It is very difficult for me to review Krendel by William J. (B.J.) Altman. The text reveals a thoughtful designer who cares deeply about the role-playing experience and how mechanics impact on that, and the central mechanic is elegant in its simplicity. The difficulty lies in its complexity. I am a fan of simple systems. As much as I like D&D 5E, I would never run it. The same goes for True20, Savage Worlds and Fate Core (but not Fate Accelerated). As much as I like all these games as systems, I feel that my play style is hindered rather than helped by robust systems.
Krendel fits into this category. Its core is simple but each action is almost its own sub-system in that the standard mechanic provides for multiple successes, and each action has some unique uses for these successes. Krendel also includes modifiers such as range, area, and conditions as well as mechanically relevant equipment – so certain weapons are optimal. Each character also has a plethora of different attributes applied to it – traits and skills, powers and artificer equipment, all of which have a mechanical effect on the game. With these specifics in play, one might pay a mechanical price to create a specific character concept. However, as with many robust systems, this game would likely reward skill mastery, akin to how d20 or D&D 4E did.
I know there are gamers who would love to dig into all the details and specifics of this game. I have played with them and run games for them. I definitely think there is an audience out there for this game, and I do really like its core system. The complexity that is a bonus for others is a detriment for me.
That said, the writing is quite good – though there are certainly areas that could use clarification, which I have found is common with robust systems – and the book includes both a table of contents and an index.
I would say that if you dug the layers of a game like d20, GURPS, or Rolemaster, this is a game you should examine. Like GURPS, it is a universal system, although with things like Traits and Powers one could certainly adjust it to fit a more specific need. The pieces seems to fit together pretty well, but I have never played the game so that is more of an assumption than an assessment.
In the end, I think you’ll need to look and judge for yourself. Right now it is free, so that is not an issue, and I would recommend everyone who plays or runs games to grab it just to read the “Getting Started” section. While there are pieces of this that references the game’s mechanics, there is a lot of advice here that is more universally applicable to gaming in general, and I think the author reveals some excellent insights into the social contract at the table.
You can find Krendel at Drive Thru RPG.