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Each First Look adventure is designed to be a standalone RPG experience to teach players the basic concepts of the genre and let them judge for themselves if roleplaying games are for them.

We recently played through Too Ghoul for School, which is inspired by cartoon mysteries. The first half of the adventure is free to play as part of the Kickstarter launch.

Gameplay

All you need to play is the adventure, at least one six-sided die (though it's better if you have one for each player), and some pens and paper.

The adventure is designed so that as players progress through it, they learn how to play. One player is chosen to be the game master (or dungeon master) and will be in charge of the adventure book and reading from it, as well as running the game and describing the story. The other players will each play a character. Each character has three skills (brains, brawn, and bravery). The core mechanics of the game are simple. Each player will start with one of the three skills at a level five and the other two skills at a level three. Whenever they attempt to perform a task, the game master decides which of these three skills the task falls under and the player then rolls a six-sided die. If the number is equal to or lower than the number they have in that skill, they successfully complete the task.

Within the adventure are sections the game master reads aloud to all the players. Many of these will be explanations of how the game is played, so as the game proceeds there will be fewer. There are also different colored boxes of text that give descriptions the game master can read about what the characters see, and there are brief summaries of encounters and rooms that the game master reads to himself and then gives the players what information they need.

As you play through the adventure, the game master learns the basic elements for running a game, players learn about fleshing out their characters, interacting with scenes and people they meet in the game, coming up with solutions to problems, boss fights, and leveling up.

First Look sample page

Review

RPGs can be a difficult genre to approach, and the task of figuring out if it’s even something you’re interested in can be daunting — rulebooks are often long and complex, and even when teaching them it can be hard to know where to begin. First Look does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s is a great jumping in point, with minimal commitment outside of one evening.

The core gameplay mechanics in First Look are simple and easy to learn, and each new concept is introduced slowly over the course of the game. Even so, by the end, there aren’t so many elements that players are going to get confused or lose track of them.

Playing as the game master is going to be the most difficult role for those new to the genre, as there are only so many things the adventure can account for. For instance, one of the early challenges is that the players must get through a door that won’t open. In theory, this shouldn’t be too difficult, but bad luck on the rolls can leave players a little stuck and new game masters scratching their heads how to get them through the door. Still, the adventure book holds your hand and guides you through the process as much as it can in a genre where you never know exactly what players are going to do.

At the beginning the adventure book is extremely detailed, and guides players very carefully. But it slowly takes off the training wheels, so that by the end of the evening players and game master are in control.  There is a good bit of reading early on, but this drops off pretty quickly and the game also cleverly has players flesh out their characters and backstory whenever the game master has a hunk of text she needs to read to herself.

Too Ghoul for School has a fun and unique setting and an enjoyable plot line. If you’re a Scooby Doo fan, the homage is clear throughout. It’s also neat that the game gives the tools to continue playing within the First Look system, dedicating several pages at the end to how a game master can design their own one-night adventures, and also giving the barebones of more adventures for you to play around with if you’re not ready to come up with something entirely on your own.

Tabletop RPGs may not strictly fall into the realm of casual games. They are usually designed to be played over multiple evenings and each session is usually several hours. Too Ghoul for School does run two to three hours, but it keeps its rules streamlined and few, and you can complete the whole story in one evening. If you’re interested in role playing, or want to introduce it to new players, First Look is a good starting point with some casual elements. Check it out on Kickstarter, and try Too Ghoul for School for yourself.

Pros: Great introduction to roleplaying games, simple rules, players have lots of control by the end, fun theme and story

Cons: The game master may meet situations the adventure cannot prepare for, it does run long for some casual game fans

Disclosure: this preview is based on our evaluation of an unpublished prototype of the game, which is subject to change prior to publication. While a modest payment was received to expedite the review process, our thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and accurate.