The material reviewed here was preview material and thus may not reflect the final product.
First Look is a game system that is perfectly honed towards what its intentions are. The specific module I reviewed, ‘Too Ghoul for School’, has a well structured and very carefully designed layout which makes clear the steps needed not just to play a game, but to teach the idea of a game to those around you. The players I wrangled together for this review had little to no experience with role-playing games, and off the bat I can confidently say explaining the system of First Look through their interactive section is a far easier task than walking someone through a heavy system step by step.
The module starts with a brief introduction in what a role-playing game is, what roles people will need to take and what the rough ideas behind the session are going to be. This preamble isn’t just for the GM to sit down and read to themselves, but a guide for all players to be kept up to speed. There is a lot of this communal hand holding in First Look, and the value herein is it allows a group who have never played a game to do so, they don’t need to hunt down a veteran to guide them through it. Many players are, in some way or another, reliant upon someone around them to introduce them to RPGs, but First Look allows for a wholly insular introduction to gaming. This is a very useful tool for us as a community to have. Players need to come from somewhere and we can’t know everyone; if people are empowered to take their own first steps we all benefit.
The only incredibly minor issue I have with the module is there’s a time listed on each section. My players did not come close to meeting their expected times, and one of them felt a little concerned that the listed times were well below how long we took. It’s a really small issue and it’s clearly a guideline, but I can see a brand new group getting equally sidetracked and exceeding those timers and wondering if they did something wrong. They shouldn’t – group dynamics are impossible to predict and the inherent values of RPGs is the freedom to play your own way which First Look does an excellent job explaining.
The core mechanics are really simple; three stats, single D6, classes with pre-genned stat blocks, Your value in a skill sets the difficulty of the check, and your goal is to roll equal or under the value of your stat. This isn’t the kind of system that’s going to enthral or excite a regular player, but for new players the simplicity of the system lets them quickly learn it and take the initiative with it. This helps take a little pressure off a new GM, and the players get to have more fun taking more power in their game. For the new players in my group, it was exactly what they needed. A couple had first been introduced to RPGs through Pathfinder, and that’s a deep pool to be thrown into, so they never went back. They’re now willing to give it another look, and it’s largely because of the confidence they could feel having gotten the hang of First Look as quickly as they did.
Just as a quick note, they have a section on the age old adage of ‘never split the party’, and explain something even us older players could do with a reminder on, that there is some value to be had in splitting the party selectively and intentionally. They make the party split through this module, and it went down incredibly well with the players even if I was cringing at the thought. Our locked in ideas aren’t always the best ones, there’s room for us to re-learn a few things here and there. This lesson might be one of those worth considering.
The second section of this module takes the training wheels off and gives the players and GM a little more freedom in how the game progresses. There’s a system of coloured tag words that help the GM know what to read and what to save for post-checks, which overall again makes this an excellent tool for a new GM, but helps give off the air that they know what they’re doing, helping the players feel confident in their GM’s abilities. Though the game puts the power on the players to direct things more, it does so having equipped them with the tools they need to do so competently, and no one felt the shift from guided play to free play was particularly jarring or punishing. Removing the hand holding let the system shine for the players, and they were keen to find ways to put their skills to use. There’s also another handy reminder to GMs of every level, Railroading. It has a place in our games, but when its blatant and disruptive it’s no fun for anyone. First Look does a lot to bring up these terms we are all familiar with and give positive, well thought out defences of them. It’s refreshing to read.
Combat isn’t really a thing in this module, but there is a chase scene that was a lot of fun for everyone at the table. It’s again, really simple mechanics, roll checks, lose points on fail, hit 0 and lose. Seems simple enough, but with new players describing their desperate attempts to escape the threat as we all know takes place in these games, the act of sitting there rolling dice suddenly explodes into a vastly more enjoyable scenario. This is the key thing overall I want to make sure readers know about First Look, it makes elements veteran players just expect to come eventually accessible and explorable by new players. They can find the passion we have found.
From the chase onwards, the module increasingly allows the players more freedom, and increases the challenge before them, leading up to the great final confrontation. From start to finish, the players were hooked into the game, and they’ve pestered me to run more stuff with them in future. That is the goal of First Look, to get people to play, get people invested and have them look for more to play.
So overall, I think for either someone looking to get their friends into role-playing, or someone who has never played before and knows a couple of mates who might be willing to give it a shot, I one hundred percent recommend First Look. If you’re a more experienced player, you probably won’t find what you need playing this game with your equally experienced group, but it’s a valuable resource to have in your library for those times you’re looking into recruitment. So I believe anyone can find a use for this, but there are certainly some people who will find more value from First Look than others.
“To Ghoul For School” will be arriving on Kickstarter this week, we’ll update this article with the relevant link once it goes live. Meanwhile you can checkout the First Look website here –https://firstlookgame.com/
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I was the lead writer for the online game War of Ninja for the duration of its life, but went on to have boring, normal people jobs when the website closed. Normal people jobs are no fun though, so I've contented myself with countless miniature wargames, card games of varying ilks, board games and a borderline terrifying range of Roleplaying Games. These days I judge for the Dragon Ball Super Card Game, play whatever flavour of RPG my mates are down for, and sneak in some 40k when I can. Some might think I have too many hobbies, and they're probably right, but it means I write the best stuff I can for you, dear reader, so who really loses here?