Friday, April 19, 2024

Kangaroo Pills

RUINATION PILGRIMAGE is Donn Stroud's new role-playing game of wandering troubleshooters/troublemakers in a mediaeval setting a couple of steps sideways from ours, where angels and demons and saints are real and mostly deadly. It's a little bit like Pendragon and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had an unholy baby; regular readers -- or people that can click on links -- will know that I like both of those games, and I like this one too!

Before we get to the good bits let's look at some wonky bits, of which there aren't many. I'm reviewing a Kickstarter pdf, so some of these may be ironed out in the print release.

  • Ruination Pilgrimage uses a d5 now and then. That's just a d10 halved and is easy enough to work out, but I've never liked it. For no valid mechanical reason, I'm just not fond of halved die rolls in general, and there's no compelling reason for it here as far as I can see; the overall system is d10/d100 based, but it also uses d20s, so I don't think it's out of a desire to use only one die type. I would have just used d6s there.
  • The organisation is a bit off. For example, combat ranges are not in the combat section, but next to the wilderness travel and survival section. Natural healing is explained in the chapter on downtime activities, which makes sense, but isn't mentioned at all in the part about healing, which makes less sense. It's not a massive problem; all the information is there, it's just sometimes in odd places.
  • The rules on conditions and survival are rather more detailed and complicated than I would have expected. We're not talking Fantasy Games Unlimited levels of crunch here, but given that the rest of the game is simple and robust, the detail in this part seems excessive and in places redundant. It almost feels like it's from a different game.
On the other hand, there is quite a lot to like! Exclamation point!

  • As mentioned above, the main mechanics are robust and simple -- which I like -- and are based on d100 -- which I also like -- so that's all good. RP is apparently based on the Mothership rpg, but I've not played that. If it's close to this I'd probably like it.
  • The mechanics are explained well and while some rules may be unnecessarily complicated or in odd places, there's never any confusion about how they work.
  • There are some great, evocative tables used for critical hits, diseases, and character backgrounds and histories. Randomness is used well, and the tables are full of flavour. Usually flavour that's inimical to the player-characters, but good flavour nonetheless.
  • The despair and sorrow system adds a "lovely" doom-laden feel to the game, making every action risky. Not all the despair results are negative, which is a nice touch. Having played rpgs with despair systems before I am a tiny bit wary of how this will work in actual play -- as they can sometimes lead to un-fun doom spirals -- but I'll wait and see.
  • There's a table of replacement body parts! Some have built-in weapons! Excellent!
  • RP ties character progression to a formal downtime system, and offers a variety of activities to improve and restore characters. I'm quite fond of the Making Friends one, which is a warm bit of simple wholeseomness among all the gore and mud.
  • The supernatural side of the game looks like it's got lots of toys with which to play. There are some fun-looking exorcism mechanics, and prayers and saint blessings also look like they will be interesting in play.
  • Angels are all wings and eyes, and not only have specific abilities and roles -- they aren't just generic combat summons -- but also cause distress and terror when they appear. It's a bit Call of Cthulhu, another of my favourites. Demons are less interesting, but the angels more than make up for it.
  • Adam B Forman's art is bold and evocative, and captures the mediaeval feel well. I would have liked more of it but what's there is excellent, and there are plenty of text sidebars to convey the mood of the setting.
The big question is: would I play Ruination Pilgrimage? The answer is a big mud-spattered, many-eyed, limb-lopping "yes!" If you like WFRP but prefer an "earlier" setting, or you like Pendragon but want more blood and mud, or you like Vampire: The Dark Ages but think vampires are dumb, then this may be right up your mediaeval twitten.

Arbitrary numeric score: 3d10+10

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