October 29, 2012

[Review] Über RPG: Steampunk

This is the review of the Über RPG: Steampunk by Über Goober Games. The book is available both in PDF (15$) and physical copy (25$ + shipping) on the official website.

Über RPG: Steampunk is a traditional RPG with standard GM/players roles in a Customizable Steampunk setting. Über RPG: Steampunk includes also the rules to make this game a LARP.

The core is a task resolution system where you add Attribute + Skill and roll the result in d6. A 5 counts as a success, a 6 as two and a 1 as a failure. This number can be compared to another roll in opposed actions or to a target number. The difference between the two numbers will be used to determine a degree of success (or of failure). Combat works mostly like that too, always opposing an attack roll to a defense roll. Characters have no hit points, they are just fully functional, stunned, dazed, wounded, incapacitated or dead. There is also a mechanic that grants PCs a hero point at the beginning of each session that can be spent to increase or decrease by one success a roll or to lower the damage sustained by one step.
All these rules are summarized in a three pages chapter at the beginning of the book.

I like the fact rules are summarized in just three pages. I don't like most of the rest of the system. The combat is shifting between freeform and sqared grid and I like my games make cloar choices.

The Character generation process is a point based one. You get 20 points for skills and feats, 20 for attributes and some more bonus. You can get one or more packages that spend you points in a fixed way (Automatron, Scientific Subject, Rogue, Drifter, Detective and so on). Skill and attribute costs are non-linear so you have to refer to a small table to to your shopping. Skills, flaws, feats, attributes and powers are A LOT. Just the skills are 70! The process is easy but GM dependant. Everything must be approved before being purchased.

Packages are a good idea, making character creation quicker and this game needs a quicker character creation process.

In Über RPG: Steampunk there is no fixed setting, at all. The book starts with a small guide to the steampunk genre, that makes you customize the world you are playing in. Is it fantasy? How works the steam engines? Is time travel possible? And so on. Steampunk is a vast and pretty much undefined genre and this book acknowledges this unspecifity and try to help you define your world. Sure there are lots of sample stuff (cities, characters, etc...) but you have to to 99% of the work on your own.

I'm torn between liking the steampunk setting configuration and disliking the total absence of a setting.

There are no such things. 

This is the biggest issue with this game: there is no help at all in running it. If you know how to play, you can play it, if you have never played an RPG, this is not your game. In addition, the lack of GM guidelines will mean that if you have previous experience with another game, you will play this game exactly like you played the other one. This is a recipe for disaster, in my book.

The book is a softcover, black and white, 160 pages long tome with illustrations of varying quality and some steampunk themed photos. Nothing exceptional, but acceptable.

THE JUDGEMENT (obviously an opinion)
I'm not happy to say this is an uninspired game. Often, when you pick up a game, even a bad one, you can still figure out why someone wanted to write that specific game. In this case the game is not bad, but is clearly (for me) lacking of a soul. The system is simple and yet not elegant at all. There is something I like here and there like the setting customization chapter or the packages in character creation, but this is not a game I'm eager to play