Game: Red Dwarf: The Role Playing Game
Publisher: deep 7
Series: Red Dwarf
Review Dated: 29th, July 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 26
Average Score: 4.33
Okay, for a minute pretend that you’ve not just clicked on the Red Dwarf RPG review link. Pretending? Good. Guess in which RPG has a secondary character with stats: Fanaticism: Toast (3), Obsession: Toast (3) and Theoretical Physics: 3. Guess which RPG has stats for the Despair Squid? That’s right! It’s the Red Dwarf RPG. How did you guess? We also have creature stats for Mister Flibble and schematics for Starbug.
Red Dwarf, I think, is a pretty nice license for Deep 7. I also think we’re pretty lucky that it was Deep 7 that got the license. Deep 7 are one of those “fuzzy middle ground” publishers that I like. They’re big enough to reassure me and for me to believe that they’ll support the line (I’m looking at the Red Dwarf AI Screen right now). Deep 7 are also small enough to be, well, personable, human and enthused. I wouldn’t be surprised if every one of their staff put in late hours and an extra dose of devotion to get the game out.
Deep 7’s “XPG” system is pretty simple (2d6, a target number and linear degrees of success) is designed to be quick and cinematic. This suits Red Dwarf. We’re reminded that this is the Red Dwarf RPG, if you want realistic wounding results then remember this is the Red Dwarf RPG. Got it? (By this point you should have stopped pretending that you’ve not just clicked on the Red Dwarf RPG review).
Yay; British humour. Arg; American spelling! Deep 7 blame Nouah Weubster (oh, okay, Noah Webster) … and, amazingly, I’m actually inclined to go with them (and I’m British too). I’m used to reading wrong, sorry, American spelling in RPGs and so I’m not riled to find it yet another RPG. Besides, it’s quite nice to see a British series so thoroughly successful in the States. Besides I can pretend this is an alternative universe where American spelling is actually used several million years after the human race (probably) ended.
Alternative universes are the key to the Red Dwarf RPG, I think. There’s no huge set of “universe rules” here in the core rule book and this concept isn’t push hard – but Red Dwarf fans will know that alternative universes aren’t unheard of in the series. My favourite episode is where we have a female “alternative” version of the crew except for Cat whose alternate is Dog. Cats, Dogs and Iguanas are a chunk of the possible player races. My usual problem with licensed products based on TV series (or movies) is that the action in the series is based around a group of characters and not a world. In a roleplaying game, I think, you want all original characters. Could you do a Spider-man RPG without Spider-man? Could you do a Spider-man RPG where one lucky player was Spider-man? Then there are continuity problems. Can PCs change the way events in the series play out? If they can then do you wreck the rest of the game world (not to mention loose out from anything future supplements offer). If they can’t then why can’t they? Are you restricting a character’s free action? An alternative universe solves everything. In this “Red Dwarf” game it was a pair of human women who managed to survive on the ship and two pets evolved to give us Dog and Iguana! They might even meet another alternative universe Lister – but not necessarily /that/ Lister. It’s easy and it works very well. Or you could play the game so the characters discover they’ve been taking part in a five year interactive roleplaying computer game at the end of the adventure…
Humans, Holograms, Cats, Dogs, 4000 Series, Hudzen 10 Series, Kinitawowi, Pleasure GELFs, Wax Droids, Simulants, Rabbits, Rats, Mice and Iguanas. That’s a pretty impressive list of possible player character options. Deep 7 must have forced themselves to watch through all the Red Dwarf episodes again – and take notes this time!
Then there’s the AI – the ship’s computer. Holly. Red Dwarf the RPG is a little quirky here. The AI is the gamesmaster (dungeon master, storyteller, game master, etc). Yes, the AI is also the ship’s computer. We can see how this works in a sample play section in the book. We have transcripts of sample players because no prior RPG experience is necessary, Red Dwarf RPG is one of those hardback books which might be bought by newbies and so explains the basics. This works best when the AI announces that there are seven black holes ahead on the ship’s scanners. It works much less well when the “AI” needs to talk to the players. At this point I’ve already spent too much time sweating the details. I don’t think anyone’s really going to get confused and at worse case all the AI needs is a different accent or tone of voice to distinguish between the two – or she can just roleplay the AI as she would any other NPC.
There are 170 pages in this hardback. Come page 55 we’ve finished with the character creation rules, the lists of skills and the system. This isn’t because Deep 7 skimp on the details, they don’t; it’s because XPG is easy and simple to learn. We even have “Blue Alert” as the sample of play in these first 55 pages.
In the rest of the book we find sections on hardware – especially important if you’re a hologram! We’ve trinkets like, oh, like Time/Matter Displacement devices like Matter Paddles and Reality Minefields. There are welcome of course – long live the Bazookoid Pistols! There’s a list of ships too in their own chapter.
I’ve already mentioned the game has stats for the Despair Squid. It has stats for all the best creatures; everything from Giant Space Weevils to The Inquisitor to Polymorphs. There’s a whole whack of pages dedicated to the most interesting worlds that the original crew visited. There’s probably a fair (not too much, not too little) amount of text for each world but I find this chapter less than appealing because I find the alternative universes (thus worlds) option far more attractive.
Medibay is a surprising chapter. It’s surprising that a chapter like this is here in the RPG at all. Here we find a collection of medical issues! Honestly. Okay, so this is Red Dwarf, and we’ve especially interesting aliments like the Luck Virus or Holo-Viruses. There is a two page chart of Space Madnesses!
The last 50 or so pages in the hardback are there for the AI. There’s the usual help for the GM – important since this RPG makes that assumption that not everyone buying the game will have roleplayed before. Even experienced GMs may not have practise in comedy roleplaying before. The behind the scenes section extends to stats for the screen characters (Lister, Duanne and “Ace” Rimmer, etc). Rather nicely there’s a scenario generator right at the end of the book. I think this services as a quick source of inspiration at least.
The Red Dwarf RPG isn’t a super-glossy professional product. It is, however, a professional product. The lack of gloss is mainly due to Red Dwarf being a budget British comedy with sparse records and photographs from early shows. I like the full paged, colour “adverts” after ever chapter or so. Fancy buying your own Kryten? Check out the advert for the 4000 Series. Okay. I suppose these adverts are fairly glossy. I actually think the mixture of illustrations and sample, black and white, pictures is just about what I’d want from the book. Anything else would be un-starbug.
Red Dwarf is an RPG that you can satisfied with. It’s big enough to have that reassuring bulk. It’s one that can sit proudly on the shelf. Non gaming friends might even flick through it and laugh with it. I like it.