EDIT 29/12/22: As of February 2021, I’ve been working full-time as a writer and designer in the RPG industry. To avoid a conflict of interest, I don’t really post reviews here anymore. This is partly to protect myself – the industry is small and petty enough that losing work as a result of a negative review is a genuine concern – and partly to protect any poor fools looking to me for consumer advice, who deserve sincere and unbiased critique.
The smart thing to do would probably be to delete my old reviews? I’m not going to do that though.
From time to time, I use this blog to write reviews of roleplaying games. When writing those reviews, I have a code I hold myself to, so I’m satisfied the critique is fair and balanced. Since a lot of these guidelines are rarely followed by other online RPG reviewers, I have explained and justified them below:
- I never review a game I haven’t played or run. I don’t consider reading an RPG to be sufficient experience to review it, much like I wouldn’t review a film by reading the screenplay, a video game by watching a Let’s Play, or a music album by reading the lyrics sleeve (countless other RPG reviewers don’t abide by this rule, which I think is absolutely baffling). Where possible, I’ll have run the game a few times AND played it, but sometimes I might have only run a few one-offs or short campaign and not played it. It’s rare for me to review a game I’ve played but not run, unless it’s GM-less.
- I don’t provide scores, because I don’t believe a complex opinion can be usefully represented numerically. I get that scores are handy for people who need a brief impression of a reviewer’s stance without reading a whole critique; that’s one of the reasons why most of the reviews I write are mini-reviews, strictly capped at 400 words for ease of consumption. If that seems like too much to read before deciding if you want to buy something, that suggests you aren’t actually interested in my opinion. Probably wisely.
- I don’t provide thoroughly detailed descriptions of what an RPG book contains, because I think talking about the experience of playing a game is more interesting and relevant. Sometimes I might explain how a key mechanic or setting detail works, but only to illustrate something good or bad about the product, or as a spring-board to more interesting critique. If you want someone to sell a game to you, check out the publisher’s marketing blurb. If you want a chapter-by-chapter list of absolutely everything in the book, look at the book’s contents page, or possibly an RPG.net review.
- I don’t always provide positive reviews. I understand that every game is someone’s baby (sometimes I write games too!) and that mean words hurt feelings, but if a review is supposed to be consumer advice, that comes with a responsibility to do right by your audience. And RPGs are not cheap; it would be unscrupulous to encourage someone to buy something I don’t think is worth the money. Especially if that’s money they would otherwise spend on really great games!
Not all reviews are created equal. Depending on the kind of review I’m writing, I might impose additional rules on myself. I’ve included these restrictions, along with a list of all reviews I’ve written so far, below.
Most of my reviews are mini-reviews, which I firmly cap at 400 words maximum. This is partly for ease of reading, partly due to laziness, but mostly just to stop myself rattling on. If I kept writing about a game until I ran out of things to say about it, I would grow bored and give up long before I completed writing the review.
- Smallville Roleplaying Game
- All Flesh Must Be Eaten
- Promethean: The Created
- Rogue Trader
- Fate Core
- Fate Accelerated Edition
- Apocalypse World
- Paranoia: High Programmers
- Only War
- Dungeon World
- Force and Destiny
- Lasers and Feelings
- Swords Without Master
- Atomic Robo
- Ten Candles
- The One Ring
- Leverage Roleplaying Game
- Magister Lor
- Blades in the Dark
- 7th Sea
ACTUAL PLAY REVIEWS
These are actual plays that also contain come kind of review content (funny, that). I don’t do these often for a number of reasons. Firstly, I assume people aren’t actually that interested in reading about games that I play in and they don’t, though the success of my Ferrymen series perhaps suggests otherwise. Second, I like to play a game multiple times before I review it, which turns an “actual play review” into a series, which is a lot more effort than I can be bothered with. Finally, they tend to be long. Sometimes very long.
Generally, I save actual play reviews for games I’ve only played once (making them more “first impressions” than a proper review), and even then usually when I’ve been bribed into it through a contest or competition.
Sometimes I have a lot of things to say about a game that cannot be contained in 400 words. Usually I’ll be talking about something quite specific within a game, making this less a review of the product as a whole, and more a review of that specific bit (with a suggested change, perhaps, if I’m feeling full of myself). Consequently, I’m not sure if these really count as reviews at all, but I’m including them in case someone is desperate to know my stance on a particular game. I’m not likely to write a mini-review for a game I’ve already dribbled out a few thousand words for.
- Darkness There and Nothing More: My Problem with Monsterhearts
- What’s My Line Again?: Difficulties with Taglines in The Gaean Reach
- Sulking About Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition
Sometimes I go to conventions. Sometimes I write things about them. Sometimes those things contain praise or criticism.