Grimm, from Fantasy Flight Games, is a game with a somewhat interesting premise: you are a normal modern-day kid that gets stuck in a fairy tale.
No, Grimm isn’t a “big name” like the World of Darkness or D&D, and that’s kind of a shame.
The .pdf is a 238 page product and is also available in hardcover, dead-tree edition. Part of the book is in color, but most is in black and white. The artwork within is quite good, and I particularly enjoy the picture of a child kicking a hobgoblin in the ding-ding.
What’s the Premise?
I don’t want to give away too much, but essentially, when the Brothers Grimm went about collecting their stories, they ended up creating (or opening portals to) another world, a world that was a reflection of the stories they collected. Occasionally, a child from the real world will wander into this alternate universe.
So far, the game might sound pretty lighthearted. I can assure you, dear reader, that it is anything but lighthearted. The reflections of the tales gathered by the Brothers Grimm are dark, twisted reflections. Evil lurks around every corner, Humpty Dumpty (or what’s left of him anyway) is known as the Rotten King and Little Bo Peep and Little Boy Blue have combined their talents to run a slave camp.
The game uses a proprietary dice system based off of Grades and a d6 roll. By Grades, I’m taking “standard American school grades.” Thus, performing a 3rd grade task is harder than performing a 1st grade task. Characters have a certain proficiency in various abilities (again, related to grades) and through dice rolls can increase their effective grade in an effort to perform above their grade level. Your overall grade level determines how many wounds you can take.
Character creation is simple. You choose an Archetype, customize the Archetype, describe your character and determine how he or she got in the land of Grimm. All characters are children, and the Archetypes are very well designed and have their own little schticks setting them apart. Customizing these Archetypes involve spending 8 “credits” on Traits and picking a Talent.
Character advancement is likewise based on Grades. There are no XP tables or points to hand out; after every adventure, your personal grade increases by one, you get 8 more Credits and a General or Archetype Talent (depending on whether your new grade is even or odd).
The Archetypes themselves are pretty genius. There’s the Bully, the Dreamer, the Jock, the Nerd, the Normal Kid, the Outcast and the Popular Kid. Each has a core Talent that defines the Archetype (and that you get for free when creating the character).
Not only do characters have their own talents to rely on, there are also magic spells they can learn, powered by their imagination, and special items they can collect.
As for the system itself, everything is couched in “kid terms.” Ranges for weapons are handled with descriptive phrases like “Stone’s Throw” or “Cricket’s Hop.” It’s actually very neat. The system is pretty rules-light, and simple (if you roll a 2-5 you can perform a task equal to your Grade in the appropriate ability or skill; if you roll a 6 you can do it at one higher and roll again, 1-5 no change, 6 another Grade higher and roll again and the reverse holds true if you roll a 1 on your initial check). Certain traits or objects can give you “bonus Grades” and you can choose to focus on a task, increasing your boost range by 1 per turn spent focusing (boost range is the die roll you need in order to roll again..for example, normally your boost range is 6 (perform at a grade higher and reroll as described above), but if you focus for two rounds, your boost range would decrease to 4 and if you rolled a 4 or higher you could perform at one grade higher and reroll as if you had rolled a 6.
Initiative is handled interestingly. Basically, the PCs act first unless there’s a dramatic reason for them not to, and they decide who goes in what order. If it comes down to having to determine who goes first between two or more PCs, they can each roll their Scamper ability to determine it.
Imagination has power, and kids can “spend” Imagination points to make dramatic modifications to the world around them. For example, they can create a level 2 Imagination that will create an item lasting for a few minutes.
Magic spells exist as well. In a somewhat neat twist, characters better at gaming (such as playing Traps & Trolls or Sorcerer: The Assemblage (wink wink)) are better at casting spells. Magic in Grimm has consequences, though…until a spell is successfully cast the first time, attempting to cast it has bad effects and even when they are cast successfully, they drain the person casting it, making them tired.
The GM’s section is full of all the deliciously dark details about the game world, and the book is wrapped up with a suitably large number of foes and allies, everything from more-or-less mundane animals (which in Grimm could include talking animals) to goblins to the Spider-Filled Rapunzel to the Dragon. All NPCs are, essentially, elements of the tales. A woodcutter doesn’t just work as a woodcutter, he is a woodcutter. That’s what he is, in all it’s one-dimensional glory. Evil witches are evil witches because, well, that’s what they just happen to be. A giant grinds kids’ bones into bread because that’s what giants do.
Overall, this looks like a fun, neat and engaging game. If you like fairy tales with a very dark twist or books like The Chronicles of Narnia then you should like this rules-light game. However, if you prefer more rules-heavy, tactical games then this is likely not for you.
[tags]games,review,role playing games,grimm,fairy tales[/tags]