Assimilating More Games: Reading the Killshot RPG
Google+ will be the death of me. I have a hard time not taking a look at games that end up getting a lot of buzz on my Google+ gamers feed. The next game to creep into my hard drive due to Google+ buzz is the Killshot RPG. Disclaimer: I don’t review things. I’m not organized enough for that, and I can never really tell when something rubs me the wrong way, or when something is just bad overall.
I tend to use my previous frame of reference to explain what a game is like. For example, when I said that Barebones Fantasy RPG reminded me of a Basic Game version of Warhammer Fantasy 2nd Edition. I’m having a harder time coming up with a good frame of reference to compare Killshot, but here is a weird attempt:
In some very vague, tenuous ways, it’s kind of like Marvel Heroic, but only so far as you assemble a die pool to come up with a more loosely defined overall action, and you never roll against a set DC, but are always rolling against a roll made by the Director (GM). On the other hand, it’s nothing like Marvel in the sheer number of specific options in the game that you choose from, which alters your die pool, and the very structured ways you figure out if you kill a target, successfully case a location, or get away in your car.
Killshot does have a lot of options. The name of the underlying base system is called the Optional System, and depending on what type of action you are performing, your dice pool will change around a bit, and you might be given the option to do something later on in exchange for slightly less optimal die pool, for example.
Initiative isn’t what you might have seen in other games. Essentially each side gets a number of actions based on how many people are acting on each side, and one side takes active options until they fail, and then the other side goes on the offensive until they fail, until everyone cycles through the whole set of actions for the series, and then it starts over again.
In a lot of ways, the game is set up to mimic “hit man” action movies. When everything is going well, you break into the place, shoot all of the guards quick, and move to the next phase of the plan. If you screw up one little thing, all of the sudden, the opposition might start blasting away at you and its no longer a by the numbers operation anymore.
When I first started reading the rules, I started to get the feeling that these rules were just a bit too far on the fiddly and involved for me to want to keep going with them, which was a shame, because a lot of the examples seemed to point towards a game that’s really good at emulating the genre it’s shooting for. However, the I decided to push on, and it turns out, while there is a great deal of complexity, it seems that a lot of the perceived fiddly bits seems to come from the fact that the way the rules are written, options are mentioned and discussed way before they are ever explained. The cart comes before the horse in a few places, and it makes the game seem a bit more complicated than it otherwise might.
Like a lot of games that catch my eye these days, this game’s rules are really geared towards emulating a genre, not simulating a world. The world works the way the world works in modern assassination action movie, it doesn’t give you rules for running assassins and hit men in a quasi-realistic world where things go on that aren’t related to contract killers. I’ve grown to like this, because it allows the rules to really funnel you towards doing what the game is suppose to help you do, not give you a million options that are semi-simulationist and cause you even more option lock when it comes to planning out a hit.
While the Killshot rules aren’t geared around this, and wouldn’t work perfectly for this as is, the more I read the book, the more I thought that if things like kill markers and objectives were tweaked a bit, the Optional System wouldn’t be a bad game for running spy thriller games.
I will say this: the complexity involved didn’t make me want to casually jump into running a game of Killshot. While I enjoy the genre, it’s not one of my favorites. However, it was an interesting enough read that I would love to actually see a real session “in the wild” to see if all of the moving parts work the way I picture them working as I read through the book.
In the end, I didn’t mind spending the $8.00 on RPG now or the time reading the rules, which are written “in character” by a rough and tumble assassin’s employer introducing new hit men into the profession. Oh, and in case you are sensitive to such things, the language in this conversational treatment of the rules is indicative of the genre, so expect lots of coarse language and F-bombs.