At GenCon 2012, so the story goes, Greymalkin Designs released a limited run of hardcover copies of their new RPG, Broken Rooms. Not having been anywhere near that side of the Earth, I must content myself with the PDF obtained from my friendly enabler Drivethrurpg to take a look at it.
With a stark Black&White cover, the game hits you right away with a sense of the sort of atmosphere the setting and fiction within provide. As with their previous product, Desolation, the core book is large (465 pages) and packed with easily readable and highly descriptive content which simultaneously provides every confidence that this universe is fully realized by its creators, yet open to the directions the broad interpretations of those who come to it will take it. There is lots of room to get creative within the boundaries and worlds of the game.
Character and Story Options
This is a game of one world, strangely sundered into many different variations of itself, yet all still linked in particular places and times in physical space. Characters in Broken Rooms are ordinary folk, yet each is empowered to act with abilities referred to in the game as Meridians. There are a lot of game concepts to take in at first, Distance, Depth, Momentum, Meridians, Nearside, and so on, but with the evocative and memorable names of each this is not so much of a burden as you might think. With widely varied motivations and thirteen iterations of the world to journey through, options are intriguing. A quick visit to the website will give a solid overview of the game concepts, give access to some of the fantastic fiction presented to transmit a feel for the setting, and allow a look into the system which powers the game; the Momentum System. Conspiracies, armies, tragic fates, personal agendas, willing and unwilling accomplices, loss and hope… all provide a framework within which your group can begin telling tales of their own in any number of different directions.
Attempts have been made to present a quick-running and streamlined system, but unlike Ubiquity which Greymalkin licensed for Desolation, this system obeys the usual speed limits. Points in its favour are a single initiative phase per combat, strict limitations on dodging gunfire (not Pulp!), set damages in combat to which additional successes may be added, and the concept of Activating successes for Meridians (kewl powerz) using points generated in play, which introduces a handy limitation on what sort of reality bending effects are possible, what levels of effect tend to happen, and enable the player to have a lot of say in that level each time they use an ability. Momentum is a dice pool system where pools are drawn according to Attribute ratings and modified by gear and situational modifiers, etc. Like many systems, it provides opportunities for critical success and failure. Difficulties are set by the amount of training a character has in a relevent skill, and quality of success is determined by the number of dice from the pool that show that Target number or higher. Players familiar with success-based die-pool systems will be able to pick up Momentum quite easily. For those used to Roll vs Target Number systems, the clear instructions and excellent example of play (a strength I have noted in this company before) will make short work of your unfamiliarity.
Incidentally, the game appropriately uses the formerly neglected orphans of the dice world, the D12. Like so many other items in gaming, companies rush to fill a perceived void once its existence is ‘out there.’ Hopefully this does not mean we will see a rash of D5 based games in coming years… or worse: D7. I like rolling D12s, don’t get me wrong. They are a good size, have a nice feel and produce a satisfying amount of clatter and delay in a roll which adds to the fun and tension. I just get that… feeling, when I remember the last two years or so of people joking about how there is so little use for the D12 and suddenly so many games address that very issue. At least in Broken Rooms the choice is related more to theme as anything else: the only thing more appropriate would be a D13.
This game will work well with groups who enjoy getting both into character and into clear-cut setting elements, such as using jargon and reading setting fiction for use in their portrayal of characters. The game should play reasonably quickly with a minimum of issues beyond learning to accurately set difficulties for actions, and managing their pools of Momentum points to activate the effects of powers.
I think I will enjoy this setting quite a bit, and will return to it now and again both for Saturday Seeds, and explorations of setting up games and campaigns. I hope you will share my enthusiasm for this dark gem of a game~
Darken others' doors: