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Broken Rooms
by Edwin P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/01/2013 09:23:21
Just a short review to add my voice to the others recommending this game.

Despite a very "indie" feel (black and white art, unremarkable formatting, etc) this is a brilliant book, dripping with thematic pleasures, and evocative of a mood that other games have often attempted to capture, and fail.

The rules are simple, but mechanically pleasing, and the setting and cosmology is just breathtaking. Even if you don't like one of the worlds suggested, it's very easy to swap it out for one of your own creation, and the themes are laid bare enough that it's easy to keep everything in line, without being intrusive.

There are some stunning narrative touches which make the game a joy - the obsession with the number 13, the broken clock motif, and the five stages of grief to name just a few.

It's truly an excellent game - bought on an impulse and well worth it. Would highly recommend.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broken Rooms
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Broken Rooms
by Shawn K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2013 14:28:37
I want to approach this with an unbiased approach, but it's difficult. I came across this game while developing my own and discovered eerie similarities. But soon I came to the conclusion that they were two different breeds of the same animal. And this animal is beautiful. And forget unbias or bias, I see no reason to give it subpar 5 Stars.

If you want to know what Broken Rooms is, imagine Fringe and Sliders if seen through a Kübler-Ross model lens. As many of the characters are going through emotional states of loss, the worlds themselves are as well. Thirteen worlds, all mirrored off of ours and all facing an apocalypse level event. In which society is trying to cope with the loss of existence as man knows it. I love this game, and hopeful I can convince you to love this game.

The Product

I've seen some complaints of the text being too large. I, however, feel it's fine. Everything is spacious, but so well organized I never noticed. The art all fits, despite being mostly photographs run through filters. Everything fits concisely. If anything, it feels like a report or textbook from an organization teaching it's employees, only not that obvious. Also, the book is oozing with flavor text. Standing in at a crazy 465 pages with roughly 50 pages of rules, about 60 pages of "stuff", and about 300 pages of setting. Yeah. It's all thick atmospheric juicy steak of information. And I love it.

The art's nice, the layout. It's easy to read. It flows naturally. And the last 200 pages read like diaries and reports from each of the 13 worlds. It loads decently on my smartphone and reads smooth on my desktop.

The only gripe I have is the character sheet is too simple. Years of being spoiled by White Wolf and Mr Gone have left me craving very stylish sheets. This game's sheet is just test and a few tables. It's almost too basic, like a psychiatry report. Which fits in thematically with the MHPA below and the stages of grief motif.

The System

The momentum system uses D12s and focuses on story and character. It allows characters to build and spend world altering power called momentum. Stats are as simple as Mental, Physical, and Soul. There's 20 skills. Special powers. "Qualities" that feel like more powerful once-per-session versions of Aspects from Fate. The wound system mirrors the stats, with mind, body, and soul taking damage along tracks of dots.

What's most outstanding is players are forced to fill out a Motivation, Personality, History, and Appearance questionnaire. The MPHA, as it's referred to, really brings the feel of the game together. Each of the 23 or so questions rounds out everything you could want to know about a person, like you're prepping for a psychiatry exam instead of building a character. It reminds me of Apocalypse World and Outbreak Undead partly. But here it's so much more. This sets the game apart from most. Character stats and skills are so simple and short that they don't form who the character is. The MHPA really sets the game tone apart.

Dice mechanics: Pools of 12s rolled to beat target numbers for successes. With target numbers being based on situations and number of successes modifying difficulty. Dice that add up to generate Momentum. No successes with only 1s or 2s create a critical failure - botch. Yes, you've heard all this song and dance before, only with D10s. Which is fine. The D12 fits their meta and they'd have suggested D13s if they were easily accessible. All that matters is it works. Though I have no ability to playtest it, everything seems to work fluidly on paper. Don't hold me to that. If you like D10 dice pools with target difficulties and numbers of success, you'll like this.

Characters can use shared locations between the 13 worlds to hop across realities. The most outstanding mechanic, however, are Meridians. They sound simple: Blocking, Changing, Finding, Keeping, Opening, Writing, etc. Each has a concept and you pump reality power (Momentum) into them to do the effect of their name. Breaking? You can break things, break people, break ideas. Finding is one part Scrying and one part Bloodhound. Writing allows you to rewrite information from changing data on a hard drive to changing people's memories. It's not telepathy, it more like very quick Inception done with a magic marker on their erasable brain. Meridians are the big party prize here. Characters can mess with just about anything, and it makes for fun times. Almost makes me think you could use this to run a version of the movie Push meets the movie The One. Well, not The One by the book's default rules, as coming anywhere near your alternate self leads to very bad consequences.

There's a wide range of hazard rules for starvation and hypothermia and stuff, as well as objects like weapons and magical artifacts. Well, just "Artifacts", but we know what the deal is. Overall I'd like to say the system shines. It's stuff I've seen a million times before by other companies. But I've seen a million slices of pizza by different companies and most every one is delicious. I'd say the system is efficient and does what it needs to. No, with glaring eye strain the Setting is what shines. So brightly you gotta wear shades.

The Setting

The game likes to stay ambiguous like Apocalypse World. In 2002 something happened. No one knows exactly what. Then there were twelve other Earths and everyone but us faced the apocalypse. 10 years later, the world hopping characters with a specific genome are trying to jump between the 13 realms and patch up all the holes, save all the peoples, and stop all the problems. Mostly they seem to die all the deaths and go all the crazies. It's a game of ideas. it's a game of endless questions and very few answers. It's exactly the mystery that made me fall in love with Don't Rest Your Head, Lacuna, HoL, Summerland, Exquisite Replicas, Kult, Enter the Shadowside, Apocalypse World, and The Shadow of Yesterday (actually I could list games I love for hours but I'll stop here). It's a question with you providing the answer through gameplay.

What is the question? And what answer are you likely to find?

Good question. There are 13 Earths. Each one has the number in superscript like "Earth to the eight power". It's neat. Earth one is "normal", whatever that means to you. Two is Left Behind with less religious tone and nature reclaiming the world. Three is claimed as the after effects of an asteroid, but described it honestly sounds more like Kairo/Pulse after the ghosts are gone. Four is the classic bug-alien invasion. Five is Children of Men. Six is Al Gore's nightmare. Seven is the ice age. Eight is the panic that comes when a black hole is only years from pulling Earth in. Nine is ocean-water zombies. Ten is that Abrams show Revolution. Eleven is a Monty Python Church Police sketch taken all the way with no humor whatsoever. Twelve is the best, with make believe monsters that only children can see and roaming armies of kids who protect parents from them. Thirteen is basically the grease trap of the other 12, being an empty place where the shadow versions of realities catch like a filter.

You say to me "Thirteen worlds, that's neat. Is that it?" and I say to you "That's 300+ pages of thirteen worlds." Sure. You could ditch the setting and use the Momentum system to try and convert something else, but you won't have much fun just using the system. Or maybe you will, it's your fun. But if you decided to ditch the momentum system and convert Broken Room's setting into anything else, it's glorious no matter what it runs on. I kind of want to try doing it with Apocalypse World or Fate. However, the current system works fine for the setting, so no need to convert, though we know you'll try. No matter what you do, this is a thick phone book of setting. And each world is so filled with so much flavor you're going to have to take a long time to digest and some antacids and maybe a ciesta.

Buy the book already. The last 200 pages are characters writing reports and letters about their travels in these worlds, which is worth it alone. The last half of the book is on par with most things that White Wolf put out. You know, the company known primarily for industry grade flavor text and setting the story game bar (before Ron Edwards, Vincent Baker, and Jason Morningstar helped smash it apart).

The Final Verdict

I like it. Now. I'm poor and always trying to save away for basic meals let alone the luxury of games I can't play. Even as a PDF on sale, $25 is a big chunk of my cash. I'm use to spending that much on a stack of printed books. Let alone trying to imagine buying the print of this for $50. I'll just say that after reading it, it was worth the money. When I'm no longer poor I'm buying the hardback no matter the cost. It's a damn good setting. The Meridians, the world hopping, the strange rules and paradoxes of alternate selves, and the thick chunk of thirteen unique settings makes for an awesome product. It's not a game of treadmills or narrowly designed railroads. It's a game of getting lost in a maze. It's Alice in Wonderland if created and produced by J J Abrams. It's character and story driven world hopping in which everywhere you go is falling apart. It's The Lost Room if every time he exited it was a different universe that was about to be eaten by Cthulhu.

The only problems I see are...well, the character sheet. Two, the "always could be more" effect I get with stuff. This is a great game, but another supplement or two wouldn't fill my appetite. I'm gluttonous, though. Your results may vary.

By now you know if you like it. If it sounds like the type of game that interests you, it's worth it. The only crime here is it has nearly none of the exposure it deserves.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Desolation: Survivors
by Tim-Oliver H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/25/2012 05:06:28
I bought it to get some more ideas about the After but what I got was invaluable.

Among additional ways of magic, talents and equipment you find many detailled descriptions of settlements and even more valuable you have a nearly complete list of NPCs which let you include even common people like a barkeep on the fly.

But unfortunately the equipment and the talents are kind of over the top. The rules section suffers from "The faster, harder, better"-syndrom meaning that the equipment and the talents are not balanced.

To my personal dislike there is also a talent which lets you learn other magics as well.

The Oruskans on the other hand are nicely detailled described although kobolds are difficult to play.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Desolation: Survivors
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Broken Rooms
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2012 23:30:56
Broken Rooms is a Multi-genre Universal RPG by Greymalkin Designs . From the introduction chapter, “you could call Broken Rooms a modern-day post-apocalyptic science fiction conspiracy horror roleplaying game of parallel worlds. “ Taken further, Broken Rooms is a thematically meaty game of characters thrust into the struggles of the 12 dying variants of Earth prime. Starting with the character’s First Fall, characters tumble-down a rabbit-hole and learn the meaning of “You can never go home again.” Built upon a competent set of core rules and guided by excellent campaign advice, and set against a imaginative cosmology, called the Nearside, Broken Rooms provides a compelling, darker twist on the concept of parallel world adventures.

Lets explore the details.

THE PDF

I received the PDF version of Broken Rooms, it is now available in B&W hardback format as well. Broken Rooms comes as 465 page PDF, laid out in a spacious 2 column format. The document contains some detailed backgrounds, while the artwork is mostly photoshopped stock photos, done as B&W line art. It is decent and adds to the mood. The rules also contain 5 pieces of short fiction that bring across feel of world(s), which provide decent writing with atmospheric detail.

THE SYSTEM

The core system in Broken Rooms is called ‘The Momentum’ system, which refers to the concept of Momentum as supernatural potential that characters can build up. It is a D12 based dice pool system. Stats are give number of dice to roll, 4-6 for most characters, while skills give the target # to count as a success. For instance, Familiar with a skill gives a target rating of 9+, while Professional Skill gives a target # of 7+. Players can generate momentum on their rolls if any pair of the dice add up to 13. So a player might roll 4d@9+ to resolve an action. The Counting of momentum and the optional momentum rolls adds some handling time to resolution, but as it gives greater player oomph, player’s shouldn’t mind. Especially if the advice to only roll when important is used. It is a competent system feeling a bit like a Storytelling/WoD variant.

CHARACTER CREATION

Character creation is fairly traditional, with the exception of there being only 3 core stats, body, mind, soul, rated primary, secondary, tertiary. Skills are broad. Characters choose 3 skills which they are familiar with 9+, based on their background/profession, The rest are bought with skills points. The character also gains his Nearsider abilities in which the details of how his travel through the nearside has affected him, and what abilities he has unlocked. There are 13 Meridians, which are particular powers that Nearsiders can exhibit, on account of the Hind Brain Anomaly that lets them walk between worlds, as well alter reality around them. In addition characters have qualities, advantages/disadvantages based on their personalities and proclivities. Each character also has 3 important milestones defined, the major persona loss he suffered that activated his Nearsider abilities, First Fall, the occasions when he first traveled between worlds, and his recruitment into the greater struggles of the Nearsiders. Characters are finished up with Damage tracks/thresholds, and money and equipment. Equipment is handled fairly abstractly, possibly providing a bonus to skill use, or allowing it all.

MERIDIANS

As I mentioned there are 13 Meridians, key Nearsider powers that let them alter reality around them in limited ways, beyond their supernatural luck and the ability to travel between worlds. Each character has a Prime Meridian, which is a major facet of their personality, and operates a bit like a character class. The Meridians are Blocking, Breaking, Chancing, Changing, Closing, Finding, Juicing, Keeping, Mending, Moving, Opening, Reading, and Writing. All of them are coveted by the various organizations at work across the Nearside, especially those Meridians related to travel, combat, healing and communication. Character can gain access to two additional meridians, which will be limited in power compared to their prime meridian.

DISTANCE AND TRAVEL

One of the major themes of Broken Rooms is how traveling the nearside affects a character, expressed as “travel broadens the mind”, and “you can’t go home again”. This is represented by the concept of Distance, a palpable ‘background radiation’ accumulated by a character travelling through parallel realities and using their powers. This causes emotional distance, as they slowly lose touch with the flat, limited perspectives of ‘Negs’, normal beings who don’t have the Hind Brain Anomaly. Think of Doctor Manhattan in the Watchmen. Reality also begins to break down slightly around them via the effect of Frame Dragging, causing anomalies related to their Prime Meridians. There are a lot of neat ideas associated with this, including what happens when you meet alternate versions of yourself.

Travel between worlds occurs at fixed points, on fixed schedules, at ‘soft spots’ between the worlds, areas of great emotion and history. These Broken Room, for which the game is named after, are mostly rooms, but can be a spot in a parking lot, a back alley, etc. The discovery and control of these broken rooms drives most of the conspiracy and warfare between the Nearsides major power groups. The are all kinds of neat little details to this that will inspire your groups imagination and lead to awesome scenes around Broken Rooms.

COMBAT AND DAMAGE

Broken Rooms has a fairly standard blow by blow combat system. Feels a bit like nWoD/Storytelling System. You have 3 damage thresholds, with dice penalties to actions associated with each threshold. One Interesting option is that when a character has filled all damage thresholds, he can avoid death through the use of a bargaining mechanic. Opting to take a flaw instead of dying. Interestingly, characters can suffer body, mind and soul damage, so major emotional & spiritual power, as well as supernatural abilities, can affect characters as well.

STORYTELLING

Broken Rooms has some excellent campaign advice, especially in regards to exploring the unique themes of Broken Rooms’ cosmology. The 12 variations of earth are all dying, and thematically relate to the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief model. All the other worlds save Earth1 are facing, in the midst of, or after an Apocalypse. Problems and dooms that the characters can literally walk away from, or from which they can use their powers to help or save people This gives players a very strong built-in theme which can drive their campaigns-- a solid framework to stage their own stories, and tell the darker, sadder tales that make up the meta-narrative of the Nearside.

ALLIES & ADVERSARIES

The major groups and organizations at work in the Nearside are described in this chapter. The two main groups are Regency and Monarch, Regency the nominal good-guys, and Monarch the ruthless group with obscure motives. Both operate in semi-secret on the various worlds, securing Broken Rooms, recruiting nearsiders and advancing their agendas. There is plenty of room for shades of "Fringe” type skullduggery and plans within plans. There is an even a ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Doctor rivals in charge of Nearsider programs, ala Walter/Walternate from Fringe. There are many other smaller organizations, many based on the variant worlds, striving to save themselves and their world. Plenty of interesting groups for characters to interact with, and plenty of room for groups to add their own.

THE NEARSIDE

Finally, we get to the description of the nearside, the 13 worlds across which the players will play out their story. Each of the worlds, besides Earth1 has suffered some sort of catastrophe or apocalypse or is facing one. All of them are pretty interesting. Also, it is easy for the players to swap out a world they don’t like for one of their own choosing. That is actually part of the greater cosmology of the game, the multi-verse is moving towards a great convergence, during which the 13 variations will be destroyed and born anew and continue the cycle. There are people in the cosmology, called Exiles, who claim to have survived the last Convergence.

This chapter is done as various found documents and agent reports, so makes for engaging reading, despite being all an info dump. My favorites worlds are Earth2: Vanished, in which 97% of the population, those who didn’t have the Hind Brain Anomaly, disappeared, much like the Left Behind idea of the biblical Rapture. Earth9: Dead Water, in which a nano-tech system for cleaning plastics and trash in the open sea exceeded its design and resulted in the creation of technological nanite-infected zombies and other creatures which the system is trying to clean away human life. Earth12: Unvisible is really intriguing, it was invaded by invisible monsters from a deleterious reality, which adult humans can’t see, and the strange radiation from which causes them to become incapacitated and die. Children and the HBA+ can resist it. So the last remaining underground fortresses are protected by armies of children.

SUMMARY

I really like Broken Rooms, the game manual is hefty, but it is dripping with thematic material and ‘that’s cool’ imaginative ideas. The rules provide a well-realized background for the players to tell a wide variety of stories as the struggle across the dying worlds of the Nearside. It provides a broad sandbox with broad stroke themes for players to tell stories driven by those characters cursed, or blessed to be able to walk the nearside, and decide whether they care to save or help the many many people whom they feel less and less connected too. I’d say it is the best realized multi-genre game on the market right now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broken Rooms
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Broken Rooms
by Anthony B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2012 02:11:56
First Impressions

With a stark Black&White cover, the game hits you right away with the 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 (www.brokenrooms.com) 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.

The System

Attempts have been made to present a quick-running and streamlined system, but unlike Ubiquity which Greymalkin licensed for Desolation, this system obeys some of the usual speed limits. Points in its favour are a single initiative phase per combat, strict limitations on dodging gunfire (not Pulp!), set damage ratings in combat to which additional successes may be added, and the concept of Activating successes for Meridians (kewl powerz) using Momentum Points generated in play, which introduces a handy limitation on what sort of reality bending effects are possible versus what levels of effect tend to happen, while enabling 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. In Broken Rooms this choice is related more with theme than anything else I suspect: the only thing more appropriate would be a D13.

Initial Conclusions (no playtest)

This game should work well with groups who enjoy getting both into character and into clear-cut setting elements, such as using jargon and making use of the setting fiction for their portrayal of characters. The game should play reasonably quickly with a minimum of issues beyond learning to accurately set difficulties for actions, and management of pools of Momentum points.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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