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Reviews - Dice Rule!
by Demian Katz

Dice Rule! coverDice Rule! (2010)
Published by Gamewick Games
Created by L. Willy Wickman
Editors: Jason Dietel and A. P. Klosky
Project editor: Alyssa Smith
Cover illustration and chapter openers by Kennon James
Interior artwork by Tony Steele and Brian Thomas
Additional artwork by McKenna Andrews, M. Orensanz, J. Richmond and Andy Thomas
72-page large-format perfect bound book.

There comes a time in a successful product's life when its fans demand more, and its publishers need to decide what to deliver. All too often, especially in the early days of role-playing, this meant a new rulebook filled with expanded rules that unbalanced the system, overcomplicated gameplay and did little to actually improve anything. Fortunately, in Dice Rule!, WEGS delivers an advanced rulebook that gives fans something new to chew on without corrupting the core rules. Indeed, this is one of the most unique approaches to advanced rules I've seen; while there are a couple of brand new concepts here, most of the book is devoted to a commentary on the core rules and a set of suggestions on how to apply the basic system to special circumstances.

WEGS Revisited
As discussed in my earlier reviews of WEGS 101 Old Skool and WEGS 101 Old Skool Redux, WEGS offers a unique take on role-playing by blending old-school dice-heavy gaming with a certain casino sensibility, all without creating a system so heavy as to be burdensome. As the title of this book states, dice are intended to rule the game, but not to the point that the system overwhelms the adventure. Some of the intricacies of the system may take a while to learn, but the WEGS philosophy is that if you're tempted to hunt through the rulebook for a specific detail in the middle of a fight, you're doing it wrong – you're better off just rolling some dice and letting them decide! Players are free to refine their understanding of the system as they gain experience in using it, and GMs (called Kreators) are encouraged to bend and break the rules as needed to provide entertaining gameplay.

For players who have been experimenting with WEGS for a while, Dice Rule! is a useful read for at least two reasons. First of all, it reiterates most of the main rules; while it couldn't be used as a replacement for Old Skool, it makes good follow-up reading since it improves understanding of the system by restating core concepts in slightly different words. It never hurts to re-read a game's rules after you are actually familiar with playing it, but it can be dull to return to the same manual a second time; here is a chance to mix things up a bit! Secondly, in addition to simply restating the rules, the book spends a lot of time commenting on them. You'll learn more about why the system works in addition to the how. You'll get a better idea about where and when to apply special rules and where the system is most sensitive to being unbalanced by an overzealous Keeper. You'll even find a handful of strategy tips useful for successful play!

By the same token, Dice Rule! is really not meant for new players. If you liked Old Skool but haven't actually played it yet, you're probably not ready for this book. While the book's redundancy with the main rules does serve a purpose, it is harder to appreciate if you read them back-to-back. The commentary on the system is easier to appreciate if you have a feel for how the system actually works. Most importantly, the new rules on display here add challenge and complexity to the game and should not be introduced until everyone is comfortable.

Dice Rule! is divided into nine chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of WEGS play, starting from the game's basic flow and special dice rolls and building up to a discussion of tactics and campaign-building. Along the way, you'll find lots of little tips and suggestions – things like new ways to tweak familiar dice rules or creative uses for players' Spoints. There are also some significant expansions of mechanics just hinted at in Old Skool (character growth, insanity, multi-class characters) and some entirely new concepts (point rewards for good role-playing that can be spent like Spoints, more detailed tactical options in combat, rules for designing new skills).

Perhaps the biggest single addition to the game is the full chapter on running a game, which introduces three different formulas for building a WEGS adventure: wave play (fast-paced, one-off play with fast character advancement), chapter play (longer-term play with a built-in trilogy structure) and campaign play (extended gaming, stringing together multiple chapter-play stories). For each of these play styles, loose formulas are provided to help build an exciting story progression and to grow the characters along the way. As with the simple way WEGS handles Minions for the convenience of the Keeper, these semi-formal guidelines provide useful parameters for building adventures without constraining creativity.

Once again, Gamewick Games has done a very professional job. While the somewhat tongue-in-cheek WEGS style can be a little jarring at times (particularly when my pet peeve phrase, "for wegsample," is used), the book is almost entirely free of unintentional errors. The artwork is more varied than in past books, but it is of consistently good quality. It is also worth noting that this is a much larger book than the main rules – although the page count is lower, the pages are twice as big, packing a lot of information into their two-column layout. On the negative side, I didn't feel that the overall organization of the book was quite as intuitive as WEGS 101 Old Skool Redux, and the way it abruptly ends without conclusions was slightly jarring. Fortunately, these minor organizational issues aren't critical, especially considering the fact that the book is designed for people who already have a full understanding of the system it describes.

You can disappoint yourself if you go into Dice Rule! expecting it to be something it is not. Apart from the play style guidelines and a few new mechanics, it doesn't wildly change the rules of the game. You won't find any new monsters or treasures, nor will you find specific adventure ideas outside of a few examples of play. None of these things are the point of the book; it is really designed to empower you to use the existing WEGS rules in a smarter, more creative, more satisfying way. If you feel you are already doing just fine on your own, perhaps you don't need this book. However, if you like the system and want to gain a deeper understanding of why it works and how you can manipulate it, Dice Rule! may be just the manifesto you need.


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