Eldritch High by AccidentalHipster
Welcome to Eldritch HighOriginal SA post John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 1: WELCOME TO ELDRITCH HIGH
Alright everybody, are you ready for some Wick? God I hope so because I wasted on this stinker and I'm looking to get SOME use out of it. Eldritch High is like Witch Girl Adventures in that it's a Harry Potter ripoff with (sorta) minimalistic rules and a rather loose magic system. Unlike Witch Girl Adventures which is ruined by its creators being creepy perverts that don't read their own materials, Eldritch High is ruined by Wick having what I can only assume is his herd abused suck-ups that he calls a gaming group playtest and edit it.
Let's start this by saying that while it IS Pay What You Want now, it was indeed when I got it. Let's compare this to another super-light story-game that comes complete with its own not-Harry, Fate Accelerated. Fate Accelerated not only started its life cycle as a Pay What You Want, but the recommended price is $5. It has about 50 pages, has great art assets, and is very well put together. Eldritch High asks for twice as much money for 10 to 15 fewer pages, barebones production values, and as you'll soon see, FAR less playability.
Enough hedging, on to the book itself! It starts with some credits honoring the people who helped Wick shit this game out including Jess Heinig who apparently gave him the idea for including Necromancy and was apparently paid by having Wick stick him in the credits along with the phrase "Omnipotent effort" in Chinese (I think, I'm using Google translate after all). Everyone else is just a name and a job title so I'm assuming they were payed in reduced beatings. The credits also list NINE PLAYTESTERS whom I would be hunting down right now if I didn't think that being forced to playtest for John Wick was punishment enough.
The book goes on to give 5 paragraphs of in-game fiction where Head Master (that can't be the right spelling) Dominic Vex greets the new students gives them the basic gist of the *deep breath* "Alexander Circe Academy for the Study of the Esoteric and Eldritch Arts" or just "Circe's" for short. It's your typical wizard boarding school and aside from a ham-fisted mention of the dark arts being badwrong, not too bad. The book switches gears and sums up the premise (wizard high-schoolers fighting the dark secrets of not-Hogwarts) and what you'll need (pencils, paper, players, etc.) before leading in to a summery of the setting. I'm posting this part here because holy hell:
There is a world that exists beside our own. A world identical to our own. A world of magic.
Wherever you are right now—sitting down in your living room or lying on your bed or sitting in the library or reading these words on your pad while waiting for the bus—there is a battle going on around you. You cannot see the combatants, but you can feel them.
A deadly fire strike passes within inches of your face and you feel a whisper of breath on your cheek. A dragon roars overhead and you hear a whistle in the sky. A secret war happening all around you, hundreds of men and women losing their lives... and a chill runs down your back.
As you sit and eat dinner in a restaurant, a guardian angel sits beside you. And when she’s busy, a demon whispers in your ear, tempting you to petty acts of evil.
It works like this. You’re sitting on a bus. On your way to work. You have your coffee and your newspaper. You know nothing of the Shadowrealm. You think you are sitting alone, but next to you, completely unseen, is a specter. A shadow that whispers to you.
Your wife never listens to you , it says.
She is sleeping with your best friend , it says.
They deserve to die , it says.
The whispers enter your brain and take root. Then, they grow. It follows you wherever you go, feeding those seeds with more poison. It may take weeks or days or hours, but the roots reach deep into your mind and the next thing you know, you’re holding a bloody axe.
Am I the only one who thinks that that is way too rambling and could stand to lose a paragraph? I'll sum up the rest. Normal people can't see magic because of a barrier called The Veil, people who have The Sight can see it, the academy find kids with The Sight and trains them. Pretty standard stuff. It also says that something called The Shadow Watch finds these kids, relocates them (as well as their parents), and makes sure that the staggering 50% of students that drop out have their magic taken away. Um, question. HOW DO YOU HAVE THAT HIGH OF A DROPOUT RATE WHEN THE GOAL IS JUST TO MAKE SURE THESE KIDS DON'T GET EATEN BY A GRUE?!? Anyways, it doesn't say who the The Shadow Watch are or how they do all that so we're left to imagine MIB with wands (the truth is far less sensible).
As for the campus itself, it's in some between dimension that only people with The Sight can find the entrance to. It also has the obligatory ruined forbidden wing, labyrinthine library that maintains itself, student dorms sorted by personality, and Kung Fu Dojo. Wait, what?
Also known as “the House of Pain,” the Academy’s dojo is a restricted building; only Black Watch students and alumni may enter.
It is a simple building. A large room with a floor made of wooden panels. There are no mirrors on the walls, no desks and no chairs. Not a single weapon can be found.
On the East wall is the only window, positioned to catch the rising sun. Just under the window is a banner written in an ancient and magical language that every student who entered the Dojo has been able to read. The words written upon it, when spoken outside the Dojo, sound like gibberish. Only those who have studied within the hall understand them, and Shadow Watch speak the words as a greeting to each other.
The banner reads, Shufa tujin fa nama tan tengiu. The translation is, “You will suffer if you touch him/her.”
That- I- Why is the Shadow Watch called the Black Watch in one paragraph? How does the sun rise if the school is in Elsewhere? Why is there there a banner with magical "gibberish to non-students" writing on the wall? Why do the words on the banner only make sense in the dojo? And why is the equivalent of "Back off bub" even important?!?
Moving on, the dorms introduce our first taste of game mechanics. Of course, since this is a bad Wick game the mechanics aren't explained until later and shows signs of poor playtesting. There are five dorms and each one gives "two bonus cards" whenever making a "risk" associated with its founder's specialty. Fraser Court is the Ravenclaw dorm and gives bonuses to knowing things, Fogg Hall is the Slytherin dorm and gives bonuses to being sneaky, Hinrichs Hall is the Hufflepuff dorm (sorta) and gives bonuses to dealing with animals, Circe's Hall is the Ravenclaw dorm and gives bonuses to figuring things out, and Savage Hall is the Gryffindor dorm and gives bonuses to being charming. If you noticed that Fraser Court is both redundant in the face of Circe's Hall and the only one called "court" congrats, you are a better editor than *glances at the credits* Emily Woerner. Seriously, the first taste of mechanics and they are not only given zero explanation, but they are also BLATANTLY UNTESTED!
Jesus, we haven't even gotten to the real meat of this game and I could already bitch for HOURS. I'm taking a break to worry about whether or not Robotic Age will get funded. If you want me to continue the review, please say so. Otherwise I might assume that nobody cares and go do something else. I'm a rookie on these forums after all and I don't even know if I need to do anything other than just post a review for it to get made "official".
Pages read: 5/34 (plus credits)
Next time, CHARACTER CREATION! or John Wick still doesn't understand Skill systems
EDIT: Super Special Awesome Audience Participation Time! I wanna show off just one of the many kicks to the nuts that this game gave to me. To simulate this, I want anybody in the thread who feels like it to throw out a character concept for me to make BEFORE I hit Character Creation. Nothing too complicated, just a few personality traits and talents with maybe what dorm they're in or a preferred type of magic for your little Harry Potter OC to swing about. Trust me, there's a good reason why I'm asking for this NOW.
Making a CharacterOriginal SA post
Yeah, not only Voldemort and his minions, some of the background stuff is also pretty fucked up, especially for what's essentially a series aimed at children/young adults.
Not only the really abusive relations Harry has to stay with, the whole wizard world seems crazy when you think about.
I mean Hogwarts is pretty much one big safety hazard, you've got what are basically nazis who bribed their way to freedom running free, a prison that wouldn't look out of place in a third world country, all sorts of stuff.
In that vein, AccidentalHipster, could you maybe elaborate on how Wick tries to make his setting more 'dark'?
Is it just dark and edgy in the sense of goths with skulls, necromancy and all the other typical stuff writers like to add, maybe some sexual elements like in thread 'favorite' Cthulhutech?
Yeah, Harry Potter is pretty grimdark under the surface, but so is most children's fiction when you stop and think about it. Thankfully the only Wickdark in Eldritch High (so far) is just vague hints of Warhammer Chaos beings that tell people to murder their spouses and Circe's is apparently fighting it by having kung fu black ops wisk magic sensitive kids and their families away to a weird extra-dimensional academy so that they can train the kids to be magical soldiers. Now that I think about it, that's actually some Evangelion child soldier shit right there. At least sex hasn't been brought up! Yet.
On a happier note, Robotic Age made its funding goal and Bobbin Threadbare is done telling me about Symphony X, so you know what that means. Time for more
John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 2: MAKING A CHARACTER
Ormagoden help us all.
Now I want to take a moment to talk about the art of this game. Namely, how lazy it is. This book lists *glances at credits* Jessica Kauspedas as being responsible for "Graphics and Illustration" and she must have had a real cushy position because the only thing that qualifies as "Graphics and Illustration" is the cover, the Harry Potter lightning bolt font used on it and in the inner cover, and the occasional blob-ish iPod Silhouette that is supposed to represent students. So if you want a more picture intensive review, draw something yourself. I'm sure you'll do a better job than Jessica.
Character Creation is pretty much where this system starts to stomp on your hopes of playing a fun, flexible Harry Potter storygame. To show this, I'll be making characters suggested by *checks the thread* Comrade Koba, Angrymog, and Xelkelvos. Roll up your sleeves folks, this one is going to be stupid.
First is "Step 1: Who Are You?" asking "Where Are You From", "When Did You Gain Sight?", "What Do You Look Like?", and "What is Your Stereotype?". They're all pretty straightforward so I'm gonna skip them. Step 2 is just as simple, just give yourself 3 Willpower (which is not yet defined). Step 3 carries on similarly by stating you have 1 "Fumble" (which is never defined ). Am I the only one who thinks that these steps could stand to be stuffed in a "Finishing Touches" stuffed at the end?
Anyway, "Step 4: Required Courses" is where thing start getting stupid. This step is includes a list of the non-dark magic types in the game (I'll get to the Dark Magic later) and each one has a thing it can do and a limitation. There's Alchemy, which which lets you talk to and manipulate the 4 classical elements but requires drinking a drop of mercury with no mention of the wizard in question being immune to mercury poisoning. Question, WHY WOULD YOU FORCE CHARACTERS TO DRINK POISON AND NOT INCLUDE MAGICAL IMMUNITY TO IT?!? I'll… I'll just pretend that wizards are immune to mercury poisoning because unlike Wick I don't hate my players. Moving on, Bewitchment let's you hypnotize people but requires eye contact and spoken orders. Conjuration lets you summon an existing object in to your palm but requires you to close you eyes and cover the hand you're conjuring with. There's no mention of item size limits so presumably you can summon canisters of chlorine triflouride a la The Mage Your Mage Could Cast Like from Daeren's review of Changing Breeds. Crafts is just making magic items like potions and +4 Daggers. Divination let's you declare details about what's going on but requires you to use a divination tool like a tarot deck. Shape Shifting (that can't be the right spelling) let's you turn in to animals but… actually, this school doesn't even have any implied requirements. Lastly, Wards let's you prevent certain things from touching anything you ward but requires you to draw a circle.
Wow, that's a lot of but what do we actually DO in this step? Nothing! This step is just here to act as a pseudo-spell list!
"Step 5: Electives" is pretty much the same but with mundane skills and like far too many bad Wick games is way too specific for the amount of points you get. There are 17 so I'll just go over a few notable ones. Arcane Athletics is just run, jump, dodge but with a randomly "wizardy" name. Herbology is what it sounds like and for some reason isn't part of Crafts so I guess you never use magic plants for brewing potions. History is pretty normal but the description
While History may be the most mundane of all classes—and thus, the most boring—those who do not learn history
Those ellipses are so I want to punch them in the face. Semiotics is even worse. Just look
No, not “symbology.” And if you use it again, it will come off your final grade. The study of symbols, myth and epic can help students understnd (sic) the strange symbolic reality of the Shadowrealm as well as the more cryptic curiosities of our own world.
Goddammit Wick, can't you go 5 paragraphs without being ? I actually looked up semiotics and according to Wikipedia it's (if I may make a long story short) the study of symbols like Jesus fishes and the letter Q. This means that Wick couldn't stop insulting PAYING CUSTOMERS (yes, I'm still bitter about the ) over semantics to realize that his "innovative" way of jazzing up the demon lore skill isn't smart, it's just confusing. So he's basically being Wick. Other noteworthy skills include Creative Writing which helps you lie because you're so creative, Theater which lets you disguise yourself and is separate from lying because. Fine Arts and Music are separate for the same reason. Then there's Spywork. Spywork needs to be seen to be believed.
The faculty at Circe’s knows the reality of the world outside its walls. Every once in a while, a less direct approach to a situation may be wiser.
That's right, this Course has ZERO DESCRIPTION OF WHAT YOU LEARN! There's no mention of Math or Science and nothing to actually do at this step so that's ANOTHER for the counter.
"Step 6: Your Freshman Schedule" is where you finally pick your Courses and where the true feelings of "I wasted my money" starts to set in. You pick three Required Courses and one Elective. You do this a second time during your second semester and may not take a course for more than one semester per year. This gives you 6 magical "skills" and 2 mundane "skills" per year which means that everyone ends up as a magical "jack" with pretty much zero mundane competence. I'm skipping ahead a bit to Shadow Watch characters because they're built pretty much the same way except they only have one required course which is pretty much anti-magic with Wire-Fu but get 3 Electives per semester for a total of 6 six "skills" per year. I heard that Wick builds his games around his group and then just packages it in ego stroking before selling it. If this is the case, then apparently John-boy's players were all either wizard supremacy grognards or A Certain Magical Index fans because by the end of Freshman year every character is going to end up as either a samey wizard jack-of-all-trades or a magic breaking badass normal. This also means that if you want to customize you character in any real way, you can't use magic!
"Step 7: Prodigy" tries to fix the "magic jack" problem by giving you a +1 bonus to one school which means fuck all so let's move on. "Step 8: Gifts" is a list of special advantages that range from having elvish blood (no mention of what kind of elves are in this setting, so I'm assuming they work for Santa), to being able to speak to animals, to being French. Wait, what?
The French are exceptionally cultured, sophisticated and well-groomed. Gain a bonus card for any Elective. Also, if your character is French and you learn the forbidden Sorcery of Nihilism, you gain Existential Nihilism: draw an additional card for any Nihilism effects.
I'd talk about how Wick seems to have started to Europe the same way he Japan, but I need to ask a more pressing question. HOW DOES BEING FRENCH MAKE YOU BETTER AT MAGIC BASED ON RUSSIAN PHILOSOPHY?!?
The other Gifts aren't much better thought out because Lucky gets rid of that Fumble you picked up in Step 3 (and Fumbles do nothing) and Warlock Taint gives you 1 Rank in a Dark Art (special forbidden magical Course called Dark Magic everywhere else in the book) and 1 Warlock Point (part of a corruption mechanic that's called Dark Magic Points or just Dark Points everywhere else in the book). Editing!
That's the last step of character creation. Can you notice what they forgot to mention? That's right, they forgot to make you pick your dorm! I'll just add it to Step 1, count that as another , and move on to making the sample characters.
Let's start with
Castella D'Agincourt, Deceitful Necromancy Major and Secret Student of the Forbidden Arts
He notes down his dorm, nation, stereotype, etc. (Fogg Hall, Spain, "Bad Boy", and so on) and starts picking his courses. For Required he wonders why he can't just load up on Necromancy before he caves in and picks up Bewitchment so that he can get away with anything, Conjuration so that he can steal anything, and Divination so that he can learn The Forbidden Arts on his lonesome. For his Elective he just goes for Creative Writing for the lying and leaves it at that. For Prodigy, he chooses Necromancy because he wants zombies dammit! Gift is simple since Warlock Taint is the only way to get Necromancy at Character Creation. Our Bad Boy is done and all it took was a bunch of unnecessary spell bloat!
Next up we have
Daisy Moonchild Jones
Hufflepuff, bit of a flowerchild, likes potions. Also fallen for some bad boy Slytherin and is trying to teach herself the Dark Arts to impress him.
She'll be attending Hinrichs Hall and taking "hippie" as her Stereotype. For Required Courses she picks Crafts for Potion making, and after some consideration, decides on Alchemy and Divination because they seem "hippie-ish". Electives are more of a pain because she wants more than just one. After deliberating for hours she eventually settles on Herbology. For Prodigy she picks Crafts and for Gift she considers Warlock Taint to impress Castella but decides on Beast Tongue (talk to animals) and resolves to learn Dark Arts later. That's another character done and we're 2 for 2 on Freshmen Schedule leaving our capabilities both bloated and anemic.
Martin Cranston, charismatic with a strong sense of morality. Skilled in Alchemy and "Holy magic." Also a a bit of a jock.
Marty has easy picks for Step 1. He's in Savage Hall, and his stereotype is Jock. Courses become an immediate again because of strict options. He picks Alchemy right away and then decide on Crafts after he's told the Alchemy is Elementalism and Crafts is Alchemy because. After trying to figure out something to be "holy" he settles on Wards. Electives are painful again because he wants at least 4 of them (Arcane Athletics, Psychology, Public Speaking, and Wrestling). That's 3 for 3 that we've had this exact same problem and these are actually less problematic than they could be. If I was was gonna stat out our good friend Harry Potter I'd want to give him Arcane Athletics (quidditch), Creative Writing (for lying), Crypto Zoology (Care of Magical Creatures), Games & Puzzles (clever solutions to problems), Psychology (persuading people), Public Speaking (born leader), Spywork (sneaking? this elective is really poorly explained), and Weapons (Sword of Motherfucking Gryffindor). That's 8 electives. Harry gets 1. This is what I mean by crushing dreams. Better systems actually adjust how specific skills are to how "crunchy" the games is and hands them out in appropriate amounts. Eldritch High gives you the finger. Anyway, Martin goes with Public Speaking for his elective, Alchemy for his Prodigy, and Giant Blood (bonuses to being strong) for his Gift because I don't care anymore.
Goddammit this chapter sucks. It is one of the biggest problems I have with the game and it's the one of the core elements! And it's STILL not the most ass-ramming failure of game design this book has to offer. I need a fucking Let's Play break.
total: 4 (2 this chapter)
total: 12 (9! this chapter)
Pages read: 11/34
Next time, GAME MECHANICS! or Wick feels like dicking around with cards AND dice
As for everyone who submitted a character, thank you for participating and I'm sorry if I didn't use your idea.
EDIT: And thanks to everyone in the thread who read my post more closely than I did. That'll teach me to post when I'm half awake.
RisksOriginal SA post
than the Nasuverse RPG it's
John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 3: RISKS
I'm writing this on my day off because I clearly hate myself.
Right, so after getting through a third of the book we FINALLY learn the core mechanic. It's basically the Wick Narrative Control mechanic with cards and a few small tweaks. So worth the wait, huh?
I'll go through it to show off how this flavor of storygame mechanic works. Whenever you do something important or has a chance of failure, you make a Risk. In a Risk, you draw a number of cards based on things like Grade and Courses. That number is your Pull. Add up all of the cards in your Pull (aces are 1, face cards are 10) and see if you get 10 or more. If so, you say what happens. If not, the GM (called the Headmaster which is finally spelled right for once!) says what happens. Like with many Wick games, success or failure is completely unrelated to how well you rolled. If you hit 10 and still have left over cards are cashed in for Bangs. Every Bang gives you the right to say 1 extra detail when you narrate.
For example if Castella is trying to convince his teacher that he needs a library pass in to the Forbidden Section for legit reasons. He has a Pull of 5 and he draws a hand of 8, 5, 2, 6, and 4. He adds the 8 and 2 to gain narrative control and deem that the teacher believes him. The remaining 3 cards give him 3 Bangs that he uses to narrate that the teacher fell for it because he's easily flattered, that the teacher signs off on the pass without even looking at it, and that the teacher will forget about the whole thing in a matter of minutes.
As far as storygame mechanics go, it's actually not that bad so long as there aren't any jerks in the group but unfortunately it's dragged down by the dumb as hell moving parts of it.
The way of determining your Pull is by adding up your Grade Cards, your ranks in relevant Courses, and any other relevant modifiers like +1 for having the appropriate Stereotype or +2 from your dorm. Your Grade Card starts at 1 and goes up by 1 every time you finish a Grade. This makes Grade pretty much THE source of power since it determines virtually EVERYTHING in one way or another. This would be a good thing because it would let the GM measure power easily, except this is a storygame about Narrative Control and customization is a joke so all it really does is make you realize that you wasted your fucking time making a character! John, why the FUCK would you switch to what amounts to a level based system after Blood & Honor's excellent Aspects?!?
Ugh, anyway there are extra wrinkles to this system. Aces counting as 2 Bangs, and Jokers can be used as anything but cause you to gain Shadow Points (which cause a Bang tax on social Risks with muggles), and you can Cheat. Cheating is needs to be described in detail because it is an amazing example of an interesting idea gone very, very wrong. Every time you make a Risk you can Cheat. When you Cheat you add up to 3 ten-sided dice to your total. Perfectly good deck of cards already out and Wick decides to switch to dice because. 10's explode, but 1's fuck you over by stripping you of Narrative Control and giving you a Demerit. What's a Demerit? It's basically a black mark on your record and if you ever accumulate 3 Demerits your character is expelled and becomes an NPC. The problem is that Cheating is a purely meta ability so this means that the teachers ARE PUNISHING YOUR CHARACTER FOR YOUR ACTIONS AS A PLAYER! What's worse, if you're trying to turn a loss in to a win you'll pretty much never need more than a single die to improve your chances so using 3 is just asking to get a Demerit and if you've already succeeded all that cheating ever does give you a chance at an extra Bang at the risk of RUINING YOUR VICTORY AND KILLING YOUR CHARACTER! CHEATING IS SO FUCKING USELESS! WHY DOES IT EXIST?!? The biggest insult is that Willpower points can be spent to increase your pull by 3 so Johnny-boy already had a "save your ass" mechanic that didn't fuck you over to the point of uselessness and didn't mix resolution tools making cheating DOUBLY pointless! That's another for the counter! Willpower comes at the price of causing you to autofail everything if you run out but it refreshes fully between sessions so if you're smart that won't come up.
Anyway, opposed risks are pretty simple. Everyone draws and announces totals. Highest total goes first, second highest goes next, etc. You get to state one detail before moving on to the next person down the line. Keep going around until nobody has any Bangs to spend. This is actually a nice way of handling things and creates a nice bit of back-and-forth that gives everyone a chance to participate. I actually have nothing to bitch about for once!
Injury is pretty similarly non-bitchworthy. Whenever you make a Risk to hurt someone you deal 1 point of Injury with a successful attack and 1 extra point per Bang spent. If anyone ever has 5 points of Injury they're Helpless and can be killed by anyone who decides to spend a point of Willpower. Injury can be wiped away with healing Risks at a similar rate, by letting 1 session pass for 1 point of healing, or just spending the night in the infirmary for a full heal. Simple and discourages bloodbaths. Nice!
Now, I skipped Magic for organization purposes but it's not very complicated. It works identically to mundane Risks except Wick a decides to reiterate everything that's covered in on literally the next page because apparently we're stupid. The only new rules are that Spells last a number of days equal to the number of Bangs spent, spending 3 or more Bangs on a spell adds a Shadow Point to your character, and Prodigy not only gives you automatic Narrative Control but 2 extra cards as well! Except Character Creation quite clearly states that all it does is give 1 extra card. How do you forget what you said just 5 pages ago and still call yourself a professional?!?
There's also the matter of magical items. You can use Crafts to make them and give them a number of uses (called Charges) equal to, erm
When you make a magic item, the face value of the cards you use to beat the TN equals the item’s charges. Bangs equal additional effects specific to each item type, listed below.
TN IS NOT A THING IN THIS SYSTEM!!! Skipping ahead reveals that the part about Bangs is a damn lie as well so I'll add another and move on to items themselves.
Potions which let you pre-cast spells and use the results later with an extra card added to the result per year of fermentation. They can't have more than 3 charges, but they can still be used to make badass panic buttons if you're smart.
Wands give you a bonus when using the type of magic that it's tied to. When you craft a wand you divide up a number of cards equal to your Grade Cards between the different types of magic so if Marty ever made it to Sophmore year he could either make a wand that gave a 1 card bonus to Alchemy and Wards, or a 2 card bonus to just Alchemy. Wands can also make Wand Blasts that are attacks at your Grade Card level and cost a Willpower. Keep in mind that regular spells can attack, use more cards, and cost nothing! There's also a sidebar for miscast wands (wands you fail at making) that states that while Circe's insists that they be destroyed, they can still be used and add d10 cards to rolls at the cost of handing over Narrative Control to the GM.
Brooms and Carpets can fly. Brooms are for girls and carpets are for boys but solely out of tradition so you can ride whatever you want. The description also states
As usual, the item will only work for the witch or wizard who created it.
THIS IS THE ONLY TIME THIS IS BROUGHT UP!
Lasty, we have Talismans which are pretty much Potions but can be rings or bracelets and the like. Since they can be worn and have no upper limit on charges, they're pretty much better than Potions in every way. Oh, and there's this
When making a Talisman, you empower it with a single charge. Each bang you get gives it an additional charge.
So that's where the actual rules for charges went. Let's just add one last to the counter and move on.
This chapter turned out even more stupid than I thought it would. The next chapter is only 2 pages long but it'll take a while because I dread it like no other chapter.
total: 4 (0 this chapter, it's fucking miracle!)
total: 22 (10!!! this chapter)
Pages read: 18/34
We're halfway there folks!
Next time, HOMEWORK or The Unlimited Psyduck Works returns!
More audience participation time! Guess what the Homework chapter is about and/or why I dread it! Points will be awarded by QI rules where it doesn't matter if you're right, only that you're interesting. The winner will receive a mention at the beginning of my Homework portion of the review. Sorry guys, but I'm lazy and broke.
HomeworkOriginal SA post
My vote is that to get XP, you have to write a report on the last game session, which is then graded by the GM. The chapter consists of a grading guide and XP spend tables.
Both interesting and has almost half as much potential as the truth! Congratulations Angrymog, you win! Enjoy your prize of being told you won during the opening to
John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 4: HOMEWORK
I hope it was everything you ever wanted.
So, Homework. I've been building this thing up as something that shatters sanity like the Necronomicon. Would you be disappointed if I told you it was character advancement? Because it's character advancement.
Homework is described as thus
At the end of each game, it’s time to decide how your character will spend the downtime. You can spend it studying, practicing or goofing off. Really. Those are your three choices.
At the end of each game, your character gets five Homework Points. (emphasis Wick's) You can use these in one of three ways: Studying, Practicing or Goofing Off. All have benefits. How you spend these points is completely up to you.
By the way, you can only put up to three Homework Points into any category. You can’t put four or five. Only up to three.
The first paragraph is completely superfluous and exists only to mislead the reader (those 3 options are actually groups of options) and treat them like a moron and the third paragraph is in pretty much the same "you're stupid" boat. "What, you were expecting tons of options out of a game marketed as a flexible storygame? Then you are obviously too stupid to remember what I said in the previous paragraph or count to three. " The use of the word "game" also implies that theses are handed out at the end of every campaign instead of every session like they actually supposed to. I haven't even gotten past the third paragraph of this chapter and I already feel my blood pressure rising. Ugh, let's just cover what each option does.
The game starts by describing studying but I'll start with Practice so that you can have a better idea of what does what for you. Practice lets you buy either Specialties for 1 Homework Point per rank or Spells for 3 Homework Points. Specialties are specialized versions of existing Courses that add 1 card per rank when using the Course in that certain way and Spells are pretty much the same thing except they apply to Magical Courses and provide 3 cards. Why are they split if they do the exact same thing for the exact same price at maximum rank? Specialties don't even have to be invested in non-magical Courses!
Goofing Off is a catch all for everything else and is described as providing special benefits at the cost of giving you fewer point to Study with (no duh) and that it can get you in to Trouble. The oh so important Trouble mechanic that this section alludes to doesn't exist. Anyway, the Goofing Off options are Dark Magic which earns you a rank in a Dark Magic Course and a Dark Magic Point for 3 Homework Points, Demerits which gets rid of 1 Demerit from you record for 1 Homework Point, Explore which lets you say one thing about the school and make it true for 1 Homework Point, Magic Item which let's you build one of the items described in the previous chapter for 3 Homework Points, and Willpower which let's you increase your willpower by 1 for 5 Homework Points. Note that there is no rule stating that you can invest in an option over time so you can never increase Willpower by the RAW.
And now we roll back to Studying for the big finish. Studying is essentially studying for midterms (or finals if you're in second semester) and earns you Study Points in different courses that determine your grade in the class. This section is stupid for so many reasons. First, it mentions how each session is supposed to represent 1 week and that each semester is 12 weeks. Helpful here, except that this tidbit is completely missing from the GM section meaning that an important pacing rule that's hardcoded in to the system is in a largely unrelated chapter. Next, each Study Point provides 1d10+5 to you grade on the exam, making the benefits of Studying random in a game that is carefully designed with a largely predictable and easily measurable power scale. Next, the roll is done during the exam, not when you do the actual studying so you have no idea how well off you are in terms of grading until it's too late. Next, the grading scale (and therefore the benefits) are heavily backloaded with anything below a 60 to 69 earns you a Demerit, anything above an 70 earns you a Specialty and every 10 points beyond earns you extra ranks in the Course at a maximum of 2. This makes Studying extremely all-or-nothing in a storygame built around give-and take mechanics. Next, the grading scale is missing the entire 0 to 59 range and since the Demerit punishment is only handed out at the 60 to 69 range that implies that getting below a 60 lets you dodge the Demerit. Next, why does Studying do nothing for you until you take the exam? The exam isn't what's teaching you, it's the Study! Lastly, the backloading is so bad that unless you are stupidly lucky Practice and Goofing Off are far more efficient methods of improving yourself. Let's say that over the course of 3 sessions Martin studied Alchemy as much as possible buying a total of 9 Study Points to get as good as he can get at Alchemy that semester, spending his remaining 6 Homework points on various Specialties in Alchemy. Meanwhile Daisy buys 2 ranks of Dark Magic (Necromancy so that she can impress Castella), a Specialty in Necromancy, and her remaining 8 points on various Specialties in Crafts. This gives Martin a chance at earning 2 ranks and a specialty in Alchemy when midterms roll around, but Daisy has a guaranteed 2 ranks and a specialty in Necromancy that she gets right away as well as 2 points of Dark Magic (which as we'll soon see are huge boons that are only risky if used) and 2 extra points of specialty. This means that studying is little more than a millstone around the player's necks that eats up advancement and punishes them harshly for not being lucky! This is so bad that just 1 is not enough. I must call upon something not seen since the last thread.
And so, as I pray, UNLIMITED PSYDUCK WORKS
Only 2 pages and I need another break. I can't think of another RPG that has had so much stupid in only 2 pages. I'm going to try drowning out my memories of this chapter in cheesy actions movies with my little bro.
total: 5 (1 this chapter)
total: 30 (10! this chapter)
Unlimited Psyduck Works total: 1
Pages read: 20/34
Next time, HEADMASTER or The longest chapter in the book. Pacing!
I would like to credit Dareon for the Unlimited Psyduck Works image. I hope he doesn't mind that I reused it from his review of the Nasuverse RPG
HeadmasterOriginal SA post
Welp, I've had this thing just sitting in a txt file for over an hour so I may as well just double post. Hold on to your asses ass holders, it's time for
John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 5: HEADMASTER
It's almost over.
This is essentially the Gamemastering section and it opens by telling players that they shouldn't be reading. Fair enough.
It's also kind of 3 or 4 mini-chapters so I'll actually use headers for once to prevent retinal bleeding.
This section starts with Wick saying that he hears the phrase "Nice idea. What do you do with it?” all the time and how he had a real problem answering that question with this game, so he had his players answer it for him. I'd say that this sounds like a ploy to shift blame, but we all know that John-boy can never admit to a mistake, especially to himself. However, I will say that Wick most likely did the actual writing for this chapter because this is where the biggest examples of his brand of show up.
We start with "Metaplots & Personal Stories" which is actually surprisingly good. Metaplots here are thankfully the campaign story arc instead of the publishers deciding that for you and Personal Stories are subplots focused on the individual players. It says that the GM should come up with a metaplot that spans the entire years and involves the entire school and that he should let the players decide the premise for their own Personal Story that involves mostly just them and lasts either a semester or a year depending on how long you want it to last. This is actually a rather nice way of handling things aside from the relatively rigid timeframe but even that helps support the "Harry Potter" feel and keeps the pacing even. I like it.
Of course this couldn't last because the next part is "Bullies" and my god does this section suck. There is absolute ZIP on what to do with bullies in the story, just a long ass tirade about how ubiquitous bullying is and how it reflects the darker side of human nature and blah blah blah. I mean seriously look at this shit
You don’t need to study for endless hours to know how to threaten someone when they’re alone in the bathroom. You just grab a couple of friends with equally low moral character as yourself, wait in the stalls until some pipsqueak comes in and then you hold his head in the toilet until he can’t breathe. Then, you take whatever money he’s got on him and tell him he’d better hand over anything else his folks send him or he’ll get more of the same.
Because this is so much more important information than how a GM could incorporate bullies in to the game without killing the fun. And why fuck would kids need money in a magical pocket dimension boarding school that provides everything for them for free? There are no shops to buy anything at! It gets worse. Wick then goes off on a tangent about how "bully" is too soft of a word and how we should use the word "criminal" instead. Seriously.
“Bully” is the wrong word. It’s a harmless word. It’s something you call a friendly dog. “Here, Bully! Who’s a good dog?” No, I don’t think “bully” really works for me anymore.
No, you aren’t a bully . You’re committing assault. And that makes you a criminal.
And still not a single story hook or word of roleplaying advice. Fuck you Wick.
Next is "Dating" which rambles a fair bit about how drama comes from characters making bad decisions and how hard it is to enforce drama in a roleplaying game because players want to avoid that. Thankfully this isn't a pointless tangent and actually leads in to some decent advice on how dating is excellent drama fodder because it makes bad choices so appealing and skews priorities. The suggested way of kicking off major drama is to l;et the player get attached to their love interest, then endanger the love interest. Stock but effective, and it outright states that scarring, maiming, and killing are totally unnecessary, just the threat of danger should be enough which is a welcome idea. The section finishes up by saying that this kind of story isn't for everyone and that it's best used when the player picks "dating" as their Personal Story.
Of course Wick fucks this up with a sidebar labeled Romance Ven Style where he includes romance rules borrowed from Houses of the Blooded. How they work is that when a romance is started it gives the characters involved a Romance rank with each other which they can add to their Pull whenever they make a Risk involving their partner. It starts at rank 1 and goes up by 1 either at the end of every semester or at the end of every week depending on how fast the GM wants things to go and caps at 5. Once it hits 5, it starts ticking down (presumably at the same rate, but it doesn't say) until eventually there's a messy break up. Whichever side gets dumped gets the Heartbroken trait until either the end of the semester or until they reach Rank 3 in another romance. Heartbroken costs you a Bang whenever you make Risks and costs 2 Bangs whenever you make Risks while your ex is present, but gives you 3 cards on all Risks to hurt your ex. This mechanic is stupid not only because of the missing rules for decrease rate, but also because it has no rules for what happens if the rank drops to 0 without a breakup, the option to have another Romance cure your Heartbreak is useless because it takes to long to work unless it's a fling, and because it gives players no say in how their romances develop. Why would you ever use these fucking rules in ANY game? The real cherry on this shit sundae is the last sentence in the sidebar.
Ain’t love grand?
Fuck you Wick.
Next is "Exploration" which is short and has a nice little plot hook of doors that can lead to other worlds but were declared too dangerous and were magically locked with riddles to prevent students from fucking with them. No advice on what to do with this hook, but a good hook nonetheless.
Next up "Finding Out Grown-Ups Make Mistakes". It starts by talking about how Wick loves David Fincher (the guy who directed Fight Club) but how most people don't know that he got his start with Alien 3. Apparently Fincher compared his experiences working on Alien 3 to when he found out that grown-ups lie. That's… certainly some trivia. Anyway, this sub-section is another hook. Basically, have a PC get framed for something, then have a trusted and well liked teacher end up deciding to believe the evidence instead of the PC, and finish with new evidence showing up almost immediately afterwards that clears the PC's name. Overall, this hook seems rather weak and lacking in potential.
Next, "Lost Magic (finding out the Academy only knows a little of what is out there)". God what a mouthful. Anyway, this section mentions how discovering new kinds of magic could make for good drama before immediately launching in to an explanation about Transmutation. Transmutation was a Course in playtesting (hah!) that was cut because players kept Transmuting their enemies into soap bubbles and Wick couldn't think of a clever limitation to prevent this. However, he cites having to open and close your hand as an example of a balancing factor for Conjuration despite the lack of explicit size limits making it little more than a flourish and as you'll soon see, John-boy did come up with a clever way of limiting it. How do you miss something like that? The sub-section then gives the story hook of Transmutation being discovered and the school banning it for being too dangerous. The school works by Fullmetal Alchemist rules (no changing mass or composition), can't effect an object more than once, and only last for an hour plus an additional hour per Bang spent. It also has a corruption mechanic where the more you use it the more inhuman features you acquire. Essentially, it's a Dark Magic (I'll get to those in the next section) and while it can certainly end fights pretty quick, other Dark Magics are more badass. It advises GMs not to explicitly tell the players about the corruption mechanic right away but to make it clear that using Transmutation is having some ill effect on them. This is actually a rather nice segment but I still have to question why Transmutation couldn't just be moved to Dark Magic and have this section talk about introducing players to Dark Magic.
Moving right along, we have "Parents" which is pretty simple. It mentions how you could tell stories about parents trying to interfere with a PC's life as a student but doesn't elaborate on it because apparently Wick didn't realize that the PCs are essentially child soldiers. What it does elaborate on is a hook of daemons tricking a PC's parents in to running off to someplace dangerous with promises of “I can bring you to your child”. It gives them a clear goal, a personal attachment to the problem, and even a feeling of responsibly for the whole mess if done right. There's also mention of maybe having the parents be staff and it concludes by saying "ask your players about their parents" and I always support GM/player cooperation. An alright sub-section if a bit myopic.
The last 3 sub-sections are super short and are just plot hooks so I'll just skim over them. "Protect the School" is about daemon's infiltrating the school, "School Rivalries" is about student exchange programs causing a culture clash, and "Shadowrealm Spills" is just "Protect the School" without the organization or subtlety on the Daemons' part.
This section really shows how few fucks Editor *glances back at credits* Emily Woerner gave. Those Dark Magic Points (called Dark Magic Taint once and only once in this section) you've been earning from learning Dark Magic are finally explained and they're pretty much an alternate version of Willpower. They can only be used for Magic Risks, but they double your Pull instead of adding 3 and they are much cheaper to obtain as shown back in Homework. What's more, every time you use Dark Magic (including using Dark Magic Points) you draw a card (called Flipping here and nowhere else) and if it comes up as a face card, you gain another Dark Magic Point to make your spellcasting super boss. Dark Magic Points refresh between sessions just like Willpower. They also, um
Flip a card. If the number is equal to or lower than your DMP, you become a Warlock.
And no, Dark Magic Points are not abbreviated as DMP anywhere else. I may not be the best at editing myself, but I don't make mistakes like the ones in this section. Why were they demanding for this again? Oh, and not only are there no rules for when to test for becoming a Warlock, becoming a Warlock does absolutely nothing! Lastly, Dark Magic Points also give you Dark Traits (basically cosmetic daemonic mutations) every time you earn one.
The individual Dark Magic Schools each have a specific thing that they can do and instead of a limitation like regular schools, have a Daemonic Trait (which are most likely Dark Traits given a new name) tied to them. The first is Chaos which I'll save for last because it is just insane.
Next is Curses which lets you announce a task and make it cost a Willpower Point for you target to do that task but gives you flaming eyes. I think that once they spend the Willpower the curse is lifted but it doesn't say and it doesn't really matter because every Bang you spend makes it cost and extra Willpower Point for your target to fight the curse and there's no rule against stacking curse so you could easily make it impossible for your victim to ever shake the curse.
Necromancy let's you create an unguent that lets you either see ghosts, speak with the dead, or animate zombies but makes you look like Cesare from "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". The unguent must be made from the skin and bones of corpses and the zombies last until either sunrise or sunset, whichever comes first.
Then, we have Nihilism which creates a passive aura that forces everyone around you to have to spend an extra Bang per rank you have to succeed on Magic Risks but makes your facial features fade away. You can also attack magical items with Nihilism to destroy one charge per Bang you get. If you're French you can use Existential Nihilism as well (which I've already stated makes no sense) which let's you remove your opponent's Bangs with your own instead of adding details during Opposed Risks whenever your opponent tries to cast a spell at you. Since this is a new function of an Nihilism and not a separate Course and it stacks with regular Nihilism, this means it's nigh impossible to casts spells directly at you.
Finally, we roll back to Chaos for something truly mind bending. Chaos let's you make things spontaneously happen by asking “What are the chances...?” then stating the event but makes you look like you're glitching out of existence. There is no limitation on what you can ask so while the examples include things like making guns misfire and winning the lottery you could potentially make all of your grades in to perfect 100's or turn your enemies into soap bubbles. If turning enemies into soap bubbles was an explicit example of why Transmutation was made an optional story hook instead of a regular Course then why the fuck would you let Chaos get a free pass? Our darling Daisy could just spend a few weeks studying Chaos magic and use it to not only win her bad boy love interest's affection, but also become God-Empress of Witchkind! And this could all be fixes by making the revised Transmutation a regular Dark Magic and making Chaos a story hook because then you could keep it out of player's hands if you wanted, make the drawback GM fiat and thus potentially actually punishing, and prevent it from feeding in to itself by earning you extra Dark Magic Points! This school is so stupid in so many ways that I have to award another one of these.
And so, as I pray, UNLIMITED PSYDUCK WORKS
Let's just wrap this up. This section is where we finally found out about the mysterious Shadow Watch we've been hearing so much about! What are they? An alternate option to playing a wizard student. They're just students who can't use magic. And I'm not sorry that I spoiled this in Character Creation. They're the exact same as regular students except they get 3 Electives instead of 1 and instead of Magic they get Chongfen which is a single course, works like a wire-fu version of Arcane Athletics and Wrestling, and gets a 3 card bonus when opposing mundane versions of Arcane Athletics, Weapons, and Wrestling. The Shadow Watch is also completely immune to all magic but can still be indirectly effected by it such as being carried by a magic carpet that someone else is commanding. Wouldn't that mean that the Shadow Watch is better suited to fighting daemons (who are pure magic) and wizards should be scouting out new students instead of the other way around?
The last few sections are just the Oath that all students affirms every time they have a meal (it's your basic "With great power come great responsibility") and some optional rules that let you either remove cards from your deck for extra Bangs, make Demerits actually hurt by having them temporarily remove high value cards from your deck, and let you earn extra Homework Points by being a good roleplayer.
Finally, I'm through with the longest chapter in this book and the rest is just a bunch of dull character sheets and NPCs from the Playtest so I won't be covering those unless someone nags me to. So, for our final tally of awfulness, we have:
total: 10 (3 this chapter)
total: 36 (6 this chapter)
Unlimited Psyduck Works total: 2
Pages read: All of them! FREEDOM!
Next time (if there is one), FINAL THOUGHTS, or Yes, I'm still griping about the
Final ThoughtsOriginal SA post
Oh hey. I have that. Got it when it was on sale. Not my best purchase, but considering I'm sitting on both Shatterzone and @ctiv8, not nearly my most disappointing. Obviously, the ones I knew were going to be bad when I bought them aren't very disappointing.
You probably shouldn't have mentioned that because now you've got a certain Dan Brereton fan hoping you'll take a bullet for him. Speaking of dapper goons with great taste in comic book artists, I have a few things I need to get off my chest about
John Wick's Eldritch High
PART 6: FINAL THOUGHTS
I'll try not to make this an e/n post.
I've bitched about this game over the course of a 5 part review so I don't think that I need to tell you all that I hate this stinker. But why is this game so awful? Why is it that I regret the I blew on this but not the hundreds I spent on Kickstarter? I could just say "because Wick" but that wouldn't really explain much, would it?
The fluff is one half of the problem. Wick's antagonistic and grim "I got my start GMing by getting my ego stroked over my shitty, not-technically-death riddled Champions games" style saturates this game and the product suffers as a result. The GM chapter rambles on and on about stories focused on awful personal experiences like betrayals of trust between students and teachers or having monsters kidnap your parents while stories about discovering doorways to Narnia and fighting off daemon infiltrators "They Live" style are barely given a paragraph each. Alien Rope Burn said it quite nicely in response to part 5.
Wick's "life is pain" ethos is extra-problematic, once again, we're talking about playing a kid - or at least a teenager - in an inherently punishing world. What's the fun of being a teenage wizard if it's being just a versimilitudey child soldier? It's trying to be Harry Potter with a sneer, and sounds pretty charmless as a result.
And it's just as charmless as it sounds. The child soldier angle isn't even really explored, Wick just uses it as an excuse for the academy to press gang the students in to going to the school. Yes, Wick is so cynical that he's casually equating compulsory education with child soldiers.
The crunch is what ultimately kills the game for me. Since the awful fluff isn't baked in to the rules, I could just do the same thing I do with Witch Girl Adventures and ignore all of the fluff, but that doesn't change the fact that the rules are unplayably bad. Customization is a joke, most of the moving parts (like Cheating) are superfluous, and advancement is so unbalanced that Studying (the intended primary form of advancement ) needs to be completely thrown out and rebuilt from the ground up. A third of the rules are flat out missing, and yet, the product is the better for it.
Let's compare this to the Robotic Age playtest rules. Yes, weapon elements are very poorly balanced and non-combat abilities are largely glossed over, but everything fits together. There are no truly superfluous parts (except maybe the split between cyborgs and transhumans), almost every option has merit, and nothing important is missing. Robotic Age knows what it wants to be and does it quite well for a playtest, but Eldrtitch High regularly thwarts itself and shows a total disregard for editing, playtesting, and most importantly, the player.
So what should be done to fix it? For one, use Aspects like Ven did to make the characters stand out instead of crap like your dorm or stereotype. For another, drop the rigid class schedule and either give the players enough points to have a fleshed out set of courses or pare down the courses into something simple and maybe representing a general way of doing things instead of ridiculously precise crap like how many hours you've wasted studying the history of the Jesus Fish. And throw out the grimderp setting as well in favor of something fun and pulpy. In short, just use Fate.
I'm still a little bitter over the , but I did enjoy tearing this game a new asshole. I got to flex my writing muscles, get a feel for the thread, and I even got a few laughs out of an IRL friend. And I got to bond with my fellow goons. Thanks for sticking with me to the end guys and gals. I couldn't have finished this without your support.
Next time, A NEW REVIEW? or So let me tell you guys about
I don't think I'll be posting another F&F for a while, but if I do I want to do something good. Like maybe Dungeons: The Dragoning by LawfulNice (I kinda wish that the first one wasn't abandoned) or Giant Guardian Generation by our very own TK-31 (probably unnecessary, but I still wanna gush about it). So until next time, be good to yourselves and those you love!