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

Monday 29 January 2024

Miskatonic Monday #258: The Search For The Forbidden Door

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu Invictus, The Pastores, Primal State, Ripples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in Egypt, Return of the Ripper, Rise of the Dead, Rise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Matthew Tansek

Setting: 1920s Hawaii
Product: One-Shot Scenario
What You Get: Forty-four page, 90.57 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Horror on Hawaii (...and below)
Plot Hook: The fate of a missing archaeologist leads to confrontation with the locals, mad and bad.
Plot Support: Staging advice (including investigation flow!), five pre-generated Investigators, four handouts, six NPCs, one map, and two Mythos monsters.
Production Values: Good

# Nicely organised investigation
# Easy to adjust to other time periods
# Potential convention scenario
# Nicely detailed investigation once the Investigators get to it
# Entamaphobia
# Gephyrophobia
# Teraphobia

# Excessively high Cthulhu Mythos skills!
# Needs an edit
# No helpful maps
# Two of the pre-generated Investigators have the Cthulhu Mythos skill

# Steamy, sweaty tropical island horror investigation
# Nicely organised scenario

Miskatonic Monday #257: Glimpses of Terror: The Works of I.G. Payne

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu Invictus, The Pastores, Primal State, Ripples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in Egypt, Return of the Ripper, Rise of the Dead, Rise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Nikk Effingham

Setting: Victorian era Birmingham
Product: One-Shot Scenario
What You Get: Thirty-six page, 3.29 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Madness in Moseley
Plot Hook: A philosopher goes mad in Moseley… and beyond
Plot Support: Staging advice, six pre-generated Investigators, six handouts, two NPCs, one map, and one Mythos monster.
Production Values: Decent

# One-shot for Cthulhu by Gaslight
# Room for expansion
# Playable by one to six players
# Potential convention scenario
# Nicely detailed investigation once the Investigators get to it
# Automatonophobia
# Pachydermophobia
# Agoraphobia

# Heavily directed opening scenes
# No map of the house
# Area map could have been clearer
# No NPC descriptions (by design)
# One solution is effectively a murder-suicide pact!
# Really does want the Investigators to become the monsters
# The weirdness of the scenario accessible only by becoming monsters

# Initially, heavily plotted scenario opens up into an interesting and potentially personal dilemma
# Really wants the Investigators to become the monsters and they may miss the true horror of the scenario if they decide not to

Sunday 28 January 2024

From Console To Table

This is a world of high fantasy where a princess has lost her kingdom to the antagonist’s army, a veteran soldier has pledged to protect the people with his life, and a dark knight seeks redemption for his crimes. A silver palace orbits the moon, golems, airships, and elementally infused weapons are commonplace, but knowledge of the greatest of the world’s magic has been lost and lies ready to be rediscovered in sunken ruins or guarded by centuries old monsters. The enemies of this world—many the antagonist counterparts to it heroes—wield mighty magics and lead vast armies, but often turn to divine or the demonic for ultimate power. This is a world of natural magic where the daughter of the village chief seeks to prove her worth, the young hermit has discovered an entrance to a magical ruin in the forest, and the witch knows the prophecies that have been foretold all the way back to the ancestors. Great beasts populate the forests of this world and deep within lie forbidden places holding alien and magical secrets best left forgotten. The magic of the forest brims with life and energy whilst that of the ruins runs dark and cold, ready to power machinery that has laid dormant for centuries or more. The enemies of this world are disasters waiting to happen and technology waiting to take it place in the world once again, perhaps championed by the misguided, but always something greater and more powerful lurks, biding its time. This is a world of techno-fantasy where a scarred hero has had everything taken away from him, the magic-user is the last survivor from a long line of wizards who sought harmony with the world, and a failed experiment survives despite having been abandoned by his cold-hearted creator. Gleaming palaces stand over the squalor of the slums where most of the population are forced to live in cities that stand amidst barren landscapes. Magic has been drained from the world, seen as a source of wealth and power, and means of war, whilst the art and knowledge of magic has been lost or suppressed. The enemies of this world are industrialists who threaten to drain the world of all its magic in pursuit of their power and so bring about a cataclysm or drive the world into war.

These worlds are not one world, but the possible worlds seen in Japanese console and computer roleplaying games such as Ni No Kuni and the Final Fantasy series. It is these worlds that Fabula Ultima TTJRPG—short for ‘Table Talk Japanese Roleplaying Game’—published by Need Games!, brings to the table from the computer screen. Like those console roleplaying games, the worlds which the Game Master and her players roleplay in will be ones of heroic fantasy and action, heroes and villains, heroic destiny, challenging battles, and ultimately, their world. The latter is important because there is no default world in Fabula Ultima TTJRPG. Instead, the Game Master and her players decide upon a subgenre—high fantasy, natural magic, or techno-fantasy—and then combine it with the Eight Pillars of Fabula Ultima TTJRPG that are its core elements. These are ‘Ancient Ruins and Harsh Lands’, ‘A World in Peril’, ‘Clashing Communities’, ‘Everything Has A Soul’, ‘Magic and Technology’, ‘Heroes of Many Sizes and Shapes’, ‘It’s All About The Heroes’, and ‘Mystery, Discovery, and Growth’. Both players and Game Master need to keep these in mind as they create world during Session Zero, mapping it, deciding on the role of magic and technology, creating kingdoms and nations, and adding historical events, enigmas and mysteries, and lastly, the threats that cast a shadow over the world. There are tables to roll on, but these are still only prompt. Ultimately, the process is intended to be collaborative throughout and the result be a world that everyone wants to play in.

A Player Character in the Fabula Ultima TTJRPG is defined by his Identity, Theme, Origin, Classes, and four Attributes. His Identity neatly summarises who the character sees himself as; his Theme is a strong emotion or feeling that heavily influences his actions, and his Origins is where he is from. A Player Character in Fabula Ultima TTJRPG does not have one Class, but several. Fabula Ultima TTJRPG gives fifteen Classes. These are Arcanist, Chimerist, Darkblade, Elementalist, Entropist, Fury, Guardian, Loremaster, Orator, Rogue, Sharpshooter, Spiritualist, Tinkerer, Wayfarer, and Weaponmaster. Each Class asks the player where his character’s powers come from, what his past experiences are, and how the Class and its abilities define his behaviour. Each provides a list of free benefits as well as Class Skills, some of which can be selected multiple times. This includes the various spellcasting Classes, each of which is given its own list of spells, so that each time the player selects the appropriate skill, he chooses a new spell. For example, the Orator can be an ambassador, diplomat, or entertainer, and the player is asked if his character thinks everyone can be persuaded or has a price? Who betrayed the character? How does he feel about manipulating people, even if it is for a good cause? What happened when his words landed him in trouble? The Orator gains a bonus to his Mind Points and his skills include ‘Condemn’, ‘Encourage’, ‘My Trust In You’, ‘Persuasive’, and ‘Unexpected Ally’. The four Attributes are Dexterity, Insight, Might, and Willpower. These are rated by die type, from six-sided die to twelve-sided die.

To create a character, a player decides upon his character’s Identity, Theme, and Origin. There are again, tables to choose from, roll on, or use as inspiration. He chooses not one Class, but two or three, and assigns five Levels between them. The idea is not to create a one-note character, but one more rounded and flexible in terms of abilities and skills. Again, Fabula Ultima TTJRPG suggests options and combinations to create classic character types. For example, a Gunslinger combines Sharpshooter and Tinkerer, a Pugilist combines Fury and Weaponmaster, and Red Sorcerer combines Elementalist, Spiritualist, and Weaponmaster. Lastly, the player equips his character, and once everyone has created their characters, they prepare for a prologue, the first session of play, in which the players decide how their characters come together. Again, there are tables provided as suggestions.

Name: Shaw
Identity: Tomb robbing archaeologist
Theme: Ambition
Origin: Kuthage Empire
Classes: Rogue (Two Levels): Dodge, See You Later
Loremaster (Two Levels): Flash of Insight, Trained Memory
Orator (One Level): Persuasive
Dexterity d8 Insight d10 Might d6 Willpower d8
Hit Points: 35 (Crisis 17) Mind Points: 55
Defence: d8 Magic Defence: d10 Initiative Modifier: 0
Inventory (Maximum 8): Chain Whip, Travel Garb, Tome

Each time a Player Character acquires a new Level, he selects a Level in one of the Classes that he already has or a new one, up to a maximum of ten Levels in a Class. When this is reached, the Class is mastered and the character gains a Heroic skill, for example ‘Ambidextrous’ or ‘Extra Spells’. Other Heroic Skills are particular to a Class, like ‘Unbreakable’ for the Guardian which allows the character to survive a fatal hit once per scene or ‘Predictable!’ for the Loremaster which forces an enemy to spend Mind Points to undertake specific actions. In addition, when a Player Character reaches twentieth and fortieth Level, he can increase the die type of one of his Attributes.

Mechanically, in Fabula Ultima TTJRPG, a player always rolls two of his character’s attribute dice and adds the results together. For example, a pistol attack requires the player to roll his character’s Dexterity and Insight, Insight and Willpower to cast a spell, and Insight and Insight to recall information. Typical Difficulty Levels are seven for Easy, ten for Average, thirteen for Hard, and sixteen for Very Hard. A roll of one on both dice is a fumble, whilst rolls of doubles—of sixes and above—is a critical and automatic success. It also creates an Opportunity, for example, ‘Bonding’ with an NPC, ‘Unmask’ a creature or villain, or make ‘Progress’ on a Clock, the timing mechanism in Fabula Ultima TTJRPG. A player can also reroll the dice, but this requires the player to expend a Fabula Point and invoke either Identity, Theme, or Origin, or even invoke a Bond with another character to add the value of that Bond to the result.

Conflict—which includes combat—is described in Fabula Ultima TTJRPG as “back and forth exchanges at a rapid pace”. This can be a chase, an attempt to break into a castle before the guards notice, or an attempt to persuade a tribal chief to let you gain access to his lands, as well as fights. Initiative is handled as a group roll, with everyone else rolling to gain a bonus to the roll made by the player whose character is taking the lead. Then the Player Characters and the NPCs act in alternate order, one by one, but the order in which the Player Characters act is decided by the players. This models the play of Japanese console roleplaying games where the player can decide which of his characters is going to act rather than it be decided randomly. Should a Player Character’s Hit Points be reduced to zero, typically through combat, his player has two choices. The Player Character can surrender and suffer the consequences, but not actually die, or sacrifice himself to achieve a seemingly impossible deed. This has to be in front of a villain, benefit a Bond with an NPC, or improve the world.

The Fabula Ultima TTJRPG has two pools of points with which Player Characters and Villains can further their aims—Fabula Points and Ultima Points. Fabula Points are gained at the start of a session, when a Fumble is rolled, when a Villain makes a grand entrance, the Player Character surrenders after being reduced to zero Hit Points, and by invoking a Bond or Trait to fail a check. They are used to alter the story, invoke a Bond or Trait, or use certain skills. Spending Fabula Points also increases the amount of Experience Points the Player Characters receive at the end of a session, so the players are encouraged to use them rather than keep them. Obviously, Ultima Points are the province of Villains, but have fewer options in terms of what they can be spent on. The most notable is to ‘Escape’, safely leave a scene in true “I shall return!” style, to invoke a Trait, or to recover from a current status. Every Villain has another major ability and that is ‘Escalation’, the Villain transforming into a new, greater, and more villainous version of themselves, from minor Villain to major Villain, major Villain to supreme Villain. This means the Villain is effectively a new Villain and restores him to full powers again. The design and play of Villains is given its own section for the Game Master, covering goals, putting pressure on the Player Characters via the Clock mechanic, giving them hidden depth rather than making them one-dimensional, and even making the Villains mirror the Player Characters.

The rules of Fabula Ultima TTJRPG also covers the use of Inventory Points to abstractly represent useful items of equipment and consumable items like potions to recover Hit Points and Mind Points, travel, dungeons, equipment, projects, and more. Dungeons, which can be complex location that needs to be explored, can be handled as a series of scenes rather than a room-by-room crawl or a simple interlude, but a room-by-room crawl is also included as an option. Equipment can be basic or rare and each item is represented by a pixelated image, which feels very proper. There is good advice for the Game Master—specifically aimed at the neophyte Game Master—which also discusses how each of the Classes work and their roles in play, and how to design battles and Villains. This is backed up with some decent examples and the book is rounded out with a good bestiary.

Physically, the Fabula Ultima TTJRPG is cleanly and tidily laid out, the artwork is excellent, ranging from fully painted pieces to little scenes and encounters done in the Chibi style. The book well written and easy to read and engage with.

The Fabula Ultima TTJRPG combines elements of traditional roleplaying in its core mechanics and storytelling mechanics—or at least methods—in its set-up guidelines for the scenarios and campaigns. As written, it is aimed at newer players and Game Masters, and successfully supports both in getting them to play. This does not mean that it holds their collective hands, but rather recommends them as to what to do and warns them that mistakes will be made and that they can be learned from. More experienced players and Game Masters will pick up how to play and run Fabula Ultima TTJRPG with ease and be off and running with a campaign very quickly. Ultimately, the Fabula Ultima TTJRPG brings the drama, conflict, and action seen on the screen of the Japanese console roleplaying game to the table and not only makes all three exciting and accessible, but lets the players and the Game Master make the world their own.

Saturday 27 January 2024

The Other OSR: Miseries & Misfortunes I

The year is 1648. The War of the Counter-Reformation never seems to end as what was at first a civil between the Germanic states of the Holy Roman Empire over the rights and dominance of the Lutheran and Catholic churches that drew other nations of Europe and escalated into a contest for European dominance between Habsburg-ruled Spain and Austria, and the French House of Bourbon. Surrounded by Spanish Hapsburgs to the south, east, and north, France not only faces enemies from without, but also within, for the kingdom is divided by many loyalties. Louis XIV is only ten, but has already been king for five years. His mother, Queen Anne, a former Habsburg princess and the most hated woman in France, governs as regent with aid of her able prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, the most hated man in France. Together they have kept France safe, but the continued need for more funds to maintain the war effort requires more taxes to be raised and more offices to be sold, arousing the anger of Parlement. Worse, the burden of the taxes will fall upon the bourgeois and the peasantry, those of the third estate or menu peuple, and the poor, or les maginaux, whilst the nobility of the second estate pay little and the clergy of the first estate pay none. All of which is collected in a manner which is inefficient and prone to corruption. Thus, there is a divide between all levels of society, between those who can afford to pay taxes and pay little and those who cannot afford to pay taxes and pay more. There are divisions of religion between the Catholics, Lutherans, Huguenots, and Jews. There are divisions of loyalty and politics between the Royalists who support Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin; the Frondeurs who oppose both them and the heavy tax burden; the Noblists who oppose Queen Anne and Cardinal Mazarin in order to maintain the independence of France’s great families; the Hapsburg faction which would ally with the biggest power in Europe as it would be best to be on the winning side and the right side of God; and the Cardinalists, who recognise Mazarin as the real power in France and believe his efforts have kept France safe to date. This is France in 1648 and the background to Miseries & Misfortunes.

Miseries & Misfortunes is a roleplaying game set in seventeenth century France designed and published following a successful Kickstarter campaign by Luke Crane, best known for the fantasy roleplaying game, Burning Wheel. Notably, it is based on the mechanics of Basic Dungeons & Dragons. Originally, Miseries & Misfortunes appeared as a fanzine in 2015, but its second edition has since been developed to add new systems for skills, combat, magic, and more. However, the underlying philosophy of Miseries & Misfortunes still leans back into the play style of Basic Dungeons & Dragons. For example, the differing mechanics of rolling low for skill checks, but high for combat rolls and saving throws. Plus, the Player Characters exist in an uncaring world where bad luck, misfortune, and even death will befall them and there will be no one left to commiserate or mourn except the other characters and their players. Further, Miseries & Misfortunes is not a cinematic swashbuckling game of musketeers versus the Cardinal’s guards. It is grimmer and grimier than that, and the Player Characters can come from all walks of life. That said, it is set in the similar period as Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After, so will be familiar to many players. The other major inspiration for Miseries & Misfortunes is Les Misères et les Malheurs de la Guerre, a set of eighteen etchings by French artist Jacques Callot that grimly depict the nature of the conflict in the early years of the Thirty Years War.

Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 1: Roleplaying in 1648 France is the first of the roleplaying game’s two core rulebooks. It presents the core rules and background, as well as explaining elements of the Player Character, whilst Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 2: Les Fruits Malheureux provides the means to actually create Player Characters. Further rulebooks and supplements add expanded rules, magic, science, and divinity, provide a detailed scenario and setting, and describe Paris in this period. A Player Character in Miseries & Misfortunes has six governing abilities—Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. These range in value between three and eighteen, but can go lower. Each provides a bonus to the roleplaying game’s eight skills, but for situations where pure Strength or Intelligence is required, a roll equal to, or less than the value will succeed. The eight core skills are Break, Improvise, Listen, Parley, Sang Froid, Search, Sneak, and Traverse. Of these Sang Froid, or ‘cold blood’, is the strong will and steeliness needed to commit acts of violence. Each skill is represented by a die type and rating, for example, ‘3/6’, meaning that the Player Character must roll three or less on a six-sided die to succeed. If a skill is raised to ‘5/6’ and then raised again, its die type increases to ‘7/8’, meaning that the Player Character must roll seven or less on an eight-sided die to succeed. The maximum a Player Character can have in a skill is ‘19/20’. The rating of a skill can be raised during character generation, following the Life Paths presented in Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 2: Les Fruits Malheureux, and temporarily during play with bonuses for situation and the Player Character’s actions. A skill rating reduced to zero is ‘Unmoored’ and rolled on ‘1/10’.

A Player Character has four saves—Artillery, Chance, Poison & Plague, and Terror. These are set at sixteen. They can be lowered as a result of events in a Player Character’s Life Path. Similarly, his values for Defence—based on Strength, and Dodge—based on Dexterity, are also modified by a Player Character’s Life Path. Hit Points and Will—lost either in a duel of wits, from losing a fight, from encountering the supernatural, or being attacked in the press—are also determined by a Player Character’s Life Path. A Player Character has three Mentalités, Nationality, Politics, and Religion, which are also treated like skills. In the core rules for Miseries & Misfortunes, Nationality will be French, but Politics can be Royalist, Froundeur, Noblist, Hapsburg, or Cardinalist, whilst Religion can be Catholic, Lutheran, Huguenot, or Jewish. All of which will set up rivalries and influence interaction as play progresses. Lastly, a Player Character will have Precedence, which will depend upon which of the three estates he belongs to and his station within that estate. This is the equivalent of his social status and will play a role in interactions with NPCs and in duels of wit.

In addition to Precedence, a Player Character’s wealth or Fortune, will play an important role in his life. A Player Character can own property and have an income, and ideally it will support his lifestyle. It may also need to support the lifestyle of dependents, which can be some of the obligations that the Player Character must fulfil, at least financially. A Player Character will need to manage his assets and there are guidelines for living beyond your means, gifts, loans, charity, debt, and bankruptcy. All of which, along with Precedence can influence a Player Character’s Reputation. This is measured by quality of birth, station, military rank, wealth, deeds—acknowledged and unacknowledged, and can see the Player Character gain Entrée into high society and more. However, Reputation needs to be maintained, and again that requires wealth and income.

Combat in Miseries & Misfortunes takes two forms. ‘Duel of Wits’ covers pointed social interaction—insults, threats, accusations, bribes, seductions, and more. Much like physical combat, it takes account of range, which can be an intimate space, at speaking distance, shouting distance, and the press. Types of social interaction are treated as weapons in a ‘Duel of Wits’, for example, Accuse, Beg pardon, Poison, Implore, Shame, and more. The difficulty of each varies according to target distance, so that, for example, Confession is more likely to succeed at intimate and speaking distances, and less so when shouting in in the press. A successful social attack both inflicts damage to the target’s Will and if the target’s Will is reduced to zero, triggers a victory condition. In the case of Confession, the target believes the confession and will either consider the confessor brave for revealing the truth or scandalised by its content! Otherwise, social manoeuvres will be exchanged until the Will of one side is reduced to zero and the victory condition triggered.

The other form of combat in Miseries & Misfortunes is physical. It covers skirmishes, ambushes, morale, barricades, and more. The scale here is not just the personal, but all the way up to small scale battles, including artillery barrages and musket fusillades. One of the omissions here is dedicated rules for duelling, doing what the ‘Duel of Wits’ did for social interaction, but for sword and pistol exchanges. This is problematic if the potential player comes to Miseries & Misfortunes for the swashbuckling, musketeering, cinematic action that its genre and setting suggest. He will be disappointed, but Miseries & Misfortunes is not that style of roleplaying game and there are plenty of other options if that is what he wants.

One of the most interesting mechanics in Miseries & Misfortunes is ‘Mortal Coil’. This is its equivalent of a luck mechanic, but it is a decidedly grim and brutal one. In play, a Player Character can exert himself to reroll skills, combat rolls, saves, ability tests, and even force an opposing Player Character’s player to reroll. However, this literally reduces his ‘Mortal Coil’. Every Player Character in Miseries & Misfortunes has a base allotment of years, determined by the quality of his birth. It is rolled for by the Game Master and kept secret. This is the number of years which the Player Character will live barring unfortunate circumstances such as adventuring and seeking a fortune. The number of points a Player Character has with which to exert himself is equal to his maximum age minus his current age. Thus, every time he exerts himself, he reduces his lifespan by one year, and because the player does not know how long his character will live, this is incredibly harsh. It does not mean that the Player Character simply drops dead on the spot, but that he more likely to suffer ill effects from his efforts as he grows weary. This might be to fall down dead, but it might also see the Player Character addled in the brain and suffer a loss of Intelligence and need to spend two seasons resting or driven to drown his sorrows in drink for a season, potentially suffering a Constitution loss. These are rolled for on the Mortal Coil table, which is also rolled on should a Player Character be reduced to zero Hit Points. The roll on the Mortal Table is modified by the number of times a Player Character has exerted himself, by the Player Characters’ Virtues and Flaws, and by the group motif—that which serves as a bond between them. It is also possible to increase a Player Character’s Mortal Coil by completing life paths.

Old School Renaissance roleplaying games in general do not have a luck or fortune mechanic. The fact that Miseries & Misfortunes does, moves it away from being a straightforward Old School Renaissance retroclone. Yet the harsh nature of the Mortal Coil mechanic ameliorates that to some extent, giving the player a choice between the consequences of a failed roll versus giving up a year of his life each time. It is a nasty little Hobson’s Choice of a mechanic that gives a player something that the average Old School Renaissance retroclone does not—a decision as to the consequences suffered.

Physically, Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 1: Roleplaying in 1648 France is well presented and written. It is illustrated with a period artwork and etchings which helps impart its historical setting. If it is missing anything, it is an index, but at just over a hundred pages, this is not too much of an issue.

Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 1: Roleplaying in 1648 France has its origins in an Old School Renaissance-style supplement, the original Miseries & Misfortunes fanzine, but its combination of skill system, use of life paths and detailed characters and backgrounds, a luck mechanic, and mechanics for social interaction are modern design choices—no surprise given that the designer also created Burning Wheel—rather than those necessarily of the Old School Renaissance. However, its tone and sensibilities in terms of the fragility of the Player Characters and their place in a harsh, uncaring world do lean back into the Old School Renaissance. The resulting combination is brutal and grim, all played out against an interesting historical setting that is supported by the detailed mechanics presented in Miseries & Misfortunes – Book 1: Roleplaying in 1648 France.

Quick-Start Saturday: Dracula’s Empire

Quick-starts are means of trying out a roleplaying game before you buy. Each should provide a Game Master with sufficient background to introduce and explain the setting to her players, the rules to run the scenario included, and a set of ready-to-play, pre-generated characters that the players can pick up and understand almost as soon as they have sat down to play. The scenario itself should provide an introduction to the setting for the players as well as to the type of adventures that their characters will have and just an idea of some of the things their characters will be doing on said adventures. All of which should be packaged up in an easy-to-understand booklet whose contents, with a minimum of preparation upon the part of the Game Master, can be brought to the table and run for her gaming group in a single evening’s session—or perhaps too. And at the end of it, Game Master and players alike should ideally know whether they want to play the game again, perhaps purchasing another adventure or even the full rules for the roleplaying game.

Alternatively, if the Game Master already has the full rules for the roleplaying game for the quick-start is for, then what it provides is a sample scenario that she still run as an introduction or even as part of her campaign for the roleplaying game. The ideal quick-start should entice and intrigue a playing group, but above all effectively introduce and teach the roleplaying game, as well as showcase both rules and setting.


What is it?
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start is the quick-start for StokerVerse Roleplaying Game, the roleplaying game of dark and twisted Gothic horror during the late Victorian era, in which the adventurers and investigators confront Vampire courts, Werewolf clans, Jekyll and Hyde, and even Frankenstein’s Monster whilst Jack the Ripper stalks the fog swathed streets of London.

It is a sequel to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

It is designed to be played by five to seven players, plus the Author (as the Game Master is known).

It is a seventy page, full colour book.

The quick-start is very lightly illustrated, but the artwork is excellent and foreboding. The rules are a slightly stripped down version from the core rulebook, but do include examples of the rules which speed the learning of the game.

The themes and nature of StokerVerse Roleplaying Game and thus the
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start, specifically the horror and its bloody nature, the seductive nature of vampires, and the subversion of good society, means that it is best suited to a mature audience.

How long will it take to play?
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start and its adventure, ‘Dracula’s Empire’, is designed to be played through in two or three sessions.

What else do you need to play?
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start requires six ten-sided dice per player. One of these dice should be a different colour to the rest, ideally, black.

Who do you play?
The seven Player Characters in
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start consist of Lord Godalming Arthur ‘Art’ Holmwood, Mister Johnathan Harker, Dr John Seward, Police Sergeant Albert Enshaw, Miss Primrose Hampden, Madame Lisa De Villiers, and Mister Daniel Seagrove. Of these, Lord Godalming Arthur ‘Art’ Holmwood, Mister Johnathan Harker, and Dr John Seward will be familiar from the novel, Dracula, whilst Police Sergeant Albert Enshaw is a London police officer, Miss Primrose Hampden is a sketch artist who has the power of second sight, Madame Lisa De Villiers is a veiled medium, and Mister Daniel Seagrove is a research assistant for Van Helsing. Together, they are all members of, or connected to, The Brotherhood. All seven Player Characters have a full character sheet and

How is a Player Character defined?
A Player Character has six stats—Strength, Dexterity, Knowledge, Concentration, Charisma, and Cool. Stats are rated between zero and six, whilst the skills are rated between one and four. A Player Character can have Traits, such as Club Tie (Polite Society), Natural Aptitude (Profession: Solicitor), Contact (Dr Phillips - Director Purfleet Asylum), Legal Authority, Unconscious talent (Shadow Sight: First Impressions), Occult Secret (Shadow Sight), and Occult Studies (Shadow sight). There is a preponderance of Contact Traits amongst the Player Characters.

How do the mechanics work?
Mechanically, Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start uses the ‘S5S’ System first seen in SLA Industries, Second Edition. This is a dice pool system which uses ten-sided dice. The dice pool consists of one ten-sided die, called the Success Die, and Skill Dice equal to the skill being used, plus one. The Success Die should be of a different colour from the Skill Dice. The results of the dice roll are not added, but counted separately. Thus, to each roll is added the value of the Skill being rolled, plus its associated stat. If the result on the Success Die is equal to or greater than the Target Number, ranging from eight and Challenging to sixteen and Insane, then the Operative has succeeded, but it is a ‘Close Call’ or a ‘Yes, but...’ result. A ‘Solid Success’ is a result of exactly two successes, whilst three or more success is an ‘Extraordinary Success’.

Luck can be spent to Stat by one for a single test, substitute the values of a skill dice for the value of the success die, transfer the damage of a successful attack to themselves, and to gain the initiative.

How does combat work?
Combat in Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start is designed to be desperate and dangerous. Damage is rolled on five-sided dice, modified by successes rolled.

How does the Occult work?
In Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start, two of the pre-generated Player Characters have Occult abilities. Miss Primrose Hampden has ‘Unconscious talent (Shadow Sight: First Impressions)’ and Madame Lisa De Villiers has both ‘Occult Secret (Shadow Sight)’ and ‘Occult Secret (Wards)’. Both require the use of the Occultism skill. Shadow Sight provides the user with intuitive feeling about someone upon first meeting them, whilst ‘Wards’ are used to contain and restrain the forces of evil. This requires the use of a spiritualist’s kit, expending a point of its Ammo, and a two-step process. First, a preliminary barrier is created and if successful, the number of successes determines the Protection Value and Integrity of the barrier. It can be continued to be shored up, but this is emotionally exhausting.

What do you play?
In Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start, the scenario is
‘Dracula’s Empire’. This is a detailed investigation set in London after the events of Dracula. Mina Harker has gone missing , after her return to London; there has been a rash of disappearances of children and the morgues are filling up with bodies drained of blood—and there has been a cover up of both; and a mysterious dark-haired woman has been seen traversing the streets of London and attending high society balls. Are they connected? Could the mysterious woman be Mina? Or worse… Lucy returned from the dead? The scenario has multiple avenues of investigation, including tracking down the mysterious woman, attending one of the society balls—held on Mornington Crescent, no less!, digging into the missing children, bloodless bodies, and so on. Each of these is handled in scenes of their own, which are nicely detailed.

Is there anything missing?
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start is complete and it even comes with advice for the Author on running the game. A map or two in places would have been helpful.

Is it easy to prepare?
The core rules presented in
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start are relatively easy to prepare. The Author will need to pay closer attention to the plot of ‘Dracula’s Empire’, in part because there is no clear explanation of what the plot is and how its strands tie together. In addition, the backgrounds for the Player Characters and their character sheets are separate, so the Author will need to ensure that they are together for each player.

Is it worth it?
It needs close preparation to bring the multiple strands of the investigation together, but Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start is a meaty, bloody investigation against the background of London’s fogbound streets, official obfuscation, and the heights and lows of society.

Where can you get it?
Dracula’s Empire: StokerVerse Roleplaying Game Quick Start is available to download here.

Friday 26 January 2024

Friday Fantasy: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7:
A Dozen Lankhmar Locations is a bit different. Unlike the majority of the releases for Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and the releases for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, it is not a scenario. Instead, it is a supplement designed to help the Judge bring the darker, grimmer, and even pulpier world of the City of the Black Toga, Lankhmar, the home to the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, the creation of author Fritz Leiber, to life. The city is described as an urban jungle, rife with cutpurses and corruption, guilds and graft, temples and trouble, whores and wonders, and more. Under the cover the frequent fogs and smogs, the streets of the city are home to thieves, pickpockets, burglars, cutpurses, muggers, and anyone else who would skulk in the night! Which includes the Player Characters. Since the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set presents a city setting, what a campaign set there needs more than anything is locations. Places that the Player Characters will visit, whether that is somewhere to fraternise and carouse, worship, case and then burglarise, buy goods and fence their stolen booty, or simply to sleep. Together, such locations and the NPCs found there are places around which a campaign can be built as the Player Characters visit them again and again and they become part of their lives. Scenarios for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set provide their own locations, starting with Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #1: Gang Lords of Lankhmar, which provides a gang of fellow thieves and desperate men and women to lead as well as a hideout to use as a base of operations. Subsequent scenarios have provided further locations, such as the theatre in Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #3: Acting Up In Lankhmar. Each of these scenarios provides just a handful—at the very most—of such locations, whereas, Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations goes much, much further.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations does exactly what its title suggests. Describe and detail a dozen locations in the
City of the Black Toga. None of the locations are generic. All of them are specific locations, some part of the city as detailed in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Set, whilst others are directly inspired by the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. That said, names and details can be changed increasing the versatility of the locations and in some cases, there is some variation included. The majority of the important NPCs are named and given some details so that the Judge can portray them in play. The selection opens with the ‘Crafts Street Watch House’, a better manned and equipped watch house, complete with barracks, armoury, constables’ office, bedrooms for the sergeants, and so on. The interesting rooms for the Player Characters are going to be the vault which holds several chests’ worth of potential loot and evidence and downstairs the interrogation room and the cells where they might end up! Of course, the Watch House need not be on Crafts Street, but could be relocated to wherever the Judge desires. The ‘Fence’s Business’ is a nice combination of secret business, ordinary business, and board rooms.

More expansive and detailed is the ‘Pleasure House’ between the Carousing and the Pleasure Quarters. One of four larger locations in Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations, this is a high-end house of ill repute, its proprietor, Lady Minx, taking great care of her staff and their children, catering to certain clientele in secret, yet of course, keeping their secrets just in case something goes wrong. There is a little nudity to the artwork here, in keeping with the swords & sorcery genre, but otherwise there is nothing prurient here and it feels like a working establishment. The idea of the ‘Rented Temple’, placed on the Street of the Gods, is particular to Lankhmar and the example is dedicated to Miska, Lord of Cats, a parochial and quirky choice, and there are alternative suggestions as possible uses for its inner rooms. Similarly, the ‘Second-Rate Sorcerer’s House’ is also quirky and particular to Lankhmar, filled with magical knick-knacks and gewgaws—mostly for shore—which is home to a competent, if middling wizard. The ‘Shop with Attached Living Quarters’ expands upon the alternative use with for options for what is upstairs above the shop. One is a family home, the other a pair of rented rooms, and an open loft area which could be put to various use, including storage, sparring room, dovecote, and others. Thus, this building could have two or three storeys.

The Cuttlefish is given as an example ‘Sailing Ship’. This is a cramped caravel of a type popular amongst Inner Sea traders and similar to the Seahawk, the vessel that the Gray Mouser commands later in his career. Presented as more of a cutaway, the inclusion of the Cuttlefish has lots of gaming potential. The Player Characters might need to sneak aboard or prevent another gang from doing so and the ship will enable them to travel abroad from the city of Lankhmar and explore the wider world. Depending upon their wealth and influence, they might even take command of the vessel and engage in trade, and even a little smuggling. The ship has a smuggling hold—just a small one—which could be used to smuggle goods or passengers or even the Player Characters themselves in secret. Like a lot of lot of the entries in this supplement, the ‘Sailing Ship’ entry is flexible and utilitarian.

Several locations are tied to the stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. These include ‘The Silver Eel’, the tavern on Dim Lane where the two adventurers are known to be regulars and the ‘Thieves’ House’, home to Lankhmar’s most notorious and one of its most powerful guilds. It is so powerful that it publicly occupies a whole block in the city and it is rumoured that the surrounding buildings and the cellars and sewers blow are part of it too. Arguably, a whole supplement could have been dedicated to the city’s Thieves’ Guild, but there is room in Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations for just two floors to be detailed. This is still the largest entry in the supplement and it portrays the Thieves’ House during the tenure of Korvas as guild master when the warlock, Hristomilo, was in residence. His laboratory is described in some detail and there are suggestions as what his laboratory might be used for following the events of the novella, Ill Met in Lankhmar. Likewise, the ‘Wealthy Villa’ describes the ‘House of Muulsh the Moneylender’—as previously detailed in Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar Boxed Sethome to Muulsh and his wife, Atya, although it also includes the slight differences to the richly appointed, three-storey villa, after Atya disappears. The location, of course, is just demanding to be burglarised by the Player Characters.

Other locations in
Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations include ‘Street Market’ and ‘Warehouses and Rooming House’. The ‘Street Market’ details the ‘Five Knife-Points Market’ with numerous vendors and NPCs that the Player Characters can interact with, selling and buying goods, menacing the vendors for protection money, rob, picking pockets, and so on. ‘Warehouses and Rooming House’ present a rooming house, ‘The Weary Sailor’, and its adjacent buildings. These include several warehouses, including one abandoned, one being run profitably, and one turned into a pit-fighting venue. This small neighbourhood has a delightfully seedy feel to it and certainly worth adding to the Judge’s campaign should her Player Characters want to check out the monies to be made down by the docks in the River Quarter.

Physically, Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations is as decently presented as you would expect from Goodman Games. It is well written, but the cartography really stands out, clearly depicting its numerous buildings in all of their opulence and seediness.

Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations is a very useful supplement for the Judge running a campaign set in Lankhmar. It presents her with ready-to-play locations that instantly add to the city and bring it life, whether iconic places such as ‘The Silver Eel’ or the ‘Thieves’ House’, or more generic and easily adjusted places such as the
‘Shop with Attached Living Quarters’. In the process, the contents of Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar #7: A Dozen Lankhmar Locations will make both the city of Lankhmar and the activities of the Player Characters all the more believable and memorable.

Friday Filler: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

One of the amazing aspects of modern games is that we can have great board games based on intellectual properties, but not just intellectual properties from this year or next year, even from a decade ago, but intellectual properties from decades ago. Go back even two or so decades and the board games based on intellectual properties would be nothing more than simple, tried and tested designs with the imagery of the intellectual properties slapped on them. Simple, tried and tested designs means unsatisfying, means dull, means feeling nothing like the intellectual properties such board games are based upon. Not so in the twenty-first century, when designers are expected to match the themes of an intellectual property with the mechanics of game play. The result has been some very playable board games, all based on well-known intellectual properties and all feeling like they are based on those intellectual properties. For example, Jaws: A Boardgame of Strategy and Suspense is a genuinely tense experience, as is Horrified. All of which have tended to be co-operative in their play style and have tended to appeal to a family audience rather than a dedicated board game player audience. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is a similar game, a co-operative board game based on a decades old intellectual property, designed to be played by a family audience.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is published by Funko Games and designed to be played by two to four players, aged ten and up, in just thirty minutes. The players take the roles of Elliot, Gertie, Mike, and Greg in their search for parts that E.T. needs to build a communication device to contact his home world. This takes time and effort as the four of them race around the neighbourhood, but their efforts will be hampered by the police in their cruisers and Federal Agents who are searching for E.T. Fortunately, Elliot, Gertie, Mike, and Greg know the neighbourhood though, and can make use of ramps and shortcuts to avoid the Federal Agents and the Cop Cars. To win, the Kids need to build the Device which will summon the Mothership to the Forest Clearing and then get E.T. there to be picked up. The Kids will lose if all three Cop Cars reach the Forest Clearing and block access to it or if E.T. becomes too weak because his Heartlight is reduced to zero.

Open up E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game and what you see first is the bowl of chrysanthemums—the one that E.T. restores to life in the film and then takes it with him when he leaves—on the back of the board. Turn the oddly squished board over and it depicts the neighbourhood in the San Fernando Valley where the film and thus this game are set. In one corner is the home of Elliot, Gertie, and Mike, whilst in the opposite is the Forest Clearing. Below that in the box, there are lots of striking components. Elliot, Gertie, Mike, and Greg have playing pieces which depicts each of them on bicycles that not only click together so that they can move together, but also have a basket into which E.T. can sit. The Mothership is pleasingly detailed plastic depiction of the starship from the film which sits on a stand. Although the board game does not use any photographs taken from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the artwork it uses in their stead to depict scenes and characters from the film is excellent. Make no mistake, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is a good-looking board game.

The board itself is crisscrossed with roads which breaks up the lots and houses—known as zones—of the neighbourhood. Some have diagonal red routes across them which are shortcuts that the Kids can take, but the Cop Cars and the Federal Agents cannot. They, instead, must stick to the roads, which the Kids can also use. Three routes run from one corner of the board, from Elliot’s house to the Forest Clearing, and it is these that the three Cop Cars will follow over the course of the game. Three zones are marked with a coloured square—yellow, green, and blue. At the start of the game, the various zones are seeded with a single item represented by an item piece. These are also colour-coded yellow, green, and blue. During the game, the Kids will find and transport item pieces (or a wild token) to the zone of the corresponding colour. Once there are four in the zone, the Kids must transport E.T. to that zone who will then build a device, represented by a Device Die. The Device Die must then be transported to the Forest Clearing. There they can be rolled to generate the ‘telephone handset’ symbols that indicate that the Mothership has been contacted and is moving closer to the Earth and landing to rescue E.T. There are three colours of Device Items and three Device Dice. So, the more Devices that E.T. can build, the more Device Dice the Kids will have to roll. Another item that the Kids can find is a ramp. This can placed to leap over spaces, even over the Cop Cars and the Federal Agents, just as happened in the film.

Each of the four Kids, has their own card and their own special ability, which can used once per turn. Elliott can discard Candy to move E.T. extra spaces; Michael can move along a Shortcut for free; Greg can take a Dangerous Move without rolling the Danger Die; and Gertie can take a Dangerous Pick Up without rolling the Danger Die. Sixteen E.T. Power Cards give a range of different abilities that a Kid can use if he or she is carrying E.T. in the basket on their bicycle. For example, ‘Flying Kids’ lets a Kid move three spaces without the need to roll the Danger Die is enemies are encountered, ‘Trick or Treat’ lets the Kids skip the Move Enemies Phase that turn, and with ‘Hiding’, Special Agent Keys moves during the Move Enemies Phase, it is away from E.T. rather towards it. There are always three E.T. Power Cards on display and when one is used, it is discarded, and a new one drawn. There is a reference card and an E.T. counter with dial on it for tracking his Heartlight.

Once the game is set up, each Kid’s turn consists of three steps—‘Take Actions’, ‘Phone Home’, and ‘Move Enemies’. During the ‘Take Actions’ step, a Kid can take three Basic Actions and as many Free Actions as he wants. The Basic Actions are ‘Move’, ‘Take A Candy’, and ‘Pick Up An Item or Device’. ‘Take A Candy’ means taking a piece of Candy—or Reece’s Pieces in the film—from the general supply and adding it to the Kids’ Candy Pool. Candy is spent to move E.T., one space per Candy. If during a ‘Move’ or ‘Pick Up An Item or Device’, a Kid runs into or near an enemy, then his player must roll the red Danger Die. Depending on the result, this can move a Cop Car closer to the Forest Clearing, Special Agent Keys closer to E.T., the Federal Agent assigned to the Kid closer to him or her, or all assigned Federal Agents closer to their Kids. If a Cop Car or Federal Agent lands on the same space as a Kid, he is caught and must drop any Items or Devices carried. If E.T. is caught, Special Agent Keys takes charge of it and the Kids will have to rescue him! In both cases, E.T.’s Heartlight is reduced by one.

The Free Actions include ‘Drop An Item or Device’, ‘Move E.T. With Candy’, ‘Pick Up or Drop E.T.’, ‘Use One E.T. Power Card’, ‘Team Up’, and ‘Build A Device’. Of these, the most fun is ‘Temp Up’. This is when two Kids are in the same location. It not only enables Kids to swap Items, Devices, and even E.T., but it also enables their bicycles to click together and let them move together and even make use of their abilities together.

In the ‘Phone Home’ step, the player will roll any Device Dice which have been built and delivered to the Forest Clearing. For each ‘telephone handset’ rolled, the Mothership moves one step closer to landing at the Forest Clearing. Lastly, in the ‘Move Enemies’ step, the player rolls the two Enemy Dice (plus the red Danger Die if a Cop Car or Agent is on the location as a Kid or E.T.). Like the Danger Die, the Enemy Dice will move the Cop Cars closer to the Forest Clearing, the Agents closer to their assigned Kid, and Special Agent Keys closer to E.T. Play continues like this until the victory conditions are met by the Mothership picking up E.T., or the game is lost because either E.T.’s Heartlight is reduced to zero or the Cop Cars reach the Forest Clearing.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is thematically great, but a busy game. What the Kids have to do is collect enough Items to build as many Devices (and their corresponding Device Dice) as they can, get E.T. and the Items to the right zones to build each device, take the Device Dice to the Forest Clearing, roll enough of the right symbols on the Device Dice to bring the Mothership to the Forest Clearing, and then transport E.T. to the Forest Clearing. All the while avoiding both the Cop Cars and the Federal Agents. Which is six steps. Add to this is the number of possible actions that the players can take. Not just the three Basic Actions, but six Free Actions! Now an experienced board game player will grasp the rules and how to play the game with ease, but the number of actions available in play and the number of steps necessary to win mean that the game is not as easy to teach or learn as it could be for less experienced or younger players. Which includes the family audience that E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is intended for. Yet for the experienced board game player, the game play itself does not offer anything new or exciting and bar adjusting the number of Items needed to build devices and their corresponding Device Dice up or down to make game play harder or easier, there is very little variation in game play.

Of course, what E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is not about is E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, the film, as a whole. It only focuses upon the climax. Upon the part of the film which is exciting and action-orientated and so gameable. Nevertheless, it is good adaptation of that part of the film and it is clear that a lot of effort has gone into making the game play match that part of the film. Fans of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial will appreciate E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game for that reason alone. As a game overall, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is more serviceable than a success. It is not a poor game, but rather straddles a difficult line of being too easy and not offering enough variation for the experienced board game player and slightly too difficult with too many choices for the less experienced or family audience. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Light Years From Home Game is definitely a game that fans of the film will appreciate more than dedicated board game players.

Monday 22 January 2024

Miskatonic Monday #256: The True Housewives of Arkham

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Keith DEdinburgh

Setting: Modern Day Arkham
Product: One-Shot Scenario
What You Get: Forty-nine page, 2.37 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: The hell of other housewives is a whole other reality (television pitch).
Plot Hook: Fame, fortune, and fabulous frenemies in Arkham
Plot Support: Staging advice, five pre-generated Housewives, three NPCs plus Mister Chow Wow, one  map, and three Mythos monsters
Production Values: Decent

# Reality Television terror 
# Adds interesting social mechanics for inter-Housewife interaction
# Plenty of scope for over-the-top roleplaying 
# Potential convention scenario

# The parody can tip over into the camp and vice versa

# The horror of Reality Television becomes a reality
# Housewife horror sets up plenty of scope for unreal roleplaying before the reality of the horror hits!