Screenplay: the RPG Review

Caveat: I am a friend of the designer and was part of the playtest for this game. Also, this is part of a round robin review process, meaning that a bunch of designers got together and agreed to review each other’s games. I don’t know if the author of Screenplay will be reviewing my game or not, but he might. This is the third review, and I will be reviewing two other games between now and the end of August.

A review? Sure, let’s call it a review. Those of you who have been around for a bit know that I’ve been part of the playtest crew for Todd Crapper’s Screenplay and that I have been singing its praises. Right now, not only is Screenplay out and available, but so too is Ironbound, its first subgame/setting.

Screenplay is a simple system that provide extensive narrative control to its players. Characters are built from Potentials – which are qualities/description that provide dice for conflict resolution – and resources – which provide bonuses to resolution. The character’s Stamina (a kind of health/stress rating) and Milestones (kind of like experience) are also resources used to effect resolution. The die provided by a character’s Potential and modified by a Resource is rolled against a target number – defined by the opposing Potential. Success allows the character to remove Stamina or apply Complications to an opponent. All the mechanical effects derive from this simple system.

The system does provide the GM with plenty of mechanical means to control the situation, though none of these are absolute. GMs have a special resource called Challenges that allows the GM to increase the difficulty or create some kind of new obstacle. This means if the GM feels the game is too easy or the players are too confident, a Challenge or two in a scene can really spice things up.

This game is for cooperative groups, not competitive ones. If the mentality of your group is GM vs. players – as in the GM is actively trying to kill the characters while the players are attempt to subvert or undermine the GM’s efforts in order to beat them – this game won’t run smoothly for you. However, if you are playing a competitive game, I’m not sure you are having as much as you possibly can with role-playing games.

Screenplay works both for action heavy games and quieter investigative ones. I’ve used it to run a one-shot based on Korean action movies and I’ve participated in a 1940s style horror game set in a museum which evolved into a very quiet character study and investigation. In both these games, Screenplay succeeded in replicating the action with a few minor hiccoughs.

Is it a perfect game? No. Of course not. I haven’t met one of those yet. For a simple set of rules that can be used for a wide variety of high narrative games, Screenplay does the trick.

I give Screenplay 4.75 high plains samurais out of 5. This is a great game for those who like their systems simple, but with mechanics robust enough to even handle high action adventures.

You can find Screenplay at DTRPG.

Right now, Ironbound is “pay what you want” at DTRPG.

You can learn more at Broken Ruler Games.

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