Chatty's Review: Silvervine, Introduction

GoatbloodedShortly after I re-posted Greywulf’s ‘DM/GM requirements Specification’ for a RPG (called the Dungeonmaster’s Creed), I got an Email from John Arcadian who I knew as a longtime Treasure Tables Commenter.

Well after having read the Creed, John told me that he and a few collaborators, were working on a new RPG system called Silvervine that, they believe, addresses most of the points of the Creed. (oddly enough, based on the incoming links I’ve seen on this post, many designers think that way)

He invited me to take a playtest copy of the yet unfinished game and give them feedback on it. I obtained a copy of the quite sizable document (about 400 pages) and as soon as I started reading it, I knew I would have a various opinions, some of them quite strong, not all of them negative, about it all.

I e-mailed John back and asked him if I could break the review/opinion in several chunks and post them on the blog on a weekly basis. He gracefully agreed, provided that I point out that I was “reviewing the Advanced/Uncorrected/Playtesters copy that is by no means complete”

While I feel honored to have been asked by John to pitch in my 2 cents, I believe that this can be a win/win situation.

He gets free publicity and a series of pre-release reviews/opinions by an external person.

On my side, I get to practice my critical sense which, quite frankly, could gain a few more levels of objectivity seeing how Fanboyish my Pathfinder previews have been so far.

Now what exactly are my credentials here? I’m no industry expert as I’ve the never published anything gaming related except in local gamer rags and online. I have however been a DM/GM for most of the last 25 years. I’ve played, or read the following systems:

  • D&D (Red Box, A D&D 1st and 2nd ED, D&D 3.x, Iron Heroes)
  • Gurps (All 4 Editions)
  • Paranoia 2nd ED
  • Robotech and Rifts
  • Mekton
  • The Fuzion Engine
  • Marvel Super Heroes 1st and 2nd ED
  • BESM 2nd ED

This means that I know exactly what I like and dislike in rules and settings.

I also write rules for a living… just not game rules. I’m a Health Sciences Quality Assurance professional. I have been writing procedures, methods, protocols, reports and investigations for most of the last 8 years. I think I’m a fair writer and I know about the importance about clear unambiguous writing.

Finally, I like to believe that I have an open mind about games and that there is no one true Best System out there. All the non D&D games I’ve listed have, in my view, at least 1 thing better than D&D. It just happens that D&D is the one game that answers most of my current needs as a Gamer.

I am however going to enter this review with a bias. While we joke about it a lot here and on the forums, I am usually more interested in a Clever Crunchy system than a Clever Fluffy one. I’m also not a fan of Storytelling/Narrativist games and it seems to me that Silvervine is such a type of game from reading the 1st few pages.

Although I must say that the narrativist approach is just one of the 4 distinctive characteristics of the game. And some of them do capture my curiosity.

So, I will strive to focus on what brings me to want to read more of the rules and what makes me want to drop the book and move away. I’ll explain my gut reactions on each account. I also will try to say how I think the things I tend to dislike could be presented to alleviate my reaction.

Hopefully, if John and his crew want to make a game with the largest possible market, they’ll read what I say and take it into account.

I hope you’ll find interesting things to read in these posts, and if this experiment works, I’d be willing to tackle other such games (Indie or not) with pleasure.


  1. Sounds good. I await with baited breath. If I knew how to bait my breath, that is :)

    I’ll be very interested to see how it stacks up against the Creed. Other systems come mighty close to it’s demands – Savage Worlds, in particular. I’d love to see a comparison…….

  2. I await with baited breath. If I knew how to bait my breath, that is

    Eat worms.

    Though the confusion comes from the word being “bated”, short for “abated”, originally. Baited is a more modern form, with its origins in a common misspelling.


    From the sounds of it, though, we’re going to have some brutal honesty here. Greywulf, I hope you’re wearing your cup, just in case. 😛

  3. What’s cool, is that if your guess is right about this being a narratavist approach, is this will be the first system you’ve ever read that strongly supports narratavist play.

  4. Yes… mostly because I never caught on the Noun: The Verbing mouvement of the mid-nineties… I was too busy running Gurps Fantasy/Supers/Marial Arts campaigns.


    Graham: While you may expect the Honesty part, I don’t do brutal all that well :)