Friday 1 December 2023
Monday 27 November 2023
The Bandit Den is a scenario for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha which presents a simple, straightforward plot outline that the Game Master can run and prepare for a single session’s worth of play.
It is a two page, full colour 367.16 KB PDF.
The scenario is can be easily be adapted to the rules system of the Game Master’s choice.
The scenario requires some scaling to match its threat to the number of Player Characters.
Where is it set?
The Bandit Den does not require any specific character type, but warriors of any kind are highly recommended.
The Bandit Den requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha whilst the RuneQuest Gamemaster Screen Pack will be useful if the scenario is set near Apple Lane.
What do you get?
The scenario includes a map of the hunting lodge, complete with ‘sad furniture’, a set of stats to adjust match the Player Characters, and a little treasure. It is very easy to prepare and can be run in a single session. However, it is not an original scenario and the Game Master could easily come up with something similar of her own without any difficulty.
It does bear superficial resemblance to Jorthan’s Rescue Redux. However, The Bandit Den benefits from being vastly shorter, much simpler, and far easier to prepare, as well as having a shorter running time.
More scenarios in this format this would be a welcome addition to the the Jonstown Compendium, but perhaps not as simple in terms of plot.
Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu Invictus, The Pastores, Primal State, Ripples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in Egypt, Return of the Ripper, Rise of the Dead, Rise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...
The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.
Author: Aaron Hawke
Setting: 1980s Virginia
What You Get: Eighteen page, 5.29 MB Full Colour PDF
Elevator Pitch: What if Bruce wasn’t a shark and it wasn’t set at sea?
Plot Support: Staging advice, four pre-generated Investigators, five NPCs, two handouts, and one Mythos creature.
Sunday 26 November 2023
The Great Campaign – A Globetrotting Campaign in Four Glorious Parts, published following a successful Kickstarter campaign, can be played using just the core rules for Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! even to the point of playing using the seven pre-generated Globetrotters in the book, plus their followers. There are several supplements which will prove useful to run the campaign if the Game Master has access to them. These are The Globetrotters’ Guide to Expeditions, Leagues of Gothic Horror, Globetrotters’ Guide to London, The Globetrotters’ Guide to Dramatic Developments, and the character collection, Dramatis Personae. Of these, Leagues of Gothic Horror adds rules for Corruption and Sanity, the former earned and the latter lost for vile deeds and suffering the travails of journeys beyond the borders of civilisation. Both Corruption and Sanity are included as part of The Great Campaign, but only come into play if Leagues of Gothic Horror is being used. Their inclusion does suggest an interesting possibility though. Though The Great Campaign is not a cosmic horror campaign, through Leagues of Gothic Horror and then Leagues of Cthulhu, it connects to Cthulhu by Gaslight, the Victorian era supplement for Call of Cthulhu. Should the Game Master—or rather Keeper—have a mind to, The Great Campaign could be adapted to run with Cthulhu by Gaslight, though the use of Pulp Cthulhu: Two-fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos is highly recommended should she decide to do so. Another option would be run the campaign using the Ubiquity system version of Space: 1889, though the Game Master will need account for aerial vessels in the third and fourth parts of the campaign. Perhaps by having the Czar impose an aerial interdiction in the region?
A Player Character in Upriver, Downriver is first defined by Origins, or species. These are the Riverfolk or Naiads; the long-lived and intuitive shapeshifting Kiwi, the near immortal, but rare Elves, long ago defeated by the Human Empire; the Halflings, militant weaponsmiths and armourers who hide in valleys from the Human Empire for their support of the Elves; and Humans. Each species has an Origins ability and notably, there are no descriptions of the Naiads or Kiwi. It left up to the players to agree upon what they look like. A Player Character has three attributes, Swords, Spirits, and Tongues. These are initially rated between one and four, but can go as high as ten. Then a Player Character also has a Role and Path. There are seven Roles—The Captain, The First Mate, The Gunner, The Doctor, The Engineer, The Cook, and The Priest—and within each Role, three Paths. A Path is both a code of conduct and the values that the Player Character adheres to, each Path also representing a Face of the River and so connected to the Major Arcana of the roleplaying game’s Tarot deck. A Path grants special abilities and gives commandments that the Player Character must follow. For example, the Cook can follow the Path of Judgement, The World, or The Magician. The Cook of Judgement follows his Path by making amends and help others find peace, but cannot attack the innocent, make unprovoked attacks, or aid the powerful. The Cook of The World follows his Path when travelling or making progress on his journey, but cannot remain stagnant, turn backwards, or becalm an enemy ship. The Cook of The Magician follows his Path by trusting his instincts and using magic, but cannot break a curse, kill a magical creature, or reject his magic and intuition. A Role also grants a Knack, a skill or other ability, some equipment, a Ship Battle Move, whilst each Path also gives another Knack. A Path has four Levels and each Level grants a bonus or ability. Player Characters begin play at Level One. To create a character, a player chooses an Origin, Role, and Path, and then rolls a four-sided die for each attribute. He also chooses two other Knacks. Lastly, a Player Character has a Scar. This can be physical, mental, or emotional and when it comes into play, it forces the player to roll with disadvantage.
Role: The Priest
Path: The Empress (Heal others and commune with nature. Cannot curse another or cause death)
Level: 1 (Add 1d4 to healing rolls)
Swords 1 Spirits 3 Tongues 4
River Sense: 2
Physical Defence: 7
Spiritual Defence: 8
Abilities: Charm, Create Comfort, Create Medicine, First Aid, River Sense
Ship Battle Move: Salt-Stained Pages
Scar: Failed to cure a plague
Equipment: Talisman of The Empress
Together, the players all create their characters’ ship. This can be the durable and manoeuvrable Schooner; light and swift Catamaran; a sturdy, engine-powered Narrowboat; or a versatile and balanced Barge. The origins of the crew, north or south of the River will determine the type of boat, but the players are free to describe characters’ their boat and its origins. Each player is also free to detail as much of his character’s background as he wants.
Mechanically, to have his character undertake an action, a player will attempt to pass a Difficulty Check by rolling a twelve-sided die and adding an appropriate attribute. This is Swords for all physical tasks; Spirits for knowledge and magic-related tasks; and Tongues for wisdom, instinct, and charisma-related tasks. An average Difficulty Check is eight, difficult is twelve, and very difficult is sixteen. If the result is equal to or higher than the Difficulty Check, the Player Character succeeds, less and the Player Character must find other means of succeeding at the action. Rolls can be made with Advantage or Disadvantage, but never more than the single extra die in either case. The Swords attribute is also the primary attribute used in combat, the aim being to roll above an opponent’s Physical Defence, but unless a Player Character has a Prowess Knack like Brawling, Swordplay, Archery, or Improvised Weapons, the roll is made at disadvantage. Combat, including battles with enemy ships and river monsters, is intended to be light and fast, a possibility within play, but nots its focus. That said, ship combat is more complex and more detailed than standard combat, and in general, the rules for handling ships are mechanically, the most complex part of the roleplaying game.
The River plays an extremely important role throughout the play of Upriver, Downriver. To move from one location to another, the crewmember assigned to Helm—and this can be any Crewmember as each has to take turns going on watch—rolls four-sided dice equal to the crew’s total combined River Sense. A location has a level rated between one and four, indicating how difficult it is to sail there, the aim being to roll a number of successes, or fours, equal to the level of the chosen destination location. Some Roles and Paths grant bonuses to this Navigation roll, but if failed, the boat is swept randomly to a location between the starting location and the intended location. Navigation rolls are made at the end of sessions to enable the Game Master to prepare for the next session.
Before a Navigation roll is made, the Player Characters have the chance to Commune with the River. Mechanically, this handled via the random drawing of a Major Arcana card from the Tarot deck. If the card drawn is upright, the River has bestowed a Blessing upon the Player Character, but a Curse if it is reversed. For example, if a player draws The World, as a Blessing, it enables a Navigate the River test to automatically succeed, but as a Curse, it indicates that the Navigate the River test automatically fails and the ship is blown off course in a great storm to a randomly determined location. If a player draws the Blessing of his character’s Path, it is rare and quite specific in its effects. For example, if a Cook of The World’s player draws The World, the ship and its crew is guaranteed to survive an encounter on the River which might otherwise destroy them.
As part of its inbuilt limit on play time, Upriver, Downriver intentionally curtails a number of elements within the game. One is their Oath. It binds both crew and ship, preventing a Player Character from leaving his ship for more than seventy-two hours, from making any attempt to turn back, or end the crew’s journey before the intended destination is reached. Another is that a Player Character can only rise in Level a number of times, up to Level Four, gaining improved Path abilities, increased attributes, and more Knacks each time, so that a Player Character can quickly become quite capable. Further, a Player Character can only Commune with the River three or four times depending upon their Role and Path. Consequently, choosing when to Commune with the River is an important decision, perhaps at an important or emotional juncture in the story of the journey. In effect, it places the Player Character in the spotlight and gives both him and his player a chance to shine.
However, one aspect of Upriver, Downriver does not limit play as it would in other roleplaying games—and that is death! Journeying up or down the River can be dangerous, even deadly, but the Player Characters have the advantage of having sworn an Oath and this Oath is so strong that as long it is active, the spirit will remain as a ghost, tied to his ship and the River. As a Ghost, a Player Character gains an extra Commune with the River and gains access to certain abilities. These are divided between Ghost Abilities such as ‘Consult the Ancestors’, ‘Appear as Lost Loved One’, and ‘Grant Peace to a Restless Ghost’, and Secrets of the Dead like ‘Become Intangible’, ‘Fly’, and ‘Curse to Wander’. A Ghost is tied to his boat and can only remain on land for a few minutes. It is also possible for a Ghost to return to life, retaining the Ghost Abilities gained when he was dead, but losing the Secrets of the Dead.
The setting for the River is broadly drawn. The discovery of gold by Humans drove them to greed and violence, caused the pollution of the River, and the persecution of the Kivi in the belief that they could sense gold. In response to these atrocities, the Elves and the Naiads warred with the Humans, supported by the Halflings. The Human Empire won and the Elves, Halflings, and Kivi went into hiding. They are rarely seen even in this age of peace, the new Human Crown wanting peace and reparations made to defeated enemies of the Human Empire, even as their advisors are divided on this stance. Magic pervades the River, it is the source of magic and all life and dreaming, bubbling up at the Source and dissipating at the Sea, with each of the species up and down its length taking different approaches in the way they use it. In some places, such as The City, it is forbidden, with severe punishments for its use, especially for Human practitioners. The Human Empire is Downriver, whilst the bucolic, fen-like The Glas Road lies Upriver. In general, Human Empire distrusts anyone not Human, whilst the inhabitants of The Glas Road dislike anyone from the Human Empire.
The play of Upriver, Downriver takes place on River and at various locations along its length. The book details twenty such locations, ten upriver, ten downriver. Each location, like the Paths within the Roles chosen by the players during character creation is associated with one of the Major Arcana or Faces of the River. The last two of the Major Arcana, The Hermit and Death, are associated with the Source and the Sea, respectively. Each location is described in some detail, and includes several NPCs and a Tidesong, or adventure hook. Some locations are large enough to require more than a single session’s worth of adventuring there. Whichever direction the Player Characters are heading in, they begin play in Meadowbrooke, the midpoint between Upriver and Downriver. There are certain requirements which they must fulfil to travel in either direction, locating and verifying The Map to the Crystal Nets to go Upriver and upgrading their ship if going Downriver. As a journey nears its end in either direction, the locations narrow in terms of their descriptions, becoming more fixed in their details as they funnel the Player Characters to the endpoints that anchor the players’ choice of campaign direction. In between, there is scope for more adventure, limited, of course, by time, and this is something that the Game Master will need to prepare, whether one of her own design or the given scenario hook, prior to each location once the players have made a Navigation check, whether it succeeded or failed.
Physically, Upriver, Downriver is cleanly and tidily presented. It needs a slight edit in places, but the artwork is decent and the use of the Faces of the River as a motif is charming.
Upriver, Downriver fulfils a need that we often forget is there—that of the short form campaign. It is not though, a one-play-through and done campaign, as it can be played through at least twice, once in either direction, plus there is variation enough in the locations in either direction that Upriver, Downriver could be played again. Whether going upstream or downstream, Upriver, Downriver will take the players and their characters on a magical journey through enchantments, enigmas, and hostilities to discover the ultimate beginning and ending of the River—and their story in the process.
Saturday 25 November 2023
The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook follows the same format of the previous nine entries in the series. It is divided into five chapters—‘The Children of Time’, ‘Playing in the Tenth Doctor’s Era’, ‘Torchwood’, ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’, and ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Adventures’—as opposed to the four chapters of the previous nine volumes. The first chapter, ‘The Children of Time’, opens with a discussion of who the Tenth Doctor is and a guide to playing him, along with his character sheet, before detailing his many companions. First, Rose and Mickey Smith, both carryovers from the Ninth Doctor, and then Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness, and Donna Noble, long term companions of the Tenth Doctor. Minor characters are included also, who only travelled for an episode or so, including Wilfred Mott, Astrid Peth aboard the Titanic, Sally Sparrow, Lady Christina De Souza, and more. The longest section here is the most surprising and this is dedicated to Ood and Ood Sigma. Their inclusion here does feel odd, but then they would feel out of place in ‘The Tenth Doctor’s Enemies’ chapter as the Ood are not that. Character sheets are provided for all fourteen of the Tenth Doctor’s companions, as well as his TARDIS.
Physically, The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook is as well presented as the rest of the line and is profusely illustrated with photographs from the series. The volume is well written and enjoyable to read. However, there are missed opportunities, though not really of the sourcebook’s own making, in that Torchwood is only covered slightly and The Sarah Jane Adventures not all. At least there is some detail about Torchwood is provided.
Just as the Tenth Doctor expanded ‘Nu Who’ with a wider range of foes—old and new, and a growing family of companions and almost-companions, so The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook expands ‘Nu Who’ for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game. It is a great continuation of The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook, building on what came before, covering some classic adventures, and showcasing why the Tenth Doctor was so popular.
Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps too. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.
Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.
What is it?
The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook is not as its name suggests a quick-start. Instead, it is an introduction to and preview of the rules and a then chance to provide feedback to the designers of the roleplaying game, the fifth to be based on the Marvel Universe. It includes the rules combat and action as well as the means for players to create superheroes of their own, ten superheroes from the Marvel Universe, and a short scenario.
The rules are clearly explained, but more complex and detailed than would be found in a quick-start.
If the pre-generated superheroes in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook are used, its, ‘Enter; Hydra’, can be played through in one session. If the players want to create their own, another session will be required.
What else do you need to play?
The ten pre-generated superheroes in Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook consist of three six-sided dice per player, one of which should be a different colour to the other two.
Who do you play?
The six Player Characters in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook consist of the Black Panther, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Groot, Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon, Spiderman, Storm, Thor, and Wolverine.
How is a Player Character defined?
A Player Character in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook—and thus the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game—has a Rank, Archetype, scores in six abilities, Health, Focus, Karma, Power Sets and Powers, as well as a Backstory and Traits. Rank ranges in value from one and ordinary human to twenty-five. Rank 5 is equal to Daredevil, Rank 10 to Spiderman, Rank 15 to Captain America, Rank 20 to Doctor Strange, and Rank 25 to Captain Marvel. Rank determines how many points a player has to spend during character creation and the values of various secondary factors. Archetypes include Blaster, Bruiser, Genius, Polymath, Protector, and Striker, and suggest how a superhero’s powers might work. The six abilities Might, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, and Logic, their initials spelling out ‘Marvel’. Backstory includes Origin and Profession, which grant Traits that Traits cover talents, skills, circumstances, vulnerabilities, minor superpowers, and more.
How do the mechanics work?
Mechanically, the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook—and thus the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game—uses the d616 System. To have his character undertake an Action Check, a player rolls three six-sided dice, adds an Action Modifier, whether from ability or a power, and if the result is equal to or higher than the Target Number—which can range between eight and forty. One of the three six-sided dice is a different colour. This is the Marvel die. If the result on the Marvel die is a one and those on the other dice is any number except one, it counts as a Fantastic Roll, triggers a triumph result, and the one on the Marvel die counts as six towards the total. The Ultimate Fantastic roll is a six on both of the standard dice a one on the Marvel die. This means the task automatically succeeds and ignores any Trouble. A roll of one on all three dice is a Botched Roll and counts as a failure.
How does combat work?
Combat in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook details initiative, the various types of movement, use of firearms—mostly the province of NPCs and villains, numerous conditions, and damage inflicted to objects, including ploughing through them. It covers most of the typical eventualities that might turn up in a superhero roleplaying game.
Focus represents a superhero’s mental fortitude, but also has to be spent to activate certain powers.
What do you play?
Yes and no. There numerous types of powers not included, such magic, phasing, psionics, and teleportation. Beyond the ten heroes included, there are also no stats or details of actual Marvel Universe villains. Of course, space is limited in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook, but the inclusion of a villain would have been useful.
There is also no PDF version available.
Is it easy to prepare?
The core rules presented in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook are relatively easy to prepare. There is a lot of information in the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook though and it is tightly packed, so it require a close read through.
It helps that it includes a good combination index and glossary and a reference sheet for Action Checks for the Narrator.
Is it worth it?
Yes and no. Yes, because it does include everything necessary to play at least a single session and even a few more should the Narrator and her players want to create their superheroes and associated villains and run a few sessions of the roleplaying game. No, because it is not readily available in PDF. This is a shame because the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game does need an introduction or quick-start and the Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook would fit that bill.
Where can you get it?
The Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Playtest Rulebook is available through retail at comic book shops and on Kindle.