I like dimes. I like heroes. I like pulp adventure. I really wanted to like this game. Given its price-- less than four dollars-- I didn't have high expectations. The Jungle Adventures supplement came bundled with it for only a dollar, so it really should have been a bargain.
Dime Heroes is an e-book, an eleven page pdf file. With a cover page, a table of contents, and an ad for Deep7's upcoming Red Dwarf RPG, there are eight pages of content. That comes to fifty cents a page, which looks less like a bargain already.
One page is a character record sheet, another the rules, another advice for the Referee, and the remaining five comprise the adventure "The Crimson Tiger Strikes!"
The Jungle Adventures supplement is twelve more pages. Seven discuss character types, native tribes, lost civilizations, and surviving in the jungle. The last five provide another adventure.
Each page of the books features vaguely appropriate clip-art, some of which is slow to render and makes the books cumbersome to read on the computer. The rules refer to part of the record sheet by describing it as the red text, so I can only surmise that the authors expect customers to print the books on a color printer before reading. (Looks still less like a bargain.)
The grammar in both books is distractingly bad. Tense changes, subject-verb disagreement, and word misuse abound. The prose reads like an excited gamer explaining an idea for an adventure or campaign that he just made up but that he thinks he might run one day. It hurts.
The game is a "1PG"-- a term which Deep7 coined to describe their rules-light, genre-for-less-than-a-five-spot RPG's. Characters have four attributes: Moxie covers combat and physical activity. Glitz covers social interaction. Cunning covers sneaky physical activity and sneaky social interaction. Gray Matter covers non-social (and perhaps anti-social) thinking. At least, that's what I surmise based on the skills clustered under each. No description is actually given of the attributes.
Characters have Guts and Wits scores. In hairy situations, they make Guts checks. If they fail Guts Checks, they lose Wits points. If they run out of Wits points...
It's unclear, really. The Wits description says that they "are in a fatigued stupor and unfit to adventure" and further that this effectively retires them from adventuring life. The description of Guts Checks (on the very same page!) says that they "become fatigued and unable to concentrate well" and provides a rule that makes them a danger to themselves and others.
Characters also have Notoriety scores. The record sheet says that Notoriety is used to "reroll failed skill checks or call in favors." The description of Notoriety on the rules page suggests: "If you need to make a Notoriety roll, see below." The word "Notoriety" does not recur in the text after this point.
Crude but simple rules are to be expected in this self-avowed "Beer & Pretzel RPG." Instead, the rules are overdone, incomplete, and inconsistent-- all at the same time!
The Dime Heroes web page promises "five serial adventures" and, indeed, the adventure in the book is organized into five episodes. It's as if Keep on the Borderlands were dozens of "serial adventures" because monsters were listed in separate, numbered rooms. Although the text of Dime Heroes suggests that the episodes should take a 2-3 hour session each, they consist each of only a combat scene and a segue into the next episode.
The adventure is sprinkled with admonishments to "make sure" that something happens: make sure a slain gangster is left behind, make sure the players don't kill all the gangsters, make sure the players' prisoner survives, and so on. At every turn, the adventure relies on encounters ending in precise ways.
It's bad enough that Dime Heroes sells the players a ticket on an unoriginal railroad. Worse still, the track won't always lead them where they need to go. Take an example from episode three: If the GM "makes sure" that the encounter ends as the designers think it should, then the players receive a note that tips them off that their next well-scripted fight scene will be in Virginia. The note refers to a boat named Virginia, but there is no suggestion as to how players might catch on to this-- what's to stop them from heading on an ill-fated trip to Richmond?
The serial in Jungle Adventures is little better.
On top of it all, Dime Heroes captures none of the flavor of 30's adventure serials. It fails even to stay in period. The adventure involves a villain demanding "$100,000,000 in one week or he will turn the atomic ray on the city." Never mind that this payment is later described as "an additional million"-- the sum is jarringly out of place. Perhaps not so jarring, since the same villain uses "TV Cameras" to monitor the approach to his hideout.
If you have a hankering for pulp adventure, five dollars will rent a video or buy a few used paperbacks. If you have a penchant for heroes, spend the five dollars on a sandwich.