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Review: Slugblaster Turbo

Mikey Hamm is Kickstarting Slugblaster, “A tabletop roleplaying game about small-town teenage hoverboarders who sneak into other dimensions.” I’m a sucker for gonzo plus an old pal of mine is editing it plus it’s a Forged in the Dark game, so I backed it. But what’s really interesting to me is the way Mikey released the quickstart rules. I’ll quote him.

“With pandemic-era online play in mind, Turbo is built entirely inside a shared google spreadsheet which includes all the rules, playbooks, dice rollers, shared progress tracks, and monster generators you need.”

So that’s interesting. I don’t know if Mikey Hamm is involved in the Gauntlet, but that sounds like a turbo-charged version of their character keeper concept. What’s it look like?

Screenshot of a chunk of the Slugblaster Turbo rules.

Above and beyond what I’d expect out of a Google Sheet! Slick use of the spreadsheet grid for a layout grid. This is the Intro page; it’s not catering to the total novice but it’s great for anyone who’s role-played at all. Starts out with who you are and what you’ll do, goes on to tell you what you need to know if you’re a Dungeons & Dragons or Blades in the Dark player, and then there’s that cool illustration you see above. It’s solid.

The next five pages are the playbooks. The playbooks are centered around personalities rather than professions: Grit, Guts, Smarts, and so on. They’re condensed compared to the average Forged in the Dark Playbook — the only mechanical choice you have is your signature device, which you can choose with a simple pulldown menu. This is very good use of the medium. Special abilities are fixed, at least in this version of the game. The player facing portions of the system also live on these pages for easy reference, and each page has a die roller.

The system is the familiar Forged in the Dark dice pool, with the usual success thresholds. There aren’t any Actions, but you can get bonus dice from your signature device or from your playbook’s unique Attitude. There’s also something called Kick, which comes from the same two places and increases your degree of success. This is an interesting tweak to the base system that brings Effect front and center while removing the complications of Potency, Quality, and Scale. As a GM, I find that thinking about those three factors for every new situation is time-consuming and I often skip it. Replacing all that with Kick seems like it might simplify my life a ton.

Finally, the GM page explains how to run the game in a few short bullet points. Another Google Sheets thing: Mikey uses comments to drill deeper and provide examples. Very cool. Another mechanics thing: Clocks are replaced with Progress Tracks (which are shared across pages, more excellent use of technology). Each Progress Track is a word, and you make progress by checking off letters. The example is H-O-R-S-E.

That’s so good. First off, H-O-R-S-E is a reference to the kind of goofy, braggy, casually competitive fun that the game is about. Second, making the Progress Tracks into actual words allows the GM to make the mechanic almost diabetic. Trying to set off an explosion? Use B-O-O-M. And there’s a long list of examples to get your creative energy going.

The rest of the GM page is random oracle tables and sample game elements. (The Golden Jungle dimension: “The ruins of an advanced civilization, grown-over by dense, sparkling rainforest. Decommissioned gundam sleep under blankets of moss.”) Some of the tables have automatic die rollers. Where Blades in the Dark has jobs, Slugblaster has chases, and there’s a detailed sample chase that goes all the way to suggested Progress Tracks.

Tons of good in here. It’s definitely abbreviated; there are a couple of places on the GM page where I had to stop and figure things out. E.g., what’s it mean to “check 1 attitude box”? It means check off one of those bonus dice/Kick boxes under a playbook’s Attitude. Speaking of which, while Kick is essentially Effect and I know how to rule on that, there’s nothing on the GM sheet explaining it. But hey, it’s a quickstart.

The Intro page also notes that while there are no factions, entanglements, downtime rules, leveling rules, or crews, they’ll be along in the full length game. I hope it stays relatively simple, though. Much like Allie Bustion’s HEIST, Slugblaster is pushing Forged in the Dark mechanics into a faster, more casual arena. I dig this.

Glad I backed this, looking forward to the full product.

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