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Friday Review: Strange Worlds by Trail of Dice Games

Trail of Dice was the first publisher I picked up when I decided to add other titles to the webstore, and I thought now would be a good time to go over one of their products. I was interested in carrying Strange World because it is billed as a hexcrawl 'zine, and I love hexcrawls.

Strange World is a 20-page 'zine that has three different cover colors. It's well-made and comes with a little baggy stapled to the back with tiny d6s in it. That's a nice touch; anyone experience with rpgs won't have an issue finding dice, but it makes this 'zine an attractive candidate for adding to neighborhood Free Libraries (a concept I am a big fan of).

This is a far-future sci-fi game, where humanity has expanded to the stars but found only the remains of long dead alien civilizations . . . until one day, when a strange signal was picked up from a distant planet. The character(s) are sent to investigate, and promptly crash-land on the planet, where they must explore to survive.

The game is written for 2-6 players (1 GM and 1-5 players) and is Powered by the Apocalypse, which makes it a pretty easy system to grok. There are plenty of tables to roll on during character creation, which I always like.

The bulk of the book is taken up with random tables for the hexcrawl. There's a foldable player's map in the middle that is used as the setting, and each terrain type has a table of random encounters which that can be drawn from. It's basically a build-your-own setting that is developed as the PCs explore.

There are some minor editing issues that jumped out at me, but nothing major. My major (and really only quibble) is that there is some blank space I would like to see filled with either art or more random tables. I understand why it is like this -- there is one terrain type per page, and sometimes the table for that type doesn't occupy the entire page -- but I think it could have been used to add a little more stock art or some setting info.

The big plus for me, and the thing that I think makes this game so charming, is that is, as the author says, "inspired by hopeful and pulp fiction." This makes this an especially appropriate game to play with kids, or, as I mentioned above, to leave in a Free Library for others to find. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are of reading YA sci-fi books: The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet is a favorite of mine, along with the Danny Dun, the books of Douglas Hill, and when I was older more of the pulp sci-fi. As I mentioned in my earlier review of Of Mushrooms Meet and Merry, there is a decided trend towards grim in indie games, and I really like seeing more of a hopeful, pulp-style game. Most of the threats listed on the tables aren't life-threatening and/or can be overcome by non-violent means, and there's a delightful sense of wonder that shines through the tables.

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