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Author Topic: RPGPundit Reviews: Chav  (Read 624 times)

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« on: March 09, 2012, 11:01:27 PM »
RPGPundit Reviews: Chav: The Knifing

This is a review of the RPG "Chav: The Knifing", written by Ian Warner, published by postmortem studios.  The copy I'm reviewing is a print edition, paperback.  The cover features a relatively attractive billy-piper-esque chav girl, complete with bad jewelry, cellphone, and cigarette.  I would have thought that given the tenor of the game (a game basically mocking Chavs) they might have been better off going with a figure that looked less like Billy Piper and more like Vicky Pollard from "Little Britain", which is incidentally what far more chav-chicks look like in real life. Interior art is all black and white, mostly consisting of similar images of Chavs that are a bit too attractive for a game that is supposed to be mocking them (considering that the horrific dress and appearance-sense of chavs is one of their main mockable characteristics).  The book clocks in at 108 pages.

Anyways, before continuing I think we have to begin with some explanation of terms, namely, what the hell a "chav" is.  Every western society (I would guess, I'm not sure about the Danes) has their particular version of "white trash".  In North America, its divided into categories like "trailer trash" or "whiggers".  Here in Uruguay there are the "planchas"; poor horribly-dressed intentionally-uneducated youth with uniformly god-awful hairstyles who revel in their ignorance, listen to horrible music, and are prone to public drunkenness and crime. That pretty much describes any of these groups, and in England their title is "chavs".  They're known for wearing hoodies and obsessing with their cellphones, and apparently (according to this RPG) hanging around bus-stops.

This is kind of the first "flaw", if you will, in this product.  As a game, Chav: the Knifing is making mockery of a very particular subculture unique to one country.  It doesn't mean people in the United States or Nigeria wouldn't be likely to enjoy this game, or even to translate it to their particular equivalent subculture, but it does immediately require some cultural translation if you live outside the U.K.

More about the game itself:  Chav: The Knifing is apparently part of a series, meant to provide a comedic parody to White Wolf's "World of Darkness" games.  Chav is the second in this series, the first being "Bloodsucker: the Angst", which as you can guess is a parody of Vampire; by default you can also guess that Chav is a parody of Werewolf; and indeed the tribal nature of the Chavs makes them adequate subjects for this comparison (though it seems there's also a plan to do another rpg based on "dogboys" so I'm not sure what this one would end up being then).
By the way, by "comedic", what I mean is mostly pretty heavy-handed and often crass humour that generally concerns itself with insulting its subject matter.  Not that I'm saying that can't be funny; I'm the author of a comedic RPG myself ("Gnomemurdered"), and recognize the difficulty in making an RPG actually funny.  We'll see if Mr. Warner (one of the more eccentric gamers to have graced the forums of theRPGsite) will be up to the task.

Chav's general "supernatural" premise is that there is a dark god named Chavthulu (see what I mean about heavy-handedness?), that was originally a relatively minor deity of bus-stops.  As part of his master plan to rule over the dark gods of the Shadow World he began recruiting and molding groups of disaffected youth to unknowingly serve his ends, granting those who became chavs a magical power of "bile".   "Bile" granted the Chavs superhuman powers that they could use to engage in their anti-social behaviour with impunity, needing not to fear overmuch either the forces of the police or society at large.

Creating a character in Chav involves first making up a "schtick" for the character.  Sample schticks include such thing as "having a speech impediment", being "comically fat", being "always drunk to the point of saying and doing silly things" or "being a dribbling pervert". Statistics are bought with simple point-buy, and statistics are themselves remarkably mundane by RPG standards, with things like Strength, Resilence, Perception or Resolve.  Perhaps this in itself is a very subtle jab at White Wolf, who make great bleating noises about how their games are vastly superior to D&D and other "primitive" games, when in fact there's nothing in their mechanics that would make them in any way special.  Frankly, though, given the lack of subtlety in the rest of the book, I'm not inclined to give Mr.Warner the benefit of the doubt that this was really an intentionally conscious choice.

You buy skills in a similar fashion to attributes, and skills come from a list that includes a majority of garden-variety things like acting or athletics, dodging or driving; as well as a few skills which are much less garden-variety stuff like "look good" (which determines how cool you look), or "nookie" (which is how good you are at having sex).  Then  you get "Talentz" (also point-buy) which are the special powers available to the Chavs. Talentz include such things as "chav sight" (which lets you see supernatural creatures for what they are); "Brapp" (which makes you better at using guns) and Slash (which makes you better with bladed weapons), chav speed, strength or toughness, which are all pretty much what they sound like; "Cloud" (which makes you better at not being seen), "Musk" (which lets you manipulate the opposite sex), "Parkour" which is defined as "the ability to perform gravity defying stunts", and Voodoo, which is defined as "the arcane power of Chavness, mostly revolving around drugs".
You get merits and flaws,   which are selected from lists with point values that add or subtract from "your total"; here the author is not exactly clear on how you can spend those points if you have a surplus or where the points come from if you have a deficiency; he states in the chapter on these that "they are paid for by creation or improvement points like statistics, skills and talentz", which leads me to assume that you can use extra points from flaws to add to any or all of the above; given that there's also no limit to how many flaws you can purchase, this strikes me as something that a bad-faith player could use to seriously imbalance the system (one of the reason I hate both point-buy character creation and especially point-buy flaw systems!).   Some examples of merits or flaws include things like Benefit Baby ("you have a child you don't give a fuck about but it gets you benefit money"), Gaydar, Never Scared, Anthem of Command (a flaw that obliges your character to always start dancing when a certain song is heard), Cliff Notes Satanist (you're a pretend satanist who doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about), Furry (yes, you're a furry fetishist; I had no idea those were at all common in the chav subculture), Streaky Tan, or Weekend Warrior.

You also have a "Bile Capacity", as well as a "corruption level" (in classic white-wolf style).  The latter represents how deeply corrupted you are by the Chav culture, and ranges in level from "bare gay" (i.e. not a chav) to "Wicked" (totally chav).  PCs start at 5 (mid-point), and having high corruption increases your cred among Chavs, but gives you serious social penalties against normal human beings; while if somehow you get to corruption 0 you have to give up the PC as he's no longer a chav at all.  You also have a derived attribute called "Cred", which is the total of your number of talentz, your rank as a chav, your clothing, and other factors (how to determine most of these is not detailed in the initial section on character creation).   Characters in play later gain "improvement" points that they use to buy any of the above statistics at their pleasure.

As a Chav you have to select from one of several "credoz" (basically, a "clan"). Credoz include "chemistz" (experts on drugs and thus voodoo), Hoodiez (common thug types), Muppetz (parkour experts), Pikeyz (thieves), Slagz (sex-obsessed), Walliez (chav-wannabes outsiders), Wiggaz (which the text describes as those who "aspire to a more trendy ethnic origin than they were born with"), and Yardiez (the aristocracy of the chavs, who are basically the hardcore gangsters).  Each Credoz has descriptions of the type, their "cribz" (home territory), talentz that are typical to them, background (some more limited than others, for example Yardiez have to be from a caribbean background, walliez are basically middle-class, while many of the others can come from really any background), and credo weaknesses and strengths (slagz for example must make a resistance roll to avoid making use of an opportunity to get laid, but on the other hand pay only half-price for the "nookie" skill, related to getting laid).
Aside from these weaknesses and strength (and occasionally background) the Credoz are mostly for flavouring; the author also includes a "20 questions" character questionnaire for further development of the character, which is a good idea in general.

The basic mechanic of the system is a dice pool (no surprise there), where you roll a number of dice (d6s) equal to the relevant statistic, and have to count successes of those dice that get the same or greater than a target number determined by your skill.  There are obviously many things that can modify the basic roll.
Chav powers are fueled by Bile, which can be regenerated by doing things like hanging around a bus stop for an hour, chilling with your crew, listening to hip hop, having good sex (getting 3 or more successes on a "nookie" roll), or eating junk food, as well as committing acts of violence.

I should detail a bit about Voodoo, since of the Talentz its given its own section, and reflects the magical system of the setting.  The book describes voodoo as "an arcane art halfway between mad science and bullshit".  The most basic and possibly most significant power of voodoo is "the ability to bullshit people and make them believe" in what you're doing.  A successful check for spinning bullshit can give penalties or bonuses to another character as a purely psychosomatic effect.
However, there are also "spells", which vary in power depending on the level of the voodoo Talentz you have, with examples like the Level 1 spell "Occulty Gibberish" (you can mask a message in occult bullshit that only another magician will understand), the Level 2 spell Crystal Waving (where you wave around a crystal and utter bullshit about chakras and somehow heal damage), or the Level 3 spell "Astral Loitering" (which lets you leave your body in astral form and interact with spirits as well as passing through walls and doors, but not further than 50 feet from where your body actually is).
Frankly, the section on magic is by far the most brilliant thing I've seen in the book thus far; it is more subtle humour than most of the book, and its the only RPG I've seen that does as good a job than Unknown Armies (though looking at it from a different angle) of describing what a "realistic" magical system would be like if it was based on the way the majority of people in our world approach the occult. So yeah, kudos for this one.

After the sections on skills and combat (which are basically very mundane), you get a chapter on "Chav Society" which does a pretty good job of delineating the importance of things like the social order of chav hierarchy, chav pettiness and paranoia, and the importance of running with your "crew" (tribe, effectively the player group).
After that, we get a chapter on the Shadow World as a whole.  This is Warner's answer to the World of Darkness, which is much like our own world only grittier and more supernatural. This short chapter describes what other continents are like in the setting, inasmuch as they relate to the chavs.  The author attempts to address the brito-centricism of the book here by pointing out how there are groups that basically fall into the same categories as the Chavs in just about every country; but he really doesn't go into enough depth of cultural translation to do anything more than pay lip service to the fact. This is still ultimately a British comedy.   Some of the brief descriptions of places like South America, Africa or Asia border on the blatantly stereotypically racist, but that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone at this point; one thing this book clearly doesn't do is worry about offending people.

The game also presents a list of the sample antagonists a group of Chavs are likely to face, complete with sample statblocks.  Bible bashers, bloodsuckers, constructs, dead kids (basically, goth-ghouls; who the author promises will be detailed in an upcoming game called "Dead: the Oblivious"), dogboys (weredogs otherwise rather similar to chavs), pixies, wizkids (new-age neo-pagan hippie types, which the author again promises will be further detailed in an upcoming game called Wizkid: The Cheapening), and Bacon (the police).

At the end of the book you're given 20 adventure seeds, as part of a very short guide of how to run a Chav campaign.  Sample adventures, detailing the sort of stuff you would actually do with your Chavs (besides hanging out in bus-stops) include things like a local pub setting up a Hip Hop Night that is actually a trap laid by a group of Bloodsuckers, a local market having a sell-out of cheap Burberry knock-offs leading to a stampede of "every Chav for himself" and a likely ruckus, a local arms dealer getting a hold of a single Glock-17 and the PCs desperately racing to get enough money by any means to be the lucky ones to buy it (again, showing the Britishness of this game, where guns would be so rare), the local college banning the use of hoodies, a local police crackdown, or the visit of an infamous rap star (presumably from America?) with the Chavs trying to meet him to up their rep.

The book's sole appendix details vehicle rules.

So what are my conclusions about this game? Well, on the whole it seems more playable than one would at first think, assuming that one has a high tolerance for white-wolf imitation mechanics, and a certain level of interest in playing a game where your PCs basically hang around being retards.
As a game, the mechanics are utterly average, neither good nor bad, though the point-buy leaves a lot of room for abuse (as do the sometimes sparse descriptions of how things actually work). As a setting, you have a range from the boring to the vaguely interesting, with only the magic system being truly ingenious.  Finally, as humour I would say that in terms of what is written you'd have to like very crass utterly superficial humour to really find this sort of thing intensely funny, its not so much wit as mockery.  In actual play, the level of skill in delivering the humour would obviously vary according to the GM; a poor GM (or in this case one who is just humour impaired) could easily end up making a total catastrophe of it; while a very skilled GM could theoretically make something that is offensive and crude but of a certain "Little Britain"-esque genius.

Final analysis:
The Good: You can actually play this game, it isn't just a read-only diatribe against either chavs or white-wolf's games. Also, the magic system is extremely clever.

The Bad: The system is a parody of white-wolf's system, meaning it has all of the same annoyances and flaws of that system.  Also, I am known to be a guy who doesn't fear to offend, but even to me some of the "humour" here crosses over that hazy border between funny and downright offensive.  Those who are easily offended would no doubt go absolutely apoplectic in accusing this game of being both deeply classist and racist.

The Ugly: the unforgivable level of abuse of the letter Z.  I swear to Christ, if I never see a Z needlessly tacked onto a word again, it'll be too soon.

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James Gillen

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 03:14:42 AM »
Quote
Creating a character in Chav involves first making up a "schtick" for the character. Sample schticks include such thing as "having a speech impediment", being "comically fat", being "always drunk to the point of saying and doing silly things" or "being a dribbling pervert".


Hey, I've got at least two of those covered!  :D

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Rincewind1

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 03:41:11 AM »
Quote from: James Gillen;520920
Hey, I've got at least two of those covered!  :D

JG


Chav.

Polish version is called "Dres", btw, because of common nickname for sportswear.
Furthermore, I consider that  This is Why We Don't Like You thread should be closed

Ghost Whistler

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2012, 03:52:44 AM »
It's fun to laugh at the poor and the socially deprived.
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Rincewind1

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2012, 04:01:49 AM »
Quote from: Ghost Whistler;520924
It's fun to laugh at the poor and the socially deprived.


It is!
Furthermore, I consider that  This is Why We Don't Like You thread should be closed

Ghost Whistler

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2012, 05:04:38 AM »
Will there be a supplement about Gypsies that's actually about Irish Travellers instead?
“Ghost Whistler” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Parental death, alien battles and annihilated worlds.

Rincewind1

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2012, 05:30:56 AM »
Quote from: Ghost Whistler;520929
Will there be a supplement about Gypsies that's actually about Irish Travellers instead?


There are two paths we can go from here:

1) Either make your jokes clearer, because I don't get them

or

2) Let's just skip to the point when you accuse us of being insensitive bastards, so I can laugh and call you a pansy. Because fuck Chavs and their ilk, regardless of nationality.

Fuck them until their collective anus bleeds.
Furthermore, I consider that  This is Why We Don't Like You thread should be closed

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2012, 05:39:32 AM »
I fucking hate chavs.
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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2012, 10:09:10 AM »
Just because of this review I am tempted to at least skim through it, thanks alot, another million cells in brain will die if I do so.
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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2012, 10:26:46 AM »
Quote from: Marleycat;520955
Just because of this review I am tempted to at least skim through it, thanks alot, another million cells in brain will die if I do so.


Agreed. The idea does sound interesting, actually.

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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2012, 07:10:53 AM »
Quote from: Benoist;520957
Agreed. The idea does sound interesting, actually.

The problem is, it may look interesting but I will lose MUCH needed brain cells if I fail my save vs. Curiosity and actually read whatever is in the book.  :)
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 07:13:45 AM by Marleycat »
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RPGPundit Reviews: Chav
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2012, 05:27:35 AM »
Is it meant to be played or just read and laughed at like HOL?
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