Infected RPG playtest & review


I've been a Game Master on and off for about 30 years. Recently, I've been publishing my own work as well. It's a rare opportunity when I get to be a player, especially these days with wife, kids, career, and so forth.

It just so happened that my friend Tim was going to run a new game he'd heard about. He told me about it a month ago. Without knowing anything about it, I said yes. Coincidentally, the creator of Infected (the RPG) contacted me, asking if I'd be willing to do a little something to get the word out about his Kickstarter campaign. I said sure. The next day, I realized Tim's game was the same one that Oliver R. Shead had asked me about.

Earlier today was the four-hour playtest of the "Sampler" rulebook provided to backers who were interested in checking the game out, kicking the tires, etc. Before getting into it, here is my interview with Oliver.

The Session

Setting up the game took an hour. That included the GM describing what the world was about, various points of interest on our pre-generated character sheets, and basic game mechanics of the system.

One hour seemed like a long time, especially considering we didn't make characters, the setting wasn't anything outlandish we hadn't seen before in a dozen movies and TV shows, and we were all experienced roleplayers. The really unfortunate part was this - even after Tim went over the mechanics multiple times with handouts and note-taking, it was still a bit confusing.

It wasn't until the first combat that I got it, it clicked. Yep, everything fell into place... the system is a trainwreck of an abortion, borne on the wings of an epic fail. I don't know what it is about Australia and post-apocalyptic, math intensive RPGs (The Mutant Epoch!), but imagining the world in meters is the least of it.

Our party of four vs. three armed humans harassing a cowering young girl took about 45 minutes. But those minutes were filled with headache-inducing procedures that I'm forced to revisit here for your displeasure. Buckle up.

You start by declaring actions in no particular order. Then roll for imitative every round. Then actions take place in turn order, with defenders able to change to a Defensive Action if they wish (so long as they know the attack is coming).

Here's a standard attack: Roll to strike with 1d10 added to Dexterity (an ability score) and 1d10 added to Ranged: Firearms (a skill). Each d10 and ability or skill must add up to more than 10 to become a success. And then those successes are added together. So, let's say, your Dex was a 5 and your Ranged: Firearms was a 4. Your ability-designated die result is a 2 and your skill-designated die result is a 10. That means you got a 7 (not higher than a 10 and therefore no success) and a 14 (count the numbers greater than 10, so 11, 12, 13, and 14, which is 4 [although, I think we were counting it as 3 because 11 minus 14 is 3]. Anyway, because you rolled a natural 10, you get one bonus success. That means 5 successes. Yay! We're almost done, right? Oh, no!

Now, subtract the penalties: Damage penalties, range penalties, weapon penalties, etc. Then subtract the defender's successes. Every success on a Defensive Action made by a Defender removes one success from the Strike roll. Then carryover damage: every success of the Attacker's beyond the first gives +1/+0 to damage. Now, roll damage as per weapon type. Add carryover damage to the roll. Finally, if possible, the Defender rolls to Absorb (factoring in comparative Hardness Rating). Every success removes one point of damage.

Keep in mind that multiple actions, called shots, and disadvantages get various penalties. Each weapon has ratings for: initiative, strike, damage, range, rate of fire, magazine, size, and hardness.

If my friend hadn't been running it, another friend of mine hadn't been a fellow player, and the fact that I had agreed to play and review Infected, I'm pretty sure I would have found an excuse and walked out at the half-time break.

It's a shame because the setting is cool. The artwork gorgeous. And the KS run seemingly well. The whole roll 2d10 and match it up with an ability and skill every time (not just for combat - that mechanic is throughout the game, even if you want to investigate what's in the abandoned building) seemed odd to me when I watched the demonstration video, but doing it myself coupled with the laborious, number crunching procedures of combat just killed my enjoyment for the game.

I could tell you about the roleplaying, but that all came from me and had nothing to do with my character sheet, other than mention of weaknesses, personality traits, and physical/emotional flaws. But how I played the character was based on my internalization of the flavor text and genre simulation I've learned over the years.

My Take

At this point, I can only beg and plead with the creators of Infected to scrap their "Immersion RPG System" and start fresh from the ground up. Roleplaying video games are kicking paper & pencils' asses. Their immediacy is what gives them an unmistakable edge. You see an enemy, you click a button. In that second, you watch it dodge, recoil in pain, or die. Waiting 10 minutes just to see if you wound someone is the same as waiting 10 minutes to bring up the website you want. It sucks balls!

More waiting is not the answer. Complicated procedures and lots of math isn't it, either. I'm not talking about old school, new school, or any predilection for story, immersion, simulation, or the fun of rolling dice with your friends. Give gamers a fun and easy system that has plenty of bells and whistles but then gets out of the way so the adventurers and actually adventure.

Ok, I think I've rambled and lectured enough for one blog post. Suffice it to say, Infected needs a new engine if it intends to speed away from the shambling herd of flesh eaters surrounding it and the poor souls trapped inside. Survival horror, indeed!


Authored by Venger Satanis


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