Helix: Review

Last month, I was approached by an independent publisher to review their new RPG called Helix. If you want to learn more, you can visit their site at helixrpg.wordpress.com.

Synopsis

The RPG is described as “[t]he Post Apocalypse, High Tech, Fantasy, Western, Role Playing Game.” It definitely tries to be all of those things.

Layout and Art

It was sent to me in PDF format and runs 88 pages with the front cover, contents, an appendix, and a character sheet. The layout of the book is nice and it flows well.

The artwork is definitely amateurish. With so many free, “for public use” graphics options out there, I would have preferred they used those.

Introduction

The first chapter sets the tone of the world and lets you know that it’s set in the early- to mid-2080’s. From 2010 to 2030, the world was at war and the economy of many nation’s collapsed. Out of this, one man is able to take control of most of the world. People start to develop abilities such as “code slinging” (magic) and the leader sees them as a threat.

Character Creation

There are five archetypes to choose from and each character has many qualities available to help define themselves.

Average Joe/Plain Jane – The “rebel without a cause” kind of person. One who wants to fight for something and now has a reason to do so.

Code Slinger - The “spellcaster” who uses technology (the Code) to bend reality to your will.

Cyber Mystic – A “shaman-esque” character who teaches the ways of the Code.

Gun Jack/Jill – Gunslinger.

Mutant – Self explanatory.

Assigning Attributes is done by rolling 2d6 four times. You then put the three highest numbers in Social (how you deal with other people), Physical (hit points, physical prowess as well as how you deal with poisons and drugs), and Mental (remembering things and saving against Code Slinger spells). You place the lowest number in Flaws.

Qualities are chosen next. There are physical, social, and mental qualities and you place points into qualities based upon the number you’ve assigned to an attribute. So, for example, if you rolled a 10 and placed it in your Physical attribute, you have 10 points (levels) to put into physical qualities such as Archery, Lock Picking, Stealth, etc.

You can choose from two categories of qualities; standard and capped. Standard qualities can never have more levels in them than half your current Attribute rating (rounded down). Capped qualities can never have more than two levels in them.

With that said, you can put as many levels in standard Flaw qualities as you want. And capped Flaw qualities can only have one level put into it but it costs two points to do so.

Spellcasting

This is one area that I did not like. Players are encourages to write their spells (Code) and the GM is to have the final say. There are 18 example spells given as reference. To create a spell, the code slinger must roll equal to or under their Para-Coding skill. A successful roll means they create the spell. The problem comes in to play if you want to have it last for longer than an instant or want it to extend beyond three feet away. Then you start taking penalties and the number you must roll at or under starts to go down. But if you start putting limitations on your spells, then you get bonuses.

Honestly, I just don’t see the point. So you’re saying I’m a spellcaster but it’s really difficult to create spells unless I make them really harder to actually use?

Strengths

I like the setting idea. It’s a world that has been plunged into war for years but the people survived. What was once a technologically savvy world is now more like the old west but there are still folks who live with, and thrive upon, science, some bending it to their will. But, of course, they have to be discreet or become hunted.

I really like the weapons that are available to the gunslingers. I mean, who doesn’t want an arm cannon?!

There are lots of very well detailed monsters and npcs/groups that can be used to create interesting scenarios.

I liked the method of making checks. You make checks against your qualities based upon a d6 and want to roll at or under your level. You roll Attribute checks with a d12 and, again, want to roll at or under your level. So the lower the better.

Weaknesses

The world itself isn’t very well defined. Beyond an initial timeline of how we get to the current point and a description of a typical outpost (with an example town), there’s not much that tells me what still exists and what doesn’t. I wish the world had been fleshed out a little better.

Penalizing a player to create spells that do bigger things is not something I would do nor would I want to have to deal with as a player.

I really don’t like the art.

Conclusion

It’s an interesting idea. The mechanics are pretty easy to follow and the world would be fun to explore if you had the right GM (or were the right GM) who’s up to having to flesh out a lot of it. However, the spellcasting system leaves a lot to be desired. I think if the spellcasting was tweaked a bit and if some world information was created, it would be a lot better. But it’s definitely a solid effort from an independent RPG developer.

Overall, I give it a 3/5.

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4 Responses to “Helix: Review”

Helix November 15th, 2008 at 2:02 PM

Thank you for taking the time to do the review!

reveal November 15th, 2008 at 2:51 PM

@Helix – Thanks for asking. :)

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