Game: Squeam 3
Publisher: Memento Mori Theatricks
Review Dated: 8th, May 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 5/10 [ Perfectly acceptable ]
Total Score: 5
Average Score: 5.00
Squeam 3 is another insipid RPG from Memento Mori Theatricks. Except it isn’t at all; that’s the publisher’s own self-critical humorous boiler plate. Squeam 3 encourages players to take their clothes off, or at least show some skin, in order to avoid Bad Stuff – how can that be insipid? Author Jared A. Sorensen does firmly state that the game discourages players from attempting to bribe the Camp Counsellor with sexual favours though.
The Camp Counsellor is the Squeam (aka Sque3m) term for the GM. Players are campers.
At only ten pages in length it is tempting to re-print as many of the witty lines and descriptions from the RPG as I can get away with. I’d better not. Instead I should point out the obvious and say that Squeam is a spoof on our dearly beloved dead teenager horror flick. It’s a right laugh. You might even say it’s a right scream – but not, of course, if there’s a lawyer near by. Screaming is an optional game mechanic in the system; scream to spend a fate point (or to discover that you’ve run out of fate points).
Squeam games should only be played for 90 minutes, no longer. This isn’t so much a health warning as a sensible observation on how long a game like this will remain funny, in one setting, for. Forget experience points; just concentrate on staying alive.
There are a couple of attributes in Squeam and they’re not your usual suspects. There’s Fright, Squeam, Curiosity and Naiveté. These are all bad things to have if you’re in a slasher picture and therefore it helps to have low scores. Scores range from 0 to 9. As the game itself says, with a score of 9 you’re dog meat and if you’ve 0s then you might just be called Buffy or Ash. As the Ash references shows (which I hope you get; Evil Dead, Armies of Darkness, Sam Rami) there’s more scope to this game than just teenager slashers. You’ve got access to any horror sub-genre with a bit of room for tongue in cheek.
So, yeah, it’s true. Low stats are good. Roll 1d10 and aim for more than your score. If you’ve Fright 3 then you’re a fairly cool character, unlikely to roll 0, 1 or 2. If you roll equal to your stat then, well, it depends on how silly you’re being. For the draw Squeam suggests the player accept a tie-breaking challenge or accept the roll as a failure. I like the challenge for naiveté; quickly come up with a hitherto unused in the game but clichéd naïve comment; “Let’s split up!” I dislike the suggested challenge for Squeam; Hallowe’en like dunking in a bowl full of red food colouring (blood) for bits of food (body parts). Okay. I see the humour, but suddenly there’s too much effort and mess in what should be very easy to prepare game. Challenges also mess with the roleplaying mindset; merging live, meta game, elements with in game events. Still, I can see how some players, campers, will love them.
The best chuckle from Squeam comes from reading through the character, er, classes? They’re not introduced as classes but I’ll use the term so you know what I mean. We could call them stereotypes. The Jock is doomed to die, the Bimbo is doomed to die, the Punk is doomed to die, the Slut is doomed to die (after having sex, normally), the Prep is doomed to die and the Freak and the Nerd are pretty much dead too. It only tends to be the annoying “The Princess” who survives. These are listed classes but aren’t actual Squeam rules; just Scream like observations on the clichés in the genre. Squeam does modify stats based on these stereotypes though. The Slut, for example, has +1 Fright, -1 Naiveté and -1 Fate).
There’s a similar list for the bad guys. The Deformed Psycho with an Axe will want to kill teenagers, the Demonic Nasty will want to kill teenagers (and Ash), your usual Late-Night Movie Monsters will want to kill teenagers, Possessed Farm Equipment will want to kill teenagers, Mutant Critters want to kill teenagers, the Alien Monstrosity wants to kill teenagers, the Pleasantly Bland Serial Killer wants to kill teenagers and the Creepy Kid wants to kill teenagers too. No prizes for guessing which running joke I’ve just ripped from the Bad Guy chapter.
There’s nothing serious in terms of health stats. Dice rolls are made normally to see which direction a cinematic scene goes in – not really whether the character succeeds in something or how much damage is delt. The Jock doesn’t need to roll to see if he can slam the locker door on the Nerd. Wounded characters might have a dice penalty. Dead characters don’t need to worry about dice penalties.
Squeam scores a dead even hit on the GameWyrd scale. Does the RPG achieve what it sets out to achieve? Yes – that’s 5/10. Are there any serious problems with the game, product, presentation, value for money, system, atmosphere, etc? Nope. Are there any great successes; exceptional value for money, particularly original, does it solve an annoying problem, especially atmospheric, etc? Nope. I suppose I might concede that the game is fairly original if you scan the book shelves (even the electronic ones) but I’m used to improvising games like this entirely on the fly, freely, without fuss, with friends. I could to and fro on the pros and cons of the atmosphere too. Realistically, I expect many gamers will hate Squeam 3 as it’ll be utterly alien and somewhat pointless for them. That’s a shame but an understandable position (Wot? No dragons?). Squeam 3 will also be adored by some players too. That’s good up until the point where gamers start getting pretentious about being original and independent. I find myself echoing a point I made in a recent review for a very different horror roleplaying game; Squeam is entirely as good as you make and entirely dependant on the nuances of your own tastes.