Product– Broken Compass-Adventure Journal
System- Broken Compass
Producer– Two Little Mice
TL; DR– Good light pulp adventure game with a few flaws. 87%
Basics– Onwards to adventure! Broken Compass is a classic pulp RPG where the characters play adventurers like Indiana Jones as they run across the world solving ancient puzzles and surviving gun battles with groups of minions among the skeletons of those that have come before. This is much more of a rules light, roleplay heavy game. Let’s see the pieces themselves.
Character Build- Character generation and build is incredibly easy. Each character has a bunch of skills that you can think of as attributes in DnD and fields you can think of like skills in DnD. Each skill has multiple fields that are linked to it. All players start with 2 ranks in each skill and one in each focus. You get the skill and foci for your character via choosing two tags the describe your character in two words. You also choose expertise that further describes what things your characters are good at. You then get a bit of gear and you’re done. It’s VERY quick.
Base Mechanics-Fitting quick character building, the mechanics are also very quick. When you face a problem in this game, you choose a skill and a field within that skill. The GM called the fortune master may give you additional dice called advantages or make you lose dice called disadvantages. In addition, you may get additional dice or penalties depending on your condition aka how you feel. You roll a number of six sided dice equal to this total. The goal is to get sets of dice with the same value like three of a kind. For basic challenges, you need two of a kind. For challenging encounters you need three of a kind and so on. Some conditions and events require you to get multiple sets to succeed like shooting a gun as a challenging encounter while driving a car in a storm as a basic encounter. If you fail but have one set but not enough of that set, you can risk the result and reroll any dice you want to hopefully get the successes you need. In addition, if you have expertise from your character background in what you are doing, you get a reroll for free on that activity.
Challenge vs danger– There are differences between reading an ancient scroll and shooting a nazi. This is reflected by challenges and danger. Challenges are fail forward encounters where a player attempts something that might fail, but if they fail the story continues. This may alert the enemy or cause you to miss a vital clue yet find the hidden temple just not notice the trap at the entrance. Dangers are fights or traps that might hurt a player. If you fail a check, you take damage in the form of luck. Basic challenges cause you to lose one luck while more advanced things cause you to lose much more luck. When you are out of luck (the book is VERY pulp heavy!), you have to spend a luck coin to stay in the fight. Between fights, you can rest up and get back your luck.
Let’s dig deep into my thoughts on this game!
Mechanics or Crunch-This is a fast game that is not for crunch heavy gamers. The game is very light and lets the players just free form ideas as long as the GM goes with it. It’s also reminiscent of Numenera as the GM doesn’t really roll dice. Players roll dice and success or failure determines what happens, not GM rolls or attacks. When a player is attacked, the player tells the fortune keeper how they avoid the attack. It’s very fast. The one problem I have is I would like a bit more complexity. It’s solid enough, and I like rolling d6s and hoping for sets. But, I like a bit more crunch for the system. Feats or special abilities would help a bit here. Also leveling up doesn’t really get you much. That’s good as the players can hop in to basically any adventure, but it also means long term play doesn’t net the characters many gains. The system I compare this the most to is Numenera, and in that system when you level up, you get a bit more. Also in Numenera, there is just a bit more crunch for players to dig into. Broken Compass is fun and light, but I want a bit more crunch in this system. 4.5/5
Theme or Fluff-Hands down this is an amazing, fluff filled game. Every character is set up to look like a pulp stereotype, both modern and old school. The adventures are written to be replaceable and generic but relatable in that classic way as things like OLD MAN, ANCIENT TEMPLE, RIVAL are used to be plug and play with different characters but the fortune master is given tons of different materials to help make the story. Is the OLD MAN a survivor of the great war who saw the temple in the Jungles while on patrol or is the RIVAL a silicon valley billionaire out for world conquest with the Eye of Ra? Its light in a good way so you can put this into any time or place with that good pulp feel. Stories flow from Amazon adventures to exploration under the Egyption pyramids. Every page has lots of fluff and art that makes a player or a fortune master feel like they are part of a classic pulp book in the discount bin of a grocery store. If you want to feel like your Indiana Jones or at least someone reading an Indiana Jones story, this is a solid book to read through. 5/5
Execution– PDF? Yes. Hyperlinked? Yes! I like this book, but don’t love it. The book reads well, is well laid out, and has great art. There are even pregens and a quick adventure where the players and the fortune master can get playing asap instead of having to figure out character generation and adventure creation on their own. Those are all great reasons to check this book. But, the major fault of this book is I need more on how to run the game. There are explanations of how single players encounter things, but I need a bit more on how multiple players encounter a thing. Does everyone face the threat or just one? Even fighting one on many, how does that work? A bit more would really help me better understand how to run this game. This is a solid game, but it needs a bit more explanation to make it rock solid. 3.5/5
Summary-I like this game, but it has some small faults. The idea of rolling a bunch of dice and hope for sets of numbers is a fun one. The theme is great and well presented. The book overall is a solid read and way to get into the game. One major issue I have is I want more crunch, so players feel like they are progressing. Good for one shots or short campaigns, but longer multi story arcs might not be as much fun. The other major issue I have is I need more explanation on how to run this as a fortune master. The system works, but I have questions if I’ve done it right. That’s never a good feeling to have. If you play with people who just want to have a good time, it will be fun. But the power gamer out there won’t enjoy this as much. If you want some good pulp, this is worth your golden idol. If you need a bit more crunch and a bit more explanation, maybe look in another tomb. 86%