Wednesday, November 07, 2012


Knights of Pen and Paper

It's autumn, so it's time once again for me to get completely sucked into a dungeon crawler.  This year's game is Knights of Pen and Paper.  I'm playing it on iOS, but it's also available for Android and coming soon for PC and Mac.  And gosh I love it.  I love it so much.

The defining gimmick of the game is that it attempts to recreate the experience of tabletop roleplaying.  The game start with a table, and you fill the five seats with different players and decide which character class each one is going to play -- you can even select from a variety of Dungeon Masters.  This table is always present on the screen, but the background changes as you move between various locations, representative of the players imagining where they are.  Most of the events in the game are narrated to you by the Dungeon Master, and the players drop in and out of character in their conversations.

And it's great.  It's really, really fantastic.  It exactly captures the feeling I had in high school of running a D&D campaign.  And certain changes that you make in the "real" world affect the game world.  For instance, different DMs reward the players (for, presumably, good roleplaying) in different ways.  You can use your game currency to buy pizza, chips, and soda, which give you various bonuses until they've been consumed.  And each player gives a unique ability to the character he or she plays -- the hyperactive younger brother gets higher initiative, Flowers (Ramona?) gets a bonus to all luck rolls, Paris (Hilton?) gets a discount on all blacksmith purchases, and so on.

Mechanically, the game is very familiar.  Like in Puzzle Quest, you move from node to node on the overhead map and receive quests at each location you visit.  Combat is similar to Dragon Quest, where everyone gets a turn and proximity isn't a factor.  Although I've come to prefer roguelikes in recent years for the way they make proximity and movement a factor in combat, this is, frankly, the way I played pen and paper RPGs.  It's pretty appropriate.

It's really my favorite kind of RPG in that the characterization and the story is very sparse, and it leaves a lot of room for your imagination to fill in the details.  This is helped along by the fact that all of the players in your party are obviously just normal people wearing costumes to a role-playing game.  I have the Grandma player playing the Rogue for my party, which is kind of amazing on two levels.  One is that I'm just picturing her as being literally the grandmother of one of the other players (I'm thinking the Little Brother, who I'm also picturing as literally the DM's little brother, so I guess she'd be both of their grandmother), tagging along to see what all the fuss is about this game.  The other is that she's actually a pretty tough character!  Grandma the Rogue, handing out concussions and backstabs with her poison dagger.  It's amazing.

It's been a while since I've felt this invested in any game, let alone an iOS game.  It's fun, it's funny, it's got a nice 8-bitty audio and visual style, it's got a lovably loose sort of translation to it -- it's just great.  I can sit down and play it for hours.  And it's so inexpensive!  You should check it out.


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