The World of Synnibarr (1993)

That’s all there is for Lords of Creation, so let’s round out the week with another bonkers RPG: The World of Synnibarr (1993). This is widely regarded as one of the worst RPGs ever made.

Let’s take the name, first. Cinnabar is a mercury-based mineral often used to create red pigment for cosmetics and pottery. Because of the mercury, it is pretty toxic, though. The game takes place some ridiculous number of years in the future, in which Mars (which IS red, but also is not Mercury) is hollowed out and converted into a world ship that humanity used to escape the solar system. Why they named the ship after a poisonous mineral is anyone’s guess, though the edgy, intentional misspelling is pure 90s (see the 1998 videogame Cardinal Syn). The vibe follows suit, a kind of unholy merging of Rifts’ over-the-top sensibilities with the ridiculous bombast of Leifeld-era Marvel comics. The “I drew this in my algebra notebook” meter is pinned to the red.

The cover of the book is nice enough, though — the metallic gold ink gives it a touch of unexpected class, though ultimately I find myself reminded of 90s-era cologne advertisements, the sort that were inserted into magazines and gave me a pounding headache when waiting in a doctor’s office. The rules echo this impression. Mostly they seem to be percentile base, but it seems to be even odds that a given check is roll under or roll over. There are so many rules. The book is nearly 500 pages of them — that is a daunting number of pages.

I honestly can not tell if I am meant to take this game seriously. Illustrations like that bazooka-toting raccoon checking his watch leave me totally flummoxed. Surely this is a gag? But then why am I not laughing? That’s a full page illustration. The monsters give me no insight. The Crocopede, for example, is a centipede with a crocodile head, but it also has wings for some reason. So does the Flying Deer. It’s honestly all a bit exasperating. 500 pages!

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