Sprawl Goons - playtest review.
Of all the rule-lite games tested so far Sprawl Goons gave me the best results.
The game is a cyberpunk adaptation of the Tunnel Goons rules, and sports a decent set of support material and a dedicated blog so even if it is, indeed, quite light, it can also be upgraded or altered to support other genres like modern or SciFi.
Adapting published adventures for it should be quite straightforward, but for my playtest I opted to use Gregorius21778: Kickin´Dogs - it is pretty selfcontained so you can drop it in most cyberpunk campaigns, and at least in my case helped a lot.
"Goons" based games use 2D6 only, and almost all rolls are done by the players, an approach I have little experience with, therefore using an adventure perfectly married to the system I think was a huge help for me as a GM.
My 2 players had some problems to adapt, too. Not much in terms of mechanics, but because neither of them had ever played in a cyberpunk setting, therefore the initial "info gathering" section of the adventure saw them struggling with the concept of making creative use of their hacking and data analysis resources.
We agreed to play two sessions instead of just one, but even if this was not enough to fully complete the mission we managed to have one combat, something I really wanted to do in order to see how the combat parts work.
As mentioned above, most opposed rolls are always done by players - the idea is the opponents or any kind of threat has a given value, let's say 9... when you are attacking or defending from it, you roll 2D6 plus modifiers... if you roll more than 9 the difference is subtracted from the threat value, which doubles as a sort of hit points score, if you roll less... you get the difference as hits to your own body points.
This immediately presented a minor problem when the PCs were targeted by a sniper. I had to improvise, but discussing this situation with the game author I found out that this situation is clearly spelled out in one of the supplements. In fact I had handled it more or less in the same way, I just wanted to mention this because any GM should give some thought to cases where the PC cannot directly "harm" someone who is attacking them.
Apart from this caveat, I cannot really find any glaring problems with the rules. As long as you are fine with a very coarse-grained combat system *-Goons games should work fine for you. Sprawl Goons in particular offers lots of extra, optional rules (like special damage from shotguns, or how to handle drones, to name just two) and if you want to invest a little money in some other games of the same "family" (if you'd like to add skills to the game I would suggest Sprawl Goons for example, but you can also check the Itch.io page for more ideas).
As mentioned at the start, Sprawl Goons and *-Goons games in general look very promising to me, and I am (idly) evaluating adopting one of the variants for a future campaign.
If you are specifically interested in Cyberpunk in the "classic" sense (i.e. no magic elements as in Shadowrun) I think SG is a pretty solid replacement to the various Talsorian editions, and converting stuff from published sources should not be too difficult, as long as you collect all the supporting material for SG, at least (prices are more than reasonable: right now a pdf copy of Cyberpunk 18.104.22.168. The Second Edition, Version 2.01 would cost you more than the four Sprawl Goons titles you can get on DriveThru RPG.
The Kickin' Dogs adventure is also good value for money, so I really suggest you get it too.
As mentioned in the review: here is my take on the skill list (I also discussed this with the game designer and he seemed more than happy with it, even if he decided to go another way regarding PC "specialization"):
- Broker - Locating suppliers and buyers, either legitimate or illegitimate. Facilitating the purchase and resale of goods/info. Covers Bribery, too. Street dealer.
- Bujutsu - Skilled in knife-fighting and can also wield most other melee weapons effectively in hand-to-hand combat.
- Chameleon - Blending in, disguise. Spycraft.
- Charismatic - Leadership, Seduction; used to impress someone else and look cool.
- Comms - Use and repair communications and sensor devices: eavesdropping and wire-tapping, boosting signals, create or break a secure channel, detect signals and anomalies, hide or piggyback on another signal, jam local communications, analyze complex sensor data.
- Demolitions - Setting and disarming explosives. Useful also to set or dismantle IED
- DroneJock - Remote piloting of semi-autonomous devices.
- Elint - Analyzing huge data to look for patterns, cypher breaking, data research
- Expert(...) - You can be an expert on anything: science, obscure hobbies like Japanese calligraphy, chess, trivia…
- Forgery - Most documents are of electronic nature, nowadays, so apart from the specific ability to clone/alter these, this skill allows the user to create consistent backstories and appropriate mass of online history
- Gambling - The skill of knowing how to make bets, figure odds, and play games of chance successfully.
- Gun Combat - Use handguns and individual projectile weapons of any type, including cyberwear types. Does not really cover esoteric stuff like archery, slings, atl-atl (use Expert(weapon) if you really want this).
- Hacking - Deck interface, using appropriate intrusion and defensive programs: this is the classic "Netrunner" skill
- Hand-to-Hand - Unarmed combat. When used against armed opponents that have experience in the specific melee weapon it would be advisable to roll at a disadvantage.
- Juryrig - Ability to repair/build/maintain improvised technical solutions by juryrigging or repurposing components
- Medtech - First aid and use of medical tech to assist healing or stabilize wounds.
- Parkour - Encompasses any kind of acrobatics/climbing activity
- Security Systems - Installation/bypassing/dismantling of security measures, from mechanical locks to swipe-card locks, keypad locks, surveillance cameras and various types of alarms and their triggers. Also includes breaking into, and hot-wiring, vehicles.
- Streetwise - The knowledge of the "seamy" side of life-where to get illegal and contraband things, how to talk to the criminal element, and avoiding bad situations in bad neighborhoods.
- Tactic - Once per combat you can use this as a + for yourself or any ally, or as a minus to enemies.
- VTOL - Piloting air vehicles like helicopters or any kind of flying vehicle that makes sense in your world (conventional airplanes would use a dedicated Pilot(…) skill)
- Vehicle Zen - Driving/Maintaning any kind of land vehicle.
- WaterNomad - Encompasses swimming, scuba, and water vehicles.
Below - the character sheets for the two PCs.