jIg nOIr mELt Annual
"What Went Wrong?"

As Presented by K. M. Lintz

And now, we'd like to cheerfully present the awards that EVERYONE has been battling over for years! Unfortunately, someone else already gives those out, so we had to come up with our own. Herein we present...

jig noir melt EXCLUSIVE FIRST ANNUAL What Went Wrong Awards!

First off, we have the Worst Art In An Awesome Game Award, which goes, by a landslide, to Nightlife, by Stellar Games. GREAT game. AWFUL art. If you don't have this system, you should pick it up just to see how bad the artwork is. Then you should actually buy it because it's a cool game - the only monster-based system I've seen yet that isn't afraid of itself.

Secondly, on a similar note, we find the Worst Organization of a Cool Idea Award going to Precedence's Immortal. It has nice art, to start with. It also has some truly amazing ideas...once you muddle through enough to piece together what they are. To the creator's credit, I very much get the feeling this was just a problem of having TOO big an idea, but...it's a major problem in what should have been one of the best games going.

The Worst Worldview to Read While Eating Chinese Food goes to Mayfair's Underground. These guys are SICK. It's hilarious. Mortijingle absolutely loves this game - it's a beautiful amalgam of death and humor. If you're interested in a `How Bad Can Things Get' Cyberpunkish type game that TRULY pulls *NO* punches, this is it. (I mean it - this makes Kult look upbeat and Paranoia seem squeamish by comparison. And, for the contrast, it's wonderfully organized - we're revamping our Storytiller systems' layout in partial emulation because it's so cool. Just don't read it on a woozy stomach or if you're feeling socially conscientious at the moment - it gets to ME sometimes.)

The Most Likely to Piss Off God just had to go to In Nomine, from, of course, Steve Jackson Games. I LIKE In Nomine...I just wish I liked it MORE. It has a few definite problems; some organizational glitches, a few internal inconsistancies, and the system is overly simplistic at times. It DOES have an index, but parts of it are -too- complete, seeming to include any page that has the word in question on it, whether it's actually ABOUT that or not...which can be almost as frustrating as leaving important references out. The genre, on the other hand, is very fun, and while I'm personally a little unhappy with some of the directions they seem to be taking it, I also have to admit it's just that - personal. They're not BAD directions, just not the way *I*'d have gone. All told, if you're not the sort of person who worries inordinantly about lightning bolts, it's recommended. I haven't seen it in the original French, but I gather this is the more serious.

Jumping over to the Least Useful Movie Adaptation Award, I just have to say...Tank Girl?!? I mean, don't get me wrong - it's a fun movie, but...Tank Girl? (Though on the more recent note, I also feel obliged to mention that "Men In Black" is a Nightlife adventure. I haven't seen West End Games' treatment of it yet, though highly recommended, but it works so WELL as a Nightlife adventure I'm unconvinced it needed another system. Still, they did "Ghostbusters" nicely, so...) Oh, Tank Girl is also by WEG (don't they do ALL the movie adaptations?), and I haven't ever actually looked at it. I mean...Tank Girl??

Aria, by Last Unicorn Games, picks up an award as the Most Effective Defense Against Stab Wounds. Honestly, if you're ever in the bizarre circumstance of having to get into a fight and being given the choice of ONE RPG rulebook to use as a weapon/defense, pick Aria. It's huge. This thing, paperback, puts any hardcover to shame. I swear, you could take out a grizzly bear with a blow to the head with this. I'm convinced a copy of Aria tucked under your jacket could stop a rhino bullet. Also, it looks like a cool game...someday, when I'm retired, I may even have the time to actually read it, and find out if it really has all the cool ideas it seemed to have on a skim through. (Which still took about an hour.)

The Least Exciting as a LARP Award naturally falls to Wraith. By White Wolf. What're you going to do? Wear black clothes and sit around muttering about how life sucks, and death sucks more? Bump into walls a lot? Grab people and try to twist them into objects? (okay, THAT could be fun...and you can do it in Nightlife.) Bleah. [Ednote: Yeah, we know about the Risen. We know about the Crow jokes, too.]

The Dumbest Execution of a Pretty Good Idea reaches back a bit to..the AD&D (registered trademark) Second Edition Monstrous Compendium, from the late TSR. This bugged me. Doing it in the three-ring binder idea, so that people could arrange it themselves, was a nice thought. So why the alphabetical order printed on both sides so it has to be arranged the way it always was, hm? Makes the three-ring binder suddenly awkward and useless. *sigh* Anyway, AD&D2E had plenty of things wrong with it..this COULD have been something good, and they blew it, so they get a mention. Besides, I'm more partial to three-ring circuses...

The Worst Hooter Art Award can definitely be given to Champions, as brought to us by Hero Games. Honestly, guys. At a time when we're finally getting some female gamers, and most of the industry is adjusting, at least a bit, to make them feel a little more welcome, Champions features this pair of blimps with something vaguely like a woman attached. Every time I see that cover, I find myself looking around for the bicycle pump she used to inflate the things. The proportion problem is bad enough without them being quite so...spherical. (Though I have to grant that given Champions rules, nipples that poke little dents in steel plates aren't entirely out of the question.) If you want that, pick up Macho Women With Guns. It scores above Champions in three respects. 1) The women are far more attractive; 2) It's way funnier, and 3) When you're done ogling the pictures and chuckling over the footnotes, there's actually a surprisingly coherent system hidden in there. (Not the GREATEST system, but they don't pretend otherwise, and it's playable.)

The Best Disappearing Act goes to the `supplement' CritterTech. I'm not even sure offhand what company that's from. [Ednote: Crunchy Frog.] It's a spoof off Battletech, with, I gathered, `Mechs' based off cute furry animals. It was in the store one day, and I didn't quite have enough cash on me to justify adding it to what I'd already picked up...and when I went back a scant few weeks later, it was gone. I don't know how it is in other areas, but I haven't been able to find it HERE, which is a shame. It looked like fun. If I ever see it again, I'm going to add it to my collection immediately, if only to support the author.

The Least Clever Knockoff Disguise unerringly points to Marauder: 2107, from Maelstrom Hobby. The similar title aside, even a lot of the formatting is similar to Cyberpunk 2020...and though I'll grant their system ISN'T the Cyberpunk clone I was expecting by that point, I'm afraid it had very little actually new to it. If you like Anime, it's worth a look to see if you're interested in it for the world, however. Also, while I can only recommend the main rules a little bit, if you're interested in intelligent nasties with sharp teeth, (and who isn't?) DEFINITELY check out their Breeder Compendium. It's more a generation system than the usual listings, and their Breeders can be -nasty-. Should import well to almost any game, and surprise the heck out of (not to mention tearing a few chunks out of) the PCs.

In another flashback, what's now Plaid Rabbit's Talislanta picks up the Should Have Been A Supplement Award. "No Elves" is a fine sentiment - we at jnm(mnj) approve heartily. But somewhere in all their listings of non elves, they forgot to include any kind of actual system...oh, there are hintings of one here and there, but it's a halfhearted attempt at best. I highly recommend it for the sheer variety of races and cultures, along with some unique skills and special abilities - but only if you plan to import them into something with some kind of structure. (A GURPS Talislanta adaptation would be cool, if only to give a better basis for translating them over to other games as well..) I DO have to allow here as to how my version is from way back when it was owned by Bard Games [Ednote: You know. Created by S. M. Sechi, sold by Bard Games, then Wizards of the Coast, then Daedalus Games, then now Plaid Rabbit.]; they may have fixed that by now.

The game Most Likely To Get Someone To Blow Themselves Up Award I'm giving to R. Talsorian Games's Castle Falkenstein. I haven't had the chance to play this yet - I want to make a mad genetic engineer, myself - but it looks like fun. Their steampunk pseudoscience just *almost* makes enough sense here and there that you get tempted to try it out in real life...

And finally, at least in the general Role Playing Game segment of our program, the Most Annoying Resemblance to Swiss Cheese Award goes to Amber, by Phage Press. Now, if you've taken even a brief glance around MaBarry and my pages, you can hardly have missed how taken we are with the genre...and the system itself is simple, but workably so in its intended system-light context. Unfortunately, the rulebooks are just riddled with holes...and while I'll say I like some of Wujcik's ideas fine, I have NO idea where he got some of them. Certainly not from Zelazny's series...the Amber Diceless Role Playing Game comes out VERY different from the Chronicles of Amber. (And I'll say flat out; Shadowknight is a waste of time. The only interest to it was what to throw out first. The main Amber rulebook is worth getting for the myriad ideas scattered throughout, even if you don't need it for the rules, but not only did *I* not like Shadowknight - I haven't yet met anyone who DID.)

Taking the slight jostle over to cardgames (the ones where what you buy for the game are cards, that is - not like Deadlands and Falkenstein which just use 'em like dice), we first have the Most Evil Marketing Scheme. Magic: The Gathering, by Wizards of the Coast, wins this for the fourth year in a row. Amazing, really..this is the first time we've done this, and already they've gotten that award four years running. I will say that I've played around with it a little with friends who had cards to let me use, and it could be a fun game...if it weren't for the evil marketing behind it.

The Most Likely to Confuse Deep Blue Award, something apparently in great need at the moment, gets picked up by Steve Jackson Games's Knightmare Chess. Geeze...God and Deep Blue. SJG is just annoying ALL the major players, aren't they? Knightmare Chess is great - we at jnm, of course, particularly approve of their jester-with-a-headsman's-axe theme, of course. If you liked Archon, I very highly recommend picking this up...and best of all, SJG DOESN'T use evil marketing schemes! (Huzzah! On the note of it, they've even resisted the temptation with their Illuminati: New World Order CCG and, of course, Dino Hunt.) And, if you're getting tired of the standard set, we have, in this very issue, a few proposals...

The game Most Likely To Suck Mens' Souls Into A Vortex of Sin and Degradation (with thanks to Emo Philips) is, surprise surprise, Mythos, by Chaosium, Inc. I know they traditionally just sweep the awards ceremonies, but we're only giving them this one...so there.

And, by contrast, the game Most Likely To Suck Mens' Souls Into A Vortex of Sex and Depravation goes naturally to XXXenophile. I've only seen a set of these very briefly, personally, and only one issue of the comic, but I know Foglio's art...I'm sure this award is as well earned as the last one.

FINALLY, the Crumb de la Crumb award simply has to go to HoL, by Dirt Merchant Games, [Ednote: distributed, etc., by Black Dog Games which is a subset of White Wolf, and isn't quite the pedigree that Talislanta has, but...] What can you say about a system that has, among its standard statistics for weaponry, what size hole it would put in country western singer Slim Whitman? A game largely written, apparently, over too much coffee in a 24-hour pancake restraunt? It's almost impossible to read (ALL handwritten); it's also well worth the effort. It has cheap gags and pointless violence, and it, too, has a jester with a headsman's axe. (No, that's not our only criteria..) Check this one out...and keep it out of reach of children. Get the supplement (Buttery Holsomeness) and keep that even FURTHER out of reach of children...except maybe those you really don't like. HoL is hilarious, if you like that sort of thing. We sure do.

{Incidentally, if you're wondering why White Wolf's Storyteller set didn't get more mentions, what with the plethora of things wrong with them, it's because..well, we've already got them reasonably well covered. See Prestidigitator and Wearrug for an idea, and Leech is coming out..}

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j n m ( m n j )
"The first thing a principle does,
if it really is a principle,
is to kill someone."
credited to Dorothy Sayers