Review - Anti-Sysyphus

With Anti-Sisyphus we first must consider how we will review a tabletop RPG product. Sorry Jared, you're going to be my test dummy for formatting. Step 1: Judge the book

a month ago

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With Anti-Sisyphus we first must consider how we will review a tabletop RPG product.

Sorry Jared, you're going to be my test dummy for formatting.

Step 1: Judge the book by its cover.

First we look at the title, Sisyphus, a Greek mythological figure, famous for repeatedly pushing a boulder up a hill in an eternal curse, this is anti-sisyphus, what does that tell us about this product?

If you're involved in the indie TTRPG community, you'll (probably) know that the Anti-Sis name and it's "meaning" was a running joke for the length of its production, there is no meaning, that is the intent behind it, stop trying to make more meaning.

Are you really involved if you didn't know that? Yeah probably, Jared is an indie darling, not a titanic presence.

Now that said... Some would ascribe their own meaning to it, in that we're trying to break free of the shackles that define the genre and our tired expectations of the trends within the hobby as a whole.

The cover itself, a solid black slate, excluding the words at the bottom, it is bold, it is making a statement, and in its minimalism it draws attention to itself.

Cover 7/10, low effort high value.

Step 2: Turn the page anyway.

As we turn the page we get a mild narrativization (word stolen directly from Jared) of the contents. A brief explanation of Jared's intent in writing the book, or lack thereof, and his feelings on the resulting product.

What can we take from this? Jared is a proud author and he thinks deeply about the content that he's creating, except for when he doesn't. It evokes the feeling of a stranger sending postcards ascribing to you the laws of a strange land that you can choose to accept or disregard entirely.

This first look at Anti-Sis makes me feel like this book is going to be more for the reading experience of enjoying the content in the moment than what I'm going to take away from it. There's nothing wrong with that, but we're going to be harsh here as we move on, because it's what Jared would want.

At the very least the intro is gripping and compelling, and it makes me want to read the rest of the collection.

Step 3: Isolate the Meat.

When we get to the "meat" of each issue of Anti-Sis, we see that it is loosely structured as a relatively brief narrative followed by a rules example or explanation. I have to decide as a "reviewer" how much I value each portion of that content.

The rules themselves are minimal. But when presented in this book, if not an attempt at humor or introspection, they are well thought out. They are good mechanics that I would use in my games. Specifically in the first issue, dice pool vendor pricing, and time/light management are things I could see adding excitement without too much crunch or difficulty to manage.

Issue One gets a 8/10 for crunchy content and a 2/10 for fuzzy warm feelings, because Jared's insistence on inducement to meaning makes me consider what philosophical value TTRPGs bring to the table.

Issue two is sparse on Narrative Content and none of it makes me feel bad... As for the mechanics themselves.

Dice pool skills in the second issue are less something that I could see myself using as it strips away the use of a tabletop system, and while a tabletop system is not necessary for fun I know that for my personal use, and my players use we enjoy the way that a system is mechanically used and demonstrated. We enjoy the challenge of accurately representing the characters in our minds through that system in gameplay.

The weather system is an excellent inclusion for any table that wants to simulate weather randomization and have that effect the player characters, or events. I'm happy with this.

Issue two gets a 5/10 for Mechanical relevance to my interest, a 9/10 for aesthetics on the layout, and a 9/10 for making me feel like I'm reading TTRPG content scribbled in Jonathan Harker's journal while he was locked in a remote castle in Transylvania.

After this... The meat starts to fall apart, and that's OK, lets talk about the rest of the value of a TTRPG book.

Step 4: What's the value of a book?

It's unrealistic and unfair for me to go issue by issue valuing Jared's writing and work with subjective scales of 1/10 and if that's what you came here for you'll be sorely disappointed.

Jared is a great writer, and he's very clearly "screwing around" in the process of writing this content. Whether this is because he wants to present satire, a philosophical rambling on the nature of "games", or an acid inspired fever dream commentary on the bourgeoisie of the indie RPG world, the result is worth reading, not for the rules that you'll get to use in your game, but because somewhere deep down there's a kernel of truth to the questions Jared is pushing us to think about with his ramblings in these articles.

I hope that you read Anti-Sis and I hope that you subscribe to Jared's patreon because he's writing some cool stuff, and it's not necessarily solely for Roleplaying Games. I think you'll get some good laughs from the book, maybe some good insight on how you can tweak the rules of your game.

Worst case scenario you'll leave having read some definitively Good Content and be deeply confused. Jared's writing is art, and that's all you really need to know.

Over-all score, 4/10, because Jared wouldn't stand for anything more, and I know he can do better, so I'll continue to support and buy all of his future work and you should too.

Step 5: So this was our first review.

We did it, we wrote our first review, I think it was honest, and open, and took my own unique perspective into account.

Deliver hatemail directly to brianaericson@gmail.com, fanmail can go to brianaericson@gmail.com, give us a tweet @omnimyth or @liefbread and have a great week!

Brian A Ericson

Published a month ago