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Red Dwarf:
The Roleplaying Game

Red Dwarf's world of madness and personal abuse crash-lands at home with its curious brand of comedy

*Red Dwarf: The Roleplaying Game
*By Deep7
*Hardcover
*170 pages
*ISBN: 0-9710820-3-0
*MSRP: $34.95/$53.50 Can.

Review by J.B. Peck

H ere's some fun: A right riotous role-playing game based on that right riotous BBC television show, Red Dwarf. The Red Dwarf universe combines Douglas Adams-style gonzo humor with harsh existentialism and a rigorous pursuit of Murphy's law. Bad luck is the status quo for the players, but they will have a lot of fun getting out of jams.

Our Pick: A

Games take place 3 million years in the future, when humans are almost extinct. But their legacy—evolved pets, genetically engineered life forms, mechanoids, holograms and more—populate the universe. These descendants maintain many human ideals and far too many of their foibles. Anything can happen in Red Dwarf, but the game is geared toward recreating the situation of the TV show. Players form a motley crew of misfits and neurotic overachievers onboard a gigantic starship, the Red Dwarf (or whatever the players prefer—Blue Dwarf, Pink Dwarf, Sullen Dwarf, whatever). The game's referee actually plays an in-game character, the ship's artificial intelligence. The AI guides the action, but can also step in as a motivator or an annoyance.

Red Dwarf's designers call the rules system "cinematic." It's not designed to model physical reality like Dungeons & Dragons, but it does provide more structure than purely story-based games like The Dying Earth. Characters have six stats, such as agility, strength and intelligence, and a number of skills tied to each stat. To perform an action—say, communicate with aliens via interpretive dance—a player adds his or her rank in the appropriate stat (agility) to the rank in the appropriate skill (dance) and tries to roll under the sum on two six-sided dice. That's all there is to it. Except for the running and screaming that accompany most Red Dwarf scenarios. (Perhaps the most telling detail in the game's design is that the primary chart on the AI's screen is the Space Madness table.)

The single rulebook contains everything needed to play, covering character creation, races, hardware, spaceships, worlds and even a startup adventure.

Despair has never been so much fun

It's hard for a game based on a very funny show to be just as funny as its inspiration, but the Red Dwarf role-playing game is a total hoot, both in design and presentation. The rule book is worth reading cover to cover for sheer enjoyment, and how many role-playing games can make that claim?

The rules fit the theme, inviting creativity, playfulness and joviality. There's just enough structure to prevent the game from turning into complete anarchy, while leaving plenty of room for the chaos that is characteristic of the television show. Character creation is quick, and even newcomers to role-playing should be able to get a game up and running in less than an hour.

One minor annoyance is the number of acronyms. Weapons have WA and WR ratings, for example, and these aren't very descriptive. Why not just call them Accuracy and Rating and have done with it? The worst offender is the starships' Hull rating, abbreviated HUL. Was it vital to eliminate that last L?

But this quibble is more than made up for by many amusing departures from standard role-playing concepts. For instance, characters in Red Dwarf don't have hit points. Instead, they have six levels of health, ranging from "A Bit Wonky" to "Smoldering Hole." Combat categories include "Shooting Something" and "Whacking Something."

Comedy role-playing may be new territory for many gamers, but Red Dwarf is an opportunity that shouldn't be missed. Eight seasons of the program provide a wealth of beings, situations and worlds to romp about in. People familiar with the show will be immediately comfortable, and newcomers will catch on in no time.

Even serious gamers need to take a break sometimes, kick back and have a laugh. Red Dwarf is just the ticket. — J.B.

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