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

Friday, 26 May 2017

Leagues of London

Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! is Triple Ace Games’ RPG of globetrotting action, adventure, and mystery set during the 1890s. In this ‘Mauve’ decade, it brings together the greatest heroes and villains of the era—Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson, Allan Quatermain, Phileas Fogg, Abraham van Helsing, and more—with the player characters and flings them to the four corners of the world to explore the unknown, make great discoveries, and uncover dark mysteries. Like All For One: Régime Diabolique, also published by Triple Ace Games, Leagues of Adventures uses the Ubiquity System first seen in Exile Studio’s Hollow Earth Expedition. The result was an RPG of pulp action in a mannered age and like all RPGs published by Triple Ace Games is ably supported with a raft of supplements and adventures.

More recently the publisher has taken the Victorian Era set RPG into the realms of gloom and fear with Leagues of Gothic Horror and will follow this up by infusing it with a sense of cosmic dread with Leagues of Cthulhu. In between time, a number of other supplements have been released. Some of these explore various aspects of Leagues of Gothic Horror, but Globetrotters’ Guide to London takes the game to heart of the empire, the city of London. This is no surprise given the Anglophile emphasis in Leagues of Adventure, and after all, the player characters—or Globetrotters—need a base to set out from. Then again, there are adventures to be had in the capital too!

In presenting the city, Globetrotters’ Guide to London provides reference material aplenty, but in easily digestible form, making it easy to bring to the gaming table. The level of detail is designed to be anything other than overwhelming and in the main, this it succeeds at. So it briskly details everything you might need to know about London in just a few pages. This includes accommodation and lodgings, climate, crime and policing, death, entertainment, and so on. It is a good primer to the capital, but does not skimp on the detail where necessary, whether this is a listing of criminal slang, cab fares, or social customs following a death. Indeed, this level of detail continues throughout the book, highlighting certain aspects about life in London that can be included as colour or pertinent to the plot as necessary.

The supplement does include rules for creating and playing steam or clockwork powered anthropomorphic automata. In game terms, an Automaton globetrottter has to have the Ally 2 advantage to be treated as a Human, but otherwise is treated as a normal character. Two Flaws, Automaton and Inconspicuous are suggested as being suitable for Automata globetrotters, but a player is mostly free to design his character how he wants. In terms of play, the primary issue is how the Automaton is healed, or rather, repaired, should it be damaged—as if that should ever happen! To this, the supplement adds four new Leagues for the Globetrotters to join—the Automaton Club, the Detective Club, the Masked Avengers, and the Temperance Society.

The meat of the supplement is divided between two lengthy chapters. The first of these, ‘A Brief Tour’, details some one-hundred-and-twenty locations in the centre of London as of 1898. These range from the Aerated Bread Company Ltd. and the Admiralty to Westminster Abbey and the Zoological Gardens, taking in along the way, particular museums, hospitals, theatres, restaurants, colleges, shops, and more. More generic institutions and features are covered as well, including the River Thames, the sewers, workhouses, and rookeries. The outré are included alongside the ordinary, such as the Bartitsu Club—here more successful than in reality, and Croydon Field—London’s airship landing site. This mix, of the outré with the ordinary, continues with the ‘Denizens’ chapter, which describes and details some thirty-eight noted personages of the period. So they include Richard D’Oyly Carte, Arthur Conan Doyle, James George Frazer, Flinders Petrie, Inspector Edmund Reid, and Oscar Wilde as well as Thomas Carnacki, Professor Arthur Cavor, Phineas Fogg, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, Arthur J. Raffles, and Doctor John Watson. Notably, Arthur Conan Doyle becomes Holmes and Watson’s chronicler, as well as that of Professor George Challenger, whereas H.G. Wells becomes an inventor and scientific expert who investigated the Martian invasion of 1883. All of these have full game stats and provide a useful array of NPCs for the Globetrotters to encounter and interact with. If there is an issue with these NPCs it is that just four of them are women, barely a tenth, and although it must have been challenging to find suitable women to include, this paucity is disappointing. Nevertheless, the write-ups of both locations and denizens are both useful and well done, being also supported by lists of various dignitaries—ambassadors, government officials, military men, museum staff, newspaper editors, and so on, which add both further verisimilitude and serve as useful reference without the GM needing to look them up himself.

Besides some quick write-ups for various Henchmen and stock characters, Globetrotters’ Guide to London gives six new archetypes. These are the Automaton, the Fixated Detective, the Masked Avenger: Spring-Heeled Jock, the Nanny, the Police Surgeon, and the Theatre Manager. The Automaton makes use of the new rules included earlier in the supplement; the Masked Avenger: Spring-Heeled Jock is actually a vigilante-scotsman, so including a thoroughly groan-inducing word joke; and arguably, the Police Surgeon and the Theatre Manager are there for anyone—including the author—who wants to play or include in his campaign, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor George Litefoot from the ‘The Talons of Weng-Chiang’ episode of Classic Doctor Who and their subsequent audio adventures from Big Finish.

Rounding out the Globetrotters’ Guide to London is a discussion of running adventures in the heart of the empire and how different they are to those in a standard game of Leagues of Adventure. This highlights how the Globetrotters cannot ignore the law in London and how their skills, contacts, and other resources come into play whilst in the city. For the GM it suggests how he should play up the environment and bring in the city’s many locations described earlier in the book. The book comes to a close with eighteen adventure seeds. These are a good mix of ideas ready for the GM to fully develop, though a third of them are marked as being designed for use with Leagues of Gothic Horror.

Physically, Globetrotters’ Guide to London is a slim book, illustrated in black and white. The supplement is slim enough to not really need an index and is well written and readable. The map of the centre of London is decent, though the artwork is not the best to have graced Triple Ace Games’ titles.

Globetrotters’ Guide to London is not the complete guide to London, but it is comprehensive enough to have just everything a GM might need to bring the fantastic, literary world of Leagues of Adventure to life. Indeed, a GM or Keeper could easily ignore the fantastic elements in the book that are particular to Leagues of Adventure and use Globetrotters’ Guide to London as a reference work his own ‘Mauve Age’ set campaign—including Cthulhu by Gaslight. Overall, Globetrotters’ Guide to London is a useful and accessible reference for the game, whether the campaign is staying in or leaving London for adventure.

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Triple Ace Games will be at UK Games Expo which will take place between June 2nd and June 4th, 2017 at Birmingham NEC. This is the world’s fourth largest gaming convention and the biggest in the United Kingdom.