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Saturday 5 February 2022

Hacking the Temple of Doom

The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is a scenario for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth which wears its influences clearly on its sleeves. These are Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game—and they both align with each other. The influence of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom shows in the setting for the scenario and who the players roleplay and the influence of the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game shows in who and how the players roleplay. The setting for The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is, like Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, the far future that is the Ruined Erath, long after an alien planet crashed into the Moon and caused it to rain down on the Earth. In the wake of this disaster, the Earth has been radically changed, a world of Stupendous Science, of subjugation by vile Sorcerers, of scavengers searching the ruins for lost technology, of Robots with new found free will searching for a purpose, and of  fearless, mightily thewed barbarians saving the day with savage beastmen as their companions by their side. One of these Sorcerers is Vindicus, who has risen to power and sent out his Mooks to abduct children from nearby villages and make them work in his mine a la Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. 

Now in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, these children escape due to the intervention of Indiana Jones, and in the typical adventure, it is the Player Characters who will take the Indiana Jones role. Not so in The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible. Instead, the players take the roles of these children—four of them apiece—who take advantage of the disruption caused by the intervention of adventurers—who remain completely off camera for the entire scenario—to sneak out of the mines. As children, they do not yet have a Class or a Level, and are in fact, Level 0 Player Characters. If they survive long enough to escape the confines of the cave, then they may acquire sufficient Experience Points to step up to First Level. Here then is the influence of the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game and its infamous Character Funnel which pitches Zero Level Player Characters into a dangerous environment best suited to at least First Level characters. 

Surviving long enough is the issue though, particularly as the Player Character Children are both fragile and unskilled. Mechanically, this modelled with each only having four Hit Points and instead of having the standard set of Attributes—Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma—which the player rolls against for any action as per The Black Hack rules used in Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, a Player Character has ‘Kid’s Luck’. This is a fifty percent chance of any action succeeding, although a player can roll with Advantage under certain circumstances, for example when his Child character is sneaking. Conversely, he will roll with disadvantage under other circumstances, such as his Child character attacking a creature larger than he is. Lastly, except at key points during their escape attempt, none of the Children will actually be killed. Instead, they will be simply recaptured and dragged back into the mine by the evil sorcerer Vindicus’ robo minions and miners. 

The adventure begins with a sudden break in the power throughout the mine and the halogen bulbs which provide the various areas going out and the doors to the cells where the Player Characters are incarcerated swinging open… On the one of the many television screens which hang on the walls of the mine, Vindicus the Terrible himself appears and rages at the temerity of the intruders come to steal his Battle Staff of Disruption! With the cage doors open, the Player Characters have an opportunity escape—if they can avoid Vindicus the Terrible’s miner-bots, robo-drones, robo-guardians, robo-warriors, and Overseer Glog. Let alone what horrid creatures might have crept into the abandoned parts of the mine—such as the dread Toxic Hipposludgeopus!! For the most, this is a stealth and exploration scenario, combat is to be avoided, but there are plenty of places to investigate and more than a few interesting things to find.

The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible provides a lot of support for the Game Master. This includes stats for all of its monsters and NPCs—though not Vindicus the Terrible himself, so hopefully he will return in a future scenario—plus rules for handling swarms. It goes further with very good staging advice for the Game Master. Each entry in the mine is broken into a series of boxes as appropriate. Thus ‘White’ for general description, ‘Grey’ for random Events or Sorcerer’s TV—the latter broadcasting what happens to the scenario’s on-screen/off-screen villain, ‘Yellow’ for further details when the Player Characters investigate the area, and ‘Orange’ for elements or things which will only be revealed if searched for or interacted with, or are hidden. It makes the scenario incredibly easy to run, virtually straight off the page. 

Physically, The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is vibrantly presented in the big bold colours of the Saturday Morning Cartoons that inspire both the scenario and Barbarians of the Ruined Earth. The scenario is also clearly written and easy to grasp, and can be prepared with a minimum of fuss. 

The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is by no means a terrible scenario, but in some ways, it is a bad scenario for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth. The problem with the scenario is that it is as fun as it is, it does not showcase either the rules or what players can play in Barbarians of the Ruined Earth. The core rules in the scenario are different and none of the Classes are used. Further, unlike  Character Funnels for the Dungeon Crawl Classics roleplaying game, this scenario is different. The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is not a Zero Level done and then First Level scenario. That is, the Player Characters are not automatically First Level, but rather the experience in the mines becomes an event in their childhoods and one that forms the basis of the Bond between them. As much as it is an introduction to the setting, it is not an introduction to the actual roleplaying game, it does not provide the mechanical elements that they would normally expect. So much so that The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible could all be run without any reference to Barbarians of the Ruined Earth! What this means is that at this point, Barbarians of the Ruined Earth really needs a scenario which does that, and when it does, it should be sequel to The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible.

The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible is a big, fun scenario for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth. It is easy to grasp and easy to run, and everyone, the players, their multiple characters, and the  Game Master should throw themselves into making their escape from The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible!

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