The Games of Wrath: Reviewing the Sixth World

A screenshot of the cover for Sixth World.
A screenshot of the cover for Sixth World.

I love hacks, especially free ones. It’s also why I love the Creative Commons license because it doesn’t just permit hacking, it insists on it. It trusts the hacker to do the noble thing and acknowledge the work of those who inspired the altered concept in the first place. These designers/publishers know that everyone who’s hacked a system wants to become a professional game designer and that the last thing they’re looking for is to piss off other members of the community. The fact that they’re free makes them even more glamorous, in my eyes.

You know what else I love? Dungeon World. While I haven’t had the pleasure of playing a game with my own 2d6 yet (hint!), the more I read about this game, the more I enjoy what it embraces. Complications, something I thought was well handled with Cortex Plus games, is put to shame with DW. It’s placed a new spin on many traditional or experienced settings and genres and now someone’s taken those rules and applied them to Shadowrun in a free hack called Sixth World.

Remember when I talked about the idea of a “Learn a New RPG Week” the last time? It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently and it came to a head after the latch batch of free games downloaded onto the old laptop. It seems kind of rare to find reviews for free RPGs kicking around unless someone’s stumbled across one and posts it to their blog. Most review time is set aside for paid products as they are plugged by their publishers in the hopes of boosting sales through good word of mouth. So I’m making a commitment: I’m going to use this column to review free RPGs as they come along. Good or bad. Luckily, we’re starting off with a good one.

Designers: Chris Clouser and Tanner Yea
Artists: N/A
System: Dungeon World
Format: PDF
Content: 81 pages providing all the rules and options needed to play, plus guidelines for creating your own cyberware, spells, name generators, optional rules, and other goodies.
Overview (4 out of 5): While there are some minor typos and layout errors in this PDF, Sixth World is a perfect fit for the system and this game delights in accentuating everything awesome about Dungeon World.

Sixth World takes the concept of shadowrunners in a futuristic/magical homage to Shadowrun and drives it with Dungeon World‘s engine. While I’ve only played Shadowrun once (and that was close to twenty years ago), my impression of that classic RPG remains intact in Sixth World (though this hack does not replace the wealth of information available for the Shadowrun setting, so familiarity with that game is required to play it properly).

A sample dossier (character sheet) for the Mercenary archetype. Notice how it contains everything you need to not only play, but advance this shadowrunner.
A sample dossier (character sheet) for the Mercenary archetype. Notice how it contains everything you need to not only play, but advance this shadowrunner.

Players take on the role of shadowrunners, something akin to sci-fi criminals with access to ancient magic in a world littered with hefty corporations controlling everything you know and see. In other words, it’s a heist game and that makes it perfect for use in co-operation with Dungeon World‘s complications. Because who wants to play a game where everything goes exactly according to plan?

Rather than simply regurgitate material directly from the original source, Sixth World is a complete rewrite down to every detail and particularly with the list of moves available to shadowrunners of every shape and size. Character creation allows you to choose your race (or metatype) and your class (or archetype) with 6 core stats and concepts such as Edge (a kind of experienced luck to aid your progress or get your butt out of trouble), Essence (to power spells), plus debts and favours (establishing connections between the other shadowrunners in the game). With a list of core moves like Rock’n’Roll to handle your basic combat needs to Drop Science for knowledge and information, Sixth World delves deeper with a slew of options to expand and create an entire campaign, not just a couple of one-shots. Seriously, if you’re a Shadowrun fan and have grown tired of their system, you can find everything you need to try something lighter and faster with this hack.

It’s this depth of options that impressed me the most with Sixth World and why I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to engage in a more story-centred version of the classic RPG. Each archetype is provided in a ready-to-play character sheet with additional moves to check off as you progress (by using the Advance move in between runs) and there are complete, yet simple, rules and guidelines for using magic, the Matrix, cyberware, equipment, and tons more. For Gamemasters, there are tips for running Sixth World, threats, sprawls and wilds (locations), and everything you’ll need to run a full campaign, including guidelines for creating your own add-ons and name generators to keep things fresh and interesting on the fly. Cap that off with additional optional rules for blood magic, otaku, and geas, this is an impressive piece of work and the designers should be commended for their thorough work.

The only complaint I have is a minor reflection on layout, particularly how terms are formatted throughout the PDF. Sometimes words are in bold, sometimes not, creating consistency problems that could give minor hiccups during the first couple of sessions. Add to that a few widows and layout glitches, but these are matters that concern me personally and shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment of the game at all. Put it all together and Sixth World is an excellent addition to both the Shadowrun and Dungeon World families.

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