Hollowpoint Review

Publisher Page: http://www.vsca.ca/Hollowpoint/

Overview

Hollowpoint, by VSCA, “is a role-playing game that uses a novel engine to generate fast on-the-fly violent action at the drop of a hat, brought to you by the award-winning developers of Diaspora. It’s ideally suited to a single evening’s play and encourages regular character death because, hey, this shit’s dangerous. ” — http://www.vsca.ca/Hollowpoint/

Required Materials

Aside from the rulebook, you’ll need quite a few d6s.  The referee will want about 24 dice for the opposition; You’ll want about 30 dice to represent the available helper dice; each player will need about 12 dice for their character (max would be 15).  As a side note, I’d recommend using small dice as Teamwork dice; You were the coward that asked for help, so the dice you roll should be equally puny. 

You’ll also want a handful of index cards to use for character sheets. Or you can print out Tony Love’s toe-tag character sheets.  And where there are character sheets, you’ll want pens or pencils.

Setup

The first part of the game is establishing the following background components.

  • Mission: What are the two Objectives that you are trying to achieve on behalf of the Agency .
  • Agency: The name of the organization for which your Agents are working.
  • Charge: The Agency works to keep this in check?

Once those are defined the players will create their agents.  The game suggests that you make sure to incorporate complications for each agent as it relates to the Agency, Mission or the Charge.

Characters have a list of Skills and Traits.

The Skills are initially defined as Kill, Terror, Dig, Take, Cool, and Charm.  The book includes other suggestions to properly establish the tone of your particular game (i.e. change some of the skills to Kung Fu, Illusion, Necromancy)

Traits are what make your character unique, and are used to give a one-time mechanical advantage in a conflict sequence.  They are things like “always leave a fortune cookie” or “I’d never burn a cat” or “spine-bone necklace” or “jetpack”.

Conflict

The referee frames the scene and works towards the inevitable conflict.  Once conflict is certain the dice are cast.  The resulting conflict is narrated as the players attack each other’s dice pool.

Some conflicts will involve Principal opponents, a big bad or his number one bone crushing thug.  Those conflicts are even more challenging. If the players successfully overcome a Principal the next scene will be a Retaliation scene.  A Retaliation scene is one in which the referee gets to set the terms of the conflict.

If nothing mechanically exciting happens, burning a trait or someone taking damage, during the round, it is a Wash.  If the round is a Wash, all of the characters each take one point of damage in the skill they were using.

Of course, not all conflicts are cut and dry.  Some scenes will have a Catch, a second goal that also needs to be defeated in order to count the scene as successful.  A Catch might be ensuring that the big bad is killed while making sure that the self-destruct doesn’t go off destroying the precious research lab.

The key idea isn’t so much about eliminating my opposition as it is achieving my goal.  It could be to kill someone, or it could just as easily be to light a cigarette and smoothly walk past them with moxie and bravado.

There is a Teamwork pool that can be drawn upon to help out in situations. The Teamwork pool is a resource only available to you if you have asked for help and were in turn denied.

The game has a very specific scene mechanic in which a the difficulty of the scenes grows proportional to the previous successful scenes.  In other words, as you move the story forward, things get harder and harder.

The scene economy is codified with Catches, Principals, and Retaliations, but you needn’t worry about adhering to these concepts.  Instead focus on having exciting scenes.

Moving On

Characters are going to move on.  They are going to die, or be revealed as secret agents, or decide they’ve had enough of this life.  And that’s expected and encouraged.  Just make a new character and weave them into the narrative.

To Open Source or Not

I find myself a bit sad that Hollowpoint wasn’t released under an Open Game License.  The narrative style would be something that shouldn’t be OGL as it is what gives Hollowpoint it’s identity.  The mechanics, however, could easily be released as OGL.  I see why it wasn’t done, as Hollowpoint’s mechanics and narrative bravado are intertwined.  If you completely distill the rules, they are quite short, but the beauty of the game is in the story the rules tell you.  Those two factors would likely reduce the potential sales.

That said there is clear approval to write and freely release you own skins for the game, which ultimately is what I’m after: A publisher/author that understands and embraces Copyright’s Fair Use clause.

Conclusion

The mechanics are interesting and quite simple forming a solid skeleton on which to flesh out your story.  While you are playing, make sure not to deliberate too much, as you should continue to push the story to it’s conclusion.

I’ve refereed one game and we had a blast.  It is definitely a nice addition to my gaming collection and can easily be pulled out when our gaming group doesn’t have quorum.

5 thoughts on “Hollowpoint Review

  1. What a great review. Thanks so much! I’m so pleased you had fun. Small dice for the teamwork pool is funny, and your point about the OGL deserves thought.

    Thanks!

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