The Saving Throw
Insight RPG 2014
Guess your dreams always end. They don't rise up, just descend, But I don't care anymore.

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Overall Review
published by NEVR reviewed by Scott Wachter
164 pages, 2014, $19.99 Print, $12.95 PDF
Game Setting 1
Art 1
Character Generation 3
Game Rules 3
Intelligibility 2.5
Review Scoring

There are two phrases in tabletop RPG-dom that are utterly loathsome. They are "Easy to learn" and "You can run anything." The Insight RPG System features both of these heavily on the back cover and marketing text. It also provides a handy example of why those phrases are horrible lies that diminish the quality of the game.

Insight is not easy to learn, because the entirety of the rules don't fit on one side of an index card in large type. Hit a Dude is easy to learn, Checkers is easy to learn, but this game has more than one hundred and fifty pages of rules-related text. The core mechanic is straightforward enough and has an interesting statistical gimmick in that success chance increases exponentially as characters become more skilled. But there are some convoluted interactions for combat, with an extensive skill list and myriad combinations possible, so non-combat encounters may end up feeling like AP algebra.

Striving for a 'universal' ruleset is a very odd notion, when you think about it. It forces the base product to be as bland and generic as possible. The final product of any attempt is always gaming's answer to vanilla pudding. It does not matter if it is any good; anyone is going to feel compelled to add their own toppings to make it work. It also means that some of the odder choices from the game have no real justification within the text. Insight features individual stats for each of the five human senses and four different types of intuition, and no one but the developer can fathom why this is necessary for the game. As an example, the first thing gamers tend to do with a game system is hack it to run Star Wars, so four flavours of intuition make sense for a Force-user, but across six movies and two animated series there are at most three instances where taste, touch or smell mattered. Mechanics should support the tone and feel of the setting, not just be a pile interesting dice tricks.

The book does feature the bare-bones of a fantasy setting required of any roleplaying product, which might be pictured in the dictionary next to 'Boring Tolkien-esque Nonsense'. This section comes with its own magic system which is just a downright byzantine mess of skills, effects, and combinations thereof, and it's just frustrating to read. It also features a bestiary which is at least a handy baseline for non-human npcs. Curiously, this game diverges from most universal games by not even paying lip service to science fiction equipment and setting elements anywhere in the mechanics. This isn't exactly disappointing, but it comes off as incomplete as a generic game system.

The art in the book is placed haphazardly; pieces intersect the text for the sake of having art and nothing else. There is very little to tie each piece together, as they vary greatly in style and quality with only one unifying subject: weapons. Swords and guns of all shapes and sizes litter the pages, wielders optional. Everyone knows what swords look like, the art director need not remind readers every three pages. There's also a layer of visual jargon to the layout, for example sidebars are marked with an icon indicating whether it features a variant rule, example text or clarifications, when the context could just as easily do so.

The rules are too complicated and bloated for unnecessary specificity. It is also unpleasant to look at or read. Insight does nothing to recommend itself to gamers, and I cannot see any reason to do so myself.

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