I recently ran a Godlike playtest based on the initial scenario “Glazier”, which is available for download from the RPG’s web site. Here are the initial impressions of the game, with some feedback from my players. The fast play rules, Glazier scenario and sample characters.
1) The Fast Play Rules are very generous
I’ve got to applaud the Godlike designers for putting the meat of their ruleset on their site as a Fast Play download. They aren’t complete rulebook, but they do cover something just about all of the core mechanics (if not all) and are more than enough to run the scenario. It helped me immensely as the GM to be able to have two of the three players with their own copies of the rules in front of them.
2) Dice pools are cool!
The dice pool game mechanic is a welcome change from the omni-present d20 approach, and rolling 9d10 to unload a machine gun on exposed PCs is a hell of a lot of fun. The same goes for the PCs — they enjoyed the mechanics of getting matches and rolling lots of dice.
The basic mechanic is pretty simple: for any given task you add your ability score (like Body or Coordination) to the appropriate skill (Like Driving or Machine Gun). The result tells you how many dice you can roll. The goal is to get matches, preferably ones that are ìtallî (meaning the numbers on the die are high — the scale runs from 1-10) and wide (meaning you rolled lots of a given number).
Tall pools mean you do a job better, wide pools mean you did it quicker. For example, if you had a Coordination attribute of 3 and a drive of 2, you’d be rolling 5 dice. If the roll was 5,5,5,5,1 you would have the ì5î set would be of average height, but very wide.
3) It’s hard!
By default, Godlike uses low-level Talents — the sort of B team superheroes you might find in Marvel’s old New Mutants title, or any of the misc. throwaway mutants that grace the pages of the X-Men from time to time. As such, you’re not nearly as strong or as quick or as powerful as the big name guys like the Avengers, the Fantastic Four or the Justice League. This isn’t to say you couldn’t be — the game mechanics allow for high-powered superheroes — but it’s not the default, and that makes doing things like chewing gum and walking at the same time really hard (for example: trying to stop a truck on a snow-covered road while sniping at someone with your death ray power).
For the most part, my players liked the power levels, but some were hoping for something a little more high-powered. If we run a Godlike game, I think it would probably be with characters that were about 25%-50% stronger than the one’s in the scenario. That would provide just enough of a lift to be able to pull of some of the more extreme stunts.
4) Guns kill!
Unlike other games, Godlike’s a lot more realistic with what a gun can do to you if you’re hit. One hit to the arm with a rifle bullet is enough to seriously incapacitate that arm; getting hit in the leg with a heavy machine gun will pretty much vaporize the leg.
5) Combat rounds happen real quick-like!
I’d guess that combat rounds in Godlike last half as long as in d20 D&D, so figure about three to four seconds, or the length of time it takes to do one action. Doing multiple actions in one round is damn hard, almost too hard to try with out some sort of Talent power helping you. This drew complaints from one of our players, who thought it should be easier to do two things in one round (i.e. in the example above, wrestle a truck over to the side of the road AND use a Talent).
Others felt (and personally I agree) that given that this is meant to mimic WWII combat, the lightning quick 4-second or so rounds are appropriate (and ultimately, if doing two things at once is important to you, you could design a Talent to do that sort of thing more easily)
The shortness of the combat rounds, and the amount of stuff you can in each round, means that there are a LOT of combat rounds. Also, because initiative is not fixed — it depends on what you roll — you need to recalculate who goes when after each round. That’s something of an adjustment for my group, which has been playing with d20’s fixed initiative for the last year and a half.
At first glance, the initiative system would seem to work best with small encounters, and might get bogged down with larger ones, but then again, it might move a heck of a lot faster when everyone’s familiar with the rules.
6) Talent vs. Talent
There were two aspects of superpowers in Godlike that some folks in my playtest group disliked: the ability for Talents to automatically know when another talent was using his power (even if the power itself wasn’t self-evident) and the ability of Talents to interfere with one another’s powers if said powers were used directly against each other.
Personally, this didn’t bother me too much — superheroes are always negating each others powers in comic books, even if such negations don’t share a unified mechanic or reason behind them. I think these are added to keep the game from getting out of control, and keeping some of the more extreme powers (like killing someone with a glance) in check.
7) d20 is Everywhere
Sensing the growing dominance of d20, the designers of God-like included a d20 conversion of the game. Personally, I liked the original rules so much that I didn’t spend much time looking at the d20 conversion. I’ll post something about it later once I’ve had a chance to look at it again. Suffice it to say that it’s there, and it’s workable … but you probably won’t want to use it because the original stuff’s so darn good.
8) Overall Impressions
Godlike is a good, solid game with a dice-mechanic that’s sure to attract attention, and detailed campaign information that’s sure to keep it. The developers have lots of expansions planned for it, including a scenario book and possibly even a mass-combat system, and it provides a nice alternative from the same-old, same-old of d20 (not that d20 is bad, just that it’s common).
The severity of the game’s draw backs — such as how Talents interact with one another — will vary depending on one’s personal tastes. However, optional rules are given that will allow GMs to customize the game to their personal tastes, and there’s always the d20 OGL section in the back for those who want to stick with what they know.
I don’t have enough spare time now to run a Godlike campaign, but I plan on running a few games as soon as the promised scenario book is released.