This one-hour game-version of Crimson Dragon Slayer clocks in at 11 pages -all content, no frills.
So what is this? Intended for relative novices to the game, this is a stripped down version of the regular Crimson Dragon Slayer-rules, with a different focus – where the regular version features a goofy, over-the-top and awesome metal attitude, this one emphasizes dark science-fantasy as a default assumed genre. The pdf explains the basics of roleplaying and the system, which is ridiculously easy.
The basis for this is VSD6-system: A roll of 1 is a critical failure, a roll of 2 a failure, a roll of 3 mostly failure, 4 = mostly success, 5 = success and 6= critical success. Unless determining wounds or damage, only the highest number rolled is considered to be the effect: The easier a task is, the more d6 you roll: The default is 2d6 for a decent chance of success; very unlikely tasks can prompt 0d6 rolls, which means: “Roll 2d6, take the worse roll.”
Humans start with 15 health and may reroll a dice pool once per session. Elves have a 2 in 6 chance to resist magic and get 10 starting health. Dwarves make saving throws with 2d6 instead of 1d6 and get 20 health. This system knows 4 classes. Warriors attack at 3d6 (also is used for warrior-style stuff) and get an armor value 4 chain mail and a weapon. Per level, they gain 1d6 health.
Wizards roll wizardly stuff at 3d6, but are at disadvantage stabbing things and doing the martial shtick, rolling only 1d6. They get an armor value-less robe and a wizard weapon (most likely staff or dagger) at first level. They gain 1 health at each additional level. Wizards cannot carry armor or shields while casting spells.
Thieves roll 3d6 for picking pockets, sneaking about, disarming traps…you get the idea. Armed combat is 2d6, fidgeting with magic scrolls and hocus-pocus like that is 1d6. They get leather armor (armor value 2) and a thieves’ weapon. On a level up, they get 1d3 health.
Finally, clerics attack like thieves and may occasionally perform miracles and know the whole religion thing, obviously. They gain 1d3 health per level. The cleric is pretty opaque in what he can do; some more pronounced guidance regarding miracles or healing capacities would have been nice here.
The pdf suggests 12 general dispositions like “traitorous”, “noble” or “mysterious” as a first roleplaying impulse.
Okay, initiative is handled as follows: Roll 1d6, lowest goes first. Thieves roll 1d3 (the text explains how this works for noobs – nice!). 0 health is unconscious, negative level+1 health = dead -a 4th level character would die at -5 health, for example. Health regenerates at 1 point per hour. The better the dice pool result, the more damage – attack and damage are rolled into one roll of the bones: 1-3 are misses; a hit at 4 causes 1d6 damage; triple 6s cause a whopping 5d6 damage. And yes, these add up. So a 3d6 attack dice pool providing one 6 (3d6) and 2 4s (1d6) would cause 5d6 damage. Furthermore, 6s are “exploding”, i.e. they are rerolled and added to the total. Armor Value is treated as DR and subtracted from the damage. Shields increase attack value by 2, but decrease the attack dice pool by -1d6.
I mentioned saving throws. A character rolls 1d6. 1 = die horribly, can’t be resurrected, 2= die, 3= die, but get one final action, 4 = alive, but unconscious, 5 =conscious at half total health, 6 = full health. Yes, that means you can actually potentially be healed by save-prompting effects.
Spellcasting is completely free-form – the more ambitious, the smaller the dice pool; healing and the like is reserved for clerics and they may 1/day call upon their deity to smite abominations. The precise effects of all of this are vague and up to spontaneous interpretation.
Characters level up after each session, gaining health. That’s it. Aaaand…that’s the rules.
The pdf also provides a short intro module…and since the following contains SPOILERS, I’d suggest potential players to move to the conclusion.
“The Curse of Xakaar Abbey” takes place in a fully and gorgeously mapped abbey b/w-cartography, and centers around the eponymous Xakaar, a dread sorceror trafficking with things from beyond, enspelling townsfolk to shamble to his abode. 6 basic rumors and copious read aloud text set the stage. The graveyard is an appropriate beginning, as demonic ghouls spewing green slime assault the PCs…who better make a dash if the GM has rolled double sixes (or similarly well) for their total number….but, alas, the lock must be picked…let’s hope the thief doesn’t botch his job. Inside, the PCs will have to get past a massive pit of spikes and then deal with spawn of the Outer Darkness (would be nice to have an inkling of what type of spawn they are, but oh well) that can render PCs into shadowy entities on critical successes. Okay, got that. Effects?
The PCs may also broker a deal with a trapped infernal elf and gain a magic sword (+1d6), a healing fountain, benevolent telepathic crystals and then duke it out with Xakaar – who likes enclosing foes in rings of fire and dominate the will of others…and when he dominates more than one, he lessens his attack pool. by how much? Not sure. I assume 1d6 per additional dominated foe…which would make the combat pretty short-lived. Dominate fighter, thief, Cleric, kill wizard, walk them into spike pit, game over. Beyond Xakaar’s room lies a means of entering darkened tunnels guarded by an even more powerful, dread demon-thing.
Editing and formatting are very good, no complaints in that regard. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard; in one version, the background is parchment-style with subdued blood spatters here and there; the other one is even more printer-friendly. The parchment version is huge for a pdf of this size, though. Still, kudos! It should also be noted that the big version is layered and can thus be customized. The pdf has a gorgeous artwork in b/w and features one absolutely fantastic map of the ruined abbey. While I wished there was a version of the map sans key, this pdf is FREE and as such, I’m not complaining.
Venger As’Nas Satanis’ one hour-game version of Crimson Dragon Slayer is extremely easy to grasp, quick to explain and run. For quick, uncomplicated beer-and-pretzels/lunch-break fun, this does its job rather well. The map and artwork and all for free…no complaints there.
On a personal level, I do not think this simplification of the system has that much staying power; for conventions or casual gaming, it works well, but free-form magic always turns into a BS-ing contest sooner rather than later. Similarly, the healing abilities of clerics and the effects of the divine intervention could use some examples and mechanics as guidance.
Another observation: This one is closer to the first of Kort’thalis’ books in that it features some dark sci-fi-fantasy themes…which I like in general. “The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence” are AWESOME. At the same time, to me the draw of CDS was that it wasn’t another dark OSR-system, but rather in its gonzo nature and full-blown Brütal Legend-like embrace of heavy metal fantasy aesthetics. If I want dark, I go to LotFP. Easy rules, only slightly more complex and much more detailed. To me, this one kinda loses the unique selling proposition in theme and replaces it with the simplified system other Kort’thalis Publishing books use…which may be a plus for you…personally, I consider it less rewarding in a more traditional setting. Your mileage may vary.
However, as a reviewer, both of these aspects boil down to personal preference and the like should not make too big of an impact on the review of the book in question. Which leaves me with the observation that, as a free product, this certainly achieves it mission in a formidable way. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
You can get this file for FREE here on OBS!!
The more light-hearted and detailed original version can be found here! (Seriously, I almost died of laughter while running the sample module…)