Hollowpoint

I’m posting this in English, mostly because I know that Brad (one of the authors of the Hollowpoint rpg) might want to read this post. Hollowpoint isn’t available in German either, so…

I bought Hollowpoint from Roland, who – again, after Diaspora, which was written by the same authors – made buying the rpg much cheaper than buying directly via Lulu. I like to think that it was me who prodded Roland in both cases into action, but I might be wrong 😉

Hollowpoint is in parts a tradional rpg. There’s a DM, here called Referee. He plays the enemies and frames scenes. He decides if there a questions – very classic. Players each get a character. But there are differences that make Hollowpoint stand out. The most important is the dice rolling system. It has obviously been inspired by Greg Stolzes ORE. You roll several d6, based on the skill you want to use. There’re only six skills. As a player, you are given a short description of the scene by the referee. Then you decide about the outcome you want to get (KILL, TERROR, COOL etc), roll the dice and look for sets. Each set is a success, and the dice also tell you when its your turn. You look at the dice you rolled, and when its your turn, you narrate the story based on what has happened (been told by the guys that acted before you). You get an interesting amount of „tactical“ choices which you can use to gain more dice, but the fun is narrating the story, guided by the dice in front of you.

This is something my players took a while to get used to. „Normal“ playing asks you to describe your action („I fire my boy at the Ork“) and then gives you a result after rolling the dice („You miss.“) Hollowpoint wants you to roll first, know the outcome and then narrate (I have sucessfully rolled on KILL, its my turn, but after my action the opposition will act three times, and we have no action left – one of us will get hurt… k, so: „I jump out of my Porsche, the Uzi blazing in my hands. The bullets rip one of the ninjas in parts, but then the gun jams and I fumble to clear it in haste“.) That is a lot of fun and requires you to be real quick – the player who is narrating his part before you might just change everything for you, so planning in advance is rather futile. Nothing is static in Hollowpoint!

The ways to get the aforementioned addional dice have been used quite cleverly to give the narration a certain, destinctive „Hollowpointy“ feel. One way of getting more dice forces you to beg dice of another player – who gets a reward if he says „Fuck you.“ to you. He even gets two of YOUR dice, to rub the insult in! It makes you aware that your reputation of being cool and capable is important here – begging for help is weak. (But you gain dice even if the result was no, btw… that’s why players will beg eventually. It’s fun to see them do it…)

The other way to get dice is to burn „traits“. Traits are chosen to represent parts of your individuality and humanity – clothes, souvenirs, beliefs. If you narrate how those tokens of your characters “self” get destroyed by you, you gain more dice. You narrate how you lose parts of yourself to get better at doing the bad things you want to do.

First Attempt

The first session took only 1.25 hours. It happend at the Tanelorn.net meeting (we rent a real castle for that and play for a long weekend). It took me the first scene to explain how the system works (the poor Woozle, who wanted to roll on „TAKE“ to take cover was severely scolded for being too defensive and girly (besides using the skill in an unintended way)), but after that the game really took off. As in all sessions the setting was the same: Mexican/US Border, a high ranking person (Gonzales) from a drug cartel was suspected to be a traitor. If that was true, he was to be killed – it’s not in the national interest of the US if there is only a single cartel controlling the drug trade. Woozle played a ex-priest with zero dice in the skill „KILL“. He really burned everything that had made him a priest (his bible, a stola) for more dice to kill people – the mechanics worked like a charm there! Brian managed to die after it became clear that he was a traitor to the organization the chars belonged to and so WON the game, not without violating a graveyard for more dice to defend himself against an angry priest with a shotgun… Bombshell, who was hit often enough that die to justify him killing me, chose not to die. I thought the game worked well. If you are wondering how Brian could win a rpg, I should probably have explained that you can win this game if you choose a complication (like Brian did here, being a traitor) and manage to bring it into play when you die.

Second Attempt

Far north of the first session in LĂźbeck I ran Hollowpoint for a group of four, two guys and two girls. Yes, the girls can be as violent as the guys! It ran rather smoothly, I got a scene more out of the setting. The players were very creative, but nobody chose a complication that came into play. One of the girls chose to play a female agent. She infiltrated the lair of Gonzales and tried to DIG for information. I had two pools on the table, one for Gonzales and one for his mooks. I decided to have them both KILL the chars, so everybody could act. I’m unsure if that was a good idea – I might have tried to CON the girl. I chose not to, because I wanted everybody at the table to participate. Slow thinking – I guess it would have been their job to help!

Anyway, a firefight started, the players managed to crack Gonzales safe and escaped – not without the lady agent breaking her heel when she kicked a businesspartner of Gonzales the heel into his eye (another burned trait). Those traits do create memorable moments! Gonzales attempt to take revenge on the PCs (including their new leader, the replacement for a killed agent) led to his abrupt demise.

Third Attempt

Now in Hamburg, with my usual group. While two of the players seemed to like the game very much, JollyOrc even taking control of the camera-angle to describe how his snake-leather cowboy boots hit the dust (he rolled on COOL), but another player disliked the system so much he wanted to leave in the middle of the game. We stopped playing to discuss what he disliked. He is one of those players who like to work with established facts and „solve the puzzle“ the SL created. He disliked the fast cuts and rapid pacing and the changing environment – since every player had the power to modify the scene he could not plan in advance – something he likes in a game. The need to think very fast on your feet, to tell a story without much time to think about it – something I love about a game – is something that is very hard work for him, and unsatisfying, too.

So, can I recommend the game to you? Yes! If you like short games you can play in two hours, fast paced action, a lot of control for the players and throw-away characters, this game is for you. If you like to create 5 pages of background for every PC you create, maximizing your PCs, play long campaigns and like elaborate plots and difficult puzzles to solve for you – avoid Hollowpoint!

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