Exhibit / September 15, 2020
Object Name: Americanism
Maker and Year: Tsunehisa Kimura, 1982
Object Type: Photomontage
Description: (K.E. Roberts)
Unlike his younger compatriots Shusei Nagaoka, Hajime Sorayama, Eizin Suzuki, and Hiroshi Nagai, who broke into the American illustration market with glistening airbrushed futures and breezy, pastel-colored beach scenes, Tsunehisa Kimura’s output was absurd, darkly surreal, and often apocalyptic. He remembered the devastation wrought by the war, and aimed his photomontage squarely at imperialism, colonialism, and, during the 1980s, a locked-and-loaded America whose leaders were playing an increasingly dangerous game that might have enveloped the entire globe.
Kimura’s most recognized piece is probably Waterfall, circa 1979, which shows Manhattan beset by, or rather integrated with, Niagara Falls. The scene evokes disaster, but there’s something serene about it too—the riotous natural world and the built environment appear to commune, as is the goal in traditional Japanese architecture; not so in America, where we build things to keep nature—including other people—out. New York is frequently Kimura’s muse: New York encased in crackling ice; New York encased in fire at the end of the world (or is it the violent beginning of the world?); an ocean liner (is it the Titanic?) stands in for the Hindenburg, running aground on the Empire State Building.
There’s nothing serene about Kimura’s cover to the 1984 Midnight Oil LP Red Sails in the Sunset, either, showing a bombed-out, scorched-earth Sydney. A simmering red sun settles in the dust, similar to the black sun that precedes the atomic explosion in Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira (1982-1990). And his cover for Space Circus’s Fantastic Arrival (1979), where American astronauts caper about on the Moon—while on fire—is similarly uncomfortable. Waterfall, in various edits, has also appeared on several LP covers.
Americanism is a pointed critique of both WWII-era (the photos are from the ’40s) and ’80s America, consumed with consuming and not much else, though the world (including Hiroshima and Nagasaki) may burn. The ironic nonchalance of the juxtaposition is, once again, striking. The Statue of Liberty is drowned (a long-standing visual motif in sci-fi) in a 1977 photo, and an untitled piece from 1984 shows the noble lady once again, this time hurtling over (or towards) the New York skyline under the power of six American ICBMs—which huddle beneath her skirts!
Kimura’s work was collected in 1979’s appropriately title Visual Scandals by Photomontage, as far as I know the only such collection published in the US.
One of the perennial contributors is Paizo, Inc., a publisher whose titles for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Starfinder Roleplaying Game have proved popular and often in demand long after Free RPG Day. For 2020, the title released for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game is Little Trouble in Big Absalom, and the title released for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game is Starfinder: Skitter Home. As in past years, this is an adventure involving four of the cheerfully manic, gleefully helpful, vibrantly coloured, six-armed and furry creatures known as Skittermanders—Dakoyo, Gazigaz, Nako, and Quonx. They were introduced in the Free RPG Day adventure for 2018, Starfinder: Skitter Shot, in which as the crew of the starship Clutch performed salvage tasks in the Vast beyond the Pact Worlds and then came across a derelict luxury liner, before being boarded by pirates and forced to crash land on a nearby world and survive as detailed in the Free RPG Day adventure for 2019, Starfinder: Skitter Crash. The foursome return in Starfinder: Skitter Home—not to have adventures, but to have fun!
Starfinder: Skitter Home shares elements with Little Trouble in Big Absalom. Both are written for player characters of Fourth Level and both consist of two adventures which can be run together or separately—and in any order. In Starfinder: Skitter Home, the four Skittermanders have come to their home world of Vesk-3 for a vacation—first for a party and a celebration, and then for a leisurely safari. The party, detailed in the scenario ‘Festival of the Exclipse’, is at Reetamander, a festival celebrating a lunar eclipse on the skittermanders’ home world. There are games to play, market stalls to peruse, songs to sing, and once the eclipse is over, food and drink aplenty. Events—or rather the intervention of a horrid villain—means that things go awry, but the heroes do get to have some fun first. Unfortunately, the villain turns the Reetamander against its celebrants and the heroes must come to their rescue and stop him from enacting his inconceivable plan! Overall, ‘Festival of the Eclipse’ is a fun adventure, intentionally raucous—even a little riotous, and a very positive adventure since it plays into the helpful nature of the Skittermanders and there are some nice rewards for the Player Characters being helpful.
The second part, or scenario, in Starfinder: Skitter Home is much darker and a shift in tone. In ‘Hunters Hunted’ the heroes have been given the gift of an underground hunting expedition into the caves beneath Vesta-3 where stridermanders—massive, terrifying cousins of the skittermander species—are said to be found. Unfortunately, when the Skittermanders arrive at the hunt agency, it seems all trips into the caves are off, because contact has been lost with the last trip which went into the caves. Of course, the Skittermanders, being as naturally helpful as they are, they offer to join the search for the lost hunting party and pointed to an ancient side tunnel which nobody has been able to check yet due to the agency being short-staffed. ‘Hunters Hunted’ is a mini-dungeon, consisting of just eight locations, and focusing on stealth and exploration. It is all perfectly playable and enjoyable, but not quite as much fun—and nowhere near as raucous as ‘Festival of the Eclipse’. There is a sense of urgency to it though, as the surviving members of the lost party are hurt and very much in need a rescue.
Rounding out Starfinder: Skitter Home are the Skittermander pre-generated characters. There are four of these provided for use with Starfinder: Skitter Shot. They include a Priest Mystic, a Xenoseeker Mystic, a Spacefarer Soldier, and a Scholar Mechanic, all Third Level (up one Level from Starfinder: Skitter Crash). Each is detailed on a full page, complete with background and a really nice illustration, as well as the stats. Players will need to refer to the Starfinder Alien Archive for full details of the Skittermanders, but really, they should be played as they appear—bumptious, gleeful, up for a challenge, and manically helpful!
Physically, as with Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash, Starfinder: Skitter Home is very nicely laid out and presented. The artwork is excellent, the writing clear, and the maps—placed inside the front and back covers—easy to use. All exactly as you would expect for a scenario from Paizo, Inc.
If a group has played Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash before it, then doubtless they will be pleased to return to playing the humorous, if not silly, Skittermanders. Players new to Starfinder and Skitterfinders may find the rules of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game slightly more complex than they expect and they certainly will not have the same sense of attachment to the Skitterfinder quartet as someone who has played either—or both—Starfinder: Skitter Shot and Starfinder: Skitter Crash will have. Either way, the likelihood is that they will enjoy ‘Festival of the Eclipse’ more than they will ‘Hunters Hunted’, as it gives more scope for fun and action, and gives more for them to do, whereas ‘Hunters Hunted’ is just a bit too straightforward an adventure to be really exciting. Overall, Starfinder: Skitter Home is very nicely presented, but really one for fans of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game rather than a good introduction to it.
Svobod the Mule smiled to himself. Things had sure turned for the better. He couldn't help a satisified grunt as he stretched slowly and extended his muzzle into the trough for a breakfast of good oats. These new friends were first rate folks, and he'd decided he'd look after them.
Munching away, his mind turned back to the old witch, one of a long line of cruel, dumb, and selfish "owners" who'd come into his life since the old Poopseller had passed, Bless his soul. The witch was the worst, tying him up in that Barrow while she rummaged for something called the Table service of King Jaques, bah, the gelly cube that ate her did the world a favor.
Why are hoomans so silly anyway? I mean, they take the God's good oats, beat them, crush them up, dry them out, THEN put them back in water, heat them till they boil in an iron pot, THEN put them into yet another bowl, and wait for them to cool off again, and all that takes time and effort,mind you, before they finally eat, which they have to do out of special little magic tableware? what nonsense! Svobod snorted so hard oats flew up his nose.
Well at least these new ones were good fellows, it's nice to spend the night in a warm barn with nice smelling straw, the grooming girl does a good straw rub-down, the other stalls have interesting horses from all over with all kinds of horse-gossip, the oats are first rate...and not a whip or chain in sight. No...these new adventurers were under his protection now... if only they'd stop calling him Francis...a girl's name...so demeaning.
The Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start is the second title for Free RPG Day 2020 to be ‘Powered by Kids on Bikes’, the other being Kids on Brooms. Published by Renegade Games Studios and based on the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse graphic novel series, the players take on the roles of Junior Braves, essentially the equivalent of young scouts who are have gone away on camp for week to learn outdoor skills, good citizenship, and teamwork. Unfortunately, since they went away, something has happened, something which has caused apocalypse and brought society to its knees. Of course, being away from their family, friends, and society at large, the Junior Braves have no idea exactly what happened, so part of playing through the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start is about establishing what happened as much as it is establishing contact with their friends and families.
The Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start comes nicely complete. It includes a good explanation of the rules, six pregenerated Player Characters, and a sandbox ready for a group to play. In this way, it is complete and presents a ready-to-play package in a way which Kids on Brooms failed to be.
Instead of character generation, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start includes six Tropes—or basic character types. These are Honcho, Rustic, Ruffian, Tinkerer, Dreamer, and Tribe Master—the latter the leader of the troupe whom the Game Master roleplays as well as the NPCs. Each of these has its own special ability. For example, when the Dreamer earns a Brave Token—the equivalent of luck points or tokens—his player must give one to another Junior Brave, and the Ruffian gains a +3 bonus to solve problems involving force or chutzpah when his player spends a Brave Token. As per Kids on Bikes, each Junior Brave is defined by six stats—Brains, Brawn, Charm, Fight, Flight, and Grit—to which are attached to a die type, from a twenty-sided die for the character’s best stat down to a four-sided die for his worst stat. The ten-sided die represents an above average stat, whereas an eight-sided die represents a below average stat. So, a Honcho has a Charm d20, Fight d12, Grit d10, Brawn d8, Brains d6, and Flight d4, and a Rustic has Brawn d20, Charm d12, Flight d10, Brains d8, Fight d6, and Grit d4.
Tropes in the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse and thus the quick-start do not have skills, but in keeping with the theme of the game, they have Skill Patches, each sewn onto their Skill Sashes. Example Skill Patches include Orienteering, Woodworking, Knots & Ropes, Radios & Codes, and Sign Language. Each of these grants a +3 bonus to skill rolls—or possibly +1 bonus if only tangentially relevant. A Junior Brave will also have a Flaw, which can complicate his actions and increase the Target his player needs beat on a die roll. If a Junior Brave fails a roll due to his Flaw, he earns two Brave Tokens rather than the one usually awarded for failure. Lastly, a Junior Brave has some equipment and gear, stored in his ‘Pack and Pockets’. These consist of a pocketknife, sleeping bag, and a canteen, plus three items he would have had with him on the camp. Some of these are limited use items and will likely run out during the adventure included in Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start.
Mechanically, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start uses the same mechanics as Kids on Bikes, Teens in Space, and Kids on Brooms, with each of a Junior Brave’s stats being represented by a single die type. For a Junior Brave to do something, his player rolls the appropriate die for his Trope’s stat and attempts to roll over a difficulty number set by the Game Master, for example, between ten and twelve for an impressive task that a skilled person should be able to do. A player can add a +3 bonus if his Junior Scout has an appropriate Skill Patch and a +1 bonus for any Brave Tokens he wants to spend—or his fellow players want to spend if their Junior Braves are collaborating. However, complications increase the difficulty of the target number by three for each one. If the die roll beats the difficulty number, the Junior Scout succeeds, but if the roll is equal to the difficulty number, then he succeeds at cost, as in ‘Yes, but…’. It should be noted that the mechanics in Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start that player-facing in that only the player roll dice—the Game Master never does.
A potential cost of failure is Stress and Trauma. Stress typically consists of bruises, cuts, scrapes, panic attacks, depression, and other forms of distress. Stress can add a complication to an action, but overnight rest or reassurance can get rid of Stress. However, should a Junior Brave suffer more than four Stress, he suffers from a Trauma. This represents serious injury or distress and until the Junior Brave recovers—which takes either medical treatment or weeks of rest—he cannot use one of his Stats.
Just as the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse categorises damage into Stress and Trauma, it divides its adversaries and dangers into Troubles and Threats. Troubles are the overall danger, the ultimate cause of the danger that the Junior Braves must face and , such as a zombie uprising, alien invasion, and the like, whilst Threats are individual parts of the Troubles the Junior Braves will encounter upon returning from camp. Notably, Threats are scaled down in Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse, so if a town is taken over by a biker gang, Junior Braves will deal with a few of the Bikers rather than whole gang. The point is that as much as Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse is a post-apocalypse roleplaying game, it is lighter in tone and scaled to the capabilities of the Junior Braves, who are , after all, still children.
Rounding out Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start is a complete set of starting characters, as well as ‘Perils at the Pit-Stop’, a complete campaign starter. The Junior Braves return home from camp and taking a break from the journey in the town of Penelope, discover the clerk at the gas station was dead and zombie-like. What has happened and is it like the zombie television show the Junior Braves are definitely not allowed to watch? ‘Perils at the Pit-Stop’ includes a full description of the town, its current factions, and hints at some of the mysteries going in within its boundaries. It is essentially a mini-sandbox, a place for the Junior Braves to explore and make discoveries, and so there is no single defined plot or outcome, though there are several Troubles which they will encounter.
Physically, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start is a simple black and white booklet. It is well written, the artwork is good, and the map nicely done.
Like other ‘Powered by Kids on Bikes’ roleplaying games, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start is easy to pick and up and play, the rules are simple—made all the easier by being player-facing, and the set-up easy to grasp. Unlike Kids on Brooms, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start comes with everything necessary to play. So with just the five characters and the given scenario, ‘Perils at the Pit-Stop’, the Junior Braves Survival Guide to the Apocalypse Quick-Start should provide both a couple of sessions’ worth of play and a good introduction to the full roleplaying game and the setting.
What is it?
Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is both the third part of the campaign set in Sun County in Prax following on Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2, and a campaign framework for all three parts, for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.
It is an eighty-nine-page, full colour, 29.15 MB PDF.
It is an eighty-nine page, full colour hardback.
Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is well presented and decently written, with artwork that is full of character—the image of a VW Camper Rhino disgorging sixties-style hippies on the India hippie trail is worth the price of admission alone.
Where is it set?
As with Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2 before it, Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three takes place in Sun County, the small, isolated province of Yelmalio-worshipping farmers and soldiers located in the fertile River of Cradles valley of Eastern Prax, south of the city of Pavis, where it is beset by hostile nomads and surrounded by dry desert. Where Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 is specifically it is set in and around the remote hamlet of Sandheart, where the inhabitants are used to dealing and even trading with the nomads who come to worship at the ruins inside Sandheart’s walls and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2 is set in and around Cliffheath, on the eastern edge of the county, Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is set in and around a cave known as Dark Watch on the far western edge of the county.
Who do you play?
The player characters are members of the Sun County militia based in Sandheart. Used to dealing with nomads and outsiders and oddities and agitators, the local militia serves as the dumping ground for any militia member who proves too difficult to deal with by the often xenophobic, misogynistic, repressive, and strict culture of both Sun County and the Sun County militia. It also accepts nomads and outsiders, foreigners and non-Yemalions, not necessarily as regular militia-men, but as ‘specials’, better capable of dealing with said foreigners and non-Yemalions.
What do you need?
Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. RuneQuest – Glorantha Bestiary might be useful.
What do you get?
Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is not really a scenario, but more a campaign framework around which the earlier scenarios, Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2 can take place, as well as other scenarios of the Game Master’s choice or devising. This is because it concerns events at one location, a location that by tradition—and if the Yelmalions do anything, it is by tradition—the militia must visit year after year, and perform the same ceremony each time. And each time, the ceremony is completed as instructed by the cult, and nothing happens. In fact, nobody in the militia knows why the task is carried out one year after the next, because nothing ever happens and why it was done the first place has been long forgotten. Only this time—no, only next time, and the time after that, it will be different, and perhaps the members of militia assigned the duty just might find out why the cult has been performing this ceremony for hundreds of years…
What this means is that if the scenario is played as is, it will not have the impact that playing it episodically will do. Essentially, being asked to return again and again to perform the ceremony at the Dark Watch Cave—without the benefit of a break in the narrative, signals to the Player Characters that their being at the cave is significant rather than the ordinary task it is initially intended to be. So, Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is best played before, between, and after the events depicted in Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2. The downside of this is that if you have already run either of those, then Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three takes more effort to implement. Another issue is one of what else to run between the parts of Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three. The setting and tone of the ‘Sandheart’ series is quite particular—and it is not one that is easily supported by the other scenarios available on the Jonstown Compendium. Advice to that purpose would have been useful. (Potential scenarios which would work include Jorthan’s Rescue Redux,* Rock’s Fall, and Blue Moon, White Moon.)
* Please note that for the purposes of transparency, I co-authored Jorthan’s Rescue Redux.
The Player Characters’ initial forays into the Dark Watch Cave will somewhat mundane, a simple task of lighting several braziers within its walls and then maintaining a vigil overnight. Here is a chance for them to explore the fullest extent of the cave and so educate themselves about its layout for when they return the next and subsequent years. However, the Dark Watch Cave has a deep, dark secret. It is home to a demon of darkness and deceit, one which is trying to escape its prison. Over the course of four tests—as the first four parts of Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three are known, the vigilance of the Player Characters will be tested again and again, as attempts to enter the cave and break their watch grow in their intensity and obviousness. In the early tests, they are actually quite amusing—and there is opportunity for some light-hearted roleplaying, but as the Player Characters return, they become vicious and ultimately spread to the wider area. In these later stages, the tests emphasises action and combat rather than roleplaying, but that reflects the threat which grows and grows over the course of Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three.
Ultimately, the likelihood is the Player Characters will fail and in order to defeat the darkness, the Player Characters will need to undertake a Hero Quest. Compared to the first part of the campaign framework, this is a radical change in pace, structure, and play style. It is very rigidly structured and both players and their characters—as well as the Game Master—need to be quite regimented in how they play through this. It presents some fantastic scenes, especially for Yelmalions as they fight against Darkness, and should they prevail, brings Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three—and if used in conjunction with Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 and The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2—the ‘Sandheart’ campaign to a rousing climax.
In addition to a full description of Dark Watch Cave, Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three comes with three handouts, full stats for the NPCs and monsters, and multiple maps of the Dark Watch Cave. Some of the handouts are slightly lengthy and as the campaign framework progresses, it does grow in complexity and the need for increased preparation upon the part of the Game Master.
Is it worth your time?
Yes—Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is an excellent campaign framework around which to structure the ‘Sandheart’ campaign and bring it to a rousing climax.No—Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three is not worth your time if you are running a campaign or scenarios set elsewhere, especially in Sartar.
Maybe—Tradition: Sandheart Volume Three might be useful for a campaign involving Yelmalions and the worship of Yelm from places other than Sun County, but its framework structure may be more challenging to use if the Game Master has already run Tales of the Sun County Militia: Sandheart Volume 1 or The Corn Dolls: Sandheart Volume 2—if not both.
Like the support for Free RPG Day in 2017, 2018, and 2019, Goodman Games has released the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure, which provides an introduction to the publisher’s Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. It takes its cue from the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Adventure Starter published in 2011, but has been expanded enough for the rules to cover characters from Zero Level to Second Level, provide two adventures, and introduce the key concepts of the roleplaying game. In the process, it has grown from sixteen to forty-eight pages. As with the previous versions from 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure can be divided into three parts. The longest are rules, followed by a short introductory adventure and then by flipping the booklet over, a longer adventure.
Derived from the d20 System, the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game sits somewhere between Basic Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in terms of its complexity. The most radical step in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game is the starting point. Players begin by playing not one, but several Zero Level characters, each a serf or peasant looking beyond a life tied to the fields and the seasons or the forge and the hammer to prove themselves and perhaps progress enough to become a skilled adventurer and eventually make a name for themselves. In other words, to advance from Zero Level to First Level. Unfortunately, delving into tombs and the lairs of both men and beasts is a risky venture and death is all but a certainty for the lone delver… In numbers, there is the chance that one or more will survive long enough to go onto greater things! This is what the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game terms a ‘Character Creation Funnel’.
Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure provides rules for the creation process, a player rolling for six Abilities—Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence, and Luck—in strict order on three six-sided dice, plus Hit Points on a four-sided die and an occupation. The latter will determine the character’s Race—Race is a Class in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game just as it was in Basic Dungeons & Dragons, a weapon, and a possession related to his occupation.
Zero Level Human Mendicant
STR 9 (+0) AGL 9 (+0) STM 12 (+0)
PER 8 (-1) INT 10 (+0) LCK 11 (+0)
Hit Points: 4
Fortitude +0 Reflex +0 Willpower +0
Birth Augur: Harsh Winter
Luck Benefit: All Attack Rolls
Weapon: Pitchfork (1d6)
Equipment: Hen (Daisy)
Of the stats, only Luck requires any explanation. It can be used for various skill checks and rolls, but its primary use is for each character’s single Luck Benefit—which unfortunately, Farmer Galton lacks. It is burned when used in this fashion and can only be regained by a player roleplaying his character to his Alignment. The Luck bonus also applies to critical hit, fumble, and corruption rolls as well as various Class-based rolls. For example, the Elf receives it as a bonus to rolls for one single spell and a Warrior to rolls for a single weapon such as a longsword or a war hammer. Further, both the Thief and the Halfling Classes are exceptionally lucky. Not only is the Halfling’s Luck bonus doubled and the Thief’s determined by a random roll when they burn Luck, they actually regain Luck each day equal to their Level. In addition, if a party has a Halfling amongst its numbers that Halfling can pass his expended Luck to other members of the party!
Mechanically, for a character to do anything, whether Sneak Silently, cast a spell, or make an attack, a player rolls a twenty-sided die and after adding any bonuses hopes to beat a Difficulty Class or an Armor Class. Rolls of one are a fumble and rolls of a twenty are a critical. The Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure includes a Fumble Table as well Critical Hit Tables for each of the Classes. Famously, the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game also uses a multitude of dice, including three, five, seven, fourteen, sixteen, twenty-four, and thirty-sided dice as well as the standard polyhedral dice. Although penalties and bonuses can be applied to dice rolls, the dice themselves can get better or worse, stepping up or stepping down a size depending upon the situation. For example, a Warrior can attack twice in a Round instead of attacking and moving, but makes the first attack using a twenty-sided die and the second attack using a sixteen-sided die. Fortunately, neither of the scenarios in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure make much use of this full polyhedral panoply, but if necessary, dice rolling apps can be found which will handle such dice rolls.
Magic works differently to the Vancian arrangement typically seen in Dungeons & Dragons. Magic is mercurial. What this means is that from one casting of a spell to the next, a spell can have different results. For example, the classic standby of First Level Wizards everywhere, Magic Missile, might manifest as a meteor, a screaming, clawing eagle, a ray of frost, a force axe, or so on. When cast, a Wizard might throw a single Magic Missile that only does a single point of damage; one that might do normal damage; unleash multiple missiles or a single powerful one; and so on. Alternatively, the Wizard’s casting might result in a Misfire, which for Magic Missile might cause the caster’s allies or himself to be hit by multiple Magic Missiles, or to blow a hole under the caster’s feet! Worse, the casting of the spell might have a Corrupting influence upon the caster, which for Magic Missile might cause the skin of the caster’s hands and forearms to change colour to acid green or become translucent or to become invisible every time he casts Magic Missile! This is in addition to the chances of the Wizard suffering from Major or even Greater Corruption… Some ten spells are detailed Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure, taking up roughly, a quarter of the booklet.
One of the major differences between the 2018 version of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure and the editions before it was the range of spells it included for the Cleric and Wizard Classes. Notably, it Magic Missile with Choking Cloud and Colour Spray for the Wizard. The 2019 version was tweaked again, and similarly, the 2020 version has also been tweaked. So instead of Magic Missile, the Wizard has Flaming Hands.
Once past the funnel, the characters can move up to First Level and acquire a proper Class—either Cleric, Thief, Warrior, or Wizard, or one of the Races, Dwarf, Elf, or Halfling. Further information is provided so that a character can progress to Second Level. The adventures in Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure should be enough for a character to reach First Level. Getting to Second Level and the second adventure is another issue, at least with this version of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure.
Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure includes two adventures. The first, which immediately follows the rules is ‘The Portal Under The Stairs’, which appeared in the original Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Adventure Starter back in 2011. This has the would-be adventurers venturing into an ancient war-wizard’s tomb after its entryway becomes open when the stars come right. Designed for Zero Level and First Level characters this is a short, just ten location dungeon primarily consisting of traps and puzzles with some deadly combat encounters thrown in. Its three pages are short enough that a group could roll up their characters and funnel them through the adventure to see who survives in a single session. The second scenario, located on the opposite side of Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure is a Level 1 adventure, ‘The Legend of the Silver Skull’.
The other adventures in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure have been different each time. ‘Gnole House’, the adventure from the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure from 2017 was inspired by the writings of Lord Dunsany and presented a bucolic, genteel demesne, a lonely house full of detail and hidden horrors. Where ‘Gnole House’ provided a good mix of exploration and examination with some combat and a little roleplaying, the scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure from 2018, ‘Man-Bait for the Soul Stealer’ was again different. It was a classic dungeon, as was ‘Geas of the Star-chons’, the second adventure in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure from 2019—and the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure continues this trend for 2020.
In ‘The Legend of the Silver Skull’, the Player Characters are lured to a mysterious island with a skull atop its single barren hill, with promises of treasure. Inside the skull they find stairs going down to a damp, water-surrounded complex of rooms where fishmen and other salty creatures lurk… Both dungeon and adventure are quite straightforward, the former consisting of just eight rooms and it being highly possible for the Player Characters to discover and confront the antagonist behind the plot very shortly. What nicely drives the Player Characters into the confrontation is a series of visions one of them will suffer throughout the adventure, and if they defeat the antagonist and survive, then the adventure comes with a decent handful of plot hooks and a really nice artefact—if any Lawful Cleric will the Player Characters use it. However, The Legend of the Silver Skull’ is not an enticing adventure or a bad adventure or a good adventure. It is simply okay for s single session’s worth of dungeoneering. To be honest, the only thing to be said against it, is the fact that it is not set entirely within a giant skull. That, as they say, would have been cool…
Physically, the 2020 version of Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure is, like the previous versions, well presented, the writing is clear, and artwork is in general excellent throughout, echoing the style and ethos of the three core rulebooks for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Notable for this edition is cover—which depicts the demon skull, iconic to the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, in gold on a black background. It really stands out.
As in past years, the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure is a good package. The rules are nicely explained, the style of game is nicely explained, the artwork is good, the two adventures are good, if disconnected. Any player or Game Master with any experience of Dungeons & Dragons will pick this up with ease and be able to bring it to the table with relatively little experience—and once the first adventure is complete, quickly graduate onto running the second. Overall, ‘The Portal Under The Stairs’ might be getting somewhat long in the tooth, but ‘The Legend of the Silver Skull’ is a fun one session adventure of visionary and potentially fishy weirdness, together serving to make The Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game Quick Start Rules & Intro Adventure simply a good introduction to the game and a bit more.
Rain of Mercy is an introduction to the grim darkness of the 41st Millennium and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory, published by Cubicle Seven Entertainment. Fairly short, in just sixteen pages it provides an introduction to the setting of the 41st Millennium, an overview of the specific setting for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory, and a short scenario designed to be played by four players and the Game Master and if not the full mechanics of the roleplaying game. It does not however, provide a full introduction to the mechanics of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory, but the given explanation is sufficient to play through the included scenario, ‘Rain of Mercy’.
The setting for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory is of course, the Imperium of Man, over which the Emperor, his body a rotting carcass sustained only by power from the Dark Age of Technology, has maintained a watch from the Golden Throne of Holy Terra. His mind is the very beacon by which the great ships of the Imperium the Warp and travel between the stars. They ferry not just goods and people, but also the Adeptus Astartes, the Space Marines, bio-engineered super-warriors, and members of the Imperial Guard, the ever-vigilant Inquisition, and the Tech-Priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, from world to world, to investigate and scourge untold xenos, heretics, mutants, and more—including Chaos! Of course, this setting is better known as the background for Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 miniatures wargame, in Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory the focus will be on induvial rather than military regiments and units.
The specific setting Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory is the forsaken Gilead System, which lies beyond the Great Rift, left behind by the Cicatrix Maledictum, the Warp Storm which rent the Imperium in two. The Gilead System is home to several different worlds, such as Avachrus, the Forge World, where the system’s technology is built and maintained; Ostia, the Agri World whose farmer are driven to point of starvation by having to feed the Gilead System; Gilead Primus, a Hive World home to billions; and Enoch, the Shrine World dedicated to the worship of the Emperor. Three years after the Great Rift, a flotilla of ships under the command of Rogue Trader Jakel Varonius, arrived in the system, having managed to find a stable route across the rift, bringing order and relief to the Gilead System which was on the point of collapse, suffering under the weight of too many refugees, most of them pilgrims to the Shrine World of Enoch, stranded by the opening of the Great Rift.
The Player Characters are assembled by Jakel Varonious to undertake a mission for the Ecclesiarchy. A troubling situation has arisen on Enoch, the Shrine World of thin desert land masses amidst extensive oceans, these land masses consisting of shrines around which cluster tent cities inhabited by refugees. A new cult has arisen amongst the slums—the Water Bringers, which might be loyal to the Emperor, but might also be a gang extorting money for the water it appears to have a ready supply of, and there is also talk of new saint on Enoch as well. The characters are charged with infiltrating the Water Bringers and determine the veracity of the supposed saint—be they unsanctioned Psyker, heretic, or one of the Emperor’s blessed. The scenario is short, but involves a reasonable mix of interaction, investigation, and combat, and ultimately leaves the outcome very much in the hands of the players and their characters.
The four characters consist of a Space Marine Scout who dreams of becoming a fully fledged Space Marine; a zealous and uncompromising member of the Adepta Soroitas, a Sister of Battle; a Skitarius and Tech-Priest, who monitors for the use of heretical tech; and a silver-tongued Rogue Trader. All four consist of a description, a nice illustration, some combat stats, and a single ability. For example, the Space Marine Scout always goes first in combat and once per game can attack twice per combat round, whilst the Sister of Battle can pray to the Emperor and once per game, cause an attack to miss any target.
Mechanically, Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory employs a six-sided dice pool system. Results of four and five generate single Icons, whilst rolls of six generate two. If the total roll generates more Icons than the Difficulty Number, then the Player Character or NPC succeeds at the task. Good roleplaying can earn a player Wrath points which can be spent to reroll results of one, two, or three. And that really is the extent of the explanation of the mechanics for Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory in Rain of Mercy, bar rolling for damage in combat. Indeed, there is not even a skill system or anything in the way of attributes for characters presented in Rain of Mercy. Instead, the Difficulty Numbers are given for possible actions by the pregenerated Player Characters—Cunning or Persuasion Tests, Intimidation or Leadership Tests, and so on—in individual scenes. This gives rise to a couple of issues with Rain of Mercy as an introduction to Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory.
Mechanically, what it ignores is the possibility of rolls of six generate extra effects and the use of the Wrath die, which can either trigger a gloriously gory critical hit in combat or a narrative Complication. Narratively, the lack of a skills system or any attributes placed in front of the players reduces their agency because they do not know what their characters can do or what they are good at. Now there is some indication in the Player Character descriptions, but that is not quite as easily digestible as a skills list. On the plus side, this means that the rules are fast, and the rules are furious, and the rules are easy, and the rules are simplistic, but on the downside, it means that whilst Rain of Mercy is playable as is, it does not properly prepare either the Game Master or the players to play the full version of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory.
Physically, Rain of Mercy is well written and well presented. It is not extensively illustrated, but the full colour illustrations are excellent.
There is a great deal to like about Rain of Mercy. The booklet is well presented, the explanation of the background is good, the scenario is decent, and it is all nicely playable in a session or so. However, as an introduction to Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory, the fact is that Rain of Mercy is severely underwritten in terms of the mechanics. It simply fails to give enough of an impression as to what those rules are and how they work in play, the result being that Rain of Mercy only succeeds as an introduction to the setting of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory; as an introduction to the mechanics of Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory it is a complete and utter failure.
My NIGHT SHIFT co-author Jason Vey has a bit to say on the design and innovation of our Modern Supernatural RPG.
You can read it about it all here: https://wastedlandsfantasy.blogspot.com/2020/09/whats-so-innovative-about-night-shift.html
Jason makes a lot of fantastic points. So many in fact that I do not feel the need to reiterate them here and now. Save where I want to talk about why I wanted to make this game. And even here I am going restate something Jason already said.
NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars was designed to be familiar.
For me though not just in terms of game design, in terms of the types of games I have been playing over the last 20 some odd years.
In 1999 I was facing something of a crisis of my RPG playing. I had been playing D&D for 20 years solid by that point, with minor breaks due to college, grad school, and getting married. I had bought a house and had a kid on the way. Plus in 1999 D&D was feeling tired and old. I had played some other games, namely World of Darkness and other horror games. I had recently picked back up Chill, but none of these had lit the spark the way D&D had.
That is until I found CJ Carella's WitchCraft RPG. Now here was a game I loved and it relit the long dormant fires of RPG creativity. From here I picked up Kult, found more and more games. Soon I was freelancing at Eden. Then Jason and I were working together on Buffy, Angel, Army of Darkness, and more. But D&D was still that first love. At the same time the d20 boon was happening and there were a lot of new great games coming out based on the d20 OGL and more still based on the principles of the OGL. I went from a "dark time" to a new Golden Age in just a couple of years.
NIGHT SHIFT hooks into that familiarity.
The rules are a streamlined version of the d20/OGC with an "old-school" bend.
The situations are modern supernatural, so there feels like there is a "world continuity" with games I was playing using Chill, Kult, CoC, Mage, WitchCraft, and Buffy.
I want a game that can take me to the next 20 years of gaming and I truly think this one is it.
Today is September 8 and that is Star Trek day. It was on this day that Star Trek premiered in 1966.
So to combine my love of horror and Trek here are some lists of dark and scary Trek episodes.
And a reminder from Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy that you really don't need to create a lot of horror for space. It's pretty damn scary as is.
Happy Star Trek Day!
My thoughts are still on Halloween. So time to bring back another monster from my younger days.
Medium Undead (Incorporeal)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (0)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"] (Limited to 100' from bones)
Armor Class: NA [NA]
Hit Dice: 1d8 (1 hp)
Attacks: 1 scream
Damage: NA (see below)
Special: Can't be hit by physical weapons (Mundane or Magical); immune to charm, hold, and sleep spells.
Save: Monster 1
Treasure Hoard Class: See Below
XP: 5 (50 if bones destroyed)
The Galley Beggar, also known as a Bull Beggar, is a type of ghost found in crypts, dungeons, and even old cellars. They appear as a thin, skeletal looking ghoul in the poor light of dungeons, but are semi-transparent. They are incorporeal (ghost-like) and are immune to physical attacks of any sort and any mind-affecting magics.
The Galley Beggar has only one attack, a scream that causes fear (as per the spell) in all who hear it. Everyone with 100 feet of the screaming monster must make a Save vs. Spells or come under the effects of the fear. Creatures greater than 6 HD are immune. A favorite trick of the Galley Beggar is to pull it's own head off of its body and then scream.
The only ways to defeat a Galley Beggar are with Clerical Turning, they will turn as Skeletons (1 HD) or via any magic like Bless, Remove Curse, Dispell Magic, or similar enchantments. If the bones of the Galley Beggar are found and destroyed (with fire or given a proper burial) then the creature is also destroyed.
It is believed that the Galley Beggar is formed when a novice spell caster is killed on an adventure and their bodies are not returned for burial. The Galley Begger will not form until the body has decayed to bones.
What is it?
Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams presents a noble spirit venerated by the Air pantheon which brings the seasonal rains to Glorantha for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.
It is a nineteen-page, full colour, 1.52 MB PDF.
Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams is well presented and decently written.
Where is it set?
Storm Rams, the subject of Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams, can be encountered anywhere in Dragon Pass, most notably in Startar, Tarsh, Esrolia, and Prax, but especially in the lands of the Balmyr Tribe in the high valleys of the Quivin Mountains, where they are known to come down out of the sky and graze.
Who do you play?
Anyone can encounter a Storm Ram, but Orlanth and Heler initiates may be able to summon them as can members of some weather-worshiping spirit societies of Prax. Herders and Weavers of Balmyr Tribe will seek out the fur left behind when the Cloud Rams come to earth.
What do you need?
Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, but RuneQuest – Glorantha Bestiary might be useful.
What do you get?
Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams describes Storm Rams, the most well-known ‘weather-sheep’ or Urothing spirits of the air, who drive their herds through the air, bringing fertile rains and destructive storms alike. They are defenders of the rain, migrating across Glorantha in regular patterns throughout the year, typically driven back to the Spirit World by the heat of the Fire Tribe. They are known to descend to the earth and graze. In the lands of the Balmyr Tribe, the fur they leave behind is collected and woven into Mistwool, a textile constantly cool in the highest of temperature.
Full stats and descriptions are provided not just for the Storm Ram, but for other ‘weather-sheep’ too. These include the Greater Storm Ram, the Lightning Ram, and the Cloud Sheep, with suggestions how to individualise them and for them to become allied spirits. All three are given their own Summoning Rune spells for the Orlanth Thunderous and Heler cults, but the caster should at least be Rune Masters of either cult, and the caster needs to persuade the Storm Ram to come as well as casting the spell. In addition, Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams gives a description of where Mistwool comes from, what it is woven into, and its importance to the Balmyr Tribe.
Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams could have simply presented the ‘weather-sheep’ as a set of spirits tied to the Air pantheon and Orlanth worshippers, but it widens the scope of the supplement by having Storm Rams honoured by Heler and certain Praxian Spirit Societies, including detailing a Storm Ram Spirit Cult. In all three cases, it explains the reasons why through differing, often contradictory, mythologies. These are decent little pieces which will help underpin their appearance in game. Lastly, the supplement gives sample stats for all four types of ‘weather-sheep’, including the Greater Storm Ram, Urothtrai the Lover, who passes through the Red Cow clan’s lands in Sea Season every year, where Orlanth Adventurous worshipers compete to help him woo his beloved ewe, Helurtha, and so gain the blessings of bountiful rain in Fire Season.
However, beyond becoming a possible allied spirit or a source of Mistwool, where Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams is underwritten is in terms of application. Of course, a Game Master will be able to dig into the supplement’s contents to develop ideas for her own campaign, but a scenario seed or three would have been useful additions to help her bring the Urothing into play.
Is it worth your time?
Yes—Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams presents an interesting embodiment of the storms and the rain, pleasingly from differing points of view, which the Game Master can work into her campaign.
No—Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams is yet more spirits, and as much as it falls under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’, one word might make you wonder how varied it will be when you add ‘weather-sheep’.
Maybe—Monster of the Month #8: Storm Rams is an interesting supplement and it does a nice job of bringing a type of sprint into play through differing points for view, but the lack of immediate use or scenario suggestions may not make it as useful as it could be.
Got to run the Eldorath/Baconbach D&D game with Scott and Raven today.
The party consisting of ; Helin Fiter -the student of Rustfus Ranquesoc who directed him into the service of St.Botewes. Lighter Graves- a youthful tough and gruff prestidigitator of amateur accomplishments, but great potential. Once a student of the hedgewitch Gundabarda, but since her death, a masterless youth seeking adventure. their friend Sylvester; an enchanted sentient bedsheet, whose principle combat skill is impersonating a halloween ghost, but is kindhearted, sweet, and has hidden talents where magics are concerned. The party is joined by Carbunkle, a childhood friend of Helin's haling from Oldsoc Village. Carbunkle's passion is pretzles, he's a journeyman pretzle baker, but his old master having passed and unwilling to work for the new, has taken up adventuring to make the money to open his own bakery. He's a nice asset to the gang as he is pretty muscley after an apprenticeship hefting bags of flour and hand kneading dough every morning for years. He's also a good natured and dependable friend.
These brave souls are exploring an old barrow about an hour's walk from town, a place that has been a nuisance to travellers on the king's highway, just enough for Sir Sangramore to bother hiring some very inexpensive and expendable amateur dungeoneers to look into it. It is said to be the burial mound of Aelpas, and ancient Wizard King of the Vertimorci Tribe in the days before the Remian Elves came to Aerovia. But how much faith can one place in a legend attested to in only one line of the few scraps remaining of a lost book of Aerovian History?
Well today's adventure saw the gang explore a new room, discover some gems that turned out to be glass, fight rats, befriend a placid mining mule (now named Francis) who, unknown to the party, can see in the dark and has a fine sense of direction, and little tolerance for abuse. They were pleased at the discovery of a gargoyle that spouts a stream of quicksilver, encountered a room with yellow fungus and a nice tapestry, and happily, had no encounters with the dreaded Pickwicky.
In town they got taken for a large sum of money by the town's Banker-Merchant in a sour deal for a great Tapestry (of the baker of Wooton Major), discovered the humility of the penitents crawl to the crypt under the vault of the cathedral, and it's magical healing, and enjoyed the warm comforts of the Cracked Cask.
More would have been done, but my teeth began to buzz (the Aura warning of my migraines) and I decided to pack up and flee for home. good thing too, the winds are roaring outside, and that pretty typically gives me the kind of migraine I have tonight. Still, a nap and my brain pills has broken the worst of the pain, leaving me feeling like I've been swimming in a river for hours.
Spending time with my friends makes this a great day, no matter what.
In terms of setting, these scenarios all take place on different planets across the Federation—and beyond, typically beyond explored space. Not just on planets, but also odd structures, such as orbital rings and super dense discs, and whilst they will often involve meeting new races and alien species, none of them are built around encounters with the Klingons, Romulans, and the like. Instead, there are a lot of mysteries to be investigated and diplomatic difficulties to be solved, mostly with skill and creative thinking rather than brawn and phasers. However, this does not mean that combat does not feature—either on the ground or aboard a starship.
The great thing about Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 is that all nine scenarios are Star Trek adventures and they feel like it. They feel like they would work as episodes for the era of the television series they are set within and each would be quite difficult to adapt to other Science Fiction settings. They are also all relatively short—each offering just a session or two’s worth of play—and would be easy to slot into an ongoing campaign or run as one-shots. However, the nine are not perfect. First there is only the one scenario for Star Trek: Enterprise compared to the four each for Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation, forcing the Game Master to work to adapt these eight to the earlier period if she wants to run more of the scenarios in Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 for a Star Trek: Enterprise-set campaign. Second, whilst the graphics of the nine scenarios are differentiated between the three time periods—so LCARS (Library Computer Access/Retrieval System) is only used for the four Star Trek: The Next Generation-era scenarios—the use of graphics is generally disappointing throughout. In all too many cases, locations go unmapped and ships and alien races unillustrated. This particularly shows in the maps, the only locations given maps being combat encounters—rather than the whole of the locations and bases where the adventures take place. Now whilst there are reasonable descriptions, the lack of the maps and illustrations leaves the Game Master with more work to do in describing them.
Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 opens with Fred Love’s ‘A Cure Worse Than the Disease’, its single scenario for Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew receive a distress signal from the previously isolationist planetary government of Fosstarian II requesting help with a virulent plague. Not only is Fosstarian II suffering from a pandemic, but someone has built a planetary ring around the world specifically designed to bath it in radiation! This presents an interesting medical mystery, but there is much more going on, involving a conspiracy and a deep, dark secret, which still leaves plenty of things for the other characters to do. The conspiracy is not too convoluted though, as the scenario like the others in the collection, is not all that long. Overall this is a solid start to the anthology.
‘Plato’s Cave’ by Marco Rafalá is the first of four scenarios which take place during the Star Trek: The Original Series period. The crew is sent to resupply a remote Federation archaeological outpost on the ice-age world of Tanghal IV, only to discover the lead archaeologist dead and the rest of the team missing. Searching the facility leads to a doomsday seed vault and missile silo converted into a survival bunker prior to radical climate change millennia before. The facility is full of strange technology and indications that the away team is not alone. With its mix of ancient aliens and ancient technology, this is the first of a number of eerie, almost creepy scenarios in Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, dealing with survival, making contact, and morality.
Ancient technology also plays a role in ‘Drawing Deeply from the Well, No Good Deed’ by Aaron M. Pollyea. The crew is ordered to an alien megastructure nicknamed ‘The Big Dipper’ which has suffered a number of incidents, possibly attacks, since it recently became operational. ‘The Big Dipper’ is a skyhook which uses massive ramjet-driven scoops to mine the atmosphere of Purgatory, the gas giant below for common heavy metals and dilithium. This has a nice sense of scale, something which Star Trek: The Original Series was not always able to effectively depict onscreen, both in terms of the megastructure and the planet below. The adventure itself is good, and begins a theme of first contact and misunderstandings which runs throughout the anthology.
Joe Rixman’s ‘No Good Deed’ has an interesting call back to Star Trek: Enterprise as the crew track a call for help to a space station above a volcanic world devoid of life. The crew members discover the corpses of two species aboard the station—one avian, one arthropod, and upon further investigation, a pattern of war between them on the planet below. This led to a virus being engineered and released by the arthropods, which resulted in the rapid extermination of the avian species. Ultimately, they also find that the last survivors might have established a capsule of frozen embryos from both species. This is another good medical mystery, combined with a historical mystery and sets a dilemma or two for the crew as what they do with the embryos.
The last scenario set in the Star Trek: The Original Series-era is Christopher L.
Bennett’s ‘The Whole of Law’. It takes place on an exotic object, a large, flat disk of hyperdense matter with its own gravitational field on each side. Called Thelema, it is occupied and run as a resort world, the Light Face for relatively wholesome activities, the Dark Face for more extreme entertainment which puts visitors’ lives at risk. Visitors make the choice as to which side they want to visit voluntarily. Both the scenario’s title and the exotic object’s name are obvious nods to the writings and philosophies of occultist Aleister Crowley—as is actually pointed out in the scenario. The scenario is also connected to the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode, ‘Shore Leave’, and is also the most difficult of the nine scenarios to run in Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2. The issue is that the Player Characters are intentionally divided and then kept apart for most of its events, which will require careful timing upon the part of the Game Master throughout. The separation also feels forced and is difficult not to telegraph.
The first scenario set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation-era is Andrew Peregrine’s ‘Footfall’. This is also a difficult scenario, but for different reasons. It is also a fascinating scenario for its themes. It explores the role of religion in the Star Trek: The Next Generation-era and how many of members of the Federation approach civilisation, particularly as it pertains to the Player Characters. The crew is directed to a world known as Footfall, a reputed religious sanctuary for numerous faiths, but not actually particular to any one faith. Recently, the world, governed by a Federation outpost, has been beset by the violent activities of a militant group. As the religious members of the crew undergo increased spirituality, they must contact the militants and attempt to calm them down. Attacks by ‘demons’ only exacerbate the situation until the Player Characters are effectively pointed to one location, a mountain top holy to everyone on the planet. Here, in a nod to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, they get to confront the ‘Creator’ or ‘God’, though in a more benign fashion than in the film. The difficulty is really what the Player Characters do with what they learn from this confrontation, since it undermines the faith of everyone visiting the planet. The author offers several solutions, including lying—and whilst that might cause the least upset, is it really ethical? This is perhaps the most difficult dilemma in the anthology, not just in how the Player Characters deal with it, but whether a player group wants to deal with it too.
The source of an extremely powerful subspace message which almost disables its ship, leads the crew to a strange planet with a crystalline ocean in ‘A Cry from the Void’ by Ian Lemke and Spring Netto. Surprisingly, the Player Characters are welcomed with open arms by a renegade Ferengi female who is running her own mining operation on the planet. She wants their help in locating several missing miners. The question is, are the two incidents connected? The scenario adds a nice little twist to the backstory of its duplicity and a strange new environment, but this otherwise a straightforward affair.
Things get really strange and dark in Sam Webb’s ‘Darkness’, the penultimate scenario in the anthology. The crew comes to the aid of a Vulcan Expeditionary Group studying Trax Episilon 1, a Class-H which has suddenly transformed into a black, light absorbing world. There is a decent opportunity for some moments of horror in the darkness of this scenario which again, apart from the weird environment, is another straightforward affair.
The last scenario in Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 is ‘The Angstrom Operation’ by Jason Bulmahn and it is a bit of a romp. The crew is ordered to answer a distress call from a small research facility on a tidally locked world in the Dran’Ankos system near the Cardassian Demilitarized Zone. They find that the system’s star is losing its mass and the base damaged and in disarray after its staff have seemingly gone mad and attacked each other. The away team will need to restore the base, determine what its staff was doing and the cause of the madness, all the while fending off crazed crewman, a strange parasitical lifeform, and ultimately, a belligerent Cardassian patrol, if it is to save the day. A busy scenario, a nice nod to the classic Star Trek: The Original Series episode, ‘Operation Annihilation’, with a pleasing sense of growing peril, and should be good fun to play.
Physically, bar the issues with the inconsistent use of illustrations and the maps, Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 is nicely laid out and looks. The artwork is good, but just not always helpful. The book does need another edit in places. All nine scenarios are neatly organised into three acts, with notes on how to adapt each to the other two eras, and a discussion of possible outcomes and potential follow-ups.
Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 does contain a number of common themes and elements. Notably, a high number of the scenarios involve encounters with planetary-wide or sized intelligences which are mistaken for something else, their attempts at communication being potentially damaging, which will be a problem if these scenarios are played too close to each other, since the players (and their characters) are likely to have learned from earlier encounters. There also seems a concerted effort across several of the latter eight scenarios—the one scenario for the Star Trek: Enterprise era does not count—to prevent the Player Characters from using their ship’s Transporters. Of course, on screen the use of the Transporters was an easy way of avoiding having to use shuttlecraft, but in Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2, the crew will find itself using one or more again and again. Which to an extent, does not feel very much like Star Trek.
In general, what issues there are with Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 are minor. In fact, the biggest issue is that there is only one scenario for Star Trek: Enterprise compared to the four each for Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation and that seems so unbalanced. The nine though, lend themselves to a very episodic style of play and are better worked into a campaign over the long term. Overall, Strange New Worlds: Mission Compendium Vol. 2 is a solid anthology of Star Trek adventures for Star Trek Adventures, each one nicely suited to its era of play.
Amongst some gaming groups, there is much anguish and wailing that there is no roleplaying dedicated to the Harry Potter franchise. This is not to say that there have been no pretenders to the throne, no attempts to something in a Harry Potter-style setting, but with the serial numbers well and truly filed off. For example, the Redhurst Academy of Magic Student Handbook was a d20 System supplement published by Humanhead Studios in 2003. In 2020, Renegade Game Studios supported Free RPG Day with an ‘ashcan’ version of Kids on Brooms. This is a collaborative role-playing game—using the Kids on Bikes model and mechanics—about life at a magical school, where as a teenage witch or wizard you will study various types of magic, cast spells using your wands, and participate in sports astride brooms you ride through the air! You will have adventures, face dangers and mysteries, and uncover the fantastic secrets of the school and magic!
The Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition presents a cut down version of the full Kids on Brooms rules. It starts by discussing the setting of boundaries, the Game Master and her players being expected to agree on what they want and do not want in their game—what they want to see, what they are okay with, what they want to gloss over, and what they want to avoid. The point is all about be being respectful to each other, especially in light of the fact the players are going to be roleplaying children. The Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition omits though, both rules for setting creation and character creation. In the full rules for Kids on Brooms the players and Game Master gets to create their school of magic and the players roleplay pupils from all years. In the Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition, the setting is the Rainheart Academy of Magic just outside of Tacoma, Washington, an old Victorian manor house perpetually hidden from the normal world by fog, its surrounding trees and buildings covered with a fungus whose study is one of the more dangerous classes on the curriculum, and its primary sport being Branderball, a combination of rugby and bowling, only played, of course, on brooms. Also, the only characters available to roleplay are Underclass Students—essentially, First Years.
Instead of character generation, Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition includes six Tropes—or basic character types—and the means to modify them with the scope if their all being Underclass Students. These Tropes are Teacher’s Pet, Bullheaded Muscle, Firstborn Caster, Haughty Descendant, Offbeat Eccentric, and Reliable Bestie. As per Kids on Bikes, each student is six stats—Brains, Brawn, Charm, Fight, light, and Grit—which are attached to a die type, from a twenty-sided die for the character’s best stat down to a four-sided die for his worst stat. The ten-sided die represents an above average stat, whereas an eight-sided die represents a below average stat. So, a Bullhead has a Brawn d20, Fight d12, Grit d10, Flight d8, Brains d6, and Charm d4, whereas an Offbeat Eccentric has Flight d20, Grit d12, Brains d10, Charm d8, Brawn d6, and Fight d4.
Each Trope also has its own Strengths—or advantages, for example Loyal & Prepared for the Teacher’s Pet and Spell Slinger & Wealthy for the Haughty Descendant, each of which grants an advantage during play. So Loyal for the Reliable Bestie grants each Adversity Token spent to help a friend a +2 bonus rather than +1 and the Intuitive of the Firstborn Caster enables his player to spend Adversity Tokens to ask questions of the Game Master, who must answer truthfully. A Trop also has a Wand, which consists of the Wood and the Core, both of which grant bonuses to casting particular types of magic. So Cherry Wood grants a bonus for Charm magic and Pine Wood a bonus for Brawn magic, whereas dragon’s heartstring, wolf’s tooth, and elk antler grant a bonus to Fight magic and parchment, phoenix’s feather, and owl’s feather to Brains magic. Every student also has his own broom, such as The Blocker’s Broom which grants the rider the Guardian Strength, a familiar such as an owl or a frog, and an expansive schoolbag (of holding).
Having selected a Trope and made all of these choices, each player answers a random question about the relationship between his Trope and the Trope of the player to his left. Then each player notes down his Trope’s motivation, fear, and what might be found in his schoolbag. Given that this only the Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition and the Trope or character options are fairly limited, there is a fair amount of advice given on the process.
Mechanically, Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition uses the same mechanics as Kids on Bikes and Teens in Space, with each of a Trope’s stats being represented by a single die type. For a Trope to do something, player rolls the appropriate die for his Trope’s stat and attempts to roll over a difficulty number set by the Game Master, for example, between ten and twelve for an impressive task that a skilled person should be able to do. When a die is rolled and its maximum number is rolled, the die explodes, the Trope gets a Lucky Break, and a player gets to re-roll and add to the total. A player only has to keep rolling exploding results until his Trope succeeds. The Game Master also decides whether an action is a Planned Action or a Snap Decision, although a player can attempt to persuade her either way. Primarily, a Planned Action allows a player to take the average of a Trope’s stat and so forego the need to roll, whereas with a Snap Decision, this is not possible.
In addition, Adversity Tokens can be spent to modify a roll on a one-for-one basis. If a Trope succeeds at a stat check, his player gets to narrate the result, whereas, if he fails, then the Game Master narrates the outcome. Failures tend to be worse for Planned Actions rather than Snap Decisions, but whatever the failure, the Trope earns an Adversity Token.
So far, so like Kids on Bikes, but Kids on Brooms, magic complicates things—or at least adds aspect to the game. In fact, magic and the casting of spells is surprisingly simple, yet flexible. Each Stat is associated with a particular type of magic—Brains for astral projection, finding hidden things, and so on; Brains for levitation, magically locking doors, and binding opponents; Fight for attacking, disarming, and exploding magic; Flight for deflecting magic, moving magically, and blending into the surrounds; Charm for disguising yourself, magically persuading others, and projecting illusions; and Grit for keeping yourself and others safe, dispelling magic, and healing. Of all these spells, there are ethical limitations on the use of Charm and Fight spells—especially against others.
Mechanically, spellcasting in Kids on Brooms uses the same dice rolls as stat checks, with the Game Master setting the difficulty of the task based on what the player wants his Trope to do with the spell. This is modified by the magnitude, area, and duration of the effect, as well as the caster’s experience with the spell, so the more unnatural the effect, the greater area it affects, the longer it lasts, and the less experience his Trope has with the spell, the greater target difficulty the player has to beat. In addition to the stat die, a player also has a Magic Die or a four-sided die, which he rolls and adds to the total. The Magic Die is not rolled if the target of the magic is a living being, but it does explode, and since it is a smaller die type, there is a greater chance of it exploding and so of a Trope successfully casting the spell. As with standard stat checks, there is a table for interpreting the results for the Game Master to use.
And… this is where Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition effectively ends. There are no NPCs given and there is no scenario. So in effect, Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition gives a group everything it needs to play, but nothing roleplay or act against, and worse, nothing to do. In effect, it handicaps any group wanting to find out what Kids on Brooms is like to play. What is worse is the fact that almost two thirds of a page is left empty, which could have used for scenario seed or three and perhaps the stats of monster or two—just something to make the Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition more immediately playable.
Physically, the Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition is where well presented. The artwork is reasonable and the booklet is decently written.
The Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition is a good introduction to Kids on Brooms. It is easy to pick up and understand, the setting is instantly accessible, and the rules are light, providing for a good narrative-based storytelling game. However, as a full introduction to Kids on Brooms, the Kids on Brooms Free RPG Day Edition is frustratingly, unnecessarily incomplete.
Some twenty or so years on, Delta Green: PX Poker Night has been updated and refurbished as a scenario for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game. It can still be run as a one-shot, but if any of the pregenerated Player Characters survive the strange encounter and the madness, they may go on to become Delta Green friendlies, even Delta Green agents if the conspiracy can improve the situation with their careers, and so have the potential to be roleplayed through the events of the millennium and beyond… Alternatively, Delta Green: PX Poker Night could be used as a flashback, as the re-examination of a cold ‘Night at the Opera’, or even as an origins scenario for a Delta Green Agent a la Control Group.
Delta Green: PX Poker Night takes place at Platte Air Force Base, a cemetery for both Air Force aeroplanes—the base is a boneyard for decommissioned aeroplanes, and air force careers. Here in the middle of nowhere, misfits, malcontents, and ne’er-do-wells serve out the remainder of their careers, all but avoiding the possibility of a dishonourable discharge. They have little to do bar maintain the base and perform guard duty, and little to look forward to except the weekly poker game—held at the base’s PX, a holdover from when Platte AFB was an army base—and the opportunity to take money off the base’s officers. All that will change on the night of Saturday, August 22nd, 1998.
On that evening an unmarked van is driven onto the base and parked at its far end. It sits there silently for hours, guarded by men armed with rifles and wearing strange metal helmets. The base commander says that they have permission to be there and their orders are correct. Then as the poker night begins, the van seems to hum, and the mood turns strange. The air force personnel grow disgruntled, then agitated, and worse, petty rivalries and miseries escalating into out and out violence as they suffer weird hallucinations. Then events really take a turn for the weird…
Delta Green: PX Poker Night is designed to be played by between three and six characters, the scenario including six pregenerated Air Force personnel. They include a diverse mix of men and women, some them of actual misfits and malcontents, most but not all of them at Platte AFB due to their own actions. However, there is a problem with the two women in the group. Not that they are African American, but rather that both are victims of misogyny within the Air Force. In story-telling terms, their backgrounds feel too similar and although they are different in terms of personality, perhaps another reason for one of being assigned to Platte AFB could have been given to make her less of a victim and more responsible for her own actions as the majority of the pre-generated male characters are.
Given that the scenario is designed as a one-shot and comes with pregenerated characters, it would also have been useful to have a briefing for each character, detailing in particular how each feels about the other five. This may not be necessary with every group playing PX Poker Night, but will definitely be useful for a convention game. That said, in addition to the character sheets for each of the six pregenerated characters, the scenario supports their insanity spiral with a set of effect cards which are designed to be handed out as the effects whatever the van brought onto the base degrades their mental stability.
Delta Green: PX Poker Night is primarily character and player driven. For the most part, they will be reacting to the events around them, a combination of weird hallucinations and the increasing unstable, then aggressive or panicked actions of their fellow servicemen, and there is plenty of roleplaying potential involved in that, though some players may find it to be too much of a grind. The scenario also presents the opportunity for the player to roleplay characters in the Delta Green setting who are not stalwart investigators, but both victims and malcontents. Ultimately, the scenario will drive them to investigate lest they be driven insane. However, whilst the scenario’s weird events escalate and its denouement is interesting, that denouement is not necessarily a satisfying one—especially if the scenario is run as a one shot. As a flashback or introduction to the setting of Delta Green, there may be more opportunity to explore the repercussions of Delta Green: PX Poker Night.
Physically, Delta Green: PX Poker Night is decently presented as you would expect for Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game. It includes good maps and a useful set of tables to help the Handler gauge the reactions of the NPCs.
As good as it is to see Delta Green: PX Poker Night back in print, it is of limited use to an ongoing Delta Green campaign. Its time frame also means that it is difficult to add to a campaign set in the current period, so it best works as a flashback or a campaign starter set earlier in the setting’s history. As a nasty, Sanity shaving one-shot Delta Green: PX Poker Night is an interesting introduction to Delta Green.