Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Red Planet RPG

There are several things that I feel very strongly about.

One is that "hobbyist" game designers are producing games and game accessories that are just as ground-breaking and note-worthy as those produced by the so-called "professional" game designers.

Another is that people deserve to be recognized and compensated for their work.

Which brings me to Red Planet RPG. That game was written in 1990, and updated in 2005 (presumably to add the OGL, accompanying the current version of the game), by Clovis Cithog of Jasoomian Dreams. The cover illustration is by Elton Robb of The Atlantis Blog, with interior illustrations by Kris Todd and Patric Moore.

While not the first role-playing game to be based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martian Chronicles (arguably, that honor goes to TSR's Warriors Of Mars), this early implementation of rules for a Barsoomian role-playing game is equally true to the source material, and will cost you significantly less to purchase.

For those of you familiar with the John Carter of Mars series, all of the recognizable Barsoomian elements are included: the races (red, green and yellow martians, therns, and black pirates); measurements (tals, xats, zodes, sofads, ads, etc.); weapons (radium weapons, rapiers); fliers; and, monsters (apts, banths, and white apes).

Red Planet RPG appears to be a very faithful adaptation of the Martian Chronicles, going into great detail regarding the setting, the peoples, culture and history of Barsoom.

Clovis has elected to utilize both class and skill systems for character generation and differentiation. I have no fatal objections to that approach; after all, that approach is basically how Traveller works, and Traveller is beloved by many old-schoolers. The classes and skills in Red Planet RPG are well-suited for the setting: classes include scientist, trooper, criminal, warrior and priest. The skills are likewise well-suited to a science-fantasy setting, with both fantasy and high technological skills included in the list.

Red Planet uses six abilities as the basis for character generation. Those abilities (Strength, Agility, Tenacity, Reason, Intuition and Persuasion) are roughly analogous to the six abilities in D&D. Hit points are also employed, along with saving throws and levels. Therefore, those familiar with the basic workings of D&D will have no difficulty grasping and employing this game almost immediately after digesting the flavour and setting of this game.

The combat system is more elaborate than what you will find in early iterations of Dungeons and Dragons. The combat system includes, for example, four separate critical hits tables, for blunt, energy, piercing and slashing weapons respectively. Though the combat system is a bit more detailed than the one I typically employ,this certainly adds some interesting cinematic (for lack of a better word) elements.

Red Planet includes spells for Priests, despite the fact that the author acknowledges that most priests in the Martian Chronicles are either frauds or charlatans. But what would a fantasy role-playing game be without spell-casters!

At 72 pages, Red Planet RPG is a lot of game, packed in a small package. As a hobbyist game-designer and publisher, Clovis Cithog is humble about his creation, and offers it at the bargain price of $10 to US residents. As I said at the start of this review, I feel strongly about trumpeting the remarkable achievements of the hobbyist game designers in our midst, and seeing them fairly compensated for their efforts. This game is a steal at $10.

If you are, or are contemplating, playing an RPG based on Burroughs' Martian Chronicles, this is one ruleset you should give serious consideration to.

13 comments:

Timeshadows said...

I think Ray Bradbury has the Martian Chronicles, and Burroughs had the Barsoom Series. :)

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Thanks TS.

When reading my review, please feel free to replace the former with the later!

:)

Kaiser said...

This is really interesting and might be well worth a look. My only concern follows: I don't think Burroughs' rights are Public Domain. Isn't the game then based upon a copyright infringement? Yes, that would suck but when I was contemplating the same idea myself I have stumbled upon the same obstacle and forgot the idea. I'd love to be wrong...

Greg Gorgonmilk said...

@Kaiser: Copyrights to the Barsoom stories have expired. The texts are now public domain. That said, I'm no expert on copyright law -- there may be other factors involved.

Greg Gorgonmilk said...

Correction: Copyrights to certain novels have expired.

Been reading Clovis' blog and he seems like a pretty a cool guy. Great review btw, Paladin. I'm sold.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Kaiser said...
My only concern follows: I don't think Burroughs' rights are Public Domain. Isn't the game then based upon a copyright infringement?

Like you, I am a strong advocate for copyright. In Clovis' preface to Red Planet RPG, he mentions that the five Burroughs books that he references are now in the public domain.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Greg Gorgonmilk said...
Been reading Clovis' blog and he seems like a pretty a cool guy. Great review btw, Paladin. I'm sold.

I agree, he is a really nice guy. Glad you found the review helpful.

Martin R. Thomas said...

"...'hobbyist' game designers are producing games and game accessories that are just as ground-breaking and note-worthy as those produced by the so-called "professional" game designers."

Couldn't agree more. I love this age we're living in, as a gamer, because we can get access to so many more ideas and concepts that 20 years ago we never would have heard of.

Thanks for the review - although I don't see myself using the game as is for my current groups, I've always loved pulp fantasy/SF "Mars" type stories, and I can see picking this up to use as "idea-fodder."

Needles said...

Clovis is a stand up guy & I highly recommend his work. I've just gotten this game in the mail today. The work is awesome & what he's done here is very cool. Why more people haven't gotten into this is beyond me. I'm planning on springing this on my brother for his birthday!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Martin R. Thomas said...
Couldn't agree more. I love this age we're living in, as a gamer, because we can get access to so many more ideas and concepts that 20 years ago we never would have heard of.

What's even more humbling is the number of hobbyists that are sharing their ideas by way of their blogs. Part of the reason I have no qualms about paying for their stuff, when they get around to publishing it.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Needles said...
Clovis is a stand up guy & I highly recommend his work. I've just gotten this game in the mail today. The work is awesome & what he's done here is very cool.

Agreed on all counts.

Clovis Cithog said...

thanks for the kind review,
I try to do my best . . .

I have no hostility towards my Northern (and southern) neighbors, just that shipping outside the USA is a major pain.

Someday, I might do a PDF.
I actually sell the game at cost
(no BS), I make a comfortable living in another profession
(not an editor ; - )

Just trying to spread the wonder and excitement that is Barsoom.

The Happy Whisk said...

Regarding your statement about being compensated for work. Back in my days of writing non-fiction and getting paid for it, some writers I knew then, thought it was wrong to want to get paid. They thought it somehow soiled the magic of writing. I can't agree with them.

Good post, as usual Paladin. Great blog.

How many more months of winter do you have? Hopefully, not to many more snow storms your way.

It was nice this past week and then we got hit with a nasty thunder and lightening storm.