This is a review of Neoclassical Geek Revival
Produced by Zzarchov Kowolski of the Unofficial Games blog, located at http://zzarchov.blogspot.com/
This game can be purchased in pdf from Drive Thru RPG. It is about to become available in a printed version that can be obtained by contacting the author at the blog listed above.
This review is of the PDF version, which I received as a review copy from the author.
First: The structure and layout of the game
A caveat before I begin, I work as a graphic designer for a printing company, so some of the things I note are things that most people most likely wouldn't consider an issue and none of them were overwhelmingly annoying things.
The pdf is laid out in two column style with nice, comfortable margins and an easily read font style. The gutter (the space between the two columns) was a little tight for my taste, but please bear in mind the caveat above.
100 pages total, that's it. This is a good size for a game manual. I only noticed a handful of spelling errors as I read, but they were easily 'fixed' by context as I read, and none of them being major.
Artwork was minimal, but appropriate for the book and appeared to be all from the same source, as the art style was quite consistent. There are no credits in the pdf version, but from the style of the art, I'm assuming that they are from a public domain source, which is not a criticism, merely an observation. As I said, the art is quite appropriate and the author made the effort to find qood quality illustrations to use.
There is a table of contents, which serves it's purpose. I would have liked to see an index, but I know from experience that building an index can be a royal pain in the rear and may or may not be used, so I understand the lack of one.
My score for the Structure and Layout of the document: 4½ out of 5 stars.
The Game itself:
The author tells you in the introduction that this game assumes you understand roleplaying games and that it is laid out in the order required to play. I like this, as I had no difficulties following the flow of the rules and was not constantly 'flipping' back and forth, which I find myself doing quite a bit with games put out by larger and more established companies.
This game uses elements that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been exposed to roleplaying games, and can be used as a complete game, being 'old school' in it's design, by which I mean that the GM may have to make rulings as play progresses, which I consider to be a positive feature. Every potential situation you may encounter during a campaign is not covered, so if you are uncomfortable with GM fiat, you may want to use this as a toolkit, a use for which it has great potential.
One rule that jumped out at me right from the beginning was the one where on a non-d20 roll, the total modifiers may not exceed the value rolled on the dice. This means that if you have a +4 damage modifier and roll a 3 on your dice, you only do 6 points of damage, not 7.
I like that, wish I had thought of it. Nice, clean and simple.
Attributes are similar to other games that use a 20 sider, with two more attributes than most, and a few renamed. . .
Strength, Agility, Health, Awareness, Intelligence, Social, Luck and Spirit.
Luck is very useful to everyone, as it can be spent to offset damage (social and physical) and to 'avoid suspicion' (useful in covert actions). The other attributes affect things pretty much as you might suspect if you are familiar with this type of game.
There are character classes, but yet, there aren't. Each character gets a number of slices of the 'class pie' and may choose to put all of his slices as one class type, or he may spread them out a bit. Putting all of your slices as one type gains you additional abilities and a special ability only available if you have the whole pie. Spreading them out, of course, gives you a bit more versatility. Overall, a nice way to customize your characters.
There are such things as the Group Template, which gives you connections to other characters (at least two) and some minor benefits and gives you a bit more reason to be together other than 'you are disparate strangers who meet in a tavern and decide to go risk life and limb together.'
Instead of Alignment, the characters are further defined by their Morality, which does not restrict them in actions, but may cause them some personal guilt or recriminations (kind of like real life).
In terms of races, Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Wee Folk are listed. Elves and Dwarves have some specifics listed such as Elves are fae folk and take double damage from iron based weapons, and Dwarves age when exposed to sunlight (there are other things as well, but you should buy the pdf or book to see the whole of it).
Using Counterspells in magic is very nice. If you know the same spell as that being cast, you can automatically counter it, otherwise you roll your dice and spend 1d6 mana to attempt to counter the spell. Another good, and simple mechanic, and it is used to explain why spellcasters aren't big on sharing their techniques with others who may one day be at odds with them.
There are a number of really cool ideas in this game, such as the Lucky Number, Luck, Fate and Destiny points, but I'm not going to describe all of them here, suffice it to say, even if you weren't going to use this book to run a game with the rules as written, there are any number of ideas that can be mined from it.
A few other cool bits that I'll touch upon briefly. . .
Scaling Damage. You multiply the damage you do by your size (humans = 1, dragons = 8, for instance), or divide how much you take.
Encumbrance System . . . you get a number of dots equal to your strength score, items are ranked by dots. Containers give you more dots, for instance, a backpack will use up 4 dots, but can hold 8 dots of gear (maximum 2 dot sized items) and takes 1d4 rounds to search through to find that item you packed in there.
These are only a few of the many very nice ideas spelled out in this 100 page document. I doubt that I'll run it as written, but I seldom run anything as written, just ask my poor players. I will, however, be taking my 7 dwarves and their picks and shovels into this for some serious mining.
My rating for Substance of the Game itself: 5 out of 5 stars.
Overall rating: 9½ out of 10 stars.