Slayers RPG thoughts after three one-shots

Has anyone else tried out Slayers? It’s not exactly in our usual wheelhouse, but when I saw it getting a lot of buzz around the Ennies I decided to give a shot, so I booked an online session of it, but I ended up running it for two additional groups - my face-to-face group when we had a scheduling hiccup, and an online group in-between campaigns.

The rpg is an abstract tactical combat game, it kind of reminds me of like a lighter D&D 4e or a Strike or something like that. One of the big premises of the game is that all of the classes are asymmetric - so the fighter-equivalent plays very differently than the wizard-equivalent. There are four classes in the book - the Blade which is a combo & stance oriented melee combatant, the Gunslinger which is a ranged damage dealer carving runes into their gun, an Arcanist who casts magic and gambles with corruption, and a Tactician who gets a pool of dice to swap out player character and monster rolls. Very cool on paper.

I ran the exact same “adventure” three times, although I fiddled with it each session. The game does not have a combat balance mechanism. I found this to be a little jarring because the game is so heavily combat-as-sport. It became pretty difficult to judge what a party would breeze through and what would almost take them out.

All the monsters are very 4e-ish - usually having about 1-3 moves, sometimes reactions and on-going effects. I found this to be very difficult to keep track of. A leader would boost minions, minions would have an ongoing effect if players were close, the leader would command other minions when one died, some minions would get an auto-attack when they go to 1hp, etc.

Even reading the game I could kind of tell it wasn’t for me, but I was excited at the prospect of trying out yet a new game that was getting a lot of hyped, but honestly I was pretty disappointed. And not from a “this isn’t my kind of game” aspect, but like the game seems unfinished.

There are references to buying stuff, but there’s no equipment in the game. There’s also references to using items despite this. I tried adding in-arena items to counter this, but I could never make using a device or throwing a vase to be more compelling than the PC’s class moves. There’s also a weird issue with healing - the game says you heal fully after rest, but the Arcanist potentially has a healing spell. The downside to the Arcanist casting spells is they increase corruption… but they have a quick move to burn off corruption. This is a problem I see in a lot of these games that constrain most of the verbs to in-combat… it makes it seem like this super obvious “trick” hasn’t been thought through.

Oh and in all but one of the sessions we had a player using every class - except one. And in that one session the party essentially TPK’d and really suffered without the missing class (Tactician), so much so I think that suspicious support class may be a required take.

Anyway, that’s just my thoughts. I’m happy to go into further details in each of the sessions, but I wanted to know if other tried this game and had a different experience than I did.


I haven’t heard about the game until now (didn’t really follow Ennies this year), but your experience really reminds me of my experience with D&D 4e. Looked awesome on paper, making you think of all those cool combos that will show up during the game, and both me and players were hyped to give it a spin… and then we played it.

…and it played like, well, a game. After one disappointing session we sat down and talked about it. For us, it was much more of a boardgame than it was an RPG. I mean, it would probably be a cool boardgame, but it totally missed our expectations. It was supposed to give you all this cool stuff to do, but in the end it just eliminated the “infinite possibility space” of RPGs and replaced it with systems and special abilities that you need to master. One player compared it to playing magic the gathering, but with minis, and yeah, it felt kinda like that. It was a game with RPG elements, not an RPG with tactical combat.

As both me my players were more interested in ropleplaying, than playing a game we ended that campaign after that session. Soon after I sold my deluxe 3 core book set and never looked back.

From your description it seems like you run into the same problem.

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This is very interesting to me because I greatly enjoy the “game” part of TTRPGs as long as they are not overburdening. I think it has potential but indeed lacks a thorough editing pass for inconsistencies. He is also working on version 1.5 right now. Slayers playing like a game is not an accident, that’s his MO. His other, more popular, game Nova aka Lumen is basically Destiny the TTRPG. I had more trouble with that one but came around too. What Slayers definitely lacks is more weight in the non-combat activities of the characters.
The classes itself are great fun to play and indeed different. I also think the Tactician is one of the best implementations of a cleric or bard buff/de-buff type class I have ever seen. They are a ton of fun to play and greatly enhance the other classes at the table.

Could you please elaborate on the issue you had with the healing of the Arcanist and corruption? I am nut sure I totally understand.

It is probably only fun if you like the game part of Roleplaying Game, but if you do it is a great, lightweight alternative. And it has an open license to boot. We liked it while playing, so much so I am working on a sci fi version of it. Maybe going to merge in some ideas from 24XX as I think they are both highly compatible.

I actually supported the KS and have the game, but don’t think I ever read it fully. You have inspired me to do so now and see if I experience the same issues.

Although I must say, 4e is a non-OSR game of choice for me, so might not struggle as much.

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wow, I’m also working on a sci-fi take of slayers! let me know if you wanna exchange notes / chat about ideas.

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That’s awesome, PM sent. :smiley:

Taking the mend spell seems like a requirement because the Arcanist would be able to bypass the per-day healing requirements, returning everyone to max hp after each encounter. So it’s a classic class tax to take.

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I think the lack of combat balance is kind of a feature, not a bug, if that makes sense. Spencer has talked about not wanting the game to be perfectly balanced: if the Slayers alpha strike the boss, let them have that, cause it can easily go the other way. I eventually started getting a “feel” for what would be a challenge after a session or two.

Re: items, I think it’s best to just basically treat it as fluff rather than stuff that’s useful in combat. E.g. in one adventure I let my players buy skateboards to fit in with skater kids they were investigating. For combat, yeah, you basically just have to accept that players will always use their abilities, not environmental stuff, so lean into those mechanics, design enemies to counter those mechanics and stuff, etc. Adding in environmental effects that have their own “abilities” like monsters do is also good.

IMO the game comes alive with community content. When we played we didn’t use any of the official classes except the Blade, so obviously we weren’t missing the tactician. Balance varies wildly, obviously, but you’ll learn to use your best judgement. I also think the game is significantly improved if you design your own monsters and stuff.

All in all, I do think the game is lacking some depth, but personally it’s a fun little game for doing some light investigating/RP + semi-crunchy combat, which I think is the wheelhouse a lot of 5e games fall into; I’d much rather play Slayers most of the time.

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@JustinH @Ava Really interesting takes! I just got the hardcover this week and I’ve been wondering about some of these issues in play (items especially). I think I get overly invested in the minutiae of RPGs (listening at doors, finding uses for the shovel that I’ve been dragging around, etc. etc.) but Slayers seems more like watching a 22 minute anime. Cut to the fight scene! You have skateboards now! I’m a 4e apologist so “powers that explicitly relate to teamwork” get me pretty pumped in an RPG. Slayers caught my imagination more than most games I’ve read lately but I’m still trying to grok the soul of the game, so to speak.

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I can see it sort of as a “feature” if you’re trying to instill the idea that not every encounter needs to be precisely balanced, but I still would like the game to provide some sort of guidance on encounter design, when that seems to be the push of the game. Honestly it took two full play-throughs of the same scenario tweaking and fiddling with stuff before I could produce a combat that approached fun, and I can’t really fathom having to do that for every kind of creature.

I’m pumped to hear that the community support is great, but I think it kind of affirms my table’s assessment that the core game is maybe a bit undercooked if you have to throw out all the corebook classes and monsters to get a good time. I’m definitely not someone who is against hacking or modding a game from the get go, but I would at least kind of like to get some impression of the foundation first.

Again, if people are super into this game more power to you. I think I’m just really not the target audience, which is a shame because the premise of super asymmetric class design is a thing I’m super into (even if it kind of doesn’t really come through, maybe its asymmetric compared to 5e). I do like tactical games quite a bit, I play lots of skirmish games. I just kind of felt every round have a pretty clear optimal move to take, but maybe that’s the point?

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I don’t necessarily think you have to throw the core classes and monsters out, I used them quite a bit, but yeah the core game is definitely not all the way there. How much you see this as “space for adding/hacking” and how much you see it as “incomplete” is gonna be subjective I guess.

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I believe the core assumption is that combat actions aka spells in this case can’t be done outside combat. But agree, should clarify these things. I still greatly enjoy running and playing it.

There’s a few problems with this. For one its just illogical - why wouldn’t you be able to cast spells outside of combat? What makes it being in a fight such that the Arcanist can now all of a sudden do magic? How did they fictionally acquire magic? Is Arcanist school a constant low grade brawl 24/7?

Second, the Healing section of the book does specifically call out being able to heal with spells. It doesn’t clarify which, but a naive read of the book would indicate that you could.

Third, even if you threw out the conceit of playing a fictional world and limited spells only to combat you incentivize really silly behavior where you would have the party keep the weakest enemy alive at the end of combat, have everyone else Benny-Hill the monster around taking whatever defensive actions possible while the Arcanist continued to use Mend - basically replicating casting the spell outside of combat only in a very annoying and fictionally dissonant fashion.

Exactly, hence I don’t worry about all that. I totally agree it’s a gap in the rules but not one that bothers me. They could just automatically regain all HP at combat end with or without an Arcanist. The game is about fun combat scenarios and not about being bed ridden while healing. He should just write that and toss out all other mentions of healing. Would make the game more fun and consistent. He ready mentioned 1.5 getting a proper editor so hopefully things like this will be caught and solved.

The author Campbell on the Gila discord said they let everyone heal up full after combat anyway. This discrepancy should hopefully be addressed in the updated core rules.