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Considering an RPG: A Board Gamer’s Review of the Red Star Rising Campaign From GooeyCube

So there we were, my husband and I, perusing the aisles of the GenCon Exhibit Hall when suddenly this distinguished gentleman called out to us, inviting us over to his booth.

Alphinius and Jenni Meet at GenCon2019He introduced himself as Alphinius Goo. He was animated and gregarious and he wanted to draw our interest to his pride and joy – the Red Star Rising  RPG campaign. Other gamers gathered around the GooeyCube booth as well, as Alphinius began to walk us through the world of Zyathé, where the campaign is set. As he explained the campaign and the materials that come packaged in the GooeyCube bundles (there’s so much stuff!), I started to feel that this was something my husband Chris and I could actually manage.  Up until then, the closest I’d come to playing an RPG was a year long campaign working through the Pathfinder Skull and Shackles Adventure Card Game  (which is often billed as the board game for RPG players). Role playing games always sounded interesting to me – I’ve several friends who are active RPG players - but every time players talk about their games it all seems like too much work. Characters, monsters, and equipment to be created. Storylines to be written. Who has time for all that? I just want to play. With Red Star Rising, here was GooeyCube promising an entire world and all its story elements prepackaged for us. Full color illustrations of characters and scenes and everything.  And Alphinius was so enthusiastic about the campaign that we couldn’t help but get a little bit excited ourselves. He sent us away with The Darkest Dream, the first chapter in the campaign.

Chris was big into RPGs back in his teen years (played Tunnels and Trolls with his friends) so he volunteered to be our game master and I volunteered to round up some friends to play with us back at home in Iowa. I recruited Craig, Jay, Mary, and Dale and we started up one Monday evening in September. Our first session was focused on choosing characters. GooeyCube has made it very easy – providing a starter pack of twenty four pre-generated characters. Of course players are also free to create their own characters following the guidelines in the 5e universe (the Dungeons and Dragons ruleset that GooeyCube follows).  GooeyCube has added a few new character classes and they’ve supplied the guidelines for creating characters in those classes. Our group, from left to right, chose Brandele Steele (Craig), Glynn Wyther (Jay), Vanness’ Alana’s (me), Ventov Drungan (Mary), and Drezen DeVenn (Dale). 

The Gang In our second session, we jumped right into the adventures of our 5 young members of the Hanataz troupe. Session by session, each time exploring just a wee bit more of the region that the first chapter of the campaign is set in, we learned to work together as a team. Mary and I had to grapple with learning RPG norms and the 5e D&D rules as well since we were the only two that had never played an RPG before. We needed to learn how spell slots work and the myriad of actions available during combat. We needed to learn the difference between a short rest and a long rest and what a feat is and what it takes to level up. There was a lot to learn and so in addition to pouring over all the GooeyCube materials, I also checked out the standard D&D Player’s Handbook from the library, consulted a few well known D&D websites online, and leaned on the Gooey Game Master’s Den of Enlightenment Facebook group when needed.

It took us seven sessions (each about 3 hours long, but we are a chatty bunch) to cover Day 1 in the story’s timeline. We explored the woods, the entire Carnivalle camp, a few monster lairs, and more. That marked the end of The Darkest Dream  and by then we were all hooked on the Red Star Rising  campaign. From those sessions, I learned that the more experienced D&D players in a group might laugh or roll their eyes at the creative approaches of new players. I think that when you’ve done something a certain way a long time, you can settle into expectations of how things should be done and I’m prone to rolling in and knocking those expectations over. I mean why can’t your character disrobe to distract the men attacking? Why can’t you throw the kids taunting the troupe’s animals into the pen, just one of them at least to teach the others a lesson?  Why can’t you conjure up beach balls to throw at a drunk bear on the attack? Note: Drunk bear attackseven the GM who loves me said he’d have to disallow that since beach balls – which btw very much work to startle and chase away bears in real life – don’t exist in this world. Pffft.  Why can’t we refuse to go into a cabin that clearly in any horror movie would lead to our deaths (obvious plot line is obvious)? By the end of session seven, the team insisted I change my alignment from lawful good to chaotic good based on the tone of my suggestions and I  was fine with that if it meant I could keep offering up my wacky ideas that occasionally are accepted as useful. 

The second chapter of the campaign, The Foulest of Spirits  has taken us 11 sessions so far and has spanned Day 2 – 3 of the storyline. In this chapter we’ve done quite a lot including solving some violent crimes. Mary learned during this chapter that when your character jumps into a room and shouts “TADA BITCHES”, things might not always go as you’d hoped. Hah! I tried to experiment with the ready action (a choice in combat where you choose a reaction you’ll do in response to a future trigger instead of doing an action that turn) and failed spectacularly when the trigger came at an unexpected time and caused my auto-programmed reaction to occur and injure a teammate. Oops. And again, I spent a lot of time in the Gooey Game Master’s Den of Enlightenment Facebook group getting questions answered, livestreaming our sessions, and making new friends.

We’ve already decided to continue the campaign into Chapter 3, The Coldest of Blood, which I’ll be ordering this weekend. And we’ve got a new player whose going to be joining us as we continue, so I’m excited for that (if you’re interested in playing with our group over Skype, drop me an email or pm). I’ve been reading Zyathé: The Wy’rded World – Volume 1 of the Cyclopædia Zyathica that we ordered from the GooeyCube website and it’s fascinating to see how much more of the Zyathé world has been constructed that we haven’t yet explored in the game. We’ve been adventuring around just one small town in one small region of one of the many continents in Zyathé all this time. GooeyCube has published three chapters of the campaign so far, with a fourth chapter on the way, but many many more chapters are feasible since  there’s literally years of geography left to explore. 

Especially now, in these crazy pandemic times, having a group of friends to socialize with on schedule every week (previously in person, now on Skype) has been a comforting ritual. We’ve all become better friends as we’ve played together in this mystical world Alphinius Goo has created. And I feel a personal connection with the world of Zyathé and with Alphinius. He puts so much of himself into the community; I feel like we’re related at this point. I play board games all the time, and I write board game reviews all the time, and I’ve never before written these words until now: when you pick up this game, you get not only the materials enclosed (which bring the RPG to life in full color) but also a direct connection to the developers and player community through the Facebook group, the GooeyCube website, the discord meetups, and more. You can even contribute as a developer, submitting content and ideas, if that’s your jam. It’s amazing. All I wanted to do was find a way to play an RPG without having to write our own material and now I’m part of the GooeyCube family.

The Red Star Rising  campaign is a great way to step into the world of roleplaying and its publisher, GooeyCube is a phenomenal company, run by creative, kind, and honorable people. Pick up a copy today, and kick the social isolation blues to the curb because you can surely find a team to play with in the FB group if you can’t wrangle up one near you online.

-------------------------------------------------
Publisher: GooeyCube
Players: 2 - many
Actual Playing Time (vs the guideline on the box): About 2-3 hours per session
Game type: RPG, dice rolling, narrative driven
Rating:
review-OUIOUIOUI
Jenni’s rating scale:
OUI: I would play this game again; this game is ok. I probably would not buy this game myself but I would play it with those who own it and if someone gave it to me I would keep it.
OUI OUI: I would play this game again; this game is good. I would buy this game.
OUI OUI OUI: I LOVE THIS GAME. I MUST HAVE THIS GAME.
NON: I would not play this game again. I would return this game or give it away if it was given to me.

Comments

Gragnik said…
Really enjoyed reading your review! I joined the Gooey Cube FB group mid last year and am also enamored with the community it has attracted. Thanks for sharing your experience and keep up the creative new combat actions. I have had monsters turn into NPCs and parties learn information earlier in a game because of their creativity. -Gragnik

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