Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Review: ROLF: The Rollplaying Game of Big Dumb Fighters

I had to do a double-take when I was typing in the title of this game for this review. Yep, it's a "rollplaying game." I've heard an awful lot about rollplaying and how terrible of a thing it is, so I was surprised to come across a game that is all about the ill-aligned practice.

ROLF is a beer and pretzels game about sexy muscle bound idiots who either want to kill each other or fuck each other. It's a game best played with a lot of beer and pretzels. This is the kind of game you bring to the table when you've lost the cognitive faculties for a more nuanced game. A dumb, frisky warrior is very easy to roleplay when you've had a few too many.

The game is based on a simple roll-low system based three attributes and there are no rules related to anything outside of combat. At only 10 pages, you don't get much more rules-light than this. There are some rules for Traits, for players who want more fleshed out characters, but the book makes it perfectly clear that your priority should be killing things, not telling an interesting story.

The one problem that ROLF may have is its initiative system. Each character makes two moves each round, but in a forward and back order. For instance, if there are three characters in a fight the order of moves would be ABCCBA. This seems like it would add some interesting strategy, but I can also see it getting a bit messy since Character C's first turn may be a reaction to Character A's move, but first they have to wait through Character B's turn to resolve if Character A's move is successful. This can get very dicey if more than three characters are in a combat, which puts a hard limit on how many people can play ROLF and what a gamemaster can throw at the players.

As I wrote that last sentence, I realized that there is no discussion of a gamemaster anywhere in this book. I assumed that there would be a gamemaster, but it's possible that ROLF is intended to be a GMless free-for-all game. There is mention of using ROLF for a campaign, but that seems impossible if this is the case.

ROLF is an incomplete game. The foundation is strong, simple and goofy fun, but you can't help but think that there is a lot missing from this game. It's important for a beer and pretzel's game to be as complete as possible since drunk players are not going to want to figure out a way for fair rulings on the fly. However, ROLF is very well supported by the publisher, so some of the holes in the system may be addressed in other releases.

With a list price of only $1.50, ROLF may be worth a look for your gaming arsenal. The concept of stupid, sexy fighters is certainly something that would appeal to gamers who need something simple and lighthearted. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it can match the quality of similar games like Old School Hack and Kobolds Ate My Baby.

Buy ROLF at RPGNow.

UPDATE: Below is a response from the publisher of ROLF regarding the holes in the system and which supplements to use to plug them up:
ROLF! was created as a spoof RPGs, which is the reason for the holes you mention; it's shot through with game design meta-humor. Said holes have indeed been plugged in the supplements that are currently available--with the most important "plugs" appearing in "Icing Oetzi." The strictly two-player variant "You Vs. Me" was not shot through with quite as much meta-humor as "Big Dumb Fighters," so it is complete ROLF! was also originally conceived as a GMless free-for-all and we had actually never seriously considered it usable for campaign play. However, we have learned that GMs have been used in running it and that there have been at least one campaign. So, in supplements, we have attempted to take that into account, (Again, "You vs. Me" is very clearly presented as GMless.)

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