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Jaws of the Six Serpents
Jaws of the Six Serpents is a 136 page, 6″ x 9″, gritty sword and sorcery roleplaying game using the PDQ rules system written by Tim Gray and published by Silver Branch Games. It is available in both print ($19.95/£14.20 from Lulu) and PDF ($9.95/£6.07 from DriveThruRPG and other PDF stores). This review is of the PDF version.
The front and back covers are full-colour while the interior is black and white. Each page has a border on the edge and the layout is single column with appropriate and well selected artwork throughout. The content is split up into five chapters: Introduction (which contains the obligatory description of a roleplaying game); PDQ Core Rules; Rules for Six Serpents; World of the Six Serpents; and GM’s Notes.
The PDQ Core Rules chapter takes up 24 pages and details the rules upon which this game is based.
The Rules of Six Serpents chapter provides information, over 40 pages, on creating a character as well as introducing Fortune Points (which can be used to improve your chances of success or to aid something to the narrative), Learning Points (which can be used to improve Qualities and gain Fortune Points), Dark Learning Points (which are an optional addition), Danger Levels (which allow you to increase outcomes for losing fights), Minions (those nameless foes who must be swept aside with ease to reach your goal), Magic (including Sorcery, which is powerful but risky, and Charms, which are safe but limited in effect, as well as the magic-like skills of Alchemy and Divination), and Gear (including wealth and trade). The largest section is Magic which accounts for over a third of the chapter.
World of the Six Serpents covers, in 37 pages, the peoples and monsters of the Six Serpents. It also introduces rules for Urges (the forces or energies of the world – indeed, the Six Serpenets), Intercessors (priests), and monster Qualities.
GM Notes provides ideas for using other settings with these rules as well as customising the various aspects of the rules to better suit the type of game you want to run. This is then followed by advice for the GM. Also included is a page of adventure seeds and a two-page outline for an adventure enabling you to jump straight in and get on with playing. Finally, the author provides us with details of his sources and inspirations and repeats some useful charts and tables from earlier for ease of reference and printing.
So, that’s the overview of the book, but is it any good?
The layout works very well, enabling you to read from the screen without straining your eyes and, if you wish to print it, your printer cartridge. Regarding the rules, I’d not come across the PDQ system before but the rules are well explained and easy to understand. The basics are that each character is defined by Qualities which are rated Poor, Average, Good, Expert, and Master. Each rating allows the character a bonus (or penalty in the case of Poor) to a 2d6 roll for task (including combat) resolution aiming for a difficultly rank (and associated target number) based on the difficulty of the task. If the Quality rating is higher than the difficultly rank then no roll is required and an automatic success is achieved. Damage is likewise simple in that it removes effectiveness in Qualities. Overall, a simple system that most will be able to pick up and understand within a few minutes of play and written an easy-to-read manner and that is pretty straightforward. The adventuring world provided is noted as being an example and, as such, is not fully fleshed out. That said, what is there provides some juicy bones on which to hang the flesh of a good campaign. Finally, the advice section, while aimed at novice GMs makes good reading for GMs of all abilities – if only to remind us of the basics.
Overall, this is a well put together game that can just as easily be used for a one-off session or an ongoing campaign.