Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Bursting the Bubble


In RPGs that focus on combat, it is up to both the GM and the writer to create situations that do two things. The first is to make the combat itself both interesting and challenging. The second is make the players think. Arc Dream Publishing’s GODLIKE: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936–1946 is certainly a game that focuses on combat. After all, it is set during the greatest conflict that mankind has ever known, the Second World War. To the standard set up of man-to-man conflict, GODLIKE adds a second element, that of superheroes, but not superheroes in the traditional sense. The player characters are Talents, trained commandos or marines who have amazing abilities or talents, such as being able to send your skeleton to fight for you whilst you sleep, force any mechanical object that can to open at your will, or turn into a gorilla G.I. All of these talents are fuelled by the possessor’s own willpower and can literally be turned off if an enemy breaks a Talent’s will. The standard set up in GODLIKE demands that the players be inventive in creating their Talent’s talents, usually because they only have a few points to spend just on powers. So, in its own way, GODLIKE asks much more of both the GM and the writer because it has to take account of the superpowers in order to present more interesting and more challenging situations.

Fortunately, GODLIKE: The Invasion of Jericho Bay, the latest scenario from writer, Dennis Detwiller, to be made freely available after a KickStarter programme, does both. As with Combat Orders No. 2: Saipan, this is another scenario set in the Pacific, late into the campaign against the Japanese. As it opens, the player characters are involved in the invasion of Okinawa in April, 1945. They are summoned to a briefing and given new orders: explore a new object that has appeared on the battlefield and is not only stalling the American invasion efforts, but will threaten those efforts if it is some kind of Japanese beachhead capable of delivering reinforcements. The object in question is the Yae-Take Bubble, a giant black bubble over a mile high. All efforts to penetrate the bubble so far have failed, and because it registers as having been created through Talent means, the invasion commander requests the services of the player Talents.

Investigating the Yae-Take Bubble sets up its interesting situation. Once inside, the Talents find themselves not on the island of Okinawa in the Far East, but thousands of miles away back on home soil. Which is probably something of a welcome situation for the player characters, since the last time that they will have been back in the USA would have been months, if not years ago, whilst at the same time be a perplexing situation – why exactly are they in the USA? The Yae-Take Bubble also creates the scenario’s combat challenge – the player Talents arrive without weapons. In order to explore and resolve the situation inside the Yae-Take Bubble, they are either going to have to rely solely on their talents – and remember, unless those talents involve armour, force fields, or toughness, the Talents can still be killed by bayonets, bullets, and bombs; or they are going to have to find firearms from somewhere…

The situation that is described in GODLIKE: The Invasion of Jericho Bay is actually really very simple, but the twists placed in way of the player characters make it more interesting and more challenging. This situation is made all the more complex with the addition of several NPCs that the player Talents can interact with. These NPCs are relatively simply drawn, but there is enough detail given for each for the purposes of the scenario. If there is an issue with the NPCs, it is perhaps that the Japanese enemy are relegated to the status of a faceless foe. That said, this scenario is all about the situation rather than the enemy.

Four pre-generated US Talents are given for use as either player characters, as replacement player characters, or as NPCs. All four are designed using just the standard twenty-five character points, so their talents are not particularly powerful. It would have been nice if more player Talents had been included, but player created ones will need to be built on the same number of character points. In creating these, if the GM were to give his players some advice, it would be that not Hyper- or super skill is going to work in the situation given in GODLIKE: The Invasion of Jericho Bay.

It is fantastic that this scenario is available for free. It is worth just downloading just to get an idea of what a scenario for GODLIKE: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936–1946 looks and feels like. If the GM already runs a GODLIKE campaign, particularly one set in the Pacific Theatre, GODLIKE: The Invasion of Jericho Bay is an excellent scenario to add to that campaign.