September 30, 2009

I got my copy of the new version this week, and have read through most of it at this point. I’ve been a big fan since it first came out and had some solid play with it under the old version.

What’s Good?

The premise is that you’re a badass “trollbabe” – a huge 6’6″ half-human half-troll woman who wanders the land doing magic and kicking ass Conan-style.

The game has simple but powerful rules that give players input on the direction of the story, both through being able to request scenes, defining conflicts, as well as narrating outcomes when you fail. You get to make re-rolls by bringing in action/adventure genre tropes like “A sudden ally!” or “A found item!”, or by making use of the relationships- allies and enemies you make along the way.

On the GM’s side, TB runs with minimal prep. In fact, there’s not just good advice about how to improvise and adapt in play, but also advice about how much prep is -too much- prep, as well as actual play examples of what -not- to do. I think this might actually be a useful thing to have in more games, as it seems like the general gamer tendency to drift games leads to these places very easily.

There’s some damn, damn good advice on how to drive a situation and bring things to a climax. A lot of techniques I’ve used before, but never thought to articulate to other folks.

What’s less than good?

The tone of the writing is a bit rambling. Which is pretty much the opposite of the usual terseness Ron Edwards is known for. On the other hand, this could be simply me being used to rpgs generally having a breakout of procedure text from sections of advice on the procedures.

The text includes a lot of handholding for gamer baggage- like the section that players control the NPC relationships but the GM plays them, and emphatic reminders to the GM to not dick over the players by making the NPC incompetent or a betrayer… And based on the writing, I have the feeling he’s had to explain this kind of stuff… many times. (“Here’s how to play chess without stabbing each other to death! 1. Put down the knife. 2. Move a piece. No, put down the knife first…”)

My other nitpicks are all visual. I’d love to see more full-page art of the pieces, and I wish the charts were a bit more graphically designed, for simple aesthetics (ditto with the character sheet. I am saddened at the portrait box getting smaller and made less central…)

Overall, I recommend the game and can’t wait to try the new rules. I think, though, it will be interesting to see how some folks parse the text and how much people might skim over and not absorb a lot of the advice.

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