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

Saturday 29 June 2019

Leagues of Revenge

Most of the supplements and scenarios for Triple Ace Games’ Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration  and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! and its expansion, Leagues of Gothic Horror (and its expansion, Leagues of Cthulhu) are written by the game’s designer, Paul ‘Wiggy’ Wade-Williams, so it is a pleasing change to see that the latest scenario for the line is penned by a different author. Published by a successful Kickstarter campaign, Ghost Writer is written by Walt Ciechanowski, the author of Le Mousquetaire Déshonoré, the campaign for All For One: Régime Diabolique. This is, as the title suggests, a ghost story, and being a ghost story for Leagues of Gothic Horror is a florid, melodramatic affair, a tale of revenge from beyond the grave.

The scenario has few if any requirements beyond access to Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do in the Late Victorian Age! and Leagues of Gothic Horror. The Game Master may find that having access to Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Apparitions be useful, but it is not necessary in order to run Ghost Writer as full details of the apparition and how to run it are included in its pages. Similarly, Globetrotters’ Guide to London may also be useful, but is not required to run the scenario. Although the globetrotters will have to defend themselves at various times throughout the scenario, Ghost Writer is not a combat-focused affair, instead emphasising investigation and horror and the social attitudes of ‘Mauve Decade’ in late Victorian London. The scenario works best if the globetrotters have a Mentalist or Mystic amongst their number, especially one who has the Second Sight Exotic Talent as that will give them an edge in facing the antagonist at the heart of the scenario.

Ghost Writer is set in London in the middle of 1891. It begins with an invitation, the player characters receiving tickets for the premiere of a new opera, Boudicea, at Richard D’Oyly Carte’s newly opened Royal English Opera House. (Other hooks are included, from a mentalist having a premonition to the globetrotters actually being members of the cast or back stage crew, but the default is the invitation.) The Royal English Opera House’s first opera, Ivanhoe, produced by Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan fame, has been a big success and it is hoped that Boudicea, proudly proclaimed to be based on a lost play by William Shakespeare will be equally as successful. The premiere—a formal, top hat and tails affair—goes off with nary a hitch and the reception prior to the performance is the perfect opportunity for the Globetrotters to meet any interesting or important personage of note that the Game Master wishes. Several of them are already in attendance of course, but there is plenty of room for more. 

Unfortunately as the evening comes to a close, a strange fog seems to settle in over the streets of the city and by morning there will come the news that the opera’s composer has been pulled from the Thames dead. There is the possibility that the globetrotters will have been nearby when it happened, but if not, they will learn of it the next day. They will also be contacted by Sir Reginald Jellicoe, the producer of Boudica, in the morning to look into the matter for him—initially to locate the missing composer if neither the globetrotters or Sir Reginald are yet aware of his death or to ensure that it does not reflect poorly upon the production when they are.

Once engaged, the globetrotters will find themselves faced by a number of problems. Not just the matter of the increasing desperate ghost who seems to enshroud its victims in a seaborne fog of an unnatural origins, but also a worried, verging on neurotic, Sir Reginald, and an investigating police inspector who is the epitome of ‘Mister Plod’. Inspector Martin Chumley (!) is a by-the-book, the most obvious solution is the correct solution, ‘open and shut’ case type of officer whose brusque approach to each murder will all too soon frustrate the globetrotters. The Game Master though, will probably have a huge amount of fun in portraying Inspector Chumley as pompously as she possibly can. In general though, the investigation, which in the main takes in London’s theatre district, some of its less salubrious areas, and just a few of its more genteel sitting rooms, manages to be reasonably detailed and relatively complex without being too convoluted.

Ghost Writer should not prove too difficult a scenario for the Game Master to run. In fact, it would be relatively easy for the Game Master to adapt its plot to the system of her choice (if not the setting). It is not quite perfect though. The main issue is that it is not quite as obvious as it should be which scenes are optional and which are not. Some are obvious, some not. Another issue, is that in some scenes the players are expected to make tests that do not necessarily add to the play of the scenario. Nor is it helped that the book does not always present the information in the way it claims it does. That though, is primarily a problem with the editing and the organisation, both of which could be better. A last issue is that perhaps to an English eye, the author does not quite get mores of the period quite right, but really that is a very minor issue and few players are likely to spot them anyway.

Physically, Ghost Writer is generally well presented and written. Though some of the artwork is disappointing, much of it is pleasing ghoulishly melodramatic. Thus, these illustrations set the tone for what is a dramaturgic ghost mystery. Ghost Writer delivers what it promises—murder, mystery, a curse, death from beyond the grave, forbidden love, and a plummy, melodramtic gothic tale. It just needs a Game Master to ham it up!

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