Critical!: Go Westerly is a Light (and Lighthearted) Fantasy RPG

If your gaming group is more interested in getting together once a week to drink beer and tell off-color jokes than going on deadly serious plane-altering missions, Critical!: Go Westerly just might be the perfect RPG for you. The GM is called the Bartender, and all characters have an AC score: Alcohol Content. Add a slim and simple 2d6 rules system and you’ve pretty much got the perfect beer & pretzels RPG.

Go Westerly was clearly created from the ground up to be an RPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It says so in the preface. There’s not a lot of gloom and doom in the PDF’s 180 pages. Character creation is pretty open-ended, with a quick point-buy system for basic stats. You get to make up your own skills and powers that fall into four categories: Help You, Help Others, Hurt Others, Cheating. Some examples from the included pregenerated characters give some ideas how this works. The wizard has a cheating skill called “A Wide Assortment of Practical Magic Spells.” The bard has a help others skill called “Shred on the Theorbo (or Other Stringed Instrument).” I’m sure you can see how this will lead to terrible puns and filthy jokes when your group is already slightly buzzed by the time skill creation happens.

The whole system is based in adding up the skill and attributes of a character, comparing to relevant stats for an opponent or situation and coming up with a Success Number. You need to match or beat the success number on a 2d6 roll to accomplish your action.

This is an incredibly inclusive tavern. And Jimi Hendrix has stopped by for some pre-gig grog!

One interesting rule is the eponymous Critical! rule. You get a Critical! whenever you roll the exact success number you needed. When this happens, you succeed at your action, and something extra good happens. However, something not so extra good also happens at the same time. Your attempt to smooth talk the guard works, and he lets you in — plus he gives you a gift. But he also falls hopelessly in love with you and follows your character around for days singing schmaltzy 80s power ballads. There are all kinds of opportunities for fun and hilarity in this rule, given a clever Bartender.

A huge portion of the book is given to the game world, which sets a suitably light tone. A lot of the humor in the book relies on wordplay — I found some of it amusing, and some fell flat. But really, it isn’t meant to be a comedy book. It’s a framework for you to play a comedy RPG within. At that, it succeeds admirably (totally rolled over their Success Number). The rules are light enough that they’ll never get in the way of a good time, and there’s plenty of open space in the design for you to hang your own silly concepts and ludicrous ideas.

You can score a copy of Critical! Go Westerly at RPGNow for a ludicrously low price ($5) at the moment. Don’t forget to tip your Bartender.

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