GM). Character skill or level of aptitude, is reflected in the total number of dice rolled. A player with less skill may attempt to succeed using one dice, while a player with great skill rolls up to six dice. As long as one of the dice the player rolls is a number equal or higher than TN, the character succeeds on the specific task. Though combat is bit more involving (and death delightfully just around the corner), as well as situation and circumstance may have a number of modifiers explained in the rules, this in a nutshell is the system.

The timeline of Crime Network is modern day. The main setting is Baybridge, a city on the coast under the yoke of organized crime. The city setting is sprinkled with a respectable amount of detail, while plenty is left to the GMs creativity to fill in. Baybridge is made up of twenty-two districts. Each district is provided with a basic outline, a few notable businesses and recent “family,” happenings. Following this a section is dedicated to specific gangsters their personalities and criminal activities. The setting information is very well presented and provides a respectable amount of tools to assist in getting a game going.

Featured is the adventure, “Remo Loves Lucy.” While it’s certainly serviceable, it’s a bit mundane in my opinion for a featured adventure. The introduction specifically mentions the game as one of paranoia and suspense, the adventure doesn’t reflect this, more on this, later.

Chapters written to assist the GM with weaving and running a mafia themed RPG present the basic tropes of (movie inspired) the gangster existence. While there isn’t much original it was nice (even essential) to be able to reference these themes in writing.

Overall, Crime Network is a sort of hit and miss, RPG. The writing is well executed, I felt as an RPG it could have done a better job by showing in certain parts, rather than telling.

Also content of some sections just didn’t capture the essence of the heading. Specifically, this is reflected in the Creating Tensions section where the advice summarizes to-and I’m paraphrasing: eventually a gangster character will be targeted to be whacked, perhaps months after a possible transgression and the GM has to decide whether or not to leave that task to the other player characters. I just don’t think the above really captures the essence of tension. Certainly it might create tension between players rather than characters, but this isn’t the sort of tension I usually enjoy with my RPGs.

Tension in any gangster movie I’ve watched usually related to one or two themes, getting caught or the power struggle. Tension is a matter of degree and hard to encapsulate. There are hints of this throughout Crime Network, but central to the game? Ehh!?

Like I mentioned, hit and miss. I really enjoyed the system and the setting elements of this game. I like it when creators balance the setting information as they did in this case: A good amount of detail, a good amount left to the GM to create. The art and layout is refreshingly crisp and easy to follow. I think the game does a decent job of scratching the surface of a mafia themed RPG, though I’d like to have read a bit more depth. 

The price for a PDF Crime Network Cosa Nostra is currently $1.99. Is that an offer you can’t refuse? I’ll leave it to you.

Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer and Company, originally published in KoDT, and republished here with permission.

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