Monday, April 23, 2018

Review - Tales from the Green Dragon Inn

The two or three souls who occasionally wander into the Tinkerage will recognize both the "Green Dragon" as an establishment and the name of Eldrad Wolfsbane, or Chris Medders, who is also the author of the free-form RPG Dungeonpunk, which is reviewed here. Tales from the Green Dragon Inn is a "story telling game" inspired by the Tinkerage's thought experiment in Narrative Adventures at the Green Dragon Pub, which speculates how a scholar-author's RPG sessions might appear if they came to gaming without published rulebooks but plenty of creativity and care.

What are the hallmarks of a "Green Dragon" game?

  • Free-form characters, created through description.
  • Deep, immersive settings.
  • Light, improvised rules that are steered by the game-world and its expectations, and rely on creative interpretation.
  • Using common materials (notebooks, six-sided dice, counters from other games).

So how do the Tales from the Green Dragon Inn compare?

Character generation, using notes on a "character sheet", is exactly what it should be: descriptive, detailed, and encouraging imagination. The short sample characters are nice guides. The only point to make is that the Green Dragon Inn game seems very rooted in Dungeons & Dragons fantasy, such that the suggested classes and occupations are recognizably D&D, namely fighting man, rogue, holy man (cleric), and magic-user. This is fine as these things go, but one would hope that Green Dragon players would look beyond the regular character class stereotypes.

Players don't really need to know the rules before they begin, but the rules are perfect for Green Dragon play. Most tasks are resolved by a luck roll and interpretation. The target range is similar to that used by the "Powered by the Apocalypse" system, where a 6 to 8 is an "average" roll, higher is better, and the narrator can treat results as appropriate. Combat, as in the original post, is only slightly more complex, where more powerful creatures present a higher number to be hit. A nice addition to combat is a short chart of wounds, from scratches to fatal, which more or less matches the luck table. Armor is introduced as a way to soak up wounds, although in my opinion medium armor should be able to take more than a "scratch". All in all, it's a very light, easy system that encourages adjudication at the table.

It's fair to say that the text is riddled with spelling mistakes and other expression errors, and I hope the next upload corrects the spelling of narrative as "narritive" [sic] on the cover[1]. And there's no need to emphasize every other sentence, virtually, with an exclamation mark. But, with its simple type and layout, Tales from the Green Dragon Inn certainly conveys enthusiasm and the home-made creativity that encapsulates the ethos of the Green Dragon style.

Another quibble is that we find in the "Monsters" list references to "kids", "women", and "men". None of these are, of course, monsters, and I would hesitate to include items in a table that imply that kids are fair game for combat, or that women are for some reason less dangerous in combat than men.

But, while the world of Tales from the Green Dragon Inn is more strongly grounded in the familiar tropes of dungeon fantasy roleplaying than the professor's world (or Arihmere, we hope) the author is committed to fun and adventure in that world, and the simple rules and free-form procedures are a perfect example of Green Dragon style play in action. Let's hope that the Green Dragon Inn hosts many memorable games, and inspires even more.

DISCLOSURE: As above, Tales from the Green Dragon Inn was inspired partly by a Tinkerage post, and the author generously provided a free copy for this review.

1. Glad to say the cover has, in fact, been updated since this review was first posted. Good to see a quick response from the author.

This update May 15, 2018.