Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Game Review for Tri-Stat dX

After writing this review for, my wife and I got to talking yesterday in the car. We determined that Tri-Stat dX would not be used with as near of frequency as it is online for our game group if we had a real-life game group. The reasons for this are two fold: Online, Tri-Stat dX brings combats to a quick end making it the system of choice and yet, Tri-Stat dX would more than likely read and play a bit blandly when sitting around a table. There is just not enough going on in Tri-Stat dX too keep up the mental facilities I feel that games like Savage Worlds, Gunslingers and Gamblers, Apocalypse Prevention, Inc, Alpha Omega, and Spirit of the Century bring with them. That is not to say that i would not run or play Tri-Stat dX around a table, but that is why I gave it a 4/4/ score at

On to the review...

While Guardians of Order (GoO) are no longer in business, the fact that they gave the pdf of Tri-Stat dX out for free was the deciding factor in my picking up the pdf and reading through it, as well as purchasing the physical book (as well as the physical books of their other games that use the same system).


Tri-Stat dX is just a core book and it shows. There is no setting since it is made to be used in any number of settings. No pictures in the book except for the ads on the back of the front and back flaps of the cover and in the three-page advert in the back of the book for their Magnum Opus program. I have had this book for close to year now and only now, after much abuse and travel, is the clear lamination starting to peel up from the edges. I hate this and will proceed to rip it off in short order, but for the price of the book ($10 new from the company, much less through different retailers) I cannot complain.

The pages are laid out in a classic two-column format and is done very well, even if is it just black and white. No spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes that I can find and I have read over it extensively.

Due to the lack of artwork, I would have normally given this a 3 our of 5, but the font and exceptional usage of bolding bumps it up to a 4. This is a well produced book.


The book starts out with a Role-Playing Game Manifesto, which states:

"These rules are written on paper, not etched in stone tablets. Rules are suggested guidelines, not required edicts. If the rules don't say you can't do something, you can. There are no official answers, only official opinions. When the dice conflict with the story, the story always wins. Min/Maxing and Munchkinism aren't problems with the game; they're problems with the player. The Game Master has full discretionary power over the game. The Game Master always works with, not against, the players. A game that is not fun is no longer a game - it's a chore. This book provides the answers to all things. When the above does not apply, make it up."

While there are some criticisms that could be applied to their manifesto, I feel that it is good to have. Too many games do not state such things, giving the readers the impression that things are set in stone and are not good to change.

The next page is the table of contents, which lists all the important parts of the book, but not the chapters, of which there are 11.

Now, Tri-Stat dX is a point buy system that utilizes different dice depending on the game and power level. The book gives some examples on the die to use, such as a sub-human game should use 2d4, humans only should use 2d6, a posthuman game would be 2d8, 2d10 would be for a superhuman game, 2d12 for inhumans, and 2d20 for a game where the characters are godlike. There are also character points listed for the suggest amount of points any given character should have under the designated dice type. With this, you are able to play any genre at any power level and make any type of character that you want.

So that is the "dX" part of the title, and the "Tri-Stat" part is due to there being only three stats: Body, Mind, and Soul. While there are only three stats, there is a Character Defect called Less Capable that allows you to modify your stats. This lets you have a guy with high strength but be clumsy and have poor endurance, or a genius that is forgetful.

That takes care of the first two chapters.

Chapter 3 is where things get good: Attributes. And Attributes in Tri-Stat dX means Powers! Of course, at first glance, they are not well balanced. for example, one player would spend his points on all combat stuff while another could spend points to change the entire world with one wave of his hand, but get the two of them in a fight and the combat guy will wipe the floor with the other. Balance in this game is all due to the points per level that the Attributes cost and the Power Modifier Values (PMVs) which determine how long a power lasts, how many people it affects, how far the away the power can be used, and so on. The more powerful a power is, the higher its cost and the more PMVs that you need to have to make it work.

The Attributes cover everything, especially with the Unique Attribute, which allows you to create anything that the book does not already have.

Chapter 4 is the Skills section, with a listing of the skill costs for 30 different setting types making it extremely easy to determine how much skills cost per level. I rather like that skills have varying costs per level depending on how useful they are in the setting.

Chapter 5 is where the Character Defects are listed and I really wish that it was the 4th Chapter. It makes much more sense for the Defects to be listed after the Attributes, but I can understand the desire to have the Defects listed at the end of the character creation process.

Chapter 6 gives the last two steps to Character Creation: Health Points and handing our extra points due to a well-written background.

The Game Mechanics are in Chapter 7, complete with a handy flowchart on how combat works. I have to give props to any game that utilizes flow charts in how the mechanics are handled due to my love for them. The system is a roll under system, where the numbers you roll under depend on what you are trying to do. For combat it will be your Attack/Defense Combat Value+the relevant skill while skills will be vs the skill+the relevant stat, which is something that I wish more games used. Stats influence skills, but depending on how you are using that skill, it might be influenced by any of the three stats. Works out much better that systems that have a specific stat always influencing a skill because in variably, a player will attempt something with a skill that uses more of the character's intelligence than their strength, and so on.

Another huge plus for Tri-Stat dX are rules for grappling that actually make sense, as well as rules for biting, jumping, shock, Attributes as attacks and for defense when they are not normally meant for that, and rules for Attributes being used against Attributes. Finally, you can have a character that can use his control over water to stop the fire attack of the villain. Very few systems allow this.

Chapter 9 is your equipment. Though there are skills costs for non-modern settings, the equipment only comprises items for modern settings. A good GM can easily work around this problem, but with the rest of the way this book is presented, they should not have to.

Chapters 10 and 11 are your chapters on Game Mastering info, tips, and tricks, as well as the Index.

Playing the Game

I was curious to see if the game was as good as it seemed by reading it and started up a Teen Supers game around 5 months ago. Also, I planned on really challenging the system since I was going to run it online through OpenRPG.

The roll-under stytem was weird at first for most of us since we were used to roll-over systems and caused a few of my players to complain about that after the first few sessions. We have now played 16 weekly sessions and my players are thinking about changing all the games we play to Tri-Stat dX, including the Star Wars game that we play. Combat goes quickly even against hordes of opponents. We have yet to have a need for any sort of House Rules, the mechanics have a rule in place for everything that has come up so far. I would have to say that in usage, Tri-Stat dX far exceeded my expectations and I am glad that GoO stayed around long enough to produce it.

Of course, I noticed the similarities between Tri-Stat dX (and the other Tri-Stat games such as BESM, SAS, and HKAT) and Mutants and Masterminds until I saw that Steve Kenson was involved with the way Tri-Stat's system was developed as well as M&M. Then it made perfect sense.

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