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Petri Wessman's weblog

Minireview: A Dirty World

Ok, so on to A Dirty World, which is Greg Stolze’s new “film noir” standalone roleplaying game. As I mentioned eariler, I was lucky enough to play in a demo run by Greg at Ropecon and I had a blast. The game really seemed to promote the “feel” of film noir, though of course part of that credit goes to the very nice demo scenario we were playing, and to Greg’s quite excellent GM skills.

It’s a small, compact game engine, based on the ORE engine (as seen in Nemesis, Wild Talents, Reign, etc) – though this incarnation has been tweaked heavily in the “Forge” direction. In a good way, I think. The stat/ability design is quite clever, and the game has your stats changing every scene – the player characters get challenged and change all the time. A “femme fatale” character might begin her slow climb from corruption to purity – or become even more corrupt with every scene. It’s up to the player, and dependant on how the character acts in the scene. As befits the genre, going towards the “bad” direction is much easier than “good”, generally. This mechanism rocks, since “noir” tends to feature people confronted with difficult choices and being forced to compromise, and then to live with the results of those choices. The ruleset is extremely abstract and combat is handled in the same way as any other test in the game. For some games this might be a problem but here it seems to work wonders, since in the noir genre social skills (and attacks & backstabs) are at least as common and deadly as are flying bullets.

The book includes a “random noir plot generator”, in the style of the random one-roll generators found in Reign. It’s very cool, and gives you a basic story framework to build on. Greg also includes a couple of nice examples of how to build a story with it.

All in all, this is an excellent, modern “indie” roleplaying game that is tightly focused on one genre and one type of story theme. It also shows how versatile the core ORE framework is. Recommended.

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