New Style Games #2: Violence
In the lead up to this review I said Violence was "so degrading, so disturbing, so vile and loathsome that you may very well never recover from reading it, let alone playing it.". In actuality, that's a lie. Really, if you are anything but a total newbie to roleplaying, Violence won't offer up anything you haven't seen before. The book isn't some psychotic's thoroughly researched tome into the dark and macabre, it's fairly tame in the scheme of things. It doesn't even need to be poly-bagged.
In the lead up to this review I said Violence ("The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed") was "so degrading, so disturbing, so vile and loathsome that you may very well never recover from reading it, let alone playing it.". In actuality, that's a lie. Really, if you are anything but a total newbie to roleplaying, Violence won't offer up anything you haven't seen before. The book isn't some psychotic's thoroughly researched tome into the dark and macabre, it's fairly tame in the scheme of things. It doesn't even need to be poly-bagged.
What it does do is take all the dark, disgusting, and horrible things done in every 'game' of the modern age, be it role-playing, wargaming or computer gaming, and strips away the thin shiny veneer of a 'setting' which for some reason makes violent acts acceptable.
You see the Violence game world is our world. Not some parody of our world, not some alternate reality, but the here and now. The PC's play a bunch of deranged psychotic criminals out to steal, pillage, rape, maim and kill. Just like a bunch of adventurers really, except here there is no back story to say it's ok for your characters to do this. They're doing it for the same reason you play these games: the fun of it.
That, and the author's continual degradation of the reader and general disrespect for his intended audience, are the only thing which sets Violence apart from any other roleplaying game. This is what makes the idea of playing the game so repulsive, but makes reading it so damn entertaining. It's the classic 90's comedy formula: "It's funny because it's true".
If you were to overlook the fact that it's a joke, then it really is just like any game you have played before. In fact I'd hazard a guess the game's creator isn't called "Designer X" because he fears someone is going to come after him for creating some satanic work, but because the game design is shoddy and he'd rather not spoil his good name just because he (purposefully) gave up and catered to the lowest common denominator in gaming.
The only thing making Violence remotely disturbing is because it clearly points out that really ALL these games are sick, and quite probably we are sick for playing them. Oh, and also the artwork: it's kinda disturbing, but very cool (as mentioned in the intro article) and no worse than anything you have seen at the local cinema.
So now you that you have no illusions about the game, a few of you probably still want to know how it plays.
Well, the game mechanics are fairly simple: you get five stats, four of them are specific (Strength, Constitution, etc) and one is simply for everything not covered by the rules. They are each generated by rolling 3D6 and adding them all up, with the usual (but hilariously skewed) provisions in place for those who can't roll dice to save themselves. Then there's hit-points, pain-points and skills. Sound familiar? Of course it does, because frankly there's no point in trying to create a good or innovative system when the designer knows you just want to blast some poor sap's head off.
So anyway, any time you have to do anything, shoot a weeping mother in front of her kiddies, kick down a door, run from the cops, scare the pants off of the bank teller who's being too slow emptying their till, you roll dice against either one of the stats or skills listed in the game and try and get under it. What sort of dice? Well any sort, it just depends how difficult it is. The more difficult, the bigger the number after the D. D4 - D1000 and anything in between.
Easy as pie. Of course, there's more to it than that. The game has all the necessary tables, just like a 'real' roleplaying game. Weapons, equipment, hell even treasure and random map generators, just like good old D&D. Violence makes you feel right at home, all the time reminding you what a degraded little turd you'd be if you actually considered using any of it. It even has a nifty little game mechanic called 'hide factor' for concealing weapons and other stuff, and is one thing probably worth stealing for other game systems. Which is why I won't tell you about it, because otherwise you might not buy the damned thing.
I'll get to the point and tell you all the reasons you should buy this game. I'll also tell you all the reasons you shouldn't buy this game. That way it's up to you and I don't have to prattle on anymore.
You should buy this game:
- If witty cynicism makes you laugh.
- If you want to know in exacting detail how to roll a D60.
- If you want to know who "Designer X" really is.
- If you really like the artistic stylings of Clint Langley
- If you want to see the "most flagrantly money-grubbing aspect of any roleplaying game ever published!"
- If you NEED to know what does more damage: belt or orbital sanders.
- If you are a sick fuck who only plays games to kill the most bad guys and get the most XP, but might actually come to some realisation of how sad and pathetic that all is if someone bangs it into your skull hard enough.
You should not buy this game:
- If you don't already know how to roll a D60/can't figure it out.
- If you don't have any spare money to spend on games you probably won't play. (Which would make you a contradiction, a roleplayer who actually PLAYS more than he/she TALKS about playing)
- If you are easily offended.
- If you don't have a sense of humour.
- If you try and LARP every game you buy.
- If you area a sick puppy who only plays games to kill the most bad guys and get the most XP, and will instantly hail Violence as the greatest roleplaying game ever published because of this.
In essence, Violence is funny, clever, well written, well produced, and inexpensive. The game is playable, and even comes with some very well written 'monsters' for your goons to beat up on, like "Mom with small Children" and "Grandma", no "Innocent Bystander" supplement required.
It made me laugh, and it made me think. Which is all it's intended to do, and for the price it was well worth it.