Having read through the rules of #LibreSoloRPG, I wanted to share my first impressions (mind you, I have not really played it yet).

First of all, the book. About 160 pages with the appendices starting at page 118, the sample of gameplay being directly in front of that at page 105 and settings starting at page 94; that's quite some material you get. The rules proper (pages 6 to 92) are two columns per page, with the outer column serving as side bar with examples, clarifications and so on. Personally, I found the first side bar to be ill-placed, being difficult to read, but later on, the side bars worked quite well. The text is usually a good read, although there are a few instances where proof reading has failed. But nothing major.
With a detailed table of contents, an index, reference sheets, and all tables in the appendices, the book is basically well-structured. I can see that once you have used it a few times, you will quickly get the needed details out of the appendices (if the action sheets are not enough).

The explanation of the rules is generally clear, although there are a few instances, where formulations seem a bit vague. I am still not sure about the order for Yes-No-Questions that trigger unexpected events: do I first add 1 to plot stress and then cut the new value in half, do I cut plot stress in half and then add 1 to the resulting reduced plot stress, or do I just cut plot stress in half and don't add anything? It seems that the gameplay samples given by the author vary in their approach.

The sample mission (gameplay sample) in the book is well written and well-explained. However, it leaves out throwing in the towel, which is an important aspect in the opinion of the designer it seems (check his blog).

So much for the design aspects.

As for the rules, they are rather gamey compared to your average RPG. In order to successfully complete a mission, you need to collect a number of meaningful successes you choose at the beginning of the game, with meaningful successes clearly defined. Part of that definition are skill checks with a chance of failure of at least 50% before modifiers due to the 3 scene qualities for the scene are applied. The player is given a lot of freedom to design the flow of each scene which they should then use to face those challenges so as to turn the scene into a meaningful success. In addition, you can freely choose whether to do scenes for meaningful successes or whether to do a cutscene to collect resources or allies. So, there is a lot of tactics and strategy to playing the game and developing the adventure.

This gamey nature actually had me worried before I read the complete rules. I mean, each scene should have 3 skill checks before it ends, sounds quite monotonous. However, I see potential for it not being so. First of all, during a scene, you will probably want to do skill checks that do not count for meaningful success. Secondly, you can always throw in the towel on a scene and start a new one.

This latter point leads to the question - why would you want to throw in the towel? This is an interesting aspect of the game - all skill checks need to have consequences, with consequences in a scene escalating in severity. So, after a few failed skill checks, you are probably in a desperate situation where a completely new approach to the problem may be needed. Which makes sense storywise and also strategically as you avoid getting beaten up.

In addition, NPC communication is also formalized with structured questions you are supposed to use (for major NPCs). So there is another strong structure element.

Scenes, on the other hand, combine a structure for setup while at the same time being open as far as time and space are concerned - unlike scenes in most games I know, there is no unity of space or time required. The setup structure requires you to generate 3 scene qualities from a random table containing places, climate, social atmosphere (called rationale), and various items, which are major aspects of the scene and which you can use to your advantage for those meaningful successes you need (or rather you should use them). In addition, during setup, you can add a major NPC, a place and an item for the scene, for which there are also tables, as well as window dressing which can be anything from wind blowing, to chill weather, furniture, items, people and so on. Window dressing can be used to allow or influence skill checks, but is applied before checking whether the roll is eligible. So it is not as useful on the strategic level, but can be important tactically. While there is a table for general window dressing aspects (very abstract), window dressing is freely narrated by the player.

As you can see from these explanations, there is quite some rolling on tables, and this is a noteworthy aspect of this game: there are lots of tables - tables for places, tables for items, tables for people, for people traits, social atmosphere, missions, and more. While the detail tables (like personality traits) can be very detailed, most of the tables provide very general information allowing for interpretation, adding to the flexibility. This allows the game to function as a general system for fantasy, SF, horror or whatever.

The rules are divided into an engine part and an RPG part, but personally, I am not sure whether it would be worthwhile to use a different RPG with it, as the engine rules depend a lot on RPG aspects like the skill checks and their modifiers. And the engine's open scenes are probably not that compatible with scenes already included in some RPG rules. The best potential matches are probably OSR (with skill rules) and rules-light RPGs with a fairly classic design.

But then again, I think that the RPG that comes with the rules is a good enough rules-light RPG to use.

All in all, I feel that this is a quite interesting mix - there is a lot of structure which differentiates it from Mythic GME, and it is quite gamey, but not quite as gamey as the adventure RPGs by Two Hour Wargames as you have a lot of freedom as to how many scenes to use and as to what happens during the game. The many random tables are a bit remniscient of the The Covetous Poet's, but they are more flexible/general and thus smaller and the game does not use the rather limited scene structure The Covetous Poet's uses. While the system requires you to use strategy and tactics using the game mechanics, those mechanics at the same time depend on the fluff created, so you are forced to use the details you create for the descriptions and so on. In this manner, I see potential for the mechanics enforcing good immersion/roleplaying.

Personally, I think it has good potential when you are in the mood not for some sandbox gaming but rather an adventure with clear cut goals and a concrete end in a challenging world for your adventurer. In my eyes definitely not a match for Mythic, but a nice little brother to it.

Libre Solo Role Playing
Libre Solo Role Playing
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