Broken Compass

Posted 28 Jun 2022 to Urban Fantasy

Fast cinematic action to emulate adventure movies.


XP Card

Sessions GM'd: 5
Sessions as Player: 2

I Used

The 242 page core PDF. I also looked at the splat book that includes brief guidelines for playing in a wide range of expanded settings.


This is a game that simulates family friendly good natured action movies like Indiana Jones or the Mummy. It does so very well! I used it to play Star Wars and it worked great. The system is quite simple and very suitable for one-shots or short campaigns. Our game focused on a group of rebels trying to prevent the Empire from acquiring schematics for a dangerous ancient superweapon. We had to abandon the game after my real life circumstances changed, but it was great fun while it lasted.


The Good

  • Beautiful art. . I don't have the physical book, only the PDF, but it still looks great. I can only imagine that the physical book is gorgeous. This will make it a really attractive entry game for someone new to RPGs.
  • Feelings. . The game emulates adventure movies. Indiana Jones does not have hit points that deplete across encounters. Instead you can gain conditions called Feelings which persist across scenes. You can have Good Feelings and Bad Feelings. "Bleeding" is an example of a Bad Feeling. Along with "Scared" and "Embarrassed". You gain these Feelings when you fail a check in a pivotal moment. They work very well, and I especially like how they are roleplaying prompts. No-one is expected to roleplay their character differently when they are down to 11 out of 18 hit points. But if you are "Bleeding" and also "Focused" then you have roleplaying prompts to help you play differently. You recover from your Bad Feelings by having a personal heart-to-heart moment with another PC during a rest scene. This is a brilliant roleplay prompt, and further reinforces the adventure movie genre the game is emulating.
  • Scars and Experiences. . Your character begins already competent and professional. There is no XP progression and level up which gives you better skills and stats. This immediately takes you off the treadmill of character progression and saves the GM from having to worry about escalating difficulty. It also means that any adventure can be played by any group. You can jump into an adventure in Jurassic Park, escaping from a T-Rex without having to first level up in a beginner-difficulty adventure. However, your character does progress! In the same way that a character in a novel or TV series progresses ... by gaining Scars and Experiences which are permanent consequences of very bad or very good situations they have been in. Again, I find this to be a stronger motivator for *roleplay* than merely seeing your stats increase.
  • "What If" add-on Book. . This book is a genius idea,that is so refreshing I wish more systems would do it. The core system is presented in its own book, but this add-on book is jam-packed with chapters, each describing how you could use and adapt the core system for a different setting. Do you want to emulate Call of Cthulhu? D&D? Delta Green? Star Wars? Cyberpunk? Each of these gets about 10 pages of guidelines, including 4 sample pregens. Admittedly, the content wasn't *that* useful for me. I had to write up my own stuff to actually run Star Wars, but it wasn't hard. And the writers are explicitly inviting creators to adapt the system in new ways. I found it freeing.
  • Combat is fast and easy to GM. . You don't need to worry about stat blocks for different kinds of enemies. You simply rate their power as Basic, Critical, Extreme or Impossible. Groups of Basic enemies upgrade to become a single Critical enemy. The enemy rating *is* the difficulty for the players to both hit and save against that enemy. Each enemy has 3 hit points. It allows for scenes that are quick to setup, and I could be very improvisational.
  • Lends itself to streaming. . I'm not a streamer, but I can immediately see that this combat system is a much better option for an audience than a traditional rpg combat system. Firstly, the fights are quick, normally around 15 minutes. For me, long boring combat in actual play podcasts can be unbearable to listen to, as most trad games depend on gradually depleting hit points.
  • Building characters with Tags is fast and intuitive. . Building a character takes 5 minutes the first time you do it. And 1 minute thereafter. You pick two Tags to describe your concept. Tags are things like "pilot", "gunslinger", "femme fatale". So your two combo'd Tags might be "femme fatale gunslinger". Bam! That is a tightly defined character concept, and each Tag prescribes the skills and stats you get, plus a speciality move. It's easy for new players to make good choices, even without understanding how the game mechanics work. Tags are also endlessly customizable, as you add whichever ones make sense to the setting you are using.

The Not-So-Good

  • Long waffle text. . The book is 240 pages long, and some of those pages say nothing. Words, words everywhere, all saying nothing. This book could have really benefited from an aggressive editor with a fresh red pen. At worst the text actually confuses what is a rule and what is flavour text. Rules are hidden away inside long waffle paragraphs, just mentioned in passing, or relegated to a sidebar. It is really egregious. I read the entire book and reduced it to 12 pages of double spaced bullet points - that means I almost reduced each page of original text to 1 bullet point. I believe the publishers are aware of the problem and are apparently working on a reference document.
  • Stats are limited. . Your stats are rated by a number between 2 and 3. The smartest detective in your party will have Knowledge 3, and the dumbest knuckle-dragger will have Knowledge 2. That's a lot less differentiation than I'm used to. Mechanically, stats seem to hardly matter at all, as they only make a difference of +1 dice.



This is a great lite system that does an excellent job of emulating fun adventure stories. I can definitely use it again for Star Wars, or any other suitable genre. Highly recommended.



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