Project Lead: Paul Frack
Published By: Silent Spirit Game Studios
Review By: J.L. Duncan
Welcome to a review of the portable document format (PDF) of the Redemption role playing game (RPG) and the Redemption Deployment Companion. Redemption was brought to print and PDF format through Kickstarter raising 4.6k internet bucks. You can purchase either product in print or digital format at RPGNow.com and Drivethrurpg.com, as well as receive updates, notes/errata at
Silent Sprit Studios website (here).
Disclosure: This review includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.
Redemption is a military space opera RPG. The setting thrusts campaigners more than 500 years in the future. The human race has colonized mars as well as planets beyond our solar system. Innovative technologies have led to human expansion and exploration. The spearhead of humanity is the Terran Sphere Confederate Navy (TSN), which holds to the traditions and remnants of the (earth bound) Naval and Air militaries.
Humanity is locked in war with the Shohan, a technologically advanced star faring race. While the Shohan are the setting’s main antagonist, Redemption provides a double handful of unique alien races many of which have joined the TSN and are featured as playable character races. The setting and history elements of Redemption encompass over a full third the 300+ page mainbook.
While typically, I’m a proponent of setting; in Redemption the writing is overdone. In part this view is derived from the overall length and layout of the material, as well as the relevance of material which lacks detail, but it is also because what’s written is in need of a good old fashioned edit. The writing is thorough and for the most part of decent grammar, but the narrative of most subject headers meanders insatiably and is occasionally off key from what has been written before.
In short, the writing style overloads the game. Worse and concerning this reviewer’s opinion untenable, is that the setting includes narrative of location upon location: where this battle occurred, where these alien races live; this region of space is where this fleet patrols-so on and so forth and so on… However, Redemption doesn’t provide one single map! Instead there is this section, which “encourages you to DIY:
"Transcribing existing star charts and postulating where drift will take them in the next 600 years would be lots of incredibly boring work, and we don’t want to do it. A much more interesting and interactive alternative is to use the following set of rules to generate your own stellar topography.” PG 297
Redemption is a good example of an RPG which (In my humble-all knowing, reviewer opinion) grew too big for its own britches. If I had a craw, something would be sticking in it.
Even the roughest map would suffice. Dots on page perhaps, but nothing? Nope-Nada… Well, if I have to make my own dots on page as representations of planets and systems I suppose I can, but I’d more likely throw the setting material out as well. I don’t need a set of rules to define systems which are already somewhat defined; I need a picture to go with what’s written. I’ve heard they’re worth a thousand words. The mind wonders, then it wanders. I’m going to sing now…
“I used to go swimming with bowlegged women, and dive between their legs!”
In regards to the core game mechanics, the difficulty of a TN is determined by the characters ability rating and requires players to roll a set of specific dice (3d6-3d10 etc.) and tally the result. The fewer number of sides, in rolling a specific set of dice, the easier the check; for a successful check, the player desires to roll equal or less than the target number. This is opposite of most RPGs which focus mechanics on target numbers. The GM determines which set of dice are used in the roll and therefore the difficulty of the check.
The characters ability rating is determined by talents, skills, training and if they are using any tools or equipment, this may aid or inhibit the action being gauged. For beginning characters the number will be around 10-12 and ability ratings with experience cannot exceed 30. The GM may also decide to set the difficulty to 30 which is gauged “impossible,” but can be adjusted down by player characters through story elements built in the mechanics. Action Points can be spent to activate Tags, which could if relevant, lower the difficulty of a specific task. Players can also spend Action Points to Edit the Scene. For the most part both Tags and Action Points are defacto story building elements which player characters can introduce to develop and/or modify a specific scene.
Redemption incorporates this collaborative method from the beginning with character creation. Group Tags are decided on and shared by members of the player character group. Additional Tags are individualized to emphasize each specific character’s concepts and goals. This also entails that the theme of the game or story can be decided on from the jump, which I liked. Apart from Tags each character will have a number of Ranks (or points) to distribute among their core stats (attributes) which are used to further enhance character abilities and/or skills vs. specific checks and challenges.
While in concept Tags are an interesting way to emphasize character and ways in which players can add and change the story, I was disappointed in how they’re presented in Redemption. Certainly how Tags function is explained, but there are a number of Tags which are noted in the game that I had no comprehension of how they might work, because many of the Tags aren’t defined beyond a key phrase. For a game that emphasizes Tags, this is a pretty big hole.
NPC and character examples have different Tags as well as there is a short list of Tags which are race specific. Racial Tags are better explained however, due to the emphasis of Tags as a mechanic and story building tool, much more should have been written. At the very least, each of the Tags in the mainbook should have been made clear.
I must admit this is something I find very common in RPGs which involve role playing with collaborative story telling; some interesting mechanics without what I (subjectively) consider adequate specificity. To me this turns the game into something I would play into something I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Gygax-ism aside, while I’m certain in part this is to do with my subjective preference for medium to heavy crunch games, it also has to do with the game itself. In writing, if an RPG doesn’t show me how to play it then it must tell me-either of these work and most games have both sorts. Redemption isn’t the worst offender among RPGs but it certainly could use some refinement.
Certainly, I could throw Tags out altogether (or at least the ones I have no clue of) but its emphasis in Redemption leaves me feeling like I’m missing the point. Which may or may not be the case here? If Redemption wants my group to create their own Tags- (which in part it certainly does) then it should add some specificity to the ones provided and we’ll go from there. Without detail this leaves my review and the potential of playing this system out in cold space.
The Deployment Companion promotes a number of ways in which the player group can interact with the setting (again mostly through text) including some rules errata, NPCs and adventures. The supplement features three Ports of Call or physical locations and three adventures.
Similar to the lack of important details with the mainbook the Deployment Companion just doesn’t appeal. Ports of call have no maps and nothing to tangibly define them and the adventures meander too loosely for my taste. The only saving grace of this supplement is the NPCs and new Alien races, which are well done. Again this may have more to do with the sort of RPGs I prefer but while the writing is serviceable the products lack of specificity doesn’t engage my GM sense to have interest in running it.
So to conclude Redemption left me pretty disappointed. The setting detail concerning the various alien Xenology is very well done; while the rambling meandering presentation of the history and the lack of maps defining any of the stellar systems was a pretty big deal to me. What’s a space opera without space? While I was critical of how Tags are presented, as a game mechanic it is certainly something to work with. It has potential. Also good is the B&W illustrations, which I would have liked to have seen more of.
What can I say? Too much work is left to the GM and players for Redemption to find its way to my table. If you’re in search of a sandbox-space opera and familiar with RPGs of the story building variety, you might consider giving Redemption a try. If you do and quite literally so, more power to you.
Note: This review was originally published in Knights of the Dinner Table and is property of Kenzer & Company. It has been republished here with permission.