And the Würms Ate Into His Brain – A Review of Vast Grimm

Vast Grimm

Author: Brain Colin & Ross Brant
Publisher: Infinite Back & Creature Curation
Page Count: 120
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $15
Print – $35

Long ago, in year zero, the universe was free of The Grimm until The Six went on a pilgrimage to The Primordial Mausoleum. The six gained entry using Tributes, a microchip infused with Neuromancy energies. As they breathed in the stale air, they unknowingly ingested THEY, parasites known as würms. The six separated after departing, spreading THEY to others and infecting the universe with The Grimm. 663 years have passed since the first infection, and The Grimm will soon overtake the known universe.

The Earth is gone. Only large pieces of it remain, with human survivors living in harsh, isolated conditions. Soon they will become one with The Grimm, as will the universe. It is only a matter of time until the würms reach them. One by one, until there is none. Humanities’ only shining beacon of hope is The Gate of Infinite Stars. It’s a portal to a parallel dimension. A dimension without THEY. Life is slipping away under The Grimm. The Gate of Infinite Stars offers a chance to live; however, its exact location is unknown. Soon there will be no place to hide. The gate is out there. Find it before it is too late.

Note: Infinite Back and Creature Curation provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. Please visit our Product Review Request page if you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review.

Published under the Third-Party MÖRK BORG License, Vast Grimm produces a nihilistic roleplaying experience. Set in an alternate dark future where the Earth has broken into fragments, its survivors cling and survive as a black shroud called The Grimm is smothering all life through the universe. The end is near for all life unless they can find a way to escape to a parallel universe.

Game Mechanics

Vast Grimm uses familiar game mechanics from MÖRK BORG. Conflicts are resolved using a d20 plus an attribute or skill against a Difficulty Rating. Rolling a natural 20 grants double damage when attacking and free action when rolling to defend. On a one, a Fumble, the attacking characters lose their weapon or damage it, while characters rolling to defend could suffer double damage or reduce their armor’s effectiveness.

Death is always just one step away in this game. At zero hit points, characters are broken. They must roll on a d4 chart where they have a chance of only being concussed and revived later, losing ability points from losing a body part, or ending their journey forever. Damage placing hit points into the negatives is instant death.

In Vast Grimm, players need a slight advantage to survive. Each character gets a number of Favors to spend based on their class. Favors can grant maximum damage with one attack, the ability to reroll dice (yours or someone else’s), lower damage by a d6, erase a crit or fumble, or lower the difficulty rating of a task by 4. Favors refresh after a rest of six hours or more.

Another tool at the characters’ disposal is Tributes. When The Grimm was released, Neuromancy energy was released into the universe. It is a kind of magical energy, much like spells in a fantasy setting. Its power was captured and transferred onto data chips called Tributes. Any character can use tributes by spending Neuromancy Points that refresh each day. Each character’s Necromancy Points are derived from their Presence score and a D4. There are 20 Tributes provided for the Gamemaster to use. Some are perfect as the day they were coded, while others have degraded over time and don’t produce the intended effect. Using a Tribute requires a Presence Test. Be careful when using Tributes. A crit or a fumble unleashes Cataclysmic Condemnations, an optional d20 chart of very nasty results for characters.

Character Creation

Vast Grimm’s characters are easy and quick to create by following simple steps. The first step is to select the character class you wish to play. There are eight character classes to choose from, or you may randomly roll if desired. Most information needed to build a character is found in each character class description. Within are instructions on a character’s eligibility for equipment, armor, and weapons, two rollable charts, one for past life events, and skills specific to that class. Any modification to attributes and hits points is also listed with each class making them each unique.

  •  MAnchiNe, part man, part machine. MAnchiNes are a twist of flesh and technology purpose melded together to give them advantages in times of war.
  • Soul Survivor. This class of people works to ensure they are the last ones to go, even at the expense of others.
  • The Lost Techno Maniac. Huddled in their quiet places, The Lost Techno Maniacs studied the secrets of Necromancy found among the Tributes.
  • Twisted Biochemist. While looking for a cure, Twisted Biochemists use their scientific knowledge to help find a cure for the plague. Their knowledge makes them well aware of their impending transformation and death.
  • Treacherous Merc. Out for themselves and no one else, violence solves all their problems. Treacherous Mercs are bastards with black hearts who will sell out a friend to get closer to escaping The Grimm.
  • Emobot. Mechanical mind and body but with a soul. They are immune from The Grimm but not from the pain of loss. Emobots use their technical knowledge to aid in bringing a better future.
  • The Devout. Followers of THEY. Unwavering in belief, The Devout embrace the Scriptures, traveling to the Alter of Convergence to spill their blood. While others fear The Grimm, they welcome it.
  • The Harvesters. Unafraid to get their hands dirty, Harvesters make their living harvesting würms from the dead for handsome bounties. It is not the cleanest of jobs, but it’s a living.

The next step is to roll the character’s attributes which get modified by the character class. Vast Grimm uses Agility, Presence, Strength, and Toughness. Getting close to finishing, there are several more rollable tables for personality traits and randomly acquired starting equipment. All that is left is to spend any starting credits and give your character a name, and you are ready to play.

End of Days

The universe is coming to a close as The Grimm overtakes every corner. But there is hope for a better life if one can find a mythic portal, The Gate of Infinite Stars, created by scientists that leads to a parallel universe. At the beginning of the game, the Gamemaster picks from eight locations within the universe where the portal might exist. Very brief descriptions of each of the eight locations are provided. With each passing day, the end grows closer. Like MÖRK BORG, Gamemasters roll each day to see how close they are to The Grimm completely taking over the universe. How near the end is for the Gamemaster and the players to decide. There is a list of torments, each growing in scale as the end time gets closer until it finally arrives and the universe has become one with The Grimm.

Würms and Other Nasties

Vast Grimm provides six parasitic würms, each looking for a host body to feed on, gain control over, and finally shed its human skin when it is time for metamorphosis into a Big Würm. Those infected with würms suffer daily from Parasitic Pains or Parasitic Pleasures; two rollable charts specific to the type of würm within. There is no way to remove THEY once infected. Other adversaries to pit against characters are a chart that aids gamemasters in creating a menagerie of horribly mutated Earth Animals and ready-to-use Astro Zombies, Big Würms, Cyphalite, Grimm-infected creatures, Rage Bots, and several other dangerous creatures.

Production Values

For this review, I received a physical copy and a set of PDFs, one with the publication in single pages and one in spreads. I initially viewed the PDFs as I waited for my physical copy to arrive. The publication follows the chaotic design first seen in the late 80s into the early 90s, where form overtakes function. Though not nearly as chaotic as some of that era’s designs, Vast Grimm is influenced by it. With that style comes exciting and energetic pages at the cost of functionality. Section headings are non-existent, and headlines are often hidden within the design. Attempting to find a specific item within is challenging. Luckily, the page count and copy are light enough to scan the whole publication quickly for the thing needed. Display typefaces are used in body copy leading to legibility issues. However, the book’s most egregious design choice is its color use. Its vibrant colors on low-contrasting fields that share the same color values lead to legibility issues, especially with readers with poor or deficient color vision.

Despite its functionality issues, once I received the physical copy, I could fully appreciate the creative expression of each spread as intended by its artist. For what it lacks in functionality, it makes up for it its appearance. The Vast Grimm is one of the most visually stunning RPG books I have seen. Each spread is a work of art. I spent more time looking at each page spread than reading its content.

Final Thought

Vast Grimm does for space-faring RPGs what MÖRK BORG did for sword and board fantasy. It ratchets the setting to an extreme with an overarching end of days theme. The rules are very light and quick to learn. The sparse setting details give a Gamemaster room to make the universe their own and the introductory adventure to get them started. Locating information within the publication is difficult, but each spread looks fantastic. The book does not include a character sheet which I found troubling. Granted, supplemental material can be easily found online, but not having it in the publication leaves it open to disappear as technology changes. Plus, I find referencing a character sheet helps me learn the game and its mechanics better. Not having to go elsewhere for it is preferred.

I can accept the designer’s decision to place form over function since there is very little content. If you are a fan of MÖRK BORG’s zany twist to fantasy, I think you would also enjoy what Vast Grimm offers.

~Stephen Pennisi

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