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

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Tea, Taxes, & Terror

Two conflicts lie at the heart of Colonial Gothic: A historical supernatural role-playing game, Rogue Games’ RPG set in the new world during the eighteenth century on the eve of the American Revolution. The second decides the future of the Thirteen Colonies, but the first determines the course of the Secret History that will affect outcome of the first... Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged explores both of these conflicts by bringing the heroes to the city where the American Revolution began, presenting both a sourcebook for the city of Boston and a complete scenario set there.

In a way, Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged is a sequel to game’s Colonial Gazetteer in that it presents both an area in greater detail previously explored in that a supplement and the first part of a campaign that is a sequel to the scenario presented in Colonial Gazetteer, "A Surprise for General Gage." It moves on the game’s timeline from 1775 into 1776, and thus deep into the efforts by the Colonists to throw of the over taxing yoke of the British Crown. The split between the source material and the scenario is one third for the former, two thirds for the latter. As ever the book lots of excellent period artwork that nicely captures the feel of the setting and while the writing is good, the book could have done with a closer edit. If there is a real issue with the book it is that the city map of Boston is too dark, especially the one given for the scenario, making the pertinent locations hard to find.

The section on Boston opens with a history that expands upon that given in the Colonial Gazetteer for the colony of Massachusetts, going from the area’s first colonial settlements in the 1620s up to the city being besieged. There is an understandable focus on the events that lead into the American Revolution, with the timeline projected through to the end of 1775 and into early 1776, so that once the scenario is begun, the GM can involve the player characters in future events, or at least keep informed as adventure progresses. The description of Boston itself covers not just every important or interesting location with the city, but also the fortifications that General Gage has ordered to be erected along her shores and the numerous islands within Massachusetts Bay.

Throughout this section many of the events and places are accompanied by one or more Adventure Seeds. For example, the player characters might have the opportunity to prevent the Boston Massacre with some adroit oratory, get involved in the Boston Tea Party, protect an occultist’s corpse, and encounter some very odd side effects of Smallpox. There are almost forty Adventure Seeds in Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged, with about the right mix between the straight historical and the outré, that all together nicely extend the usefulness of the book and with some effort upon his part, can be used by the GM to add adventures aplenty between the parts of the campaign provided. These are in addition to the suggestions on how to carry on the included scenario.

The short scenario given in the Colonial Gazetteer, "A Surprise for General Gage," was designed to get the player characters to Boston. The adventure in Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged, “The King’s Gambit,” begins with them in Boston itself, so the GM will have to find a way of getting them through the lines as it were. Through contacts the heroes learn that one Henry Jones wishes to hire true Patriots to help with the cause, leading to the first of several tasks and several encounters that increasingly involve the adventurers in the Secret History that will determine the future of the Colonies. More specifically, the scenarios will involve them in the Secret War that will determine the future of Boston, with the efforts of the heroes if successful, helping to bring about the taking of the city by Continental Army. In the process, they have to smuggle some leverage out of Boston; uncover some strangeness at a cemetery; and encounter both malign natives and a White Witch!

Each of the four individual scenarios in “The King’s Gambit” should take a session or two to complete. They focus very much on the game’s Secret History and that is no bad thing, as in the process they expose the player characters to both the good and the bad aspects of magic. The adventures are primarily combative and interpersonal in nature, but there are horror elements too, and over all they have a grim edge to them.

Flames of Freedom: Boston Besieged does a good job of getting what is the signature campaign for Colonial Gothic, off to start. It would be great to have a companion to this volume – perhaps a set of ready-to-play player characters and single, shorter scenarios to complement this first part of the campaign, but in the meantime, I am already looking forward to the next part, Flames of Freedom: The Philadelphia Affair.