Of Mice Men and Wizards: A Free Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Superior Games Books
Page Count: 98
Release Date: 7-14-11
Get it Here: RPGNow
I’ve always been a gamer with varied tastes. I’m always will to try out a new system, even those with a character creation system that requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting. How you doing Heroes System? However, there is one area I’ve never ventured into before: the “beer and pretzels”Â RPG realm. This is a place where character creation takes five minutes instead of five hours and the rules are fast and loose. It is a place where min/maxers and munchkins need not apply. So when the opportunity to review, “Of Mice, Men and Wizards: A Free Roleplaying Game”Â came about, I jumped at the opportunity to look at a new system. The fact that the included game module is entitled, “Queen of the Demonweb Homicidal Nymphomaniacs From Atlanta.”Â didn’t hurt. Now the question is, does the rest of the book hold up to this standard of quality?
Of Mice, Men and Wizards is four books in one. Book One is “The Basic Rules.”Â Book Two is the “Queen of the Demonweb Homicidal Nymphomaniacs From Atlanta”Â adventure. Book Three is “Advanced Rules for Ass-Kicking,”Â a GM guide of sorts. Book Four is “Sweet Magic Lewt,”Â a book of magic items. If you haven’t picked up on it by the titles of the books, it does not take itself every seriously. It’s written in an irreverent style, frequently mocking powers gamers.
It also suffers from a poor layout. The page size of the PDF is 3.5″Â x 4.6″Â. This creates awkward page breaks and if you were to scale the book to the regular 8 Ã‚Â½”Â x 11″Â, then you end up with oversized text, normally seen in large print books. Another quibble is that, apparently, the author does not believe in indenting paragraphs, as not a single paragraph was indented in any of the books. These however, are esthetic issues. You download a game like this because of the content inside, not because it looks pretty. Are these formatting issues some dirt covering a hidden gem or is this a forewarning of the overall quality of the book? Let’s find out as we take a look at the four books contained in Of Mice, Men and Wizards.
Book 1: “Basic Rules”Â
The first thing you’ll notice in the book is the cover. It has a rather barebones cover that more resembles a Windows 3.11 Visual Basic splash screen than an actual book cover. This game will definitely not be winning any art awards. Once inside, the title of the game on the title page is… “Rat Wars?”Â Huh? According to a now deleted post on RPGNow by the author, this was intentional. Oka.y I’m confused, and I doubt this will be the last time I’ll be confused reading, “Of Mice, Me..”Â I mean “Rat…”Â err…..this book.
“Welcome to Rat Wars. This is the great chronicle of the mighty
struggle between wizards, men, and rats. The war was started many
cycles ago. It is a war of cheese, the lifeblood of the universe, but
that would just be stupid. So the cheese is made of gold, and
magical. You must now make the most important decision of your
life: will you be a mouse, human, or wizard?”Â
That is the introduction of the book, and all you will get of a back story to the world of Rat Wars. Wizards, Men and Rats are fighting over cheese made of gold. It will definitely get a few points for being unique, but it leaves a lot to be fleshed out by any GM.
You start the character creation process by assigning fifteen attribute points to four different attributes: Awesomeness, Personality, Ass-Kicking, & Smarts. No description is given for the attributes, so you are left up to your own devices to determine exactly what they represent. You are also given fifteen cheese points as well to buy powers. We’ll talk more about this later.
Chapter 1: Your Race and What It Means.
After assigning your attribute points, you then pick your race. You can be a Human, Mouse or Wizard. Human’s get a -2 to smarts but +5 to Ass-Kicking and Awesomeness. A mouse gets +10 to Personality but a – 5 to Ass-Kicking, Smarts, and Awesomeness. A Wizard gets +10 to Smarts, +5 to Awesomeness, and a -5 to Ass-Kicking and Personality. All powers have a minimum attribute score prerequisite, so the higher the number the more of that attribute’s powers that will be available to you.
Now this is where I get confused again. There is an amendment regarding your cheese points. It says:
“You also get bonus cheese points to be spent only in your attribute equal to that attribute. So a wizard with 25 smarts would have 25 smarts points to spend etc. (15 cheese points + 10 smarts from being a wizard).”Â
Huh? The sentence reads like you get a bonus equal to your total attribute score, 25 Smarts in this case, but the math example makes it seem like your 25 point bonus is commuting from your 15 cheese points and your racial attribute bonus. So which is it? I have no idea. This will be a re-occurring theme with the book, mechanics that seem simple I’m sure to the author, but the descriptions of the mechanics are anything but.
Chapter 2: Powers
So now we get to spend those cheese points we couldn’t calculate and buy powers. Powers in this game represent a variety of things. It’s like you lumped the skills, feats, and spells from Pathfinder under one umbrella. The selections of powers mostly revolve around combat. There are a few that can be used in an out of combat setting like Diplomacy, which gives you a +5 bonus to diplomatic rolls including but not limited to Arson, Forgery, Bribery, Intimidation, Vandalism, Wanton Violence, Drinking and Persuasion rolls. Wanton Violence is considered a form of diplomacy in this game. Most of the powers put a humorous spin on on the standard fantasy RPG tropes. Instead of summoning a level one monster, you Summon Stupid, Ugly, Little Goblin. According to the text description, his name is George. It very much reads like a parody of your standard fantasy game, and it should give most players a wide variety of ways to blow up, or chop into little bits, the monsters put in their path.
The main issue with this section is there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the order of the powers. They are not in alphabetical order, nor are they sorted by prerequisite or cheese cost. It’s just a random list of powers. This is just another example of formatting and layout issues that plague this book.
Chapter 3: Rules
The rules for this game are short and concise, coming in at a little over one page. When you attack something, you roll and 1D20 and add your level to it. If that number is equal to or greater than your target’s armor, you hit. Your hit points are 10+1D6 per level. Very simplistic, but that is the point of this game. If you played a RPG before, the concepts contained should be easy to grasp.
Chapter 3 Ã‚Â½ : Equipment
This chapter was not contained in the original release of the book but added in the 7/18/11 update of the book. Yes, the original version of the book lacked equipment. The list is primarily your starting generic adventuring gear, but you also find gems such as, “Stick You Found in The Forest,” and, “Absolutely Haut Outfit You Put Together Yourself With Your Leet Fashion Designer Skills”. Another thing to note is that equipment gives you neither bonuses nor do they modify your stats in any way. So really, your equipment is window dressing unless you can con your GM into it, as the rules suggest.
Chapter 4: Example of Play
This section gives you an idea of how the author intended this game to be played. It’s a script consisting of two players and a GM playing though an encounter. This section is funny with the player, Bob, being killed by “five zillion orcs with laser swords.”Â It reminds me of a demented version of Knights of the Dinner Table, and further hammers home that this game is meant for wacky silly games.
Book 2: Queen of the Demonweb Homocidal Nymphomaniacs From Atlanta.
And now here we come to what really cause me to review this book, the Queen of the Demonweb Homicidal Nymphomaniacs from Atlanta. The basic premise of the story is the Baron of the Keep on the Booberlands needs the heroes help. All of the women have been kidnapped by Lolthh, Queen of the Demonwebber Pits. The adventure is a standard dungeon crawl on rails. The adventure even offers the GM many suggestions of how to keep the players on the rail, involving the rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 67 Aliens from AVP, and Zeus throwing lightning bolts causing the players to land on train tracks that only go in the direction the GM wants them to. As dungeon crawls go, it is fine. It has monsters, treasures, traps and damsels in distress. It puts a humorous spin on the various dungeon tropes and makes for a perfectly acceptable night of light hearted gaming.
There is a random treasure table for this adventure as well that is similar to the equipment list in the first book. It contains your standard fare of magical items and gold coins, but also includes such domestic items as a lid to a spaghetti mixer, someone’s loin cloth, and an, “IPod of Electrocution”.
There is also a wandering monster table that you are told to use whenever you are bored or referencing notes.
Book 3: Book of Powers
This is a book that expands the list of powers in the Rules Book and offers GMs advice. It also encourages you to burn it, saying this is a book easily corrupted by power gamers. It’s also suffering from the same issue as the list of powers in Book 1, as the powers are listed haphazardly again. At least this time around the book admits it, saying it’s, “a list of a list of powers so incomprehensive you’ll never find the one you want unless you ask me to put it in the game for you, which I probably won’t.”Â
Chapter 1: Powers List
The first part of this chapter takes the time to explain how XP works in this game, because the prior two books reference XPs, but never explain it. The XP rules can be summed up by saying there are no XP rules. Monster have no XP values assigned to them, so dole out how ever many points you like for killing one. While it’s suggested you can exchange XP for cheese points, there is no set exchange rate. It’s entirely at the GM’s discretion.
Upon first reading this, I was down on this concept. I mean, how can there not be rules for XP in a RPG? Then I thought about my home campaigns and realized we never use XP in any of our games. We’ve always left it to GM’s discretion when our characters advance, since we found XP bookkeeping cumbersome. While some may say this speeds up character advancement (which it does usually), is that really such a problem if everyone at the table is having fun?
As for the powers themselves, you’ll find more non-combat poriented ones here. This helps balance out the combat heavy list of powers in Book One. The good old standards, like fly and invisibility make an appearance here, as well as such gems as Comprehend GameMasters. This power requires the GM to explain something to the best of their ability. If it’s still unclear after the explanation, you gain 1,000 gold for your trouble. How can I not mention Pork Rib Barbeque Sauce. This summons 1D6 gallons x your level of pork rib barbeque steak sauce. The powers contained in this book, bring a much needed variety to the combat heavy list in book one.
Chapter 2: GM Advice
The title of this chapter is a bit of a misnomer. No GM advice is given on say how to run a game or tell a compelling story. The advice given is your players are spoiled and you need lots of monsters to deal with them. It then goes into a list of monsters for the game.
The total number of monsters is rather sparse at twenty-six. The one benefit to the low number of monsters is you can at least find their stats easily, since the monsters are not organized in any appreciable manner.
The book gives you stats for orcs, goblins, dragons and other standard fare. It also has some unique and wacky monsters like the Mega Death Machine of Doom. With its 10,000 hit points, the ability to restore itself to full health in one round, and lasers that kill anything it hits regardless of their hit points, it’s solely designed for the TPK.
It’s a this point, I begin to wonder exactly happened in the author’s home game that caused the creation of this game system. The book itself takes potshots at power gamers every step it takes. The system is designed to limit a power gamer’s ability to min-max, and with monsters like the Mega Death Machine of Doom being a flying TPK in the making, it makes you think someone had a group of really obnoxious players and this game is their revenge.
Chapter 4: Treasure
Chapter 4? What happened to chapter 3? I’m guessing that the monster list was suppose to be chapter three, but was never labeled as such. This is a fairly standard list un-alphabetized list of items. No description is given for any of the items either. Only the name and cost in gold as given. It also provides various magical properties that can be added to any item to provide some variety. This is a rather small section and, while covering the basic for the most part, it’s lacking the creativity and humor we’ve seen in the other sections.
Book 4: Book of Magic Items
How here we are at the final book, the Book of Magic Items. Anyone who guessed the items in this book will be in a nonsensical random order gains 5 billion XP which can be redeemed for 1 cheese point.
This book starts off explaining an alternate system for awarding magic items, since magic items are so costly to purchase. It assigns an adventure rating to each magic item, and once a characters has completed that many adventures, they can “buy”Â the item and obtain it in their next adventure. This is an interesting concept. It lets players obtain high value items without trying to explain exactly how they are transporting around 250,000 gold pieces.
In case your GM doesn’t give you the item in your next adventure, rules for magic item creation are provided as well. The process for magic creation is very simple,. All your character needs is a stick, a piece of wood, and a hammer. You hit the stick into the piece of wood with the hammer and voilÃƒÂ : you have a magic item.
As for the items, it’s a nice mix of weapons, armor, rings, and other items. There are enough items provided to have a variety of choices, but don’t expect to find anything truly oddball. Sorry there is no Wand of Pork Rib Barbeque Sauce.
This book brings some needed variety to the weapons and equipment of this game.
With Of Mice, Men and Wizards, you get what you pay for. It’s a simple rpg that won’t win game system of the year at the Ennies. It’s plagued with low production values like the poor title graphics and the bad page layout. A few hours spent on page layout and organizing the powers, items, and monsters would do this game wonders. Its one redeeming quality is the humor. It pokes fun of RPGs and power gamers, and with the right group, it could make for an amusing night of silly hack n’ slash role playing. I cannot see anyone playing a long term campaign with this though. This a game where the jokes are best in small doses. If you were to try to make a campaign of this, what had you laughing the first time you heard it could easily have you groaning the 100th time. With the price being free, it’s at least worth downloading and seeing if the humor is for you.