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Immortal. Classic. Throbbing with manly manhood. Everything a roleplaying game should be. Synnibarr! All others are just pale imitations.

Never heard of World of Synnibarr? You owe it to yourself to buy a copy on eBay (mine was $10), or at the very least to read the classic RPGnet review.

Thus Continues the Gospel According to Synnibarr

III. Ptoing! Your puny missile cannot penetrate my medieval plate armor!

Armor in Synnibarr offers logarithmic protection. And makes no sense. So not only is the armor system terrible, but let’s go get our TI-83 graphing calculators and figure out how terrible.

My character is wearing Sunstone Plate armor. (That’s plate armor in the true sense, not some powered sci-fi robo-armor.) Sunstone Plate reduces damage by a factor of 10,000 — so for every 10,000 points of damage I should take, I actually take one point.

You shoot a tactical-range Cobra Shadow missile with a 200′ blast radius at me. It does 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 points of damage. I’m fucked, right?

Nope.

My plate armor knocks that down to a paltry 100-1,000 points of damage. Every race in the game except gnomes (wait, WTF?) can survive 100 points of damage. Many could live through several hundred and a couple could shrug off max damage.

Think killing PCs should essentially be impossible? You’re in good hands. This is what happens when a player who has only had abusive GMs designs an RPG.

(Thanks to Gnome Stew reader DaveTheGame for suggesting this entry in the gospel.)

IV. Any monster can be improved by adding wings.

Sometimes you can amp up an otherwise meh game element by giving it a little extra kick — something cool that makes it stand out to your players and turns it into a memorable part of your campaign.

Wings, for example. Wings are cool, right? I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of being able to fly?

Welcome to the Synnibarr school of game design (max flight speeds are in parentheses):

  • Flying deer (120 mph)
  • Flying elk (120 mph)
  • Flying lion (100 mph)
  • Flying sea-horse (150 mph)
  • Flying tiger (200 mph)
  • Giant flying fish (120 mph)
  • Giant flying grizzly bear (100 mph)
  • Winged cobra (400 mph)
  • Winged horse (112 mph — why 112, specifically?)

This is the same bestiary section that features killer dolphins, temporal were-wraiths and, of course, the giant mutant fire clam, so I take the presence of flying elk, et al, as a signal that the authors were out of ideas. Given the rest of the monsters, maybe that’s a good thing.

As a GM, when your creative well has run dry, take a break and let it recharge. It could be burnout, it could be you just need to play instead of GMing for a session or two. It happens to all of us (sometimes more than once), and it’s OK — stop before the flying grizzly bears put in an appearance.

About  Martin Ralya

A father, husband, writer, small-press publisher, former RPG industry freelancer, and lifelong geek, Martin has been gaming since 1987 and GMing since 1989. He lives in Utah with his amazing wife Alysia and their awesome daughter Lark in a house full of books and games.



8 Responses to The Gospel According to Synnibarr: Attack of the Winged Logarithmic Armor

  1. Gah… everytime I read about that game my soul dies a little bit more.

    You guys (and gals) have to come and see Graham’s 4e stats for the Giant Mutant Fire Clam and Laser bears (plus special appearance of the Game Designer in 4e stats!)

    All this and more, here!

  2. Rob’s Rule of Thumb: Any game that you must use a calculator to play is probably not worth playing, as the work tends to get in the way of the fun. Anything that uses more math than D&D is probably not doing a good job considering the players’ entertainment, and things like millions of points of damage per attack makes me wince. Are you tracking numbers of molecules in the target’s body affected by the blow? Why?

    I think I can empathize with what the writers of the game were experiencing. After a while, with all the material cranked out by the many writers for established games like D&D, it can seem like every source of inspiration has been throttled, shackled and trotted out on the slave-block already. For proof of how far this goes, I ask you to consider the Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, a creature that I believe resided in the original Fiend Folio, a monster that looked for all the world like a friendly bunny standing on a tree stump. All of mythology has already been plumbed. Where to go for inspiration?

    If you work at it, you can still come up with original things and ideas, but I for one am not opposed to the idea of a mad wizard out there, somewhere, putting wings on common creatures for his amusement (or just to tick off the local druids, who keep Warp Wood spelling his door for kicks. I once used a wizard that gave every creature in the area burrowing and tremorsense (and boy, did my players freak out at that). Temporal were-wraiths do sound kind of cool in a visceral sort of way, but steer clear of the Giant Mutant Fire Clams.

  3. If I may put on my nit-picky nerd helmet for a second, the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing originally comes from S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, which was chock full of monsters who were weird because they came from outer spaaaace (froghemoth, vegepygmies, etc).

    I agree, though, I’m fascinated by Synnibarr in the train wreck kinda way.

  4. Back in the day, sitting around after-hours at GenCon with other friends from (this was a long time ago!) CompuServe’s RPGames forum, we found a great game to play using Synnibarr’s rules. Open the book, and see how far down a random page you need to go before finding a ridiculous rule, an obvious typo, or a setting detail chock full of crap.

    My enduring favorite is the shops. There’s one for each class, selling the specific equipment needs of each class. Said shops are run by (if memory serves) 19th level NPCs of the appropriate class. Sounds semi-reasonable so far, right? But 19th level is, effectively, one or two adventures shy of godhood. That’s right, in town you will find not one but several individuals who, after facing down giant mutant fire clams and laser bears to the very doorstep of divinity decided “Screw this, I’m going into retail!”

  5. “Giant flying grizzly bear ”

    I am feeling extremely inspired by this!

    My next game will feature a giant flying grizzly bear. There might even be a reason for it, I’m not sure yet.

    So, is the bear with laser eyes different from the giant flying grizzly bear, or does a single bear both fly and have laser eyes? (According to the book, that is. I think mine will have both.)

    Thanks for the inspiration, Martin.

  6. I am introducing the following monsters during my group’s next session:

    * Flying Chicken
    * Flying Ostrich
    * Flying Penguin

  7. I’ve read another wonderful review here. Some choice previews of the review include:

    “Since they never appear again, and don’t affect anything, we’re left with what basically amount to one of McCracken’s brainfarts put on paper.”

    “It is the Antichrist of role-playing games, and it wasn’t until I gave serious attention to the rules that it began to slowly rape my mind of any idea of what a good RPG is like.”

  8. hey, uhm, my wife’s eldeen ranger/gatekeeper mystagogue has an 18HD bear animal companion with wings of flying.

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