Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A follow up to my Cold Steel Wardens Review

Last month I reviewed Cold Steel Wardens, a superhero RPG seeking to emulate the good parts of the Iron Age of comic books.

I feel like I read the game enough to write a review, but since then this game has been sitting on my nightstand, constantly drawing me in to reread it.  There's a lot that is compelling about this game, and a few things I'm having a lot of trouble getting past, both of which is probably what keeps me coming back to it.  (Note: I have a similar relationship with Rifts.)

One of the things I really like is the way that the rules support investigating play.  There's a skill for canvassing an area for information that is different than the one you use to interrogate people or the one you use to research stuff online.  The GM section of running investigations is excellent and I'll likely port it into any similar game I run.

I like how the game handles realistic combat and injuries.  Not really something you'd see in most supers RPG's, but totally in keeping with the genre here.  It's almost a version of the STUN/BODY mechanic in Champions, where there is the damage you recover easily from, and the damage that takes a lot out of you.

But here's what I don't like.  Guns.  Guns in the hands of mobsters and thugs I can live with. I'm not a huge fan of guns in the hands of heroes.  I like Batman, but never saw the appeal of the Punisher (and in fact mostly saw the character as the bland ripoff of characters from "men's adventure novels" like Mack Bolan.)

Don Pendleton, I'm pretty sure at this point you owe the world a rain forest.
As a card-carrying Genre Fiend, I get that there is precedent for gun-carrying heroes: the Punisher, Cable, the Red Hood, Vigilante, the loathsome Deadpool, the Comedian, Rick Flagg, etc.  But there are a lot more guys who did it without superpowers and without guns out there, and the game doesn't reward that behavior.

In fact, and here's my biggest gripe about the game: guns are as cheap and easy as they are in real life.  Unlike most RPG's, where a hero has to pay some kind of construction point for a gadget that they use regularly, in Cold Steel Wardens PC's buy them with money.  I can see this lending itself to an "arms race" where PC's regularly take firearms or cash off of villains they defeat to turn around and use to buy bigger guns to defeat villains.  Is there a term for SuperMurderHoboing?  Because CSW could have it.

I'd love to run a Batman-style supers RPG where the focus was on character and investigation, and less on how a PC or NPC could throw a semi truck.  I've been thinking the answer might be that the more guns you use, the less likely the police, etc. will be willing to help you out, look the other way, etc.  I wonder if I could use the "Heat track" from Primeval about how well or poorly the PC's keep the existence of time portals under wraps as a way to indicate how severe the "heat" is on them for what they are doing as vigilantes...

Like I said, a tough game to put down...

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