Friday, October 4, 2013

Roll XX by Neoplastic Press

Tree Demon by Rob Thomas
I picked up Roll XX which is written by the Sentinels of Meregoth and published by Neoplastic Press based on that Rob Thomas cover above. Unlike the vast majority of products on Drive Thru RPG the guys at Roll XX went the extra mile to make sure that the art they included in this product was actually worth the money they paid; and while they only include five pieces of internal art by Jeff Preston not a one of them is substandard, and all of them set the right tone for their section. 

The concept behind Roll XX is a fairly simple one. A question is asked and then twenty possible answers for the question are arranged in numerical order from one to twenty. The reader is then to roll a d20 and use the appropriate answer to the question. Normally these sort of question and answer charts result in a plethora of poorly thought out and executed charts that are more of a hindrance to creative play than a boon. However this product has the potential to provide more than the usual as the fourteen authors involved have spread out the workload in a way that suggests that they were able to avoid the burnout associated with these sort of 'list' projects.

Section 1: Fantasy

As I worked my way through the Fantasy section I found myself writing down page numbers just so that I could go back time and time again to reference some of the amazing question and answers that they were able to put on the page. Generic questions such as who are we searching for (pg. 10) go from the trite to the interesting as you find answers like Desmona the Hierophant, holy murderess littered on the page. What makes that so fantastic is that there is no explanation attached to that answer; you're left to your own devices for who Desmona is and why they should be following her.

My favorite question and answers from this section are: Who is Queen of the northern kingdom (pg. 1); What's in the treasure chest (pg. 2); Who are we searching for (pg. 10); What is the Orc Chieftan wielding (pg. 18); What did that mis-cast spell do (pg. 22); Who built this dungeon (pg. 23); What's the dragon actually hoarding (pg. 24); Where must the cleric go on the first day of each year (pg. 26); and What did waving the wand do (pg. 29). 

The best two from this section are: Where must the cleric go on the first day of each year (pg. 26); and What did waving the wand do (pg. 29). The first question is a subject that I have never concerned myself with in my games, but that now I find myself motivated to find an answer that is as good as the ones they came up with. The second question I have been having fun with for years and have made more than a dozen chart variations, and I'm so glad that they went over that same ground as they've brought a fresh perspective to the question for me.

Section 2: Superheroes

This section was not very useful for me. I've been reading comics since I was four and there were only two questions in the section that I found interested me: Where is the supervillain's secret lair (pg. 36); and What is the villain ranting about (pg. 40). Of those two the second had me laughing out loud and wondering how quickly I can add the results to my regular Dyvers Campaign (the answer is Sunday, October 6 by the way).

Section 3: Science Fiction 

The smallest section of the book and it is clear that it provoked the least amount of interest from the authors. Of the ten questions asked only What happens when you power up the ancient terminal (pg. 54) had any merit.

I really wanted this section to have the sort of evocative give and take that James M. Ward's Metamorphosis Alpha articles from Dragon Magazine had so that I could be inspired for my Science Fiction games. Instead I found myself flipping the pages disappointed that there was so little worth keeping.

Section 4: Horror

By and far this is the best section of the entire book. Practically every question could be used in any game you're playing - whether we're talking Call of Cthulhu, Weird Wars, Tunnels and Trolls, or Dungeons and Dragons.

The best questions of the section are: Where are the bodies hidden (pg. 59); What's changing your memories (pg. 65); What is the murderer's signature (pg. 68); What's under the bed (pg. 69); Which part of the body is it (pg. 70); What noise is coming from the other room (pg. 76); How do you cure it (pg. 81); How did it escape (pg. 82); What is in that hole (pg. 84); and What was that sound (pg. 85). My god, you could practically run a session of any game just by answering those questions as you played!

Fantastic chapter and I can hardly wait to start actively using it in my games.

Section 5: Modern

I never run modern games so for me this is the least useful chapter, but it makes me want to run a game set in modern times. Even so there are two questions that I can use right out of the box without having to change my time period of play: What is the name of the secret society (pg. 97); and What is your secret (pg. 98).

What is your secret is the sort of question that you could drop the answer to your best player at the table, regardless of setting or system, and get some of those fantastic moments that everyone talks about for years. It's worth answering, and it's worth putting into play.

Overall Review

Roll XX by the Sentinels of Meregoth is a rare commodity in a world of gaming products populated with countless rule books, supplemental accessories, and role-aids that almost never aid you when you're trying to role-play: it is a truly useful book. Like the Dungeon Dozen blog you'll find something worth using no matter what setting, time period, or system you're using and I can not recommend this product highly enough.

You can purchase Roll XX in printed format from Lulu and receive a free pdf version to enjoy while you're waiting for your print version to arrive. Or you can do like I did and pick up a pay-what-you-want version of Roll XX on Drive Thru RPG. Either way you go you can't go wrong with this product as it is fantastic and well worth the money. 

Score: 9 out of 10

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