Originally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/20-
Also, this one appeared on my doorstep and I have no idea if I ordered it, if it was sent to me, or what. I looked back and I have no interaction with the author or the company Strange Machine Games (SMG).
So let's get into it.
by Jeff Mechlinski, illustrations bt Yimi Jian "Meammy"
Charm is a "universal" RPG designed to be quick and usable across any genre or playstyle. It advertises itself as being portable enough to keep your character sheet in your pocket and use a dice roller app to play.
For this review, I am considering both the softcover physical book and the PDF. The book is 158 pages, 8" x 8" format. The covers are color, the interior art is black & white.
A quick note about the art. I like it, it does have a comic-book, almost anime style to it, but it also fits the game well.
The first 40 pages cover the basic rules and the remaining 100 or so cover the seven different sample "worlds" you can play in.
The rules are pretty simple, roll a d20 (sometimes with a d6) to get over a particular Target Number set by the GM. Greater levels of success or failure result in added effects. Rolls can be modified. You add the d6 when your character is particularly good at something.
Characters regardless of the Power Level of the game are assumed to be good at what they do. So out of the gate this game is going to have a more "Cinematic" feel to it. A thief will almost always be able to break into a place or steal something for example. Rolling occurs only when there is a chance of failure, combat (or other opposed rolls) or the GM needs it.
The Challenge Threshold, or target numbers, are pretty easy to use and memorize, so players and GMS will catch on very quickly. The levels are all multiples of 3, so abstraction of the rules is easy.
Characters are built using some basic abilities in a way that reminds me of Fate, but a little crunchier. To me this is a GOOD thing. I find Fate a little too fluffy for my needs. This includes the use of a similar term, Aspects. At first level you have three aspects rated at 4, 3 and 2 points. As you level up you can add points to these or gain new aspects. A list of sample aspects is given with guidelines on what else can work.
And that is it. Not difficult to learn and certainly very easy to play the first time. Get together with some friends, decide on a world and then make characters with various aspects. You are ready to go.
While not as crunchy as say GURPS it is crunchier than Fate or FUDGE. I'd put it just south of True 20 and Unisystem in that regard.
The seven sample scenarios are:
- Action 5 News: You are the city's most elite local news team! It isn't easy staying on top. You'll need to pull together all your guile and charisma to keep the number 1 spot.
- Temporal Raiders: Travel time, seeking the ultimate heist. Ally with powerful historical figures, change history, be your own grandfather. What could go wrong?
- Dustbound: Take on the role of a god-touched gunslinger in a bleak world of dust and decay. Fight Oni, rival gunslingers, and vengeful townsfolk.
- Mystery Incorporated: Jeepers, guys. Play as a gang of kids, or possibly a lovable pet, who solve mysteries using their astonishing meddling abilities.
- Pact of Night: Small town woes meet big monster drama. Play a Vampire or Werewolf as you balance your life with the humans during the day and beasts at night.
- Onitech: You exist in a high-tech world ruled by demon masters. Civility has superseded morality, leading to a perverted and deadly state of affairs.
- Asylum Reflections: In Victorian London, people are being replaced with mirrored doubles. Uncover the duplicitous mystery in this dark world.
Actually, these all sound like a lot of fun. I have to admit it was the Action 5 News that really grabbed me at first. In this one, you are not likely to get into deadly combat, but your social "hit points" could take some damage. No they don't call them "hit points" but that is my translation to my readers. I will admit, years ago I tinkered with a True 20 idea of newspaper reporters, tabloid writers and news bloggers as a game. When Fate came around I tried it in that too. Never really got it to jell the way I wanted. Action 5 News though does this now for me. A few EASY tweaks, and to be fair all tweaks in this game are easy, and I can run it like I was planning some 20 years ago.
Mystery Incorporated practically jumps off the page and begs me to run something with it.
If I had a complaint at all it is that book makes me jump all over the place to get the information I need. For example there are lot of "see page XX" (no actual xx though, they do have page numbers.)
So reading about Power Level on page 11 I need to jump to page 25 to get information on aspects. There are a few of these. Now to be fair you quickly figure out where things are and how to get to them fast. But maybe a character creation flowchart might be nice for first time players.
Still, there is a lot to like about this game.
[4 of 5 Stars!]