Imagine a world, if you will, where anything is possible. A world where magic dominates, where alchemy has been resurrected, and high technology is an ancient secret. A world where physical combat elevates to heights undreamed of. Where immortality can be gained, and moreover, where there is power to be had. Such a world is SynnibarrSounds pretty cool, doesn't it? Up until that very last word, I'll bet you were getting excited and/or interested. Because it sounds like a kickass setting.
I have a history with the game, its publisher, and its writer (the infamous Raven c.s. McCracken). It's not a particularly deep history, but it's a bit long. A bit too long to share over on Google+, I think. So here it is.
I first started gaming in the mid-Eighties. The first game I played was, like many of us, Dungeons and Dragons. It was still first edition (and may have been the Advanced version - I honestly don't recall). It was fun, but some of that fun was probably the allure of the Forbidden. As it is, it wasn't long before I had played a few other games, such as Star Frontiers and Marvel Super Heroes. Games which have (mostly) stood the test of time.
As the years went on, I played more and more games. In the late nineties, I discovered the internet. I became very active on the RPG.net forums. And there I learned about Synnibarr, at the time being touted as "the worst game ever published." So I tracked down a copy at a place called "Wonderworld Books" in Burien, WA. Wonderworld has since closed its physical storefront, but, at the time, it was really good. It had everything. Including both (!) editions of Synnibarr and the Ultimate Adventurer's Guide which was published for second edition.
I picked the books up for a fraction of their cover price, and moved on.
Years later, I look back and I see that the books were published by "Wonderworld Books," and I am pretty sure that the game store co-published it or provided some other form of significant assistance.
The game was bad. The setting showed a great deal of potential, but the system was completely incomprehensible. And the second edition was not a significant improvement.
I say the setting had potential - it reminded me of RIFTS with the restrictions removed. It takes place on a "Worldship" - it was a planet with engines hurtling through space. It is revealed in the book that it was not just any planet, it's the planet Mars, which has been hollowed out and fitted with engines.
The setting has mages and cyborgs and undead and ninjas and werewolves and ... and ... Yeah. It's that kitchen-sinkish.
The monster section includes several monsters which have become infamous like the flying Grizzly bears with eyebeams.
It's astounding. And it's thick. There is a lot in the books. Really a lot. As in "more than I can get through in a week." Even at my most voracious, I had trouble getting through it.
Then, in 2003, I went to Westercon. While perusing panels, I stumbled across a board game design panel where one of the panelists was "Raven c.s. McCracken." I had to know. His bio from the books has become somewhat legendary, too. I knew I had to go to that panel. Because I had to know.
In person, Raven doesn't come across as a self-absorbed nut. He, in fact, had some really good ideas about board game design. Some very solid ideas that would apply to RPG design as well. It was a fun (and useful panel).
I have no idea why he seems terminally unable to integrate his own ideas. Because he can't. His games are inevitably a mess.
Why is this coming up now? He's kickstarting a new edition of Synnibarr. I've backed this at the $80 level, because I want copies of this. Because, despite everything, I do love this game. And I really wish I knew why.