As we approach the fifth and final year of Supernatural, it is a bittersweet affair as the realization that some day the show will be on permanent hiatus and every week will need a cure with no end in sight. It is most fortuitous then that margaret weis productions ltd has released the Supernatural RPG at this time as now the fans can make their own cures forevermore.
For those who don’t know, RPG = “Role Playing Game”. Everyone gets together with each person bringing pen, paper, some dice and Mountain Dew. Dungeons & Dragons is the most “infamous” of the RPG market as it was also the first of its kind. Although I myself am a gamer, I haven’t dabbled much in the pen & paper editions save for a few rounds with friends. So how does this book measure up in my limited experience?
In truth, I love it. Most adventures I was in worried far less about the “role playing” part of the game and more the straight up combat. Which is fun I’ll admit*, but then it’s no different from a thousand video games. The SPN RPG heavier emphasis on the role playing aspect is obvious when you realize that combat in the game doesn’t have its own section, it’s just a part of the larger playing rules. Or how in D&D, most ‘feats’ that a character can get are related to combat while the SPN equivalent (assets) has only 2-5 out of 48 relating to combat.
One concept I enjoyed is the idea of “plot points”. Basically these give the players some GM (Game Master – Dungeon Master is the D&D equivalent) powers but quantify it as a currency to keep things from getting out of hand. So rather than players justifying something to the DM, they can just pay for it with these plot points and keep things running. How do players get these plot points? Well to get those previously hinted at assets, you have to pick an equivalent complication. While many min-max’ers are quite familiar with this concept, in SPN there are no “dud” complications. Mute may not seem like that big a deal now, but try interviewing that witness or calling for help when in a sticky situation. Still, if you have a complication and work with it in gameplay (i.e. you have a traumatic flashback at the worst moment), the GM rewards you with plot points.
Another thing I was a big fan of in this game is that nothing is more important in it but to be fun and keep things moving. Some of the more frustrating D&D rounds were getting the game locked up as players started hunting through countless volumes as they hunted down that one particular rule… In SPN, the GM only needs half a dozen charts as most everything else is done by dice roles. You don’t roll a d20 and compare it to my “AC”. No you roll your attack and I roll my defense and we see who has the higher numbers (very Risk like). This keeps the GMs from being the game’s “book keeper” and helps them get involved with the interaction and fun as well. Fighting itself is 1 round = 3 seconds and while there are some free actions (like talking), the GM is encouraged to enforce a bit of a time limit. (if I ever GM, i’m debating about bringing one of those chess clocks…)
All in all SPN RPG comes off as a really immersible experience. Written in a very Dean-esque casual style and printed in a format that looks very much like a hunter’s journal, everything about it sucks you into the world. If you’re a hardcore gamer, then you’ve probably already adapted an existing system to the SPN universe. If, however, you’re one with only a few books or just a big SPN fan that wants to be a part of that world, this is a better investment than any video game that might release. I could go on and on praising it but I think I’ll let the score, speak for itself.
Who wants to play?
*Especially if you can stop the apocalypse by anally raping a demon. But that’s another story I won’t trouble you with unless someone asks.