Hollowpoint by Brad Murray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hollowpoint seeks to recreate the ultra-capable, often-violent genre of action movies that proliferates in modern cinema. Action-driven, adrenaline-fuelled and peppered with bullet holes, the scenes characters can expect to pass through rely on their bringing their undoubted skills to bear and defeating an enemy that can, more often than not, only hope to contain them or simply slow them down.
The game uses a dice pool mechanic and some very simple attributes to handle the business of killing, terrorising, hacking, stealing and charming, launching characters through conflicts and cut scenes towards challenges of increasing difficulty and a conclusion likely to tax them to the limit. The game fully expects casualties, but expects every character to leave with style, grace, panache or, at minimum, a foundation rocking explosion.
You could play a session in an evening, spending a mere 30 minutes (or less) to create characters, purely as a one-shot, drop-in game; or, you could engineer the background to create the basis of a long running campaign, akin to the Bond or Mission: Impossible franchise. The flexibility of the system demands a group of players with the enthusiasm and story-telling inclination to fuel the narrative, so it needs at least an experienced gamemaster, if not experienced players. You could run a game at a convention, because that sort of environment always seems to draw out the more boisterous side of people, exploding energy and enthusiasm across the tabletop.
Creating a mission takes very little time at all, as the game can easily change objective at a moments notice – which again demands at least a GM able to run with an idea and improvise the detail around it. I have sat through a few action movies lately keeping notes that I could then use as the basis for future Hollowpoint sessions, and they amount to little more than key plot points and clearly defined initial objectives. I can see myself accumulating a box of index cards with ideas ready for use at a moments notice, because the crux of the game comes down to the situation and how the characters handle it, rather than endless reams of carefully detailed dungeon rooms and bestiaries of esoteric monstrosities. The GM has a dice pool and he manages it to create the often overwhelming force the characters have to face; but, the GM pool presents the potential for big one-shot actions that can easily be countered by a capable and well-planned response.
The book reads easily and providing you have some vague familiarity with the concept of roleplaying you shouldn’t find yourself struggling. Aside from a few typos (identified by readers and corrected in later versions), I found this book an enjoyable and quick read; and, I found myself coming to the end with an overwhelming need to try it after overdosing on beer-and-pretzel-fest of mindless (but incredibly cool) action movies. You might even get a chance to take the plot of a well known film and take it to the next level, delivering something frankly far more satisfying than the original.
So, grab a handful of 6-sided dice, grab a few like-minded friends and play. I love it when a plan comes together…
(Review originally posted at Goodreads.com; also posted at RPGGeek.com)
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action brad murray explosion gamemaster hollowpoint mission impossible violence