What do you get when you cross Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition, The Burning Wheel's design ethos, and sprinkle a bit of narrative gaming on top? No, that's not a riddle, it's The Sacred BBQ!
Billed by its creator as "An irreverent RPG", The Sacred BBQ is the placeholder title for an RPG that combines aspects of D&D, Mouse Guard, Feng Shui and Apocalypse World. I've had the opportunity to see the game as it's evolved, and I have to admit that I'm rather excited to see where it's going.
So, let's take a look and see what's being roasted.
Classes and Roles operate similarly to 4th edition, with each class having abilities that trigger under certain conditions. However, the Classes are no longer tied to their Roles. Roles are now a separate template you tack on to your class of choice to further modify their role in life. The first time I read this, I admit I saw little point to the design choice, since players would choose the best mechanical option. I've come to see, however, that it really is a smart move, one that fixes a problem I've run into every time I tried to play 4th edition (ie: We don't have a defender, you HAVE to play a defender to play with us). Backgrounds further round out the character, granting a list of skills, resources, and Tricks. Tricks are special abilities that only a person with that particular background can perform, as long as they invest an action point. Rather nifty, without falling too into the mechanical absurdities.
Skills are the biggest departure from Dungeons and Dragons, and quite frankly, my favorite part of the entire game. Characters are either skilled or unskilled in a specific area, and, when a skill check is rolled, determines how the roll is interpreted. Sounds a bit too simple, doesn't it? This is where Advantage and Disadvantage come into play. If a character has the Advantage in a situation, he rolls two dice, and keeps the better result. The inverse is true with Disadvantage. Lovely little system, really.
To keep the game moving, a person can only roll for a certain task and intent once. With the way things are now structured, failure (a twist) will tend to arrange things in such a way that it's nonsensical, or impossible, to repeat yourself.
On to Races!
Races, or Types, are simply a collection of lists. The player chooses one option from each list, noting them down on his character sheet. It should be noted here that this is where Sacred BBQ departs from D&D the most. There are no ability scores, no racial modifiers, etc. The game is narrative in a manner similar to Dungeon World, but concerns itself less with simulation or outright emulation of the original system, and more about attacking the narrative head on.
So, does Sacred BBQ hit its mark? That depends. As stated, the game is still an early playtest version of a heavily narrative RPG with elements from 4th edition. This is neither good nor bad, simply what the game is. Personally, I'm not a fan of certain narrative games (FATE, The PDQ games), but large chunks of The Sacred BBQ appeal to me even though I'm not a fan of the tongue-in-cheek tone that the document takes. That is, as always, a personal preference.
I actually do enjoy The Sacred BBQ enough that I'm considering dropping the house system I was developing for my Jim Henson-esque setting, and throwing the setting on the BBQ.
To see if this is a game you'd like, grab the playtest document here and the introductory adventure over here.