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Saturday 14 January 2023

Quick-Start Saturday: Vast Grimm

Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps two. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.

Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.


What is it?
I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure is the second quick-start for Vast Grimm, the art-filled, punk-fuelled Old School Renaissance role-playing game about the few humans remaining in a universe being consumed by growing parasitic würms. Sometime in the future, the Earth has been shattered, carved up, and gnawed upon by würms such that all remains are vestiges. All that remains of humanity resides in habitats and spaceships, scavenging what it can, surviving the best that it can, everyone hoping that they will not fall prey to the infestation that will turn them into one of the würms, that they can find some kind of surviving civilisation, or perhaps they can find escape via the Gate of infinite Suns. The first quick-start was Into the Würmhole Quickstart Rules & Adventure, which was released for Free RPG Day in 2021. It is published by Infinite Black.

It includes rules for actions and combat, an adventure, and four ready-to-play, Player Characters.

It is a sixteen-page, full colour booklet.

It takes its design cues from Mörk Borg in its use of strong colours. Here they are done mostly as text boxes of psychedelic blue and pink, typically against a black background or swathes of bloody, meaty pink, suggesting something intestinal… The writing is generally clear, but given the short length of the booklet, does suffer from a certain brevity.

How long will it take to play?
I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure can be played through in a single session.

Who do you play?
The four Player Characters include 
an Emo|Bot with an ability to access any computer and a desire to be an assassin, a selfishly hard-nosed Treacherous Merc who has probably faked a fearsome military record, a MAnchiNe whose scavenged robot arm emits a healing ultraviolet energy, and a Twisted Biochemist desperate to find a way to neutralise The Grimm, including his own infection. Each is given a neat, if busy character sheet.

How is a Player Character defined?
A Player Character has four attributes—either Strength, Agility, Presence, or Toughness—which range in value between -3 and +3. He has a Class, which grants a Class Skill, plus Daily Neuromancy Points, and Tributes and Favours. Tributes are the equivalent magic in Mörk Borg. A Player Character typically has some arms and armour, some personality pointers, and at least one Battle Scar, suffered as a result of his survival.

How do the mechanics work?
Vast Grimm shares its mechanics and much of its tone with Mörk Borg. Like Mörk Borg it is player-facing in that the players do almost all of the dice rolling, a test requiring a player to roll equal to, or greater than, a given Difficulty Rating, typically twelve, usually modified by the appropriate attribute. Thus in combat, a player will roll for his character to avoid being attacked as well as his character making an attack.

Tributes are the equivalent to magic in Mörk Borg and cost Neuromancy Points to use, whereas Skillz, which represent skills and other abilities. Lastly, a Player Character has a number of Favours each day, which might grant maximum damage, allow a reroll of any dice, reduce damage taken, neutralise a critical strike or a fumble, or lower the Difficulty Rating of a test.

How does combat work?
Initiative is determined by an Agility test made by the player, and because Vast Grimm is a player-facing game in terms of its mechanics, a player will roll for his character to avoid being attacked as well as his character making an attack. Armour prevents damage, but a random amount rather than a set amount. 
 If the Hit Points for a Player Character are reduced to zero, he is considered to be ‘Broken’. This requires a roll on the accompanying table, which might result in the Player Character being rendered unconscious, before making a small recovery or the Player Character might simply bleed out. The combat system is designed to be short and brutal.

How does magic work?
Tributes are the equivalent to magic in Mörk Borg and cost Neuromancy Points to use, and usually require a Presence Test to activate.

What do you play?
The scenario in I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure is ‘Into the Asteroid’. This a mini-hex crawl set in a ring of asteroids. A colonist group on the outskirts of the Belt of Despair put a distress signal. When the Player Characters respond, the local mayor explains that two children have disappeared, the latest in a rash of disappearances in the mini asteroid belt. This is an investigative scenario which will see the Player Characters bouncing from asteroid to asteroid, asking questions, looking for clues, and uncovering secrets. There is more than just the disappearance of the two children going on here, and as well as uncovering secrets, the Player Characters are likely to have one or more dangerous encounters too.

Is there anything missing?
I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure could have benefited from a clearer background to make it easier to present it to the players.

Is it easy to prepare?
The compact nature of 
I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure, both in terms of format and length means that its content feels condensed. Much of the details of the scenario will be generated from tables during play which requires some adjustment upon the part of the Game Master who is not used to that style of play. Although I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure is not straightforward enough to make preparation easy, it is a matter a taking a bit more time than other quick-starts might require.

Is it worth it?
Yes. The 
I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure quick-start manages to pack both rules and a grim and dangerous scenario into a few pages. The ‘Into the Asteroid’ mini-hexcrawl is a mini-mystery that reveals some of the accommodations that the desperate survivors have had to make in this dark future and in terms of the plot, is more player-driven than other quick-starts.

Where can you get it?
The I Want Your Skulls Quickstart Rules & Adventure is available here and here.

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