Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Mystery. Accessory. Game. Accessory. Mystery.

All Rolled Up is best known for the eponymous gaming accessory, a cloth dice bag with a wrap containing pockets for pens, pencils, notes and notepads, and other gaming accessories, which can be rolled around the dice bag and tied close. The innovative design has become known for two things. First, its ubiquity. Attend a gaming convention in the United Kingdom and when you sit down to roleplay, at least one of your fellow gamers will pull one from his bag and unwrap it to get out his dice. Second, its sturdiness. I have an unofficial Doctor Who-themed one that I have had for a decade and it has travelled to gaming session after gaming session, convention after convention, and even to Gen Con (twice). It remains in almost perfect condition, a little grubby around the edges, and although I have several other All Rolled Ups via Kickstarter campaigns, it is not the fact that they are too nice to use—which they are—that explains why I have not switched to another All Rolled Up. (Were All Rolled Up to do a good duck-themed All Rolled Up, I might change my mind. Seriously. I have two sets of duck-themed dice that need an All Rolled Up home.) However, in addition to high quality, award-winning All Rolled Up, the company also produces a wide range of equally high-quality gaming accessories—dice trays, write-on/wipe-off counters and cards, tokens, and more. These are all available separately, but many have found their way into All Rolled Up’s All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set.

Each All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set rattles with goodies and promise. Each contains fourteen items, which always includes dice and a dice tray—another of the innovative products from All Rolled Up, along with the other twelve items. One of which will be a standalone mini-game. What exactly will be found in one All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set to the next, varies, and because every box comes sealed, is of course, a mystery. The standalone mini-games also vary. Three consist of mini-roleplaying games, the fourth another game. Open up your All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set and this is what you might find. A cloth bag containing a set of polyhedral dice, including a percentile die as well as the standard ten-sided die. This marked with the price of £10, which alone is two-thirds the price of the All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set itself. Two extra six-sided dice. A ‘Pad of Geomorphic Intent’ or a mini-notepad of squared paper from Square Hex. A slim plastic box. Not one, but two sets of Stone Skull Counters, one in bone colour, the other in blood red. A set of five tentacle-themed Dry Wipe Counters to use as markers on the table. (Note: The slim plastic box will hold both sets of Stone Skull Counters, but not the Dry Wipe Counters as well.) A Drywipe pen. A compact Neoprene Folding Dice Tray. A large notepad. A pencil. Plus, the roleplaying game. This is a lot of goodies.

The roleplaying game in my All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set is Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition. Printed on both sides of a single sheet of A4 paper, which has then been folded down into a small pamphlet. The roleplaying game does not have an introduction, but it is quickly obvious that the players are taking the roles of school age teenagers in a modern industrial society, which might be now or it might be in the latter half of the twentieth century. One is the Leader, not necessarily the boss, but the focus for a group, and the others could be ‘The Brat’ or ‘The Neighbour’ or ‘The New Kid’. Mechanically, the roleplaying game uses the minimald6 rules. These are simple, a player or Game Master never rolling more than three six-sided dice or less than one, the aim being to roll fives or sixes to succeed. (As an aside, it is clear that the contents of an All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set are not always random. Only the one six-sided die has been included in the full polyhedral set, but the two extra six-sided dice have been included to specifically use with Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition.) The combat rules are kept brief, a Player Character never suffering more than a ‘Bang’ or an ‘Owie’, with the player being expected to narrate the outcome, whether his character wins or loses the fight. In terms of what you play, Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition starts with two tables, ‘Stuff Challenged’ and ‘…By Things’. So, the Game Master might roll ‘Existence’ on the ‘Stuff Challenged’ table and ‘Opportunity, Wrong Decision’ on the ‘…By Things’ table. Further tables can add a hook, organisation, location, motivation, visions of tomorrow, and more. There are notes too for the Game Master on the design and handling of NPCs, including Bystanders and Monsters.

Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition is a barebones affair. After all, it fits onto both sides of an A4 sheet of paper. The Game Master will need to improvise the plot once its basic details have been rolled for, but once done, the genre is easy to grasp—kids have adventures, perhaps on bikes, perhaps not, and the lightness of the mechanics means that there is plenty of room for player input, narration, and improvisation. It does draw parallels with Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the '80s That Never Was from Free League Publishing, but the tone is more Children’s Film Foundation.

However, Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition is not an introductory roleplaying game. It barely even has an introduction and there is no explanation of what roleplaying is and how it is done. It calls for an experienced Game Master who can whip up a plot, ready-to-play, from the few rolls on the roleplaying game’s table, and then engage with her players. Indeed, an experienced Game Master, could purchase an All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set, peruse its contents, read through Electric Schemes: Feedback Loop Edition, and have an adventure ready to play in minutes. What this does highlight though, is the fact that whilst the All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set has the word ‘starter’ in its title, it is not designed introduce the prospective player to the hobby. If not that, what is it designed for? Essentially, it is designed to outfit the player who is new to the hobby, has a little bit of roleplaying experience under his belt, wants some dice and ready to use gaming accessories—and that it does very well. Of course, if an experienced player turned up at a convention and had forgotten all of his dice and other gaming paraphernalia, if All Rolled Up happened to have a stand at the convention, he could definitely outfit himself with some dice and a dice tray, let alone all of the other surprises, just by purchasing an All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set. Lastly, if gamer really wanted to, he could actually purchase more than one in the hope of collecting all four games across the various boxes.

Physically, the quality of the All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set is excellent. The poorest quality item in the All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set is the game itself, but then that is only a single sheet of A4 paper.

An All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set will equip a gamer with all of the gaming accessories he is going to need—dice, dice tray, counters, and a whole lot more. Plus, a mini-game as a bonus. You may not know what you are going to get in your All Rolled Up Mystery Roleplaying Starter Set, but what you are guaranteed is useful, of high quality, and good value for money.

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