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The Waking of Willowby Hall
by Sam C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2021 17:08:11

Had an amazing time running this, everything's laid out clearly and precicely, easily the most painless adventure I've run in quite a while. The loot is generous, the danger very understandable and ever-present and the progression of the waking mechanic keeps things fresh throughout with extra challenges and a slow build of action as the players progress through the mansion. I'm already looking forward to running this again with a new group to see how things change, as there's more variety here than you can see in one play through :)

I've had to dock a star though because the player maps (included as textless versions in the creators own words "for use on virtual tabletops") INCLUDE THE LOCATIONS OF SECRET DOORS. Please do NOT use these as player facing maps, they completely ruin several fun surprises, we were really disappointed by this when we noticed it by one of the players saying they try opening the door which was on the map but supposedly hidden behind something in the game :(



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Waking of Willowby Hall
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Maze Rats
by Christian M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2021 02:36:14

Alright, there are a couple of cool things about Maze Rats. But here's one I'll mention - if you are a solo player, you should get this for the fun tables, even if you don't intend to play. There are so many awesome random generation tables that with any sort of oracle you should be ready to go with a fun adventure. I've been playing Maze Rats alone with the 'Maze Rat' solo play companion, and it's been great fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
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Maze Rats
by Richard H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/27/2021 15:21:51

Maze Rats is great for a quick game and even better when half your group didn't show to game night. It's simple, clean, and has everything you need to get into the meat of the action in a few minutes. Personally, I like more guts to my games so I lean towards Knave but having Maze Rats in my back pocket is great. Aside from it being a great pick-up game it's also a great solo game, Parts Per Million has a nice two page PDF to help you through any rough spots but Maze Rats already has so much in the game for generating adventures it's hardly needed. It's $3, just buy it and revel in the simple joy that is Maze Rats.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2021 05:42:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

Okay, so Maze Rats is a rules-lite, condensed version of the OSR-style of gaming; the system is more akin to games like Into the Odd than e.g. AD&D; depending on which pdf you consult, you’ll have pdfs of 12 or 14 pages – why? The 14-page version is intended for booklet-printing! Nice! The game comes with a character sheet in an extra-pdf; the sheet is included in the booklet-version as well.

This review was requested as a prioritized review by my patreon supporters.

You start the game by choosing one of 6 ability distributions (or rolling a d6 and consulting the table): There are three ability scores: Strength, Dexterity and Will. You will always end up with +2 in one ability score, +1 in another, and +0 in the third. As an alternative, you can roll 1d6 for each score: On a 1-2, you have +0, on a 3-4 you have +1, and on a 5-6 you have a +2.

Each PC begins with 4 maximum health, and 4 current health. Each level attained nets +2 maximum health. PCs recover 1 health when eating a meal and resting; 24 hours of rest recover all health. Medicine restores 1 health but only once per day. 0 health = death.

Each PC also gets one starting feature: +1 to all attacks, a single spell slot (usable once per day), or one of 4 paths: Briarborn (tracking, wilderness stuff), fingersmith (theft, thief stuff), roofrunner (acrobatic stuff), shadow jack (stealthy/infiltration stuff); in the danger rolls for the respective chosen path, you roll with advantage on danger rolls.

Wait, what? Yeah, well, I skipped ahead to character creation. The core mechanism of the game is that, when there is danger/chance of failure, etc., roll 2d6; on a success (10 or higher), danger is averted. You add Strength, Dexterity and Will bonuses to suitable danger rolls. Opposed danger rolls between characters call for the higher result. If a roll has advantage, 3 dice are rolled instead, dropping the worst.

The pdf offers a list of starting items, combat gear, and offers a table for appearance descriptors, physical details, backgrounds, clothing, personality, mannerism (all one-word lists).

The game knows 7 levels and has a brief table with XPs and the table lists benefits; you can choose each level, and either get an ability bonus or can pick a feature, so no class-corset and one meaningful choice per level attained.

Initiative works in a simple manner: You roll 1d in the game’s parlance (the game only uses d6s, but I’m using 1d6 instead for clarity), and the higher side goes first; the entire side. Yes, this means that you have a chance each round for two consecutive turns for the entire party, or the entire opposition. Ouch! Each round, a character can move 30 ft. and take one action. Casting spells, attacking, drinking potions, etc. – all actions. Ambushes make you go first and yield advantage on all rolls during the first round, with the leader of the opposition getting a Will danger roll to avoid it. Combat works thus: Characters have a base armor rating of 6; light armor nets +1, and so does a shield; heavy armor nets +2. Characters in heavy armor can’t gain advantage on Dexterity danger rolls or surprise attack rolls. Heavy weapons require two hands and inflict +1 damage. Attacking works via the core mechanic: You roll 2d6 and add the attack bonus applicable (sourced from your ability scores); you can’t attack with a ranged weapon in melee. The attacker’s total is compared to the defender’s armor rating; if it’s MORE than the armor rating, the attack hits and deals damage equal to the difference between the armor rating and the result. A result of double sixes is a critical hit and doubles damage. If a hit character has a shield, they may choose to sacrifice it to absorb all damage.

The system comes with a simple NPC-reaction chart, and encumbrance is also interesting: Belts can hold two properly-sized items; backpacks can hold what a backpack can hold, but it takes 1d6 rounds to retrieve something from it. Magic is pretty free-form: You roll 2d6, one die indicating row, one indicating column: We have essentially physical effects, physical elements, physical forms, and the same for ethereal effects, elements, forms. The magic system requires some degree of GM skill regarding improvisation, and RAW lacks any meaningful PC control – “Magic, do what thou wilt!” Whether that’s a bug or a feature for you depends on your tastes. The pdf also provides a brief mutation, insanity and omens/magical catastrophe list.

The monster rules are simple and work pretty much analogue to the character rules, but with +4 being the highest bonus critters can have. You can roll quickly on a base to determine aerial, terrestrial or aquatic animals, then add monster features, traits, abilities, tactics, personality and weaknesses. These all are pretty much one-word baselines.

The pdf has such one-word tables for civilized NPC professions, underworld NPCs, wilderness NPCs, a list of female and male names, upper and lower class surnames, assets and liabilities as well as NPC goals, misfortunes and missions. Add methods, appearances, physical details, clothing, personalities, mannerisms, secrets, reputations, hobbies, relationships, divine domains, and a brief carousing table.

Treasure and equipment follow a similar approach: Basic prices are given for item categories, and then, we have category-style lists, like “Tool Items”, “Miscellaneous Items”, etc. These one-word tables are also used as a baseline for city-creation, wilderness-creation and dungeon-creation. The pdf does include a brief play-example, and offers some beginner’s advice for GMing/creating the respective environments, etc.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard sans art. (It should be noted that one page contains 4 columns.) This is a very dense game. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t absolutely require them at this length.

Ben Milton’s “Maze Rats” is probably one of the best “teach to play roleplaying” games I’ve seen in quite a while; it is easy to grasp, concise in its presentation, and manages to actually squeeze some meaningful choice out of its rules lite, simple and elegant chassis. Indeed, pretty much everything on the player-side is very elegant; on the GM-side of things, the relatively free-form magic would have perhaps warranted some guidance, but that’s about the worst thing I can say about this game. Maze Rats triumphantly succeeds at what it sets out to do, and personally, I prefer it over the author’s other rules-light game Knave, though that is primarily a matter of taste. There is but one thing that kinda annoyed me: You can’t copy text, and you can’t search the pdf; I am no layout artist, but that stuff bothers; since I run lots of different systems, being able to parse together my own cheat-sheets its really helpful.

That being said, for a paltry $3, you get one damn elegant ultra-rules-lite game. This is geared for one-shots and very short-campaigns (as evidenced by the swift XP/level-progression), but man does it handle its subject matter well!

Now, as a person, I like more choice and build diversity in my game, I prefer campaigns, and I’m not a fan of the free-form magic, but as a reviewer, I do see the value of a system of this simplicity and smooth elegance, and what is a bug for me might well be a feature for you. As a reviewer, my preferences should not unduly influence the verdict, and frankly, I can’t help but admire how condensed, precise and elegant this little piece of RPG-design is.

As such, my final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval. If you’re looking for an easy to teach ultra-lite setting-agnostic fantasy RPG, then this will be what you definitely want to try out.

Oh, and there is one other benefit for fellows like yours truly, even if the book, in the long run, is not your cup of tea: If you or your Maze Rats players at one point want more choices and means to differentiate characters mechanically from each other, then the mechanics of this game will make it easy to adapt to Best Left Buried, easily one of my favorite games. Heck, I’d teach people to play with this game, then graduate them to BLB, but that’s just me.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
by Sebastián G. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/13/2020 19:54:31

Maze Rats is an elegant and minimalistic OSR that aims to create fast and very narrative characters and adventures. Mechanics are simple enough to don't bog down play and tables make for very colorful characters and situations.

One interesting point is that characters are mainly defined by the equipement they get, being a classless game. For example, one of my players received a shovel, lamp, big sac and other stuff, so decided to be a tomb robber. The other one received three shackles, so slaver. If you have imaginative players, this game is pure gold.

More people should value (and play!) Maze Rats as a game on its own, and not just because of the amazing random tables it brings.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/02/2020 09:44:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 7 pages, laid out in a horizontal 3-column style that crams a lot of information on each page.

This review was requested as a prioritized review by one of my patreon supporters.

So, what is Knave? It is essentially a very rules-lite toolkit that is designed for general compatibility with OSR-games; the first column of the first page makes the basic design-tenets of the game pretty clear, and character creation is a straightforward manner.

Knave knows the classic 6 ability score, each of which has two related values, a more complex approach than what some games offer: These would be the defense, and the bonus. For each ability score, you roll 3d6. The lowest value you roll is the ability’s bonus. To determine the ability defense, you take the lowest roll and add 10 to it. Say, you rolled 1, 6, 5, then you only have an ability bonus of +1, and an ability defense of 11. You get to switch 2 ability scores after rolling the dice.

Strength is used for melee attacks and saves regarding physical power; Dexterity for poise, speed, reflexes, etc. Constitution deals with poison, sickness, environmental influences, etc. Intelligence is all about concentration and precision, wielding magic, recalling lore, crafting objects, etc. …No, I did not fail to mention something. In a somewhat odd deviation from the standard, Wisdom is the governing ability score for ranged attacks, and it deals with perception and intuition. Charisma deals with persuasion, intimidation, etc., and Charisma bonus caps the number of henchmen at a point.

Saving throws are based on ability scores: To make a save, you add the ability bonus to a d20, and compare the value with 15 – on a value GREATER than 15, you succeed. If the save is opposed by another character, the difficulty of the save is instead the enemy’s defense score. As usual by now, there is an advantage and disadvantage option to modify results. Roll 2d20, take the better, or worse, respectively. Advantage and disadvantage also apply in combat.

A PC starts with 2 days of rations and a weapon of the player’s choice, and you get to roll on the starting gear tables. PCs have a number of item slots equal to the Constitution defense. Most items take up one slot, but some take up more. Armor has a defense value, and it has a defense value of its defense minus 10. An unarmored PC has an armor defense of 11, and an armor bonus of +1.

Knave has no classes, so you roll 1d8 for starting and maximum hit points. A PC’s “healing rate” (per rest – this is explained later in the pdf) is 1d8 + Constitution bonus. Exploration speed default is 120 ft., combat standard speed is 40 ft. Then you add fluff, et voilà. Done.

Reactions are rolled with 2d6, and we have the 5 classic attitudes (hostile -> Helpful); creature morale is usually between 5 and 9, and rolled with 2d6: On a roll greater than morale, the monster tries to flee. Hirelings are also subject to morale rolls. Initiative is determined with a single d6 roll: On 1-3, all enemies act first, on 4-6, all PCs act first; this is rerolled every round. Each round, a character can move their combat speed, and take one combat action. To make an attack, you roll d20 and add either Strength bonus (melee) or Wisdom bonus (ranged) and compare that with defender’s armor defense. If the roll is greater, the attack hits. The game notes an alternative, where the defender gets to roll a d20 and add armor bonus, making that part a contested roll (opposed roll, in the system’s parlance). These opposed rolls are also used for stunts, such as disarming, doing extravagant stuff, etc.

On a successful hit, you roll weapon damage. If your weapon is suited for the enemy (such as attacking a skeleton with bludgeoning weaponry), you get an additional damage die. On HP 0, you’re unconscious; on -1 HP, you’re dead. I noticed advantage in combat before – when you have that, you can gain the standard benefit, or make an attack AND a stun attempt.

If an attacker rolls a natural 20, or if a defender rolls a natural 1, the defender’s armor loses 1 point of quality, and they take another die of damage; the inverse is true for the weapon of the attacker, though on such a fumble, the attacker takes no damage. Items reduced to 0 quality fall apart. Okay, so what if both roll a 20? Or what if both roll a 1? Nothing?

PCs gain a level at 1000 XP, and suggested standard values for XP awarded are provided. Upon attaining a level, the PC gets to roll their new level in d8s; if the result is less than the previous maximum, the old maximum increases by 1 instead; otherwise, the new roll is the new maximum hp. Additionally, defense and bonus of 3 ability scores of their choice are increased by 1. Abilities cap at 20/+10.

The character generation also includes a whole page of dressing and starting gear: These mostly are 20-entry tables with one-word tidbits: Physique, face, skin, hair, clothing, virtue, vice, speech, background, misfortunes. Alignment follows the single-axis paradigm, and the starting gear tables do their job. Another page deals with equipment and uses slots and quality as pretty nice limitations. The default currency is copper, but that’s easy enough to alter, should you so choose.

Okay, re magic: In Knave, you can only cast spells of your level or less, and spells are cast out of spellbooks, which must be held in both hands, the spell read aloud. Each spell book can only be used 1/day, and each spellbook holds only a single spell, and thus takes up an item slot. This is the option that maintains compatibility with the standard 9-level spellcasting of most OSR games. An odd choice here is that all spells, be they a level 9 spell or a level 1 spell, take up the same spellbook; it rubs me the wrong way, but I get it – it’s a conscious choice for the sake of keeping the slot system simple. Spell books may not eb copied, transcribed, etc. – like in DCC, the only option here is to quest for it. Quick conversion guidelines for most monsters are provided.

The remainder of the pdf, is, somewhat to my chagrin, made up of 100 level-less spells; these last for caster’s level x 10 minutes if ongoing, and when referencing item, they mean hand-held ones; when mentioning objects, these may be up to human size. Successful saves negate their effects. Now, I do enjoy level-less spells, and I’m particularly fond of “Wonder & Wickedness” by Lost Pages, but the framework provided for the spells here is a but too basic for me. To give you an example: “Time in a 40ft bubble slows to 10%.” Okay, love the idea; getting some concrete rules for this would be even cooler. As written, most GMs will have a hard time improvising how this works in combat. Or Spellseize: “Cast this as a reaction to another spell going off to make a temporary copy of it that you can cast at any time before the spell ends.” It doesn’t take a genius to note that the game usually has no reaction, so the timeframe when you can cast this is opaque at best (next round? Turn? Out of initiative order?). And don’t start with that “rulings, not rules”-nonsense-excuse often fielded for wonky design; Knave generally is very precise, and the spell literally needs one word to be precise, and the majority of rules language herein is very much precise. As a whole, the level-less spells are easily the weakest part of this system.

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, there are a few minor nitpicks to be noted, but as a whole, can be commended. Layout adheres to a no-frills three-column b/w-standard, and the game comes with a character sheet pdf and with a docx-version to encourage you to hack the system – kudos for the latter in particular. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Ben Milton’s Knave is a skeletal take on a rules lite system that can be used with relatively few tweaks with most OSR-games. While it looks pretty unimpressive on paper and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it plays rather well indeed.

As a private person, I did not like this game. I am not a fan of the swingy results of opposed rolls. I do not like that only the worst roll in character creation really matters. I don’t like that almost all character progression is gear game, and that Constitution is easily the most important ability score; why Strength can’t be used to determine slots RAW is beyond me. I don’t like that Wisdom is the ability score for ranged combat, even though I get the design decision that required this change in the simplified system presented. As a whole, there are many design decisions here that do exactly what they are supposed to do, but that rub me the wrong way. There are no real tactics in combat or serious character growth (as opposed to gear growth) that are the result of this system; what’s here is here in spite of it, imported via e.g. spells from other rules-systems. By design, mind you. The game notes no magic item guidance in its content, and e.g. a handy haversack or similar item imported to the system wrecks the slot-balancing. How would magic swords and their bonuses interact with the attacks? Some guidance for adapting magic items would have been nice.

I totally get why so many adore this game. It is precise (for the most part), inexpensive, and presented in a succinct and concise manner. The designer’s guidelines throughout do a good job explaining design decisions to laymen. As a reviewer, the one thing that’s missing from this is…a reason to play this particular game. Unlike other ultra rules-lite games like Into the Odd, there is, by design, no implicit setting, nothing unique like Arcana that would drag me; there is no focus on special weaponry, magics, etc. – because it aims to be a generally-applicable rules system that can be used with all OSR games – its biggest strength and biggest weakness.

For me, as a person, I probably won’t touch this game again; It’s fun enough to play, but I, as a person, either look for something rules-lite and distinct, with a strong theme and focus for shorter games, or something with more serious differentiation options for longer ones. For me, as a private person, my very subjective internal rating for this would be 2 stars, won’t play again.

My criticisms and personal dislikes aside, this IS a good game! It can be fun to play, and just because it’s not for me doesn’t make it bad, and I’d be unfair to bash this game for things that might well be features for you, even though they don’t work for me. Even though this may not be for me, I do hope this game thrives for what it does.

As a reviewer, I consider this to be a 4-star file; it leaves a few things open and could use a few unique selling propositions to set it apart, but if you’re looking for a minimalist, class-less OSR-compatible game that focuses on gear, then this delivers big time.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
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The Alchemist's Repose
by Chris W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2020 23:41:00

Nice adventure, but he didn't include ANY stats for his monsters, treasures, end boss, etc.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Alchemist's Repose
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Maze Rats
by terence a. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2020 11:00:36

Worth it for the tables alone at full asking price. Being able to print it out as a booklet makes it even better and the format is pure Mithral.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
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The Alchemist's Repose
by James H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/13/2020 13:44:05

Absolute fantastic layout and design, it's astounding something this good is all on one page! The perfect module to drop into any type of TTRPG.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Alchemist's Repose
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Knave
by Brian R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/12/2020 12:54:34

The following is a shortened version of a review from my weblog "Welcome to the Deathtrap". You can read the whole article here: https://deathtrap-games.blogspot.com/2020/04/game-review-knave.html#more

Game Review : Knave

Author: Ben Milton Publisher: Questing Beast Games Game Engine: OSR Dungeons & Dragons Market: DrivethruRPG

I am a huge fan of Ben Milton. When I first started looking at ways to make Dungeons and Dragons faster and more enjoyable, he quickly became one of my favourite sources for both RPG theory and product reviews for small press role-playing games. I have bought both of his games, Maze Rats and Knave because I appreciate his channel and want to support it, even though I don't have the funds to become a patron.

I wasn't sure what to expect of Knave, because I honestly didn't like Maze Rats. It wasn't a bad game, just not my cup of tea. So, I was not sure if I would be getting a product that I would use, or if I was just giving back to Ben. It advertised itself as an OSR compatible game, however, and so I was hopeful that I Knave would be my speed. Not only was I not disappointed, but Knave impressed me with its innovations.

Knave's DNA is primarily D&D - both old and new. A Knave Character sheet will look familiar to most D&D players. There is Armour Class and Hit Points. It uses the standard array of six attributes and rolls them in order randomly. The game's unique rolling method delivers attribute scores between 11 and 16 start, weighted heavily to lower numbers.

What these numbers mean is slightly different from in standard OSR D&D, however. The statistics can go as high as 20 as the character levels up. The statistics are conceptualized as both a defense rating and a bonus. The Defense is equal to the classic D&D Attribute. The bonus is the defense -10 rather than using the curved bonus table in standard OSR games. At first these bonuses seem high, especially as attributes and hit points increase with levels, but aside from the six attributes, hp, and AC, there are no other character statistics. Without an attack bonus, proficiency, skill points, ThAC0, saving throws, or similar statistics, Attribute increases are the only way characters advance in terms of numerical precision.

Overall, Knave characters feel pretty much on par with an equal-levelled Basic Fantasy or OSRIC character, despite the very different numbers... and this is what really impresses me about Knave: it strips D&D down to its barest bones, removing almost all surplus mechanics, and builds something very different with that skeleton.

Knave definitely shows strong influences from another indie/ OSR game that I very much enjoy: Index Card RPG (ICRPG). In many ways, Knave takes some of the best innovations bundle. As in ICRPG, Knaves they are competent enough to try anything for which they have an appropriate item. A Knave with lockpicks can pick locks; a Knave with a spellbook can cast the spell within; a Knave with a battleaxe can split skulls. An abstract slot-based encumbrance system determines how much an Knave can haul around. Unlike ICRPG, Knave abandons class altogether, as the gear-based ability system renders them irrelevant.

However, where Knave goes off on its own to experiment with its own style of play and tools.

Good Points Knave has a lot to offer to someone either as a standalone RPG or as a set of rules to pillage for one's own homebrew game. I want to talk about some of the major stand-out features here.

Player Facing Option A "player-facing" game is one where the bulk of the dice rolling is made by players. When a roll is critical to the success or failure of a PC, only the Player gets to roll. This strips the GM of the power to fudge the game, while giving the Player a sense of personal ownership over results. I love player-facing games for the environment they foster at the table. They encourage ownership if the game by the players, and tend to encourage them to take more interest in how their actions create narrative.

Knave offers a guideline for creating a player-facing experience, and points put how easy it is to re-conceptualize the math for almost any contest in D&D to put the dice back into Player hands. While the math is not identical between Knave and D&D, these guidelines could be ported over with no friction.

Traits Tables Around 2/3 of page 2 of the incredibly text-dense (seven-page) Knave manual is dedicated to optional random tables to detetmine a character's non-mechanical characteristics. It includes some expected ones like Alignment, Physique, Background, and Clothes, but also some unexpected ones thst are very rich with ideas. Face, Skin, Virtue, Vice, Speech, and Misfortune allow you to quickly roll up a character with a detailed description, role-playing hints, weaknesses, strengths, and a sob story.

I love the contents of these tables, they are a wonderful mix of general, specific, common, and unusual to make it feel like you have a staggering range of possibilities.

Classless D&D In the 90s I often had difficulties convincing players to have a good old-fashioned game of D&D. Many players preferred "new and better" systems that were class-free. Class was seen by many players of the era as a straitjacket on their creativity when they compared it to (allegedly) classless systems like Shadowrun and World of Darkness.

By making character abilities solely reliant on the gear a character carries and the talents they hone with experience, Knave creates a classless (if "gamey") system. It solves the problem of class in D&D neatly in a way that doesn't involve just piling more classes and class options on the characters.

Copper Currency Scale Several of the OSR games that I have looked at recently use a different economic scale, preferring to treat coins of silver or copper as the base unit of exchange rather than gold. While I am not a stickler for Authentic medievalism in my games, I find the strange economics of a gold-based currency in D&D has always been a bit jarring; especially if you assume that peasants live mostly by barter or exchanging goods for mere pennies.

A copper currency base just makes more sense, especially if you take just a little time and research to make even slightly more realistic values for goods as Knave does.

Simple Mathematics Knave keeps its math simple. Because attributes are the only significant source of die roll modifiers, you don't need to keep track of a number of equations with moving parts. Keeping only positive modifiers, and a universal target number for the majority of rolls simplifies everything further.

Spell Ideas Knave's magic system is simple, and spells native to the game have no spell level. Instead, if a character has the appropriate spellbook, they can cast a spell. The majority of magic spells are a simple one-sentence description for the GM to use as inspiration for narratively resolving the effects of spellcasting.

What stands out in Knave is the sheer unusualness of the spells presented. There are dozens of odd, entertaining and fun spells on offer. A few of my favorites include:

Attract: L+1 objects are strongly magnetically attracted to each other if they come within 10 feet. Babble: A creature must loudly and clearly repeat everything you think. It is otherwise mute. Marble Madness: Your pockets are full of marbles, and will refill every round. Summon Cube: Once per second, (6 times per round) you may summon or banish a 3-foot-wide cube of earth. New cubes must be affixed to the earth or to other cubes.

I have already integrated a number of these spells into my game, and the comedic effect has already been worth every penny spent on the game.

Portability Rather than offer a huge selection of monsters, or an exhaustive interpretation of spells from D&D source material, Knave includes a guideline for using D&D / OSR content in Knave. The standard D&D stat block can be used with practically no conversion, and minimal math. Knave characters, despite being simplified from their D&D equivalents, tend to be pretty much on par in terms of ability.

Open Culture Knave is far enough removed from D&D that it doesn't require an OGL license. Instead, it is offered Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This is as free and open a product that you can make in the Creative Commons system. It makes it possible to create almost anything for- or out of- the Knave system that you care to.

Growth Points Extreme Minimalism Like Maze Rats, Knave is not just stripped-down in terms of game structure, but employs an economy of language and design that is incredibly tight. Knave comes as a complete role playing game on seven pages in landscape orientation of small font across 3-5 collumns per page.

If I were planning on printing the game, rather than reading it off my tablet, this level of economy would be very welcome, indeed. And I definitely appreciate the care and effort it takes to edit a game down to this level. It almost seems foolish to me to call this a growth point, because Ben Milton has accomplished exactly what he set out to do in writing this manual.

There is, however, something to be said for the fripperies and vices of RPG design that have been stripped out of Knave.

Suffice it to say that a traditional role-playing manual is as much meant to be enjoyed or experienced as it is meant to be a vessel for conveying rules. And, in the OSR it is also a means of supporting people in our community whose contributions we admire. I would have happily put down a few dollars more for an expanded edition of the game with art, layout, some monsters, and maybe a few adventures that show off what Ben Milton, as a game critic, finds most appealing, and that richly expresses his vision for a role playing game.

The NPC Reaction Table is a Proud Nail. I have always thought there is something deeply compelling on a philosophical level about the old 2d6 D&D NPC Reaction table. It teaches by its very nature that most people have no feelings about you at all. It is a good mechanic, and one we should not have lost in newer editions of D&D.

However, in a game with as tightly unified and simplified mechanics as Knave, it stands as something of a Proud Nail. Perhaps an alternate system built on the PCs charisma to generate a first impression might have been more consistent.

This is a minor gripe, all told. Knave brings its design A-Game to so much of the base OSR material, that seeing a part left untouched and outside of the unified mechanics of gameplay just seems strange.

Stunts in Need of Honing Much like DCC RPG's Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic, Knave resolves fancy moves like disarming, tripping, shoving, etc. with a single die roll mechanic: the Stunt. However, in as simplified a system as Knave we have no clear idea what a monster being knocked down, or an enemy being demoralized looks like.

My own GMing intuition suggests costing enemies turns, granting advantage to allies or disadvantage to enemies seem like obvious outcomes for a successful stunt. I feel, however that fleshing out that section of the book with another paragraph would be very helpful.

Underdeveloped Magic System The magic system in Knave is truly reduced down to its bare bones. A character can cast a spell for which they have a spellbook. Spells have no level or other requirements. A character rolls to cast the spell, and if he fails, cannot cast that spell again that day. The level of the character casting the spell may modify the area if effect or duration. The GM controls access to spells to keep anything he or she might find game-breaking out until it is appropriate.

Knave includes no spells that deal (or heal) damage directly in order to side-step a lot of mechanical questions about magic. It does not give guidelines for using spells to drop things on bad guys or slamming them against objects. This becomes entirely DM Fiat, which I don't necessarily object to, but having a good rule of thumb for having heavy stuff dropped on you would have been handy to keep Knave feeling self-contained.

The magic section goes on at length (relatively speaking) about adapting classic D&D / OSR spells, including making use of spell levels by making them the minimum required level for a knave to cast them. This is unnecessary; spells already don't need or use levels in Knave. The fact that PCs cannot make spellbooks means the GM can set whatever bar for access to a spell that they desire. Including simply not letting players find it.

Conclusion Knave is a stark seven pages of incredibly thought-out, innovative, and compact game design, punctuated by random tables and spells that show off an amazing creative flair. It is designed to work with any OSR style D&D material with a minimum of fuss, while using much simpler and more direct math, along with some of the modern conveniences of more recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

If I were asked to run a game completely by the seat of my pants, Knave would be my go-to game; It can be set up in seconds, and run out of almost any module I have on hand with very little prep.

The magic spells and random character generation tables are tools that I am already using in my games, and would recommend them to most anyone else looking for fresh ways to make magic or characters more interesting.

As is, Knave is well worth its price, and I would happily pay more for a version with some new monsters, adventures, and a little more fleshing out of the magic and stunt systems.

I would also have loved to see some art and manual design that reflects Ben Milton's creative vision and expertise. He can talk at length about what is impressive and compelling about a book's design. Seeing that knowledge fully deployed would be of great interest to me.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
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Knave
by Brandon F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2020 01:28:31

I have absolutely loved this system since I've been able to get my group to give it a go. I first heard about it when I kickstarted another project that used these rules as a foundation.

Knave is a very lovely 'Basic' RPG system that has been a gem to work with. As with all systems, it doesn't cover everything that you'll want in your game, most likely. However the system is easy enough to work with that it's easy to make all of the modifications to get you closer to what you and your players want out of the game.

Yes, it's a short document. I can't even really call it a book. It doesn't have classes, feats, or specializations. The proposed magic system is incredibly stifling for would be spellcasters. Combat tends to be on the more lethal side. There's no big list of monsters for you to throw at your players. There are no special rules for social 'combat'. It limits inventory. There are no big magic item or treasure lists.

However, that's not a bad thing. If you're the type of GM who likes to play with the system, adding and removing rules to make it better fit how your game plays, then you may enjoy the simple structure of this system.

So, you will have to modify or make up your own monsters (trust me, it's not that hard) and if you may want to give your player characters 'perks' from time to time, extra little rules for that character that are special to them (like giving your assassin extra damage in special situations, letting your spellcasters toss around a spell a few more times, or giving your healer the ability to heal). I've found that this makes the player characters feel that much more special than just building a character from an existing class and having to find a way to make him feel unique.

All in all, I say give it a go if you're going to spend money on an RPG anyway. It's cheap, so you won't regret it too much if you don't like it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
by Paul O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/09/2019 16:37:43

A rare distillation: Everything you need for a good game, and absolutely nothing else.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knave
by Sweethome A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2019 14:17:05

This is literally the only good RPG. I often think about killing myself because this...this is the peak.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
by Anthony M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/02/2019 20:35:01

I played Maze Rats with my 9 year old with zero preperation. We usually play Heo Kids, but we wanted something a bit deeper. The random tables of Maze Rats allowed for quick world building. The trasure tables allowed us to 'sweep and clean' the basement of an random in and find a nice mixture of stuff. The monster tables allowed us to pull a suprising foe together which fit the scene well. And of course the random spell creation made for a truely unique magic. Colletively this gives Maze rates a deadly, high-magic fantazy world with it's own feel. We had so much fun! (And no minatures were needed!)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maze Rats
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Maze Rats
by Fil k. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/06/2019 21:11:25

Love this product. fast and easy on the fly generation for short-prep time adventuring. Have used this as the plot and challenge generator for my 5e gestalt-darksun-luchador-campaign. Also used for my eberron-whispering_woods-hexcrawl-campaign. 7 stars if possible.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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