Hello internet people, Slick Dungeon here. I came across a tabletop RPG title on DriveThruRPG.com that I wanted to review. I’ve read the free primer for the game which you can get here at the cost of absolutely free.
I’m going to give a review of the primer and let you know who this game is for and what the pros and cons of it are in my mind. Before I get into the review I want to make sure it is understood what exactly I am reviewing.
I will only be reviewing the free primer from DriveThruRPG. This game will be released via kickstarter and if you are interested in it you can learn more about it by watching the video below. I have no affiliation whatsoever with Monte Cook games or this product. I want to give a fair and objective review for what I can based on the primer.
I also have not had the opportunity to play in a game session yet but if I do, I will give a more full review of the overall game. But first I’ll need to find a group of liars to play with. (We’ll get into that more in a bit)
If you don’t know, a tabletop role playing game, or RPG for short, is a game where you gather a group of friends and play through a scenario in a cooperative storytelling style. There are many of these games on the market, the most famous of which is Dungeons & Dragons. But there is a treasure trove of other RPG’s that can be just as fun to play.
Most of them have a rule set you use to help craft the narrative and typically there is one person who leads the story along, usually called a game master.
Stealing Stories for the Devil is similar in most aspects to these games but does have some stand out differences. Whether you enjoy these differences or not depends on what kind of player you are and how comfortable you are with a bit of improvisation.
What is it?
The game has an interesting premise. You are from the future. Somewhere around the 39th century. You boarded a ship where you expected to be put to sleep and woken up years later in another universe. Instead the ship with its preprogrammed artificial intelligence ended up on Earth in the 21st century.
Aboard the ship there were two types of people, sleepers and scions. Sleepers as the name implies slept as expected. Scions are actually the descendants of people who originally boarded the ship but for some reason did not go into stasis as expected.
There’s a lot more background to this in the primer but it boils down to this. Both sleepers and scions can affect reality, reshaping it to fit their own narratives. Sleepers do this through advanced technology while scions do this through natural ability.
When a Scion or Sleeper does this, they steal a little bit of the reality they are in and lie to the universe to make it do what they want. Therefore the player characters in this game are all called Liars.
There is a Game Master for this game who leads the narrative but unlike most other RPG’s there is a lot more freedom for the players to influence what happens in the game. After all, they are lying to reality so they get to say what should happen. The world is not without its obstacles though, as the GM must then think of ways to challenge the player characters to keep the story interesting.
How does this game work?
There are some similarities to most RPG’s. You get to choose some traits your character is good at and you have to choose some detriments your character has. Unlike most RPG’s the designers leave this extremely open ended and up to interpretation. While they give several examples of traits such as agile, fast, etc. they also encourage the group to come up with their own traits. This makes the game exceedingly flexible to fit a scenario you think would be fun.
In the primer there are three types of Liars. These are Planners, Plotters and Schemers. I won’t go into too much detail here on what those things mean but you can think of them like character subclasses. They add a bit of different flavor to your character and depending on what you think would be cool to play, you choose which type of Liar you want to be.
You also get a bit of starting equipment based on if you are a scion or sleeper.
Once you have your group of liars together and have a Game Master, you just need a quick read of the rules and you are ready to play. There is surprisingly little math involved in this game and even the defined terms are not necessarily absolute.
That doesn’t mean there is not structure, it just means the players really do get to star in the game.
The game is about heisting reality so the players and Game Master come up with a scenario where something has gone wrong with reality and it is up to the players to fix it. There are three acts to each game session. Game sessions can be their own one shot adventures, can be a series of 12 sessions that aadd up to a “season” or an ongoing campaign that can last as long as the players and Game Master want it to.
Each session is broken up into three acts. In the first act, the players get a mission briefing and together map out a location where the players will be performing a heist on reality. The Game Master might say something like, you need to recover a key that unlocks a safe deposit box from a bank. The players then might say, the bank is in the center of the city and we are going to sneak in at night. Then the Game Master could reply, while no one is around at night there are security cameras everywhere and the police do tend to drive by on occasion. Play keeps going like that until the mission briefing is over.
Act two is where the bulk of the game play takes place. This is where the characters act out their actions and the Game Master gets to put obstacles in their way. There will also be twists and turns placed in the scenario by the Game Master. The action plays out until the GM decides the act is over and then the players head into act three.
Act three is the climax where the players ultimately find out if they succeed or fail in their mission.
Along the way the Game Master can ask for players to make dice rolls to see what direction the story takes.
Who is this game for?
If you love improvisation in your role playing, I cannot think of a more interesting type of game to play. You literally get to bend reality in this game as if you were in the movie Inception or The Matrix or something like that.
The game reminds me of elements of Cyberpunk and Shadowrun but with a far looser rule set. You won’t have to roll a lot of dice or do much math at all. It’s quick to read through the primer’s rules although I am sure there is a more robust rule set in the full game.
However, if you are the type of player who really relies on rules and having a bit more set structure on whether your character succeeds or fails, this is not the game for you. In other words, if you like your rules crunchy, skip this one.
While I have not played this game yet, I really like the premise and I think it opens up huge possibilities for crafting epic stories. I do tend to like a bit more structure in my games but this is one where I think having fewer hard rules will benefit the game. It uses its own system and it is very flexible.
There are players out there who really do love the rules aspects of tabletop games and those players would do well to stay clear of this one.
I can’t speak to how well the twist and mission cards work in this game but I like the idea of some random elements being introduced outside of the player’s control.
I will say I don’t see a huge difference between scions and sleepers since they both change reality and I am not sure how it would matter which one you played. I do think the planner, plotter and schemer all have unique flavors and I think it would be pretty easy to decide which one you want to be. Personally, I really want to play a plotter because it sounded really cool to me.
The primer gives a decent look into the game, enough that giving it a read will let you know if you are interested in backing the game on Kickstarter. The full game comes with a whole lot more and I think it has real potential to be a fun game.
In my opinion if you like games full of improvisation and don’t want to take on a bunch of math in order to play, this is the game for you. Also, it helps if you enjoy heist movies.
If you have read the primer or played the game I would love to hear from you. How was it? Let me know in the comments.
(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)