"All history is made up. Good history is made up by good historians; bad history is made up by the others." -David Macaulay
"We talked a little more of Milesians and Firbolgs; but I do not write what he told me here, as it is at variance with things I have written already, as is often the case with legend, whence comes a pleasing variety." -Lord Dunsany
This is a semi-review, meaning I've read the rules thoroughly but have not, as of the time I'm writing this, yet played the game.
The Veggie Patch is a rules-light RPG in which the players are sentient, mobile vegetables. As it says in the introduction, "To be fair, these aren't normal vegetables. They are the result of a magical experiment gone wrong. Just like regular people they can think, move, talk and generally get into trouble. Lots of trouble."
I actually enjoy playing non-human characters more than I do human characters, so this game is aimed right at me. Over the years, however, I've gotten more blank looks than I can count when I tell people that. So I'm under no delusion: I understand that this game will not appeal to most gamers. It's their loss - the setting looks to be a blast and one I'm looking forward to trying.
The game is available in a 42-page PDF file a few places around the web. It's very cheap, well written, and cleverly done so even if you never play it, you'll probably get your money's worth out of just reading it.
Organization of the Book
The first section, a dozen pages or so, is the background setting, and is meant to be read by players as well as GM. The next ~dozen pages detail character creation and the game mechanics the players should know. The remainder of the book, with the exception of the final few pages with a character sheet and sample PC images, is for the gamemaster only. It details the setting in much more depth, presents NPC species, includes some optional setting changes, and 21 adventure seeds.
The Setting as Known by the Players
One day, the veggies in the Veggie Patch "woke up". Emerging from non-sentience into sentience was a puzzling event with a dream-like quality. That quality quickly turned nightmarish when the veggies were suddenly attacked by savage weeds. Only the newly sentient apple trees at the end of the patch were able to save the veggies, by directing them to band together against the weeds and defend themselves and other veggies.
The veggies discovered they could uproot themselves from the ground and move around. They could use part of their foliage to manipulate things, and developed different types of locomotion and attack modes, depending on what type of veggie they were. They beat the weeds away, and peace returned to a very changed veggie patch.
The apple trees are not able to move, but they are wiser than the veggies, being older, and are generally the NPC voice of the GM. They have the best interests of the patch in mind, but can't really enforce anything they request, nor go on missions themselves.
The patch is protected by a sentient hedge, which also cannot uproot itself to move. Across a dirt path is another vegetable patch, one where all the Brassica family are planted: broccoli, cabbage, turnips, etc. Unfortunately, these are hostile to the PCs' veggie patch, and must be considered enemies. Even worse, the area outside the two garden patches is known as The Wilds, and is inhabited by Weeds. These aren't merely hostile; they actually feed on veggies without any attempt at any other type of interaction.
Finally, grass is still non-sentient vegetation. This is a very wise move on the part of the designer, as it's pretty ubiquitous right outside the veggie patch, and would be unbalancing one way or the other.
There is a map of the patch, showing a shed, a water source, a compost pile, a rubbish heap, etc. How veggies eat, drink and sleep - and get drunk! - are all spelled out in the book in a believable and concise manner.
This is pretty simple, but you have enough choices to make it interesting.
Fifteen different types of veggies (but not the mean NPC Brassica) are available as player character species, from Asparagus, Carrots, Lettuce, Peas, etc., to Zucchini, and the book provides rules for creating others. The author provides templates for each veggie type, and allows the players to customize their character somewhat.
There are five main attributes (abilities for social interaction, movement, manipulation, strength and smarts), plus three other stats (Health, Defense, and "Compost" - money!). Each type of vegetable has basic stats for the main attributes (some are stronger, some smarter, some move more easily, etc.), and the player can spend five more points customizing their character.
Three different movement styles and four different combat methods are detailed, and listed for each species. You can't really change those, so choose your species well!
Nice and simple, the way I like them. The designer posted on his blog Aug 21, 09, that he plans on changing the mechanics in the near future, as he feels they're a bit too complex. I don't see this myself, but if he wants to tinker with his game, that's fine with me.
Basically, the GM sets a target difficulty level and the player rolls 2d6, adding his relevant attribute. Five different sample target levels are listed, from Easy to Impossible, and of course the GM can choose any number in between two levels.
Combat is in rounds, with initiative order determined by movement, and your target number is your opponent's Defense stat. You do damage equal to the amount you rolled beyond your opponent's Defense, which is subtracted from their Health. There are a few special attacks, and a nice section on gaining combat bonuses for creative player ideas, and how to implement that. There's a sample combat so you can be sure you've gotten it right - and you probably did, it's pretty easy.
Finally, the book provides game mechanics for healing, eating, sleeping, getting drunk, going crazy from eating pure manure (mmmm), character advancement, and a discussion of equipment from the tool shed. All concise and nicely done.
The GM Section
Well now, I'm not going to tell you too much about this. You may be lucky enough to play in it someday, and I wouldn't want to ruin it for you. So the book is actually much more specific and detailed than the following general discussion even hints at. It's a very well thought-out setting, and I'm impressed with the ideas he's come up and how plausible everything hangs together with his explanations.
Explanations: yes, he does explain what happened to cause sentient vegetables, why there are two vegetable patches with different veggies, and basically why everything in the game works they way it does. I'm only dubious about the reason the veggie patches are so large, but that's okay - I can live with it. The rest of the story hangs together remarkably well - and yes, it's magic, but that doesn't bother me. He also provides alternate SF backgrounds, by the way.
The Enemies of the Patch: very nicely done! There are different levels of enemies from the Brassica to the Weeds to Animals and possibly even to Humans. Some sample NPC species of these (except the humans - you can probably figure those out) are included, and their motivations and methods. The author lives in Tasmania, so there is no woodchuck, alas. Every gardener I know around here (rural New England, USA) dreads woodchucks more than any other garden raider. A veggie patch would find them truly formidable enemies, but I suppose I'm free to add them myself. But then, I'm sure there are Tasmanian garden raiding animals he left out of the games, so perhaps it's for the best.
Adventure seeds: there are 21 adventure seeds. None of these are spelled out in detail - they're all just one paragraph each - but even if you only like a third of them, that's plenty of material. I mean, the author himself admits this is not likely to be a long-running campaign type of game, but a simple, occasional change-of-pace game. I agree, and the 21 adventure seeds are probably all you'll need, pulling it out once or twice a year, to last you a long time. I myself like well over half of these, by the way, so you might, too.
This is a well-written, well-thought-out, entertaining RPG that you'll probably only run occasionally, at best. Well worth the low price, I recommend this one without hesitation. My congratulations to the author!
[Note: this is part of my series of semi-reviews of Indie game products.]
- Last edited Sun Aug 23, 2009 2:44 am (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:00 am