Review: Weirdspace Quickstart

Retail Price: Free digital copy at DriveThruRPG 

Designer: Paul Cat

Year Released: 2020

Pages: 53 pages

Genre: “Darkly Comic” Scifi

System: Original (Rules Light, d% based)


Introduction: 

As of this post Weirdspace is currently pending release via Kickstarter, but a quickstart document is available to give a look at the game’s skeleton. Weirdspace presents as a flexible sandbox type game/system with lots of random generation and other resources to allow for adventuring on the fly. The backcover proclaims “The only limits are the boundaries of your twisted mind!” and I can definitely see the possibility of Weirdspace delivering on that.

Overview: 

The Quickstart book is roughly divided as follows: rules, a brief GM advice section, and an adventure.

Rules: Past the book’s brief introduction is the basic rules for the system. Resolution of actions in this game is quite simple. For a task to succeed players or creatures have to roll lower than their score (percentage) in the relevant attribute(stat) or skill. The system accounts for both critical(automatic) successes 0-5% and critical failures 95% or higher. Overall this leaves much of the resolution of actions in the hands of the players, but the rules note that the GM can also adjust the roll required depending on circumstances. That said in general the goal seems to be for the GM to not interfere much on mundane matters. The combat rules occupy just over two pages and are just a variation on the above and account for things such as taking cover, aiming, and close combat maneuvers. The rules are light, simple, and get out of the way. Narrative and having fun with actions are definitely the focus here.

Image by 955169

It is just after the basic rules that I think that the quickstart gets into some of what is so promising about this system, the random tables. An example that appears in this book is titled “Dodgy Doctor Table”. It answers the question of what happens when a player gets patched up by a back alley doctor. One answer to this question is that on a 71-80 there is a chance that the doctor just lops off a body part. While this chart does have some options that would be indicative of some very lacking medical expertise it is actually skewed towards helpful/beneficial. I can only imagine that tables similar to this covering myriad situations will be a mainstay of Weirdspace in its final form.

Skills are split into three categories: combat, non-combat, and alien. With many of the trappings of what would normally be skills in other systems being covered instead by attributes. In Weirdspace skills seem more akin to feats or merits in other systems, and are gained during creation on a one for one basis by taking flaws. The skills presented in the quickstart serve as examples with no real cap on what could be a skill other than GM approval. Aside from the random tables, skills and flaws seem to be where this game makes good on the previously mentioned back cover proclamation of “The only limits are the boundaries of your twisted mind!” and its darkly comic billing. The example skills are a mix of numerical effects and descriptions of additional abilities, but in general they are phrased in a manner that is conversational. Overall, like much of the document, the tone here makes the game feel less like you are grinding your way through a book of rules and more like you are getting an explanation of the game directly from another player.

Image by zekebolden

Non-combat skills perhaps are the best example of the freedom that is a focus of this system. With examples of skills in this category including: 

    • GM’s Girl Friend- This skill means exactly what you would think. It’s a skill that let a player leverage the fact that they are the GM’s significant other.
    • High Heel Shoes- You can move well in high heel shoes and look good doing it, as a skill.

Combat skill examples reflect the normal range of range and melee tricks such as incapacitating with non-lethal damage or disarming a foe, but also covers things like the example skill Flourish. Flourish has bard written over it, as it is a skill that allows a player to turn a failed attack into a showy display that boosts morale.

Alien skills allow for a bit of customization of anatomical abilities, as the system doesn’t seem to have a corollary to races/species. Alien skills give access to things like fangs, enhanced senses, or wings. This section is also the largest of the skill lists in the quickstart.

Flaws, takes up four full pages and covers a decent amount of ground. Among the examples are a lack of opposable thumbs, a constant bad odor, and being a “bullet magnet”. Though once again this list is not meant to be exhaustive. 

GM Section: If nothing else, read this section. There are no npc stats or loot tables here, this section is more like the author’s notes section of a novel mixed with bits of helpful advice. Though brief, you can get a good sense of what the designer was going for in building this system, and this is perhaps the best possible summary of what Weirdspace is supposed to be like. 

Image by Steve Bidmead

Adventure: The quickstart comes with the sampled adventure “The Prison Ship”, which is preceded by four sample characters. This adventure begins with the premise of the players being met with a frantic distress call from prison ship, followed by two further messages. The first message is a job offer to liberate a prisoner and the second is another party trying to warn them off. “The Prison Ship”, has the players working their way through a damaged ship in an attempt avert a catastrophe involving the ship crashing into a populated world. Between them and their goal are a number of encounters with prisoners and guards, which range from horrific to innocuous.

Content to Come:

The Weirdspace Quickstart also provides an idea of some of the things that the full game will have on offer. Among the promised content are more random generation, pre-built planets, equipment, and special abilities. I’m especially interested the possibility of “sentient virus characters” which the quickstart mentions among things to come.

Would I Recommend This Book?

For me the quickstart is more of a personal appetizer, rather than a main course to share. Unsurprisingly and by its own admission, it is missing many things that will be present in the final product. Can it be used as is? Yes. Absolutely, but I wouldn’t personally recommend using it to test drive the system with a group. I think that a GM or a player would be left wanting more, which is in some ways a good thing. However, this incompleteness could also leave a sour taste in the mouths of GMs and players which would be an awful shame. That said, I would definitely recommend picking it up to read as a preview of things to come. As a game that is light on mechanics and heavy on random shenanigans based fun, I think that Weirdspace has a lot of promise and I look forward to seeing what the final game is like.

In short, pick up the free quickstart and give it a read. It is definitely worth the time.

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