System Review: DeScriptors: Definitive Edition (Matthew Bannock, Tim Bannock): 3.5 Stars
DeScriptors is a quick play narrative tabletop RPG. This is the game where a storyteller and one or more players will work together to create a story. The storyteller sets up adventure scenarios , describes the setting and non-player characters, and acts as referee for the rules. Players create characters and choose actions that best suit their characters in the situations presented to them by the storyteller.
DeScriptors is a diceless, narrative-driven TTRPG which focuses on obtaining and “bidding” character “adjectives” to overcome narrative challenges presented by the Game Master and setting. Because DeScriptors doesn’t require complicated character sheets, sets of dice, or miniatures, it is theoretically a highly-accessible game that could provide the same type and length of enjoyment as traditional tabletops like D&D and Pathfinder. The lack of crunchy mechanics and the almost exclusive narrative and RP focus, however, likely means this game appeals to experienced, zealous role players–once they can figure out the rules. The adventure available with DeScriptors, The Darkness Beneath Balentown, is all-around quality. An abundance of creative, flexible, exciting settings and encounters are presented which provide the potential for dozens of hours of quality fun specially created for Descriptors.
**Note:** I haven’t had a chance to play the RPG. This review will be updated once I play. This review is based on a couple close readings of the material.**
Accessibility. Just about anyone can play DeScriptors with minimal investment into materials. It doesn’t really require a Virtual Table Top to play online, or miniatures and a mat to play at a table. Players really only need a single book to play, as does the DM. Sure, D&D technically doesn’t need these things either, but they tend to be preferred, and people end up sinking a ton of money into “accessories”. DeScriptors, because it is almost completely narrative, can be played and fully enjoyed by anyone on a very slim budget.
Concept. The concept of DeScriptors is excellent: a narrative game which still incorporates strategies and encounters by “bidding” your adjectives. While involving much less math and lacking a quantitative skill set, the system is arguably even better for teaching and developing language skills, and requires just as much imagination and cooperation as “traditional” TTRPGs. I can’t say for sure how “unique” the system is, but the idea and general execution is brilliant.
Setting Suggestions. Packed within these two relatively succinct books are around a dozen setting options. From ancient ruins, to deserts, to futuristic zombie apocalypses, whether you’re playing the “definitive edition” or The Darkness Beneath Balentown, the options of where you play are nearly endless. You get a lot of “bang for your buck” with these books.
Clarity. Despite the overall quality and appeal of this RPG and the books, I still cannot say with any real confidence I know how to play the game. Perhaps it’s my “learning style”, but the way in which the rules are written does not lend itself to knowing how a session of the game would actually play out. How does the GM set the scene? What does “bidding” your adjective look like? What does “fishing” for adjectives look like? How is the refresh rate of a place established? Most of all… why would a player choose to fail? These are all things that are understandable in concept, but the rules do not give tangible examples (or if they do, they are easily missed) enough for me to actually feel comfortable running a game. My suggestion? A half-page or so with a sample session, a hypothetical narrative interaction between a fictional GM and her players that quickly covers all the aspects of a game. This would bring concept to action.
**Note:** To their credit, the authors have included a FAQ at the end of the book that deals with balancing encounters, increasing difficulty, and how to appeal to more players of more traditional d20 systems. This FAQ has a lot of quality advice, but was still not quite the explanation I needed to run the game. It is possible my challenge in understanding certain elements of the game derive from my experience with RPGs exclusively as d20 systems.
Narrowness. I don’t think that people who enjoy mechanical crunch or “high combat” RPG’s would appreciate this game as much as it deserves. Though they could definitely learn! While there is an abundance of heavily narrative-focused players among games like pathfinder and D&D, DeScriptors doesn’t necessarily have the ability to appeal to multiple demographics like those games. At least as far as I can tell. “Traditional” players who like to ignore the more crunchy and combat focused aspects of d20 systems would likely adore this new system, however.
DeScriptors is a wonderfully conceived and quality produced RPG that highlights the fun a highly narrative-focused system can be. It just needs a little clarity inserted. I am giving it 3.5 Stars and recommending it for roleplay experienced GMs and players who don’t mind losing the crunch that a d20 system brings. Though I suggest even “crunch lovers” check it out. I have a hunch you’ll love it with a good GM guiding you! If you enjoy our reviews and want to support us, click through the picture if you’re buying the product: