Rogue Publishing sent me an email asking me to do a review of their game Pariah. As my wife can attest, I can't pass up the chance to acquire and read a new game, even if I never get to play it. Pariah uses the FUDGE rule system and centers over psychic children. The basic gist is that all of the characters are under the age of 18, and there are groups after the children and their powers.
Rogue Publishing sent me an email asking me to do a review of their game Pariah. As my wife can attest, I can't pass up the chance to acquire and read a new game, even if I never get to play it. So, I tooled over to their site and downloaded a free copy of the game in .pdf format. I'm mentioning up front that I received a free review copy just to be honest and not gloat (all of the other games that I have reviewed for Gamegrene, I've actually had to pay for and justify against the household budget).
Pariah uses the FUDGE rule system and centers over psychic children. The basic gist is that all of the characters are under the age of 18, and there are groups after the children and their powers. The groups run the gamut from government agencies to secret societies. Each of the groups have different motives, with only one group that is friendly and honestly seeks to only help the children rather than use them.
I've never been exposed to the FUDGE system before, but the system is roughly what I had expected. It surprised me slightly with it's flexibility, but it's still a system that I don't ever expect to use when running a game.
The problem I have with the system is that it doesn't seem to have truly clear cut guidelines for adjudicating contests between characters and NPCs. I realize that it sounds like a bit of a cop out on my part to not like a system for that reason, but when I run a game, I want to enjoy the game as much as my players. Unfortunately, I play with a couple of rules-lawyer types and it just makes my life easier if I can point to a rule from time to time. The setting of Pariah is another matter and can be separated from the rules system it was published under.
The powers that are listed in the book are pretty much your basic, run of the mill psychic abilities, so there wasn't anything extremely surprising about them. Even though I've said that the FUDGE system isn't a system I would care to run in, the system does look as though it would work very well with the psychic abilities.
As much as I gushed over the Psionic Handbook for D20, it's not the only way to run psionics. The FUDGE system in Pariah does work. It managed to cover most situations while staying mercifully uncomplicated. The rules are simple enough that I wouldn't be against using them as a way to hook psychic abilities into a system that doesn't already have rules for them.
Enough about the rules, the setting is pretty cool. I'll admit that when I looked at the cover the first thing that popped into my head was the X-Men. I'm happy to say that my first impression was wrong. The section of the book that dealt with rules provided some basic background information on the setting. Not much more than what a player would require to sit down with the GM and create a character.
The adventure that was included with the rules provided more of the information as well as the flavor for the game setting. Without providing too much in the way of a spoiler, the adventure revolves around a secret government facility that studies the children and keeps them locked up.
I have to say that I am torn about the adventure. Since it does an excellent job of conveying the flavor of Pariah, I would almost want my players to read it. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it is also a good enough starting adventure that I would want to run it for the players.
While I completely enjoyed the adventure and think it is written rather well, it also highlights what I feel is the greatest weakness of the game system: the lack of flavor. The basic premise, starting from the name of the game, is that the characters are not going to be able to be themselves in normal society. I would have appreciated getting more of that flavor throughout the rules.
So, what is my recommendation? If you're looking for a nice, simple way to introduce psychic abilities into a game, this is a good way to do it. The rules aren't perfect, but I've long given up on finding a game with perfect rules. I actually liked the game. I'm a bit leary of games from smaller companies because I've ended up with some real losers over the years, but this isn't one of them.
Rogue Publishing did a good job of putting out a quality piece of product, and if I remember correctly, the price is just under $10. Good game, cheap price. A winning combo if there ever was one.