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The Gospel According to Synnibarr: Fun. Is. PAIN.

Posted By Martin Ralya On May 22, 2008 @ 1:21 am In Crock Pot | 10 Comments

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 Begins the Gospel According to Synnibarr

I. Thy character is made of that bamboo from Rambo.

“Never wish to be an Immortal or God, or your character will blow up.” (p. 96)

Can you say “Player trampling”? How about “My word is LAW, because I am the GM and I am LORD”? I thought so. That’ll teach those uppity players to avoid things that sound cool.

II. Killing a PC is worse than killing a basket of three-legged puppies.

The number of steps required before a player character can take any damage whatsoever (p. 184):

  • 1. The attacker hits.
  • 2. Defender gets a dodge or block roll to avoid the attack.
  • 3. If the PC takes damage, she gets a fate roll to reduce the damage.
  • 4. Any number of other PCs can make a “heroic attempt” to save the PC. Each heroic attempt involves up to three more rolls.
  • 5. Okay, this is really your last chance: the PC gets a god roll to avoid the damage.

I shit you not.

This is a rule written by one of two people (or, given Synnibarr’s two authors, maybe both of them): a player-turned-GM who played under an abusive, fun-throttling GM who killed his characters willy-nilly, or a GM who absolutely, positively cannot face the thought of killing a PC.

Neither of which is a good thing.

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.




10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "The Gospel According to Synnibarr: Fun. Is. PAIN."

#1 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On May 22, 2008 @ 6:00 am

For a while now, I’ve had an inspirational poster of a Giant Mutant Fire Clam fighting a Lazer Bear with the quote “World of Synnibar… Man what!?” as my desktop background on my home PC. (For the record, it edged out the “Mr Soylent” dispenser).

I got it from a blog post on the worst RPGs ever over on http://www.criticalanklebites.com. Here’e the article link:
http://criticalanklebites.com/2007/11/28/giant-mutant-fire-clams/

#2 Comment By ve4grm On May 22, 2008 @ 9:07 am

Yeah, Matthew, that’d be my site. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

As for what kind of person wrote this game, it’s the first option, with the abusive GM. This is evidenced solely by the fact that, at the end of a session/adventure, the players can challenge the GM (“Fate”). If it is discovered that Fate has deviated from the rules exactly as written, or even if he has deviated from the adventure notes, and the players challenge him and catch him on it, they get bonus XP.

Seriously.

#3 Comment By davethegame On May 22, 2008 @ 10:55 am

There was an awesome article in Salon years and years ago about the rise of WotC. One of the tidbits in it was when WotC was on a hiring spree to keep up with Magic’s runaway success, one of the designers (and I use the term loosely) of Synnibar applied, and at the end of the interview, begged for the job because his next interview was at Burger King.

I have the dubious distinction of having played in several Synnibar games years ago. The only rule I remember was that armor had a divisor that divided all damage incoming, which lead to some weirdness involving plate mail and a missile. I think my brain has blocked out everything else.

#4 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 22, 2008 @ 11:47 am

Oh god, that poster is priceless.

@VE4GRM: I hadn’t looked at Synnibarr’s awful “challenge the GM” rules from that perspective — good point.

@Dave: That’s actually kind of sad. I don’t bear Raven c.s. McCracken any ill will, and I hope he’s doing better now than it sounds like he was back then. (Hard at work on Synnibar 2nd Edition, perhaps?)

All the math in the game makes my head hurt. I’ll look for your plate armor/missile thingie — that sounds like “fun.” ;)

#5 Comment By longcoat000 On May 22, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

After reading this character creation guide (http://atrocities.primaryerror.net/synnibarrguide.html), I can say that even hearing the name Synnibarr makes my ears bleed. I’ll take an four-armed Ice Lott with poison claws please!

But at least it’s not FATAL (http://atrocities.primaryerror.net/fatal.html)

#6 Comment By age On May 22, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

This game sounds poppycock!

#7 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On May 22, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

Longcoat: That FATAL review is quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve read in ages.

#8 Comment By ve4grm On May 22, 2008 @ 4:58 pm

@Kurt -

Then you might enjoy…

The Rebuttal!!!

#9 Comment By Martin Ralya On May 23, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

@VE4GRM: I read that a couple years back, and it was hilarious. Disturbing, too.

It’s long, but well worth a read.

#10 Comment By Omnus On May 24, 2008 @ 10:35 am

FATAL is an example of what happens when bright, creative people (like the people who push our industry) fall victim to hubris and their own weird fetishes. I know bizarre and painful fetish porn exists out there, because I know how people can be, but I have no desire to see it. Therefore, I have no desire to see or play FATAL, other than what I already have (I didn’t listen to the warnings of the reviewers in the article linked to above, sadly)

Synnibarr is, I suspect, a reaction to someone getting burned and saying “How can I make sure that never happens again?” I shudder to even think of what would happen if I tried to run it with the players I have. Not that they’re bad players, but if you give them the tools to rape the system, they’d consider it their duty to do so. However, the soul of any game system is keeping the core of a game together and revising it…with some heavy-duty revision, Synnibarr might be saved. Short of turning it into a d20 product though, I can’t say I’d read into it more than to give it a passing nod.


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