My copy of Conflict Roleplaying was provided by Atomic Array for the purposes of this VERY late review.  My apologies to Ed & Co. for taking so long to get around to it.  As always, I highly recommend that you check out Atomic Array if you haven’t already, and the same goes for Conflict Roleplaying.

Update: Edited to give the proper name of the game (Conflict Roleplaying), and I noticed that the price of the PDF is $9.99.  That makes me very happy, so I give Conflict Games LLC five stars for reasonable pricing.  The hard copy is equally well priced (for a dead tree version), so I reiterate my hearty approval of Conflict Roleplaying.

Conflict Roleplaying (ConflictRPG for short) calls itself “competition” for Pathfinder. That description gets pretty much to the point.  Mark Scott of Conflict Games LLC took the rules licensed under the OGL and did some pretty neat stuff with it.  In most of my games so far there has been very little PvP action – there is almost always the “all for one and one for all” mentality spoken of in Chapter 1 of ConflictRPG.  Not to say that’s a bad thing, of course, but sometimes a little change is a good thing.  Not only can ConflictRPG be fun on its own, but you can work it into an existing game to carry out certain functions (like gladiatorial matches and honest brawls ‘tween folk).

From a design and layout perspective, ConflictRPG is well-done.  My PDF comes in grayscale, and the contrast is high and thus readable.  The typeface decisions are generally good, though the spatter font used for big titles can be a little distracting.  In general, the layout and design adds to the game’s tone while not distracting from the business of roleplaying.  The art is another matter entirely.  The art makes me very happy, since the designers made some very good choices in the process of producing this book.  I love fantasy art, and ConflictRPG has some delightful drawings that really spark my imagination.

ConflictRPG is a definite shift in perspective from your average 3.5 game.  The book begins by giving brief explanations of the new concepts and terminology used in a ConflictRPG game.  This is one section that I would streamline and edit for a future iteration.  The chapter does tell you what you need to know, but it took me a bit longer than I’d like at the very beginning of a new game.  New concepts are good and important, but they need to be organized in such a way that I, the player/GM, don’t feel a bit intimidated when trying to sit down with it.

Mechanics-wise, ConflictRPG is brilliant.  The basic assumption of most D&D games is that the players will work together for maximum cooperation.  While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes that isn’t realistic or just doesn’t fit the tone of what the players and GM want to accomplish.  ConflictRPG‘s system for dealing with PvP is mostly geared toward pre-planned, controlled, balanced matches.

Characters are rarely created equal.  At least amongst my usual gaming groups, character creation is often an opportunity to showcase knowledge of the rules (and their loopholes).  To handle that problem, ConflictRPG gives us battlepoints.  Battlepoints encompass everything a character has to work with, and they give players and GMs a way to make combat about more than who can min/max better.  I am a particular fan of this mechanic, and it does a nice job of focusing combat on how you use what you have to work with.

Tactics are (sadly) often lacking in D&D games.  Yes, gamers pay careful attention to ranges and basic aspects of cover, but for the most part players and GMs alike ignore the environment in which they play.  In ConflictRPG, map elements and strategic terrain create a battlefield that demands better use of tactics.  When battlepoints come into play, characters must seriously consider every aspect of the terrain and their gear to come up with the most creative solution or be destroyed.  Throw in different match types and the game changes once again (Team Slayer, anyone?).

While ConflictRPG is ultimately about PvP, it also encourages teams.  Team combat just takes the standard D&D party and places it against another very similar to it.  Whether they are in competition for an object or just trying to eliminate each other, team combat allows new team feats and even more tactics!  Metagaming is often a problem when this sort of situation arises in standard D&D, so in ConflictRPG everyone has to use passcards to communicate actions.

The game book also offers pregenerated characters, tactical suggestions, sample maps, tips on how to use ConflictRPG on its own or in an existing game, and even a section on how to ride a rust monster.  This is no half-assed game, and I really can’t wait to give it a real playtest.  Anyone up for an ODST-style firefight?

Want to learn more about Conflict Roleplaying? Read on…

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