When Shadows Fall Quickstart Reviewed

#1
When Shadows Fall is the latest quickstart I've got my hands on, so let's take a look.

Content

At 23 pages, this is a rare thing: a quickstart that can genuinely be described as quick.

Section 1 gives a couple of paragraphs on the game setting, then goes straight into the rules. We get an introduction to character abilities, difficulty levels and how the core dice mechanic works. There's a full page on combat, another covering physical aspects like armour, injury and fatigue (the latter of which doubles as the system's push mechanic), and a third on mental aspects. While it's clearly stated that these are not the full rules, there's enough to run a game.

Section 2 gets further into the game's setting, with some more details of what's meant by the Shadow, and a few examples of the kind of antagonists that might be encountered in the game. It's the briefest of introductions, which gives a good feel for the game's flavour, but not much suggestion on what a scenario might look like. Fortunately this is followed by...

Section 3 is a sample adventure. It's a simple mission spiced up with a number of complications, which serve as a reminder that this is both a post-apoc game and a horror game. It's not very long, and probably won't take more than a couple of hours to get through, although it's open-ended enough to be the start of something longer.

Section 4 is a set of sample characters. These actually provide a bit more setting information - their previous occupations serve as a reminder that the game's apocalypse is a very recent event, and their backgrounds give some examples of recent events. A slight oddity in the equipment lists is that two of the characters have daggers. Not impossible (I mean, I own several) but an odd choice compared to a kitchen knife. Edged weapons aside, the characters are flexible enough to be used in a wide range of scenarios, and have a good spread of abilities, with enough information to play straight off the page. They're also diverse in gender, race and sexuality - always nice to see.

Presentation

The document is entirely monochrome, using a cloudy grey background for most pages and some black and white photography overlayed with a similar texture for section headings. While nothing particularly spectacular, it's pretty atmospheric - looking at this I can certainly picture a world of grey concrete and overcast skies.

The PDF doesn't seem to have any bookmarks, but it does have a hyperlinked contents page, which should help reduce the amount of scrolling. While I'm not sold on the two column layout, it's certainly readable on my desktop screen. I'm not sure it would be good for printing, as I can't find any way of turning off the background image. Not much of an issue at the time of writing, when coronavirus means pretty much all gaming is online, but something to consider when things get back to whatever normal turns out to be.

The character sheets are very obviously an early version - not particularly well laid out, but readable enough to be used as-is if you don't mind getting the background image when printing. I assume the finished book will come with something prettier.

In terms of ordering, I would have liked to have the setting information before the rules, but otherwise no problems here. If you're trying to avoid reading the adventure because you're going to be playing it, having the character sheets at the end is pretty convenient.

What can I do with it?

You can run the sample adventure. There's enough information to run it straight off the document. Unfortunately, it's not really long enough for a convention scenario, so if you want to use it for a convention you'll need to add some of your own material. You can also make new characters, if the five at the end aren't enough.

You can decide whether it's worth backing the kickstarter. Unfortunately, right now it's only available to people who've backed the kickstarter, but if you're debating whether to back at digital or physical level, it'll certainly help with that.

Conclusion

Ultimately there's not enough setting information to do much more than the sample adventure, but it delivers when it comes to introducing the rules. As someone who's not a fan of the Savage Worlds or Cortex systems, I was pretty wary of a game inspired by them, so being able to see that it differs enough from those systems to overcome my dislike was definitely useful.

The author has taken inspiration from the Liminal quickstart in putting this document together, and given that Liminal is my gold standard for quickstarts, that definitely bodes well. While I don't think it's as good as Liminal, due to less setting information, it's achieved its goal in that between this and a sample game I've been convinced to up my kickstarter pledge to a physical book level and am looking forward to playing some more.

Continue reading...
 
Top