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

Saturday 8 June 2019

A Proper Paw & Pack Play Starter II

The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is something of an odd product. Published by Pugsteady via Onyx Path Publishing, it is as the title suggests, a ‘jumpstart’ or quickstart for use with Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game , the post-Man, post-apocalypse fantasy roleplaying game in which every plays a dog. Ideally, they are ‘good’ dogs, aspiring to join the Royal Society of Pioneers and so serve the Kingdom of Pugmire. The Pioneers are dedicated to protecting the kingdom from threats such as rats and badgers as well as the cats of the Monarchies of Mau and to exploring beyond the boundaries of the kingdom, perhaps to find clues as to what happened to Man. The oddness is that Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game already has a starter scenario in the form of Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers.

Fortunately, the publication of The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart does not invalidate Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers. What the latter provides in addition to Pugmire’s rules—which use the Open Game Licence for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition to provide its mechanics, the result being that the roleplaying game is easy to pick up and play as well as an introduction to roleplaying and six pre-generated characters—is more background information on the world of Pugmire and a lengthy scenario that will provide five or six sessions’ worth of play. The former though, simply provides a short explanation of the rules, six pre-generated characters, and a short scenario which can be played through in a single session, or perhaps two at the very most. In fact, both The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart and Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers use the same set of six pre-generated characters. So The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart could very easily be run before Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers, with The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart being used as a taster to Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers. Further, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart serves to introduce the fantasy of the Pugmire setting, whilst Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers develops the world further by revealing more of its post-apocalyptic past.

In actuality, whilst both The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart and Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers are designed to introduce the world of Pugmire and Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game to prospective players, they are aimed at different groups. With its videos and in-game journal, Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers is aimed at those new to roleplaying as well as the world of Pugmire, whereas with its quicker explanation of the rules and the world, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is designed for experienced roleplayers and Game Masters—especially if they have played Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition.

The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is divided into three parts. The first part presents the rules. These are are very simply and clearly explained, and easy to grasp. Anyone who has played Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition will pick up and understand the rules to Pugmire almost immediately, and of course, anyone who already has the Pugmire core rulebook will be able to run the scenario in The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstar with only a little preparation.

Pugmire derives its mechanics from Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition and that means its core mechanic is the roll of a twenty-sided die to beat a given target number with bonuses being added to the result from a character’s attributes, skills, and proficiencies—and occasionally a trick. A trick is a special ability or power, like ‘Shield Aptitude’ which gives a dog a +2 bonus to his defence when using a shield or ‘Focus Magic’, a masterwork device through which an Artisan Class character can cast arcane spells. Pugmire also uses the same Advantage and Disadvantage mechanics as Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. Beyond the core rules though, it adds tweaks and refinements to those mechanics of its own. The most notable of which is Fortune and the Fortune Bowl. A session begins with the Dogs in an adventuring party having two Fortune in the Fortune Bowl. A player can earn more Fortune for the Bowl by roleplaying to his Dog’s personality traits in a way that makes the game interesting, by being an entertaining player, coming up with a good plan, and by playing a ‘Good Dog’. Much of this is up to the discretion of the Guide—as the Game Master is known in Pugmire, but a player can force the Guide to add Fortune to the Bowl by having his Dog intentionally fail. Fortune in the Bowl can be spent—and this is a permanent spend—to gain a reroll on any dice roll and keep the higher result, to allow a spellcaster to cast a spell if he has run out of spell slots, and to interrupt the initiative order and take their turn now. Further, some Tricks require Fortune to be activated, for example, ‘Odds and Ends’ grants a Dog a mercantile background and thus a Wisdom check to see if the Dog has a particular piece of equipment, but by spending a point of Fortune, the Dog’s player can declare a newly met NPC to be a former customer of said Dog and on good terms with the Dog.

Consisting of just six scenes, the adventure itself takes place in and around the city of Pugmire. As members, or prospective members of the Royal Pioneers Society, the player characters are asked to investigate the disappearance of One-eyed Molly, a cat who provided the authorities with information about feline criminal activities in the kingdom. When last heard of, she was supposedly on the trail of a cache of Masterworks—the lost devices or relics left over from the rule of Man. Either the missing Cat has located the trove, been abducted or killed by a rival treasure hunter, been abducted or killed by a member of one of the criminal clowders known to be operating out of the ‘Cat Quarter’, or worse, her supplying information has been seen as a betrayal by the Monarchies of Mau and she has been abducted or silenced prior to an invasion by the Kingdom of Pugmire’s greatest enemy!

Following the scenario’s couple of lines of investigation—either by going to the see the police dogs or a shady merchant in the Cat Quarter by the name of Mister Meow— will reveal two things. One is that One-eyed Molly was interested in the location and contents of the tomb of the first king of Pugmire. The second is that someone else is also interested in her activities. By consulting with the right expert the player characters will learn the exact location of the tomb and how to get there. Unfortunately, someone else has already got there ahead of them and is already ransacking its rooms… The question is, just what are they looking for?

The scenario, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb is short and sweet. It is more interesting in the first half where the player characters get to interact with the inhabitants of the world of Pugmire, especially the scenes with Mister Meow as that nicely contrasts the canine nature of the city of Pugmire. The tomb section feels suitably constrained without sprawling into dungeon territory. Throughout, there is plenty of advice for the Guide delivered by a couple of familiar figures from the Pugmire setting.

Rounding out The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is a set of six ready-to-play good Dogs and prospective members of Royal Society of Pioneers. These are the same six as in Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers, all First Level, and thus suitable to be used in the scenario in The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart, the core rulebook for Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers. Each comes with a full background, a character sheet, and an illustration as well as a full explanation of each dog’s tricks and spells (if he has any). This enables a player to roleplay any one of these six Dogs without the need to refer to the core rules, which is undeniably useful as a facilitator of quick play.

Physically, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is an attractive softback book, illustrated with full-colour, painted artwork. Much of it has appeared elsewhere, but it brings the world to life and can be readily be shown to the players as what their Dogs are seeing. The writing is engaging and easy to understand, and although there are no examples of the rules or play, the game is not difficult to understand just from the pages of this quick-start.

One possible issue with The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is that it is short, possibly too short if the Guide wants to use it as a convention scenario. This is primarily due to it being fairly direct and linear in its plotting, the likelihood being that an experienced group of players will play through the scenario in a fairly smart order. Yet it is also due to the straightforward and fairly simple nature of the plot. Now the author does suggest that as an option, the Guide can insert an extra encounter as the player characters travel from the city of Pugmire to Vinsen’s Tomb and that this encounter should be an ambush of some kind. No stats are provided for the ambushers, the author suggesting that stats from an earlier encounter be used instead. Now if the Guide has access to a copy of Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game, there is another option here. This is to bring in a faction other than that already encountered in the adventure. So possibly a gang of tomb raiding or treasure hunting Dogs, a gang of Cat crooks, or a strike team from the Monarchies of Mau, all on One-eyed Molly’s tail. This would present the Guide with more NPCs to roleplay and the player characters to interact with, and it would add a little more to the world for the players and their characters.

Nicely put together, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart gives Guide and players alike with the roleplaying game’s equivalent of a doggie treat—and no more. It should provide both with enough of a taster to pick up the full game and perhaps move onto to Pan’s Guide for New Pioneers. Or the Guide can simply pick this up to slot into her ongoing campaign. Overall, The Secret of Vinsen’s Tomb: A Pugmire Jumpstart is a short, sharp introduction to the world of Pugmire and Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game.


Pirates of Pugmire - A Realms of Pugmire Tabletop RPG—the third roleplaying game to be set in the world of Pugmire is currently being funded on Kickstarter.

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