Friday, December 16, 2016

Tough cops busting serious rhymes

Rhyme Fighter the RPG combines hard hitting police police drama with a poetry jam. 

Wow. I never thought I'd write that sentence.

Rhyme Fighter is part of the Indie Megamix Mixtape, a big collection of little games. Most of them are only a couple of pages long and Rhyme Fighter is no exception. Let's see, what other labels does Rhyme Fighter have other than micro game? It's also a GM-free system that's designed for one-shots.

You are a group of funky police officers, top notch rhyme masters who can take on the crimes that no one else can. You do this by collecting playing cards by doing well at a group poetry jam session. The setting is pretty fast and fancy free. While its allegedly a police procedural, the few bits about the setting include aliens and robots. 

You create a case by drawing four cards from a regular deck of cards, consulting a chart for the details, writing everything down on index cards. You create four additional index cards marked Who, Where, Why and How. When you solve those questions, you've solved the case.

The role-playing fits a style that I've seen many times in GM-free systems. One player becomes the active player, setting the scene. Then the player to the right acts as the temporary GM. Everyone else fills in as necessary, both for their own characters and any additional NPCs.

Until you get to the point where you need some conflict resolution. When the temporary GM decides that things have reached the point where something is going to happen, the poetry jam starts.

Starting with the temporary GM, the players take turns rattling off two verse couplets. As long as anyone but the GM can keep the verse going, they get to draw a card and put it face up in front of them. Every time the GM passes the verse, they get to take a card away from someone. The scene ends when someone can't finish a verse. If it's the temporary GM, they have to draw and add a card to the players stash. If it's anyone else, the temporary GM gets to take away another card.

If the players can make a set from one suit that adds up to 10, they put those cards on one of the evidence index cards. If you have a face card in the mix, that means there are complications that will have to be resolved later. Jokers will let you mix two suits, but when that happens, that's when the aliens with lasers and mind control  show up.

When all the evidence has been stitched up and all of the complications of been resolved, you cracked the case. And there are no rules for failure. You are the best of the best, rhyme masters supreme. It might take you a while but you will solve that case.

In the end, what we are looking at is a ludicrous premise tied with a party game for the mechanics. Of course, I'm a fan of Baron Munchaussen, an early indie RPG whose rule set is so simple that it makes Rhyme Fighter look like Champions. So neither of those things are a bad thing in my eyes.

I do like the quirky theme of the game. I also like how, despite the very simple rules, Rhyme Fighters does push the boundaries of what you can do with narrative games. And I've seen a lot of pushing. I also like how the odds are actually stacked in the players' favor.

But... the players having to be able to come up with a rhyming couplet that furthers the story on the spot? That might be a deal breaker. That's something that some players might really struggle with. That could turn the game from fun to frustration.

I'm glad Rhyme Fighters exist. I think that quirky, narrative games are an important part of the development of the hobby. However, particularly as I develop a large library of those kind of games, I doubt I'll ever play Rhyme Fighter.

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