Review - One Page Howitt

During the last year of COVID I’ve had the great delight of enjoying some regular Sunday night games with friends from America. We’ve played a wide range of one-shot games and playtests. Today I’d like to focus on the one-shot games which we have played which were written by Grant Howitt - well known for Honey Heist, but actually the purveyor of a very wide range of fine one-page games. These are presented in the order in which I played them.

Genius Loci

In this game the players are all small gods in a small location - an English country village. In their specific domain their power is great, outside it their power is somewhat reduced.

Our player domains were

  • the shepherd and flock pub
  • the churchyard
  • The village green
  • The post office

Unfortunately the city gods of gambling wanted to set up a new casino in the field next to the village and had sent in a powerful giant of a man, the threatening Dozer to cow us into submission.

But our small gods of place had been here a long time - when the church was a shrine, the shepherd and flock was a watering hole for an actual shepherd and the village green was a clearing in the wood. We appeared to capitulate, lured Dozer and his lackeys to my pub where we got them really drunk. The lackeys went to relieve themselves in the churchyard and the chubby little lady who ran the women’s institute grew many wings, was covered with eyes and grew in radiant glory. Three of the lackeys converted and seven were consumed. Dozer found himself on the village green and lost out to the power of the green. Then the Shepherd arranged for a village fete to be spontaneously held on the disputed land and as people flooded onto it we demonstrated to the casino that these were our people, on our land, and we would protect them. The casino left.

We had tremendous fun with this game, and a year on I can still remember it with a lot of affection. Kevin Kulp was our GM and he invested a palpable sense of menace in Dozer. The mechanics worked smoothly and largely kept out of the way, but everyone was able to go big in the final act where we took on the interlopers.

Little Helpers

We all play little helpers, demonic servants who are trying to do a good job but keep accidentally introducing excess chaos and destruction to even the simplest tasks. On this occasion we were all working for Belle from Beauty and the Beast - and it didn’t go terribly well for the village with fire, plagues and all sorts going on (including a crossover with Aladdin’s genie by the end)

It was a laugh, but not quite as memorable as some of the other games.

Sexy Battle Wizards

Everyone has three attributes - Sexy, Battle, and Wizard. You decide how you want your ability scores to be divided up between those attributes (and you will use those attributes when rolling to succeed at something which falls into, well, one of those broad categories!)

As usual, you roll on some tables (or choose, but it’s fun to roll) to find out your magical school, your signature weapon and why you are so damn sexy. The random adventure generation makes sure that an NPC who stands in your way is definitely a sexy NPC (and even for ones which are not overtly sexy, the GM is told to consider whether they could make them kissable). The game definitely wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, so to speak.

The players can describe awesome effects with any of their abilities which they are using, although a lot depends upon how the GM wants to adjudicate the resulting impact.

Pride and Extreme Prejudice

Definitely one of my favourites of the one-page games. It is a mixture of Jane Austen high society manners and piloting giant Mechs powered by eldritch curses to fight off the French. I ran this rather than playing it and we had a fabulous time. Whether it was when the mech dressage was interrupted by a darned French artillery attack, or when the sisters were dealing with a handful of suitors after their hand in marriage while avoiding the disgrace of a torn dress.

You roll a d10 when trying to accomplish something; if it is difficult or dangerous then you roll with disadvantage (roll twice and pick lowest). If you have something in your favour (extra power, cutting witticisms) or you are developing a strong relationship with someone(!) you roll with advantage (roll twice and pick highest).

Problems you face as a result of failure can range from “A boring man makes his feelings known” to “Eternity reactor damaged” or “Your outfit is deemed unfashionable”. The NPC suitor options were inspiring, and by the end of the game we had one proposing, one who was punched and one whom was locked up as a cultist. Plus, the French assault had been repulsed, which was always a plus.

Hack the Planet

Inspired by the mid-90’s film Hackers (starring Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie), we were teen hackers doing our thang.

Your stats are ‘meat’ and ‘cyber’, and they tell you the number of d6 to roll to achieve something. You have a boring name, a cool tag, two items of iconic clothing and a public goal and a secret goal. Achieve your secret goal and you start rolling d8’s instead of d6’s. One of the game mechanics which gave additional flavour to the game was that if you used some random 90’s style hacking terminology you could re-roll failed die rolls - “Splice a Trapdoor into the Motherboard”, “Spoof the Antivirus Killswitch”. Nobody had to know what it meant, but it gave a tonne of extra atmosphere to the game as you were fighting back against The Man.

Honey Heist

Not your standard honey heist, we were all baby bears in a zoo who wanted to get out and get some honey. This is probably the best known of Grant’s one-page games, so I won’t say much more about it here although during the game we accidentally kidnapped a child whom we covered with honey (for reasons) and escaped in a golf buggy (also for reasons).

I’m a Lover, not a Fighter

We were all charming swashbucklers at a fancy dress ball, rescuing a bevy of maidens from a gluttonous and avaricious baron who was also practicing dark magic! Your ability scores are Lover and Fighter, and which one you use depends upon whether you are attempting to charm/persuade someone or engage in physical prowess. I played Captain Cornelius Dashwood, a cynical scandalous smuggler of french ladies undergarments. Everyone chooses their fancy hat, type of sword, preferred kiss, best scar, and tragic backstory amongst other things. Dashwood has a top hat, curly hair, has a sword cane and a scar over one eye. He fancies aristocrats and lost his best friend to the damn frenchies.

You can voluntarily take actions to shift points between Lover and Fighter, and this is very necessary because they do shift by themselves during the game as plans succeed or fail, and you don’t want either of them to end up as a 6, because if they do, you die! It’s a fun way of ensuring that you balance your romantic dalliances with your derring do and handsome brooding.

Where do I find out more?

You can follow Grant Howitt on twitter here @gshowitt or in his reddit place where people discuss his games here https://www.reddit.com/user/gshowitt/. You can also support him on his patreon here https://www.patreon.com/gshowitt