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Kickstarter Pre-Review: SINS RPG

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The Setting

The world of SINS is a grim harsh place where is Man is no longer masters of their world. A century from now mankind is on the very brink of extinction and struggling to survive. Surprisingly mankind did not burn in the fires of a nuclear holocaust. After the death of the modern world and the rise of a new space age, mankind was in the position to venture once more into space beyond our moon. Then the “Black Rain” fell from space and changed it all. Dubbed “Shards” this opaque void glass crystal plummeted to the earth and changed the world forever.

After the Rain, the dead began to rise and mutate into terrifying killing machines. Before the nations of the world were able to get a handle on what would come to be called the “Brood”, the second wave of death and destruction fell on mankind. This destruction would come in the form beings were called the Reapers. Reapers were beings with powers like that of gods, wielding power so immense they were capable of destroying entire military bases by themselves. When things had reached their most desperate the nuclear option was taken. The result, only one Reaper was slain, in time the remaining Reapers would vanish. To this day no one knows why.

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Mankind once more began to rebuild in their new dying world, ravaged by the nuclear scars and infested with the brood. In time, from the infected wastelands come dark heroes. Once fallen beings who were brood and yet eventually retained their consciousness and evolved into something new called “Nemissaries”.  Some possessing powers rivaling that of the Reapers of old, yet these were the beings were on the side of humanity. Nemissaries harbor a dark power and they contain a great dark power inside themselves as well. Nemissaries live in constant conflict with their dark nature.

There are places in the world free of the brood, these places exist where the Black Rain fell. The Shards that brought this horror to the world seem to repel the brood. Humanity has dug into these locations in an effort to start new again. But living near Shards has a cost.

Welcome to SINS…

The System

SINS uses its own rules engine for its game that they call the HOPE engine. HOPE is a D6 Dice pool system using exploding D6 with varying degrees of success. Target numbers are 7 minus skill level.  Your Dice pool is determined by Skill+Atribute+Fate, with a difficulty determined by the DM of 1 or more success. Each Sucess over the threshold is called an Outcome. The number of Outcome points that you get may be used to activate other effects.  If you do not have a relevant skill point the DC is 6, with double the needed target number and you get no benefit from any outcome points you may roll.

Players have 4 core traits in SINS these are Fate, Attributes, Skills, and Specialties. There are 5 attributes, 75 skills, Traits, and Qualities as well as over 100 specialty powers.

Players do not gain experience in your standard leveling up process. Instead, they have motivations that they seek to achieve. These achievements give them points that they can use to improve their character. Providing a more narrative level driven path. Thus by design even with Nemissaries possessing immense power. Players must role play to advance in level.

My Thoughts

NOTE: When I first sat down to write my review I initially had some difficulty with how I absorbed this product. You have to understand that for me this was a cold off the shelf review. I did not have a Kickstarter video or Dev Diary and such available to me. So I did not post my review at first.  Instead, I chose reached out the creators and had a talk with them to clear many of my questions up. Shortly after getting the answers to my questions the world tossed a Hurricane my way causing an annoying delay.

I decided to leave my initial thoughts in the review and add the conversation I had with the developers to the review. My reasons for this is I think many of my first thoughts are still valid ones. As anyone that were to cold purchase this product in the future would feel much like I did at first I think.

On Setting

Now I love Rifts and thrill of playing insanely powerful characters, I get Gonzo gaming and maybe that is where I am finding a disconnect. Because SINS is intended to be a narrative driven story about powerful beings in a dying world. So gonzo is not the intent, it sounds grimmer than that. According to the SINS RPG book the inspiration for the game sides with me on my confusion.
For example, some of the Inspirations for SINS are:

  • Watership down
  • Various HP Lovecraft works
  • Dracula Brom Stokers
  • World War Z Novel
  • The Walking Dead COMIC
  • John Carpenters the THING
  • 28 Days Later (Cited as a HUGE inspiration)

The setting for me is not one that I am personally excited by, I find myself more interested in the events of this setting past. As well as the characters that in this book strike me as more of an afterthought. I want to know more about the Non-Nemisareis that manage to survive the horror of this world and struggle to scrape by day to day and rebuild. Furthermore playing the lowly human in a world where you are nothing more than an insect to everything around you makes me feel the like it embraces the concepts of Watership down or works of Lovecraft. For me, its seems a stronger platform for narrative story telling than the immensely powerful Nemisaries.

CaptureYet players take up the role of Nemisaries, incredibly powerful nigh incurable beings. I just find it hard to take in the dangers of this world. When it is said right in the book that Nemisaries are pretty Blase about being wounded in the game. Unless you are struck by a fire or supernatural attacks you likely will shrug off the wounds because of you are simply immensely powerful. If a player finds themselves in dire need of healing they can even spend Focus to recover baleful supernatural damage as a standard action!

Further aggravation on the subject of wounds rested in the section about recovery from damage. You are given a very detailed explanation of how of long it takes to heal from an injury. There is an entire page of quality detailed explanation regarding the time frame it will take to heal as well as the rolls needed to recover from each stage of injury that you can receive in the game.

HealingAFTER you read all of this you are presented with a small side post “Informing you” that they are sorry to say this but this is just an example of how healing is for the normal humans in this setting. Because of this sadly everything you just read is pretty much irrelevant to the way you as a player will heal !~! OMG…

 

 

Now to be clear this is not an exaggeration, all Nemisaries possess regeneration and can further fuel that regeneration with Anima that they possess. All Nemisaries have Anima (they fuel their powers with it).

NOTE: Here is where I decided to stop and get some clarification from the creators. After reading the inspiration for the setting and the wounds I was going to need to talk to the team before I moved over. So that they could help connect the dots for me.

So I asked them…
RunklePlaysGames
I am at a bit of a disconnect with the setting and the power base of the players in a post apocalypse world that is not meant to be gonzo in style but the sheer amounts of damage that they can take make the game seem gonzo. Can  you help connect

SINS
“The world after the Fall is influenced by a need to survive, but having powers seems to.make this easier? Far from it, although Nemissaries that hold these powers can face physical pain better. But they are haunted by emotional and mental disturbances that normal humans don’t feel. With the power gained a darkness can very easily consume the player. If you play Nemissaries, you can still be hurt, maimed or killed. But you also have to stay mentally engaged and aware to avoid falling into the abyss and having setbacks or destruction. Many players will want to be powerful, we understand that, but no character type is immune to the wasteland and the dangers. It depends on what you are willing to do to survive.”

This to me helped make much of the rest of the setting a bit more clear. All Nemissaries have a dark side, a monster trying to crawl to the surface and destroy every last shred of humanity that remains within them. So in this world damage is not as important, it’s almost an afterthought. It’s more about battling your inner demons. I would compare it more to the old WRAITH by White Wolf Games. As it is even suggested that other players at the table play your dark hollow whispering things to you all game long in an attempt make your Nemissarie break. 

As to my critic on the lovely side blurb after the healing portion, they did give me a promising reply to this as well.
(I do not expect them to move anything, understand this book is already laid out and such a task would be an expensive frustrating nightmare)

RunklePlaysGames
In the advanced wounds section, you go into great detail about healing in the world of SINS and I found it well done and helpful only to find when I got to the end a sidebar that told me all of that was pointless to have read because Nemissaries heal differently. I nearly threw my Ipad.

SINS
That’s fair! We put those rules in for the sake of comprehension and for players who might want to play characters who can’t regenerate (regular humans) or need the rules for if advanced healing is necessary. Obviously, they’re pretty ingrained into the layout of the book and taking that out now would be quite the “Jenga” effect on everything thereafter, but rest assured as the next book is planned to focus on humans, then those rules will be revised, condensed and reworked for both brevity and more use!

Now, this is more than understandable about not moving things around. To do something like that could literally screw up the whole book. That aside, it is very good to know that I already know for a fact that they are working on the next book as this blog is being read and that these great rules will come into play.

My last issue that I had a concern with in the SINS system was how wounds are tracked. In SINS there are 3 types of wounds that you can receive in the game. Normal, Impaling, and Baleful. On your damage track, you will either fill in the damage take in the game with an “X” if you receive a normal wound. An “I” line represents impaling damage. And an “X” with an “I” through it if you have received Baleful damage such as damage from supernatural damage fire or void glass.

Damage Typles Normal Impaed Baelful

This drew a huge mechanical concern for me as a DM and a player as I worry about the reality that this could turn into a hot mess on a sheet where damage will flow quickly. I have concerns due to repeated erasing that confusion might arise in cases where as a player you might wonder I have impaling damage or regular damage on this circle. just a few poorly erased marks and this is a real concern. Now, this is not a tremendous issue, I suggested removing the impaled wounds and adding a check box to represent an Impaled status. Mind you this was not just the opinion of RunklePlaysGames. I asked several outside sources and all of them agreed it would be good to point this out to the creators so I did.

Do I have impaling damage or regular damage on this circle?

Just a few poorly erased marks and this can become a real concern. Now, this is not a tremendous issue, I suggested removing the impaled wounds symbol from the damage boxes and instead of adding a check box to represent an Impaled status. Mind you this was not just the opinion of RunklePlaysGames. I asked several outside sources and all of them agreed it would be good to point this out to the creators so I did.

RunklePlaysGames
The wound track concerns me with how they are tracked is X I and X+I. I have concerns as to it being easily messed up or becoming a did I erase that or not hot mess. I love impaling damage concept. Could it serve to put an impaled status above the wound track and clear that potential up?

SINS
That’s all fair and well-thought out feedback. We’ll definitely put that’s a wanted clarification to our maths and mechanics guy.

Since this discussion I had a further thought, since you can not heal past an impaled wound until the object is removed you could always place the Impaled line between injury bubbles. ( 0 I 0 ). If I were to play or run SINS, I would strongly recommend this homebrew fix if you agree with my above thoughts.

Honestly again since the book is already laid out and pretty much ready to go to print, I doubt that this will be addressed in this book. Maybe this will be addressed in an upcoming product.

Traits Qualities & Songs

Traits
Traits and skills are used to determine the dice pool a player will have available to roll.

Qualites
There are three types of Qualities in SINS. Primary, Background and Meta Qualities. Qualities are much like Feats in other games. Many of these have requirements that you must meet before you can take them.

Songs
Songs are the powers that Nemissaries use to create powerful effects in the game. Each song as six ranks each more powerful than the last. The list of songs are the following The Song of Blood, Bone, Brood, Flesh, and Will.

System Mechanics

I find the basics of the HOPE D6 dice pool system is one that I like. I think it feels smooth and once you get used to it I think there is a lot that can be done with it. It’s not revolutionary but it does not need to be. It does the job and does it well. I like the intent of the “Outcome” mechanic. With Outcome, every success beyond the target number improves the outcome of the action. In combat, Outcome can be used for added damage or optionally used to create maneuvers like disarming or pinning attacks.

Often in Dice Pool systems you only get one action per game round, unless you are willing to sacrifice a die to all your dice pools for the added effort. In SINS this is the case as well. Resulting refreshingly in a dice pool system where the player is not rolling a mountain of dice and can still sack dice for additional actions.

Layout and Art

The PDF review copy of SINS that I was provided was fully laid out with artwork already in place. So I can comment on the design layout and artwork. I can also tell you that SINS it beautiful.

Illustrated by Will Kirkby the book has a distinctive feel and that feeling is AWESOME. The book feels and looks solid and professionally presented. The only thing that I did not have was a hyperlinked PDF. But the staff has assured me that the final version of SINS will be fully linked. Trust me with a book cranking up over 350+ pages you WANT links. Many will find it hard to believe this is a first time outing at RPG design for this team. The book is highly polished and ready to go. When you pick up SINS you definitely know this is its own RPG.

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Not for Everyone

SINS is not a product for everyone, so much so they even put a word to parents notice on the inside of the book. I feel I should mention that here as well because is intended for mature player groups.

Final thought and Ranking

The more I read this book the more it reminded me of an apocalyptic Vampire the Masquerade and Wraith game rolled into one. Now that is a compliment as White Wolf is an excellent product with an excellent system.

Much like Wraith, this game is not going to be for everyone, It is designed to not be intended for younger audiences and there may be others that do not want to play an RPG as well. I have known many games over the years that love this type of game. I also have known a large number of players that simply HATED Wraith because of the Shadows. Shadows behave much like Hallows in SINS. And I think that this will turn off some gamers. But like I said this game is not for everyone.

The setting is well thought out and very well written. It is a very easy read with an excellent layout and top notch art. It is easy to see that a lot of heart and soul was poured into this product. Just for comparison back in the open game D20 system area I saw and own many printed products that pale in quality and comparison to SINS RPG.

Granted there was one technical concern I had with the product and one layout grumble but neither of these things actually have much impact on my ranking due to the fact that they could easily be addressed in an errata later. Or simply ignored because they are very minor things overall.

As I have said I would prefer to play a straight up human and you can choose this at character creation as noted in a provided sidebar but it is not suggested. This concern will also be addressed further in book two that is being written as I type this.

Taking all of these things into account I will give SINS the RPG a 14 out of 20. I wish there would have been more incentive to maybe start the game as a human and play through to your death and eventual return or stronger rules for just human players in the SINS RPG book. That and the mature setting that may have some players uncomfortable with their fellow gamer heckling them as their hollow. Keeps it from reaching a ranking of 15 for me.

D20 #11-14

(I would mention that I think this same reason is why Wraith never got a lot of traction is for the very same reason in the white wolf line.)

SINS has about 4 days left on Kickstarter and is going strong as well as more than funded.  You can find their project HERE. Head on over and give the game a look and be sure to check out their Dev Diary!

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