Generally, I don’t like reviewing anything that I don’t like. I don’t want to be negative about anything related to the hobby I love, and I’m always afraid of missing something that will make my reviews seem ill thought out. An example of this was the short review I once posted on DrivethruRPG.com about Monte Cook’s Numenera. There was one thing I didn’t like about it, and even though I didn’t read it thoroughly, I wrote a scathing review. Luckily, another person posted about how stupid I was by doing that, so I recanted and read it thoroughly. I still don’t like it, and still stand by what I wrote, but I was wrong to do it without being informed.
When I do review a game system, I am more apt to promote something I really find outstanding. Unfortunately, without any type of constructive criticism, I feel I begin to look like a fanboy afraid to critique anything. Well, I am a fanboy, let’s be honest, but a real fan recognizes when something doesn’t work, and tries to make it work better. That’s the point of constructive criticism.
Almost every RPG ever written has problems. Look at d20 Modern’s Talent Trees. How about White Wolf’s New World of Darkness system of determining damage by the difference in number of successes of the attacker and defender. Dungeons and Dragons Armor Class system, which bothers me so much I created my Opposed Roll Combat system (O.R.C. can be found elsewhere on this site) to eliminate it completely. Fate’s lack of attributes. Any of a number of RPG’s that use increasing die types to differentiate between ability, like Cortex, Deadlands, and Savage Worlds. And the list goes on and on.
It’s those little things that really bug me, even though I know they shouldn’t, and keep me looking and looking for “the next big thing” that will finally blow my socks off and be the game I’ve been waiting for all this time. Maybe that’s a good thing? Maybe that’s what keeps my interest? Maybe I should put up or shut up and just design my own system finally?
It’s easy to criticize something someone else created, but much more difficult to create something yourself. I’m just as afraid of being criticized as the next guy, but at least the next guy actually put something out there. My percentile/percentile system lies only in my head, and has yet to be put to paper, and may very well work out to be the dumbest thing since… well, a dumb thing in history. Does that mean I never actually build it? Probably, knowing me. Dammit.
So you won’t very often find reviews on my site that are of things I don’t like. I might mention, as I’ve done here, a thing or two I don’t like about this game or that game, but I’ll always try to focus on the good aspects, like d20 Modern’s attribute-based classes. Like nWoD’s deep background and excellent fiction. Like D&D’s incredible amount of character customization. Like Deadlands wholly enjoyable system of using playing cards for combat and magic. And the list goes on and on.
If and when I find a game that I truly don’t like in many ways, I’ll try to post something that explains why exactly I don’t like it, and try to be constructive in ways to house rule it into something enjoyable. Until then, take my rave reviews for what they are: something written to explain how great this game or that game really is as it seems to me.