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Reviews - D6 Adventure
 
by Merwin


D6 Adventure cover D6 Adventure
Published by West End Games/Purgatory Publishing
Designed by Nicola Vrtis
Cover by Chris Dien
144-page hardcover book
$29.95

Before the d20, it existed.
And it was good.
Yea, though it commanded the Force, many failed to listen.
And it was shunned.
Thus it was that the Torg arrived, paving the way for the darkness that was Masterbook. Though the Torg was wise, itís bastard child demanded great sacrifices of the people.
And we wept to the West for salvation.
Lo, we gaze upon a new age.
And our prayers are answered.
An age of light breezy thoughts in the morass of d20 complexity.
And it is good.
Our future holds promise.
And we can breathe easier.
We await the revival of Bloodshadows with bated breath. The worlds of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Aden, Species, Necroscope, Tales from the Crypt Ė-
And more!
They are gone, but not forgotten, and with the advent of the new d6, they will be born again, and borne again.
And it will be good.

In the Beginning
When Star Wars was originally released in theaters worldwide, I was there. Not on the first day, since I was overseas, but I went as soon as I was able, even though my parents disapproved of me going out to the movies, and the theater was packed beyond capacity. Yep Ė I stood through the whole movie.

The movie wasnít that good, but the experience was worthwhile.

I had that same experience and similar feelings when the d6 Star Wars RPG came out. It was worth trying, but I didnít understand the reason for it since I only played under a GM who didnít explain the rules well. The experience was arduous, but educational.

Fast forward to a few years ago... Iíd long since freed myself from beneath the thumb of parental control, Iíd gotten reasonably well-educated in all matters gaming, and I was searching for dead fantasy settings. The World of Aden hit my radar. Itís a Masterbook game, with d6 conversion notes. ďd6,Ē I thought to myself. ďShouldnít I have a copy of one of the barebones rulesbooks for my library?Ē Well, duh. Turns out that the basic d6 rulebook was an easy find. The World of Aden, on the other hand, was a 3-4 month quest to find both the sourcebook and the adventure/campaign supplement.

After reading through the D6 rules, I decided it was ďjust another toolkitĒ to wade through to play a game. The World of Aden was shelved indefinitely, to await a more tolerant time/mentality from yours truly.

I guess thatís just the long way of saying that Iíve never really had a soft spot for the D6 system.

In the last year or so, however, Iíve been involved in playtesting three or four different systems. Iíve fused Spycraft with D&D for fantasy espionage adventure. And I got hooked into playtesting/reviewing the D6 ruleset.

Disclaimer
No, I mean, really playtesting/reviewing D6 Adventure. See, my nameís in the credits of the book, under ďPlaytesters.Ē Itís been a crazy ride from there to here, but thatís the way it is. Itís taken the better part of 10 long years for me to decide that the d6 system is worth playing, and Iím glad a lot of people knew it before me and kept the faith all that time.

Iíve come around for two reasons:

  • 1) The new D6 rulebook is attractive and readable. While I can take no credit for the fantastic layout and index, I am partially responsible for the clarity, redundancy and organization of the rules.
  • 2) To playtest/review the manuscript, I had to read it as Iíd never read a gaming book before. I went though text with a fine-toothed comb, looking for discrepancies, errors, omissions, and obfuscation, and came away enlightened by actual content. Donít get me wrong: the final product isnít perfect. Like any tasty sausage, it has the allowed portion of rat droppings (spelling errors) and insect detritus (grammar issues). But the meat is undeniably oh-so-tasty.
So letís pick up the book and see what all the gushing is about.

First, judge the cover for yourselves. I find it attractive. The interior art/layout is, in a word, awesome. To my eye, every single page has some piece of artwork. Sometimes, that artwork is a sidebar in a stylish box made to look paper clipped, stapled, or otherwise spliced into the book, but thatís enough to break up the text and increase readability dramatically.

If I had a single complaint about my first impression of the book, it would be the back cover blurb, which never actually clearly specifies that the book is a toolkit. In big letters on the back cover, it should clearly read: ďThis is a toolkit you can easily adapt to your favorite homebrew or published game setting. No setting is included.Ē

Itís important to emphasize that because thereís a big difference between an RPG you can pick up, read through, and play, compared to an RPG you have to pick, read through, design/adapt a world, and then begin play. Thatís what stopped me every other time I picked up older versions of the D6 system ruleset. I never wanted to do the work.

So, How Does It Work?
You can find most of this information for free at www.westendgames.com, but Iíll reiterate the basics here. All your attributes (typically six) are rated in a number of dice and pips. Each die is worth 3 pips/adds, so attributes and skills follow this progression, 1D, 1D +1, 1D+2, 2D, 2D+1, etc. When you roll a skill or attribute check, you roll the number of dice, add any pips to the total of the roll, and compare the result to a target number; meet or exceed it and you succeed.

ďBut itís D6 Adventure,Ē you wail. ďWhereís the excitement, the action, the beef?Ē Let me introduce you to the Wild Die, Character Points, and Fate Points.

A Wild Die takes the place of one of the dice used in a task check. If you initially roll a 1 on the Wild Die, you suffer a Critical Failure. This might simply involve the cancellation of your highest die rolled, or it could be a complication determined by the GM. If the Wild Die comes up 2-5, you simply add it into your total roll as normal. Anytime you roll a 6 on the Wild Die, you add 6 to your total and roll the Wild Die again. Thatís a Critical Success.

A Character Point is basically a way to push your luck. You tempt fate by introducing an additional Wild Die to your task check. This extra Wild Die canít cause Critical Failures, which is kinda nice, but they do produce additions to your total roll, and possibly Critical Successes. Character points are replenished as general experience awards granted by the GM.

A Fate Point indicates a burst of inspiration or adrenaline, usually in pursuance of a characterís core beliefs. When you use one, you double the total number of dice your rolling (before applying Character Dice or pips). Suddenly, the impossible is within reach! Fate points are awarded by the GM when your character does something tightly tied to their core beliefs or moral code.

Really, thatís all there is to it.

Are We There Yet?
Wherever you want to be, this book doesnít take you there. Once you clearly understand that, youíre well on your way to maximizing your enjoyment of D6 Adventure.

The best analogy I can come up with to describe this book is that itís very similar to one of those simple mazes you find on a restaurant place mat for kits. You take out a pencil, figure out where to start and where to end, and quickly draw a line from one to the other. No matter how old you are, or how easy it was, it still gives you a little twinge of satisfaction to complete the maze. Itís similarly pleasant to work your way through applying the D6 Adventure ruleset to a desired world.

From the Start
The book begins with a very brief orientation, a pick-a-path solo adventure, and definitions of key terms. The first three chapters cover character creation, character options (advantages, disadvantages, and special abilities), and character growth mechanisms. Character creation involves assigning a set number of dice/pips to five or six stats and skills, any or all of which can be customized for the game environment youíre focused on playing within. It includes multiple character generation methods, and conversions for attribute points to skill points to specialization points.

Chapter four thoroughly explains game basics, including dice rolling mechanicsm, game time, task difficulties and gradations of success. Chapters five through nine expound on movement, combat, two different damage systems (wound levels and body/hit points), healing, and additional combat options such as called shots, autofire, quickdrawing, group attacks, grabs, and tackles. Chapter 10 provides numerous examples of potential difficulties for multiple types of skills.

Spelling It Out
Chapters 11-13 cover spells and psionics. There are only four basic spell categories in the magic system provided: Alteration, Apportation, Conjuration, and Divination. I confess that I struggle quite a bit with this section of the book. Fortunately, however, a sidebar quite clearly states that you can adapt other systems to D6, or use them completely unchanged. Some consider this a cop-out, while other consider it accommodating and adaptable.

In any case, I think the provided magic system requires a quick rundown to explain my confusion. Divination is the easiest of the arts to understand and apply. Spells of this type grant or deny knowledge to a target. Next, Alteration involves changing something that already exists. It can be increased, decreased, or otherwise modified; however, you canít get something from nothing Ė thatís Conjuration.

Apportation is the magic of movement. It covers telekinetic effects, teleportation effects, and compulsion effects (movement of the psyche). With Alteration, you can change someoneís mind and theyíll be a complete convert. With Apportation, you force an individual to do something against their will Ė they know what theyíre doing, but they just canít help it.

Conjuration is the art of producing something from nothing Ė the power of creation. I find the subtleties of this art beyond me. If I want to create a zombie, for example, do I Conjure it up by imbuing a body with animus? Do I devote a portion of my energy and attention to Apporting the body? Do I simply alter an existing spiritís location and condition from free-floating to body-inhabiting? To me, this is either hideously unclear or impressively flexible. Rather than decide which of those choices is correct, Iím more inclined to simply toss the provided magic system and create one of my own.

On the other hand, the spell creation system is incredibly useful, and surprisingly independent of the provided magical arts framework. You can use the spell design system with any magic system you design for D6 Adventure, and this is a good thing. A spell worksheet is available on the West End Games website to calculate the total casting modifiers and difficulty for any spell based on 23 different variables. Itís nothing if not thorough. The amazing accomplishment is that even with all those variables, most spells can still be taken from post conception to casting difficulty in a couple minutes, tops.

All In Your Head
The Psionics chapter is simultaneously clearer and more complex than Magic. While the proffered psionic skills are more clearly delineated (Astral Projection, Empathy, Far-Sensing, Healing, Medium, Protection, Psychometry, Strike, Telekinesis, and Telepathy), each one is accompanied by its own table of situational modifiers. Nevertheless, I found the discrete nature of each power and the clarity of information in this chapter much more appealing than the Magic system included in the book.

Last But Not Least
Before closing with cursory information on gamemastering, adventure designing, sample generic NPCs, and player character templates, the book tries to sell a chapter on Equipment. By no means is it intended to be comprehensive, but it does have sample wealth task difficulties for acquiring items, and a simple functional identification system for equipment availability. Many people will also probably wonder why some basic adventuring vehicles such as tanks and submarines are missing, while there is needless redundancy with respect to the statistics for ďin-cityĒ and ďbetween cityĒ buses. I actually have an answer to this.

Style and Limitations
If you didnít figure it out when I explained the basics, the game operates more or less on a bell curve. As you become more skilled, the values along the entirey of the curve generally increase. There are minor hiccups, of course Ė any time you move from having dice and pips to just dice, the lower end of your curve expands. Conversely, when you move from XD to XD+1 or XD+2, the upper end of your curve increases.

The limitation of the system lies within the tolerance of play groups for rolling and summing large quantities of dice. Itís also why you donít find things like tanks, jet airliners, or submarines in the book. The system canít handle such large-scale items without resorting to unwieldy quantities of dice or GM fiat.

Most stats, skills, and equipment in the book seem to have an unstated cap of 7D, although the rules accommodate skills specializations of up to 11D. With such a trait and the expenditure of a Fate point, youíre suddenly rolling 22 dice!

Also note that while the high-range spread between 3D and 6D is (6x6)-(3x6)=18, the high-range spread between 7D and 14D is much more pronounced at (14x6)-(7x6)=42. Spending Fate points on traits with higher dice can produce very dramatic results.

Though youíre not likely to be confronted by these issues during the course of a typical adventure amongst reasonable players, within the genres suggested by the game designers and conforming to the plot guidelines laid out in the book, be advised that this is a limitation of the system. Forcing it to work beyond its limits is like trying to teach a pig to dance.

What Else is There To Do?
Iíve explained the limitations of the system. In the same breath, Iíve hopefully passed across the versatility of the D6 system and how enamored I am of it. There have been many RPGs Iíve shelved simply because Iíve been exasperated by the needless complexity of their rulesets. Rest assured that some of them will be picked up and painlessly converted to D6 for the enjoyment of my gaming groups Ė Iím going to start with Deadlands!

Whether youíre in the same situation, or whether youíve got a homebrew world needing a grounded, solid system, I say to you: Go thou, and do likewise.


 

   

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