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Saturday 4 February 2023

Quick-Start Saturday: SINS

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 too. 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?
SINS: Dead City is a quick-start for SINS, the post-apocalyptic survival horror roleplaying game. Its events take place during the apocalyptic event prior to the post-apocalyptic event so is therefore a prequel which explains the beginning of the setting. It is designed to be played by five players.

It is a thirty-three-page, full colour booklet.

It is published by Nightfall Games. (It was previously published by First Falling Leaf.)

How long will it take to play?
SINS: Dead City is playable in between three and five hours, so can be played through in a single session.

Who do you play?
Five Player Characters are included. These consist of a group of friends who all live in New York city. The five are a firefighter (oddly listed as an ex-football player), a young bartender with a criminal past, a junior police officer, a graphic designer with a criminal past, and a student at medical school.

How is a Player Character defined?
The Player Character has six attributes
. These are Body, Conviction, Cunning, Passion, Reason, and Prowess. Each is rated between one and six. He also has points in sixteen skills divided in three categories—Natural, Learnt, and Combat. Skills are broad in nature, for example, Athletics, Knowledge, Marksmanship, and Melee. These are rated between one and six and no Player Character has a rating higher than three. With a skill rating of one, the Target Number is six, and then five or six for a skill rating of two, four, five, or six for a skill rating of three, and three, four, five, or six for a skill rating of four. A Player Character also has a Fate point, although this is never used in the quick-start, and some Drama Points.

How do the mechanics work?
SINS uses the HOPE Engine. This a dice pool system which uses six-sided dice. A dice pool is expressed as X/Y where the ‘X’ is the number of dice in the dice pool and equal to the attribute, plus one, and ‘Y’ is the number of successes the player must roll to succeed. A six can be rerolled to generate Successes. A typical difficulty requires one success, but harder tasks require two or more Successes. Modifiers add or subtract dice from the pool. Extra Successes will increase the amount of damage inflicted in combat or reduce the amount of time a task takes.

Drama Points are used to make an action dramatic. When played, it adds an extra die to the pool and reduces the Target Number needed to generate Successes.

SINS: Dead City presents a streamlined version of the HOPE Engine. The full rules are detailed in the SINS core rulebook.

How does combat work?
Combat uses the same mechanics as the HOPE Engine. Awareness is used for an initiative roll and when an opponent attacks or acts against another, the defender is tagged and can act. When targeted by either a Close or Ranged attack, the defender can Evade. Any Successes generated will counter those generated by the attacker’s roll. Damage, which is calculated as the base damage of the weapon plus any Success, reduces a Player Character’s Vitality, first Light, then Wounded, and lastly Mauled. When the Player Character’s Vitality is at the Wounded or Mauled level, he suffers a penalty to all dice pools until healed.

How does the enemy work?
Although SINS and SINS: Dead City both initially look like a ‘zombie apocalypse’ and its aftermath setting, but that is very much not the case and the SINS: Dead Sins makes this explicitly clear. However, there is nothing to stope the players and their characters from believing this until the scenario reveals otherwise. They are presented with a minimum of details.

What do you play?
SINS: Dead City is set in New York city. The scenario opens with the Player Characters meeting in a bar following a possible end of the world situation from a shower of meteorites which failed to do the predicted damage as they seemed to melt into a ‘Black Rain’. Suddenly, a car careens through the bar window and strange things start happening… The scenario as a whole is actually presented as a series of Scenarios, which are effectively scenes. These are organised so that they can be slotted into the order that the players will play them in. So, in ‘Scenario A’ the Player Characters begin in the bar, but ‘Scenario B’ presents what will happen if the Player Characters decide to hide out until the whole situation has blown over and ‘Scenario C’ what happens if they go the authorities. Other scenarios explore the possibility of their attempting to escape the city, their encountering the National Guard enforcing quarantine, and so on. Finally, the Player Characters can find some sanctuary, make a final stand, and discover more about what is going on.

Is there anything missing?
SINS: Dead City could have done with a map of the various locations in the scenario. However, they are fairly generic and the Game Master should be able to find suitable floorplans.

Is it easy to prepare?
The rules are easy to grasp, but the scenario needs careful study. The ‘plug and play’ aspect of the seven scenarios (or scenes) makes the whole scenario easier to organise, but the individual scenes are fairly detailed and require preparation.

Is it worth it?
SINS: Dead City is a prequel to SINS, which means that it does not present the world described in the SINS core rulebook. Technically, this means that in parts, 
SINS: Dead City is not a quick-start for the roleplaying game except in a mechanical sense as it shows off the rules. However, SINS: Dead City is not a poor prequel, preparing as it does the players and their characters for the Post Apocalyptic world of SINS.

Where can you get it?
The SINS: Dead City is available here.

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