Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Took the Plunge

I decided to buy a copy of S. John Ross's retro-stupid RPG, Encounter Critical, today. I even sprang for the nifty hardcover edition, because I think anyone who puts out stuff like this deserves as much of my money as I can afford to give them.

I'll grant you that Encounter Critical does veer way more into Arduin territory than you'd expect me to appreciate. There's no question that that's true. Any game that includes "Klengons" and "Planetary Apes" as playable races (not to mention doxies as a playable class) definitely crosses some lines I wouldn't otherwise cross on my own. But EC manages to simultaneously recreate some of the gonzo weirdness of the early hobby while creating some surprisingly deft game mechanics, so it's hard not to be impressed on many levels.

Is EC silly? Almost certainly, but that's no crime. Does it poke fun at old school gaming? Absolutely. Yet, as the saying goes, this game kids because it loves. Encounter Critical is a love letter to old school gaming. Every inside joke, every anagram, every brilliant stupidity reveals how much S. John Ross loves those bygone days of the hobby and the wacky fun we all had playing games that no toy conglomerate would ever publish today. If you haven't already done so, please take a look at Encounter Critical and bask in its awesomeness.

Now, if I can only trick my players into giving it a whirl ...



  2. I had looked at it once and dismissed it without really reading.

    Based on your post I took a second look and had a "wow" moment:

    many characters only gain new levels when something is created or explored, insuring every game you run has more material to draw upon than the last.

    That is a hell of an idea, especially some of the applications. Fighters having to defeat new opponents is middling, but the warlock new spell and pioneer new places idea are awesome.

    This is something straight up the alley of the old school renaissance movement too: your game will have things created for it meaning that while you speak the same language (rules) each campaign is unique.

  3. Herb,

    That's the thing that impresses me about EC: beneath the almost fetishistic recreation of the worst of 1970s-style typography and "graphic design," there is in fact a very cleverly designed neo-old school RPG that superbly brings principles long thought forgotten into the modern age. It's extremely well done.

  4. Herb: "your game will have things created for it meaning that while you speak the same language (rules) each campaign is unique."

    Likewise the skill explanations that tell you that how the skills work is obvious when they are often anything but! Again and again the game says, "Hey, you figure it out, man. It'll be just as cool as you make it."

    I've thought about trying to make a supers game out of the mutation & skill lists. Silver Ages of Vanth has a nice ring to it.

  5. @ Berin: Gooble Gobble indeed.

  6. Welcome to the Hellfire Club! Hope you get to play it...we're goin' nuts with it over here over at the Mesmerators hut.


  7. One of these days, I'll have to crack a few of my gaming friends over the head and drag them back to my place so I can "introduce" them to EC. I'm sure once they get to know it better, they'll love it...just like me.

    Vulcan Jedi, Halfling Cyborgs...what's not to love?