Posted on : 11-06-2005 | By : Brian | In : Reviews
This is a review of Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot: The Roleplaying Game, by Atomic Sock Monkey Press.
After being on a steady diet of d20 products and World of Darkness for the past couple of years, Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot: The Roleplaying Game, by Atomic Sock Monkey Press, was like a breath of fresh air. MNPR:RPG uses a very flexible, rules-light system called the Prose Descriptive Quality system, or the PDQ system. The basis for this system is that characters have a number of Qualities that define their abilities. These Qualities are roughly analogous to skills in other systems, except that they can cover a lot more ground under their ‘penumbra', and you basically make up whatever Qualities you want, rather than choosing from a pre-defined list. The GM has final say over whether a Quality is too broad (or too narrow), but this system offers a great deal of flexibility (and creativity) to players. The PDQ system also has the advantage of allowing you to generate characters very quickly; I'd estimate that, once you have a concept, it would take mere minutes to stat out your character.
The game, itself, takes full advantage of the PDQ system's flexibility. While characters are more-or-less restricted to being either a monkey, ninja, pirate, or robot, the restrictions end there. Want to be a ninja accountant who uses a frying pan in combat? Go for it. How about a robot lounge singer with laser eyes and hover jets? You can do that, too. If you wanted to eventually combine the abilities of a monkey and a ninja, to become a monkey-ninja, the game allows for that, too. And it's all very simple. There are only a few core rules in the PDQ system, and a few more that are specific to MNPR:RPG, so there's very little opportunity for the rules to become unclear, needlessly complex, or broken. Balance is left primarily to the GM to arbitrate, rather than the system, itself. You could take a Quality for using a sword, for example, but if you're a ninja or a pirate, that's probably already covered by your basic Ninja or Pirate Quality. The system doesn't prevent you from doing this, or from taking a Quality even broader than Ninja or Pirate; instead, it's up to the GM to decide whether or not something is balanced.
Now, this isn't to say that MNPR:RPG is perfect; it's not. There are a lot of mistakes throughout that could have been caught with more editing and proofreading, but that's not a major problem, and it doesn't really make the game harder to understand, as the intent is always clear. The biggest problem that I see with MNPR:RPG is that it's flippant and frivolous tone, while genuinely appealing, doesn't really lend itself to more serious games, or to ongoing campaigns. Interestingly enough, the book does admit this, and even goes so far as to devote a few pages to discussing how tone impacts the longevity of the game. Points for that, by the way. In any case, though, once I had finished reading the book, I felt like I probably wouldn't play MNPR:RPG too often, but I'd really like the opportunity to use the PDQ system for a more serious and ongoing game at some point.
What I Liked: The PDQ system is flexible and simple, and encourages creativity and evocative descriptions of actions. It's designed to keep gameplay fun, simple, and (most importantly) moving. The book itself is presented with a great deal of charisma and humor, which makes it a lot of fun to read. That, and you can't help but smile when you read a game about monkeys, ninjas, pirates, and robots protecting the world from alien invaders and fighting over sweet, sweet uranium.
What I Didn't Like: The artwork was a little bit too simplistic for me. And by that, I mean that it is entirely composed of black-and-white stick figure drawings. Literally. There were a few editing and proofreading mistakes throughout. The biggest flaw is probably the fact that the game isn't really suitable for ongoing campaigns (though if you tend to play quick one-shots a lot, this might not matter to you).