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Friday 1 December 2023


YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE manages to be both fantastic and a failure. Fantastic because it describes an intriguing setting that begs to be played and explored, whilst being very rules light, but a failure because it never once tells you what it is and it cannot do this this because it does not know itself. However, this does not mean that it cannot used to create and run an exciting mini-campaign aboard its massive floating garbage scow, but to do that, the Game Master will need to do something that the authors of YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE fail to do. Which is to pull back, look at it as a whole, decide whether it is a sandcrawl (trashcrawl?) with factions, locations, and motivations, or more focused with locations and location adventures. As written, it is mix of both, which clash not only together, but also with the higgledy-piggledy mix of ideas from different contributors. Another issue is the format, which is that of a fanzine. YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE was published via Kickstarter campaign as part of ZineQuest #2, but make no mistake it is not fanzine. At least not in the traditional sense. YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is a setting supplement using the fanzine format, an increasingly regular outcome as the ZineQuest events progressed from year to year. Effectively, YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE has all the messiness and sensibility of a fanzine when what its content called for was something less than an amateur approach to its design and detail.

The problems with
YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE start with the cover and continue with the first page. Nowhere does YYOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE clearly state what it is. Not on the cover and not inside the book on the first page or any page. Literally, you pick this up and you have no idea what you hold in your hand. There is no doubt that you will be intrigued enough by both cover and the title to ask, “What is this?” Unfortunately, it is a question left unanswered in an unforgiveable failure of design, a failure that goes right back to the lack of overview upon the part of the creators. The point is, it is the role of the players and their characters to discover what YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is through play, not that of the Game Master.

So, the question is, what is
YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE? It is a setting which describes a floating sandbox, a massive trash scow which grinds its way up and down the coast years, heaving into the harbours of towns and cities to collect their rubbish and unwanted gubbins in return for gas to keep the garbage barge’s tugboats running and other supplies, whilst also letting the workers aboard come ashore. The garbage barge could be one of the biggest things afloat, but it is definitely the unloveliest, a towering, leaking wreck, ready to take a town’s unwanted items, whether they are dangerous, embarrassing, or even on fire. It is also a source of employment and the garbage barge is always looking for new employees. Once aboard, they will be responsible for handling and ensuring the safety of the trash collected and helping to keep the garbage barge afloat. What they will discover is weird and wonderful and wretched. Rusting barrels of chemicals which grow legs and go off to seek their fortune as they leach their contents. Talking possums, raccoons, beetles, the latter always ready to tell their life stories—never more than a year long! Baroque pearls to be dived in the oil-slick bilge waters of the garbage barge. A gas lake that threatens to explode and destroy the whole garbage barge. A whole town on fire. The workers will stay in the company town aboard the garbage barge and buy from the company stores, such as a dried fish with living eyes which can be swallowed to be able to breath water for an hour. At the end of the hour, it is vomited up and the user has to catch it so he can use it again! Animal sentinels such as ‘Gentle’, a rat who communicates through expressive shrugs, can be rented and will warn workers of bad air, damps—dangerous mists, and pressure changes. Workers can return from a day’s labour with scrap and barter with it at Kat’s Salvage Armoury—a workshop in a scrapyard in a junkyard on a garbage barge—for rickety devices or even upgrades to devices they already have. Copper mask wizards meet and lurk on the garbage barge, hiding their thefts of beloved objects until they have been forgotten and can be destroyed for the psychological backfire to fuel their magic. ‘Speaking Bettas’, large, floating, and telekinetic floating fish pop out of nowhere much to their chagrin and disdain.

YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE includes two scenarios. The first is ‘Your First Job Is To Keep The Gas Lake From Exploding’, in which the Player Characters are directed to the gas lake—a combination of damned river and drowned slime mould—where they must vent some of the gas before it explodes. It is a great set-up, combining a great set-up with the garbage barge’s pervading sense of industrialisation and decay, and initiating the Player Characters into the weirdness of the garbage barge. Unfortunately, the presentation is not as clear as it could be in terms of the maps and how they relate to each other and how the various aspects of the scenario connect to each other. Much like the fanzine as a whole, it does not pull back to provide an overview and connect everything for the benefit of the Game Master. Worse, it gives the Player Characters a major task to complete, but does not define exactly what they have to do, especially in mechanical terms. Part of this is due to the general lack of mechanics in YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE, but the tasks themselves and their difficulties could have been at least described.

The second adventure is ‘You’re Going On A Trash Dive’. This sets out to find out just how much trash there is aboard the garbage barge and find out just how deep that trash goes. Not so much Journey to the Centre of the Earth as ‘Journey to the Centre of the Garbage Barge’, this is much more coherent affair, with some excellent NPCs, some of whom have other plans for Scoopin’ Jenny, the giant drilling machine. It is also a much weirder adventure in tone than the previous adventure, verging on cosmic horror and veering into obsessive monster hunting a la Moby Dick, though with an ÜBËRGÖÄT rather than a whale. However, the scenario has the potential to underplay the cosmic horror angle very nicely. This is a much better presented and easy to understand scenario, but it pulls strongly away from the tone of the

Rounding out
YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE are a series of tables which randomly determine the smells around the Player Characters, whilst also adding a new Bard College, the Scent Skald, which uses smells to power and target his magic. Other tables provide random items of trash, and of course, encounters aboard the garbage barge. The back cover blurb consists of a Trash Shanty with which the Game Master can either torment or entertain her players—if not both. The tables are great and add a lot of atmosphere, and are just one more thing to like about YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE, whether it is map, Kat’s Salvage Armoury, the talking animals, and the general tone of the setting.

YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is also a problem. Whether it is the inclusion of a radio mast or go-kart, YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is not a traditional fantasy setting. It is a technologically advanced setting, more akin to the early twentieth-century than the traditional medievalism of the Old School Renaissance. Consequently, a roleplaying game with those elements already present would work better, such as Into the Odd or Electric Bastionland. YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE does use the mechanics of the Old School Renaissance, but adapting them or writing your own, would not be too challenging for the Game Master.

YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is a mess. It dives straight into describing parts of the garbage barge without describing what the garbage barge actually is and just keeps that up, more or less, from beginning to end. It is also table-intensive, including one with multiple fount sizes and formats that is eye-wateringly terrible. The artwork is not necessarily great, but it fits the setting of the garbage barge.

YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is an almost incoherent mess. Any prospective Game Master is going to have pull its contents apart to find out how they work and work together, before putting it all back together herself in a fashion that will work for her game and her players. And that is what YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE needs. To be pulled apart, to be put back together, to include an overview of what it is, to decide what it is, to present its contents in a way that is easier and more immediate in its use. And again, the content of YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE is not unplayable and there is nothing to stop a Game Master and her players from getting great gaming experiences from that content, but too many times YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE fails to facilitate that. YOU GOT A JOB ON THE GARBAGE BARGE undoubtedly deserves a second edition and developing into what could be a great supplement. Right now, it remains a not entirely incoherent beta.

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