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Friday 1 March 2024

Friday Fantasy: Galileo 2: Judgment Day

Galileo Galileo is famous as the astronomer who attracted the ire of Pope Urban VIII and the Catholic church and the Roman Inquisition by championing Copernican heliocentrism, the concept of the Earth rotating daily and revolving around the Sun, rather than the Aristotelian geocentric view that universe revolving around the Earth. Tried for heresy, in 1633, he was condemned and sentenced to house arrest, remaining in his villa outside Florence until his death in 1642. What though, if Pope Urban VIII, deeply irked at an insult Galileo had insinuated at him in his work of 1632, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, believed that house arrest was too good for the heretical natural philosopher? How far would the Holy Father go in order to have his revenge? Would he commission a clockwork automaton that would tramp the halls of Galileo’s villa, tormenting him verbally and playing tricks on him, day after day? Well, to be fair, very probably not, but since this is the set-up for a scenario for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess, it is safe to assume that this did happen and the Player Characters got caught up in it, because otherwise, there is no scenario. The scenario in question is Galileo 2: Judgment Day, which if you are thinking the title of which sounds an awful lot like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, you definitely have some idea what this scenario is about, because it does involve Galileo and it does involve a big, near unstoppable, clomping robot. Just not from the future.

Galileo 2: Judgment Day takes place roughly in 1640. Galileo Galilei has been under house arrest for several years and the Inquisition maintains a steady watch on his villa, the Villa Il Gioiello, hiring spies to do so from a neighbouring house. The Player Characters are the latest to be hired to fulfil this role, discovering the pay to be a pittance and the house where they stationed, a mould and rat-infested tumble down ruin. The job is also boring. Nothing happens. Except on this summer’s night when strange noises are heard in the villa and then a figure runs out through the games. Followed, not long after, by a mountain of a man, heavy-footed, but determined. With the change in circumstances, do the Player Characters have the chance to take advantage of the situation and come out of it richer either than they were before or they would have been if nothing had happened? Their choices are simple? Do they ransack the Villa Il Gioiello, said to be home to untold riches? Do they race after the fleeing man, and then after determining who he ismost likely Galileo—work what to do with him then? Hand him into the Inquisition and collect the reward or let him go free because they believe him to have been unjustly imprisoned? And if they do let him go free, do they follow him, or do they take advantage of an empty house, to go back and ransack the Villa Il Gioiello and make off with any money and valuables that Galileo has left behind? Then what of the great bear of man, huffing and puffing after Galileo, taunting him all the way? Can he be stopped, bribed, or does he simply need to be bribed and done with it?

Galileo 2: Judgment Day takes places in the default setting for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying of the Early Modern period, the first half of the seventeenth century. What it promises is a pair of one-shot adventures, but that is really not what it provides, because what Galileo 2: Judgment Day really sets up is a situation with a handful of options and another handful of endings. In one option, the Player Characters might see Galileo run out of Villa Il Gioiello and decide to burglarise the building and make a run for it themselves, being hounded by the Inquisition once the authorities realise what they have done and they attempt to fence their loot. In another option, they chase Galileo to nearby Florence, help his escape, and he rewards them with details about the Villa Il Gioiello and the many traps he has laid, letting them grab the loot. Alternatively, they capture Galileo, hand him over to the Inquisition and take the reward for doing so, and head for the nearest bar and get stinking drunk? These are the main options, but there are others too, including one where the Player Characters end up in the hands of the Inquisition themselves and face the possibility of torture and death—the table for that is just ever so slightly unpleasant—and another where the neighbours of Galileo decide the rob the Villa Il Gioiello before anyone else does. And that still leaves the unstoppable killing machine which has been tormenting Galileo and will stop at nothing to prevent his escape to Florence and beyond...

However, it is possible for the Game Master to run
Galileo 2: Judgment Day as two separate things. For example, whilst the Player Characters chase after Galileo on the road to Florence, his neighbours could be attempting to loot the Villa Il Gioiello. To that end, several nosy neighbours are provided, who either turn up whilst the Player Characters are still there or could be played as would be looters with a little bit of development. They include a widow wanting to prove the capability of old people, a castrato who takes the opportunity to perform, an Ottoman mercenary, a gossipy chandler and his wife, and so on. These are simply drawn, but could developed into playable characters.

And then there is the Automaton or ‘L’Assassino Meccanico’. All six feet of it, a half-tonne of steel, and dressed in the best boots, wig, and cloak that money can buy. Designed to impersonate a man to the best of its abilities and then placed to taunt the poor Galileo for as long as he shall live. The thing is described in some detail, and comes with a table of twelve wrestling moves for the Game Master to roll on and randomly determine if it engages in combat. Galileo Galileo is similarly detailed, though as an NPC rather than a monster.

Galileo 2: Judgment Day includes the detailed background for Galileo’s situation, his means of escape, and the resulting chase from the Villa Il Gioiello to Florence, plus a set of encounters along the road in the dark. Possible events in Florence are also covered, including a case through its streets and encounters with the Inquisition. The Villa Il Gioiello itself is described in detail should the Player Characters decide they want to take advantage of the absence of its occupants. The description includes some really nasty traps, though of course, the Player Characters may avoid them should they help Galileo and he reward them with their particulars.

Galileo 2: Judgment Day is a short, clean and tidy affair. It is well laid out, and easy to read. The cartography is decent and the artwork is excellent. The illustration of the Automaton is particularly good and in combination with its portrayal by the Game Master with its booming voice, it should enforce its imposing nature.

Galileo 2: Judgment Day demands a greater suspension of disbelief than might be required in other scenarios. If that is achieved though, then all bets are off, and that includes quite where the events of the scenario and the Player Characters will end up. This is very player-driven scenario, with their decisions deciding which its parts will come into play. Go in one direction and only
Villa Il Gioiello does, go in another and only Florence comes into play, although there is the possibility of the scenario coming back round from Villa Il Gioiello to Florence and then back to Villa Il Gioiello. Yet if it does not, there is possibility of using Villa Il Gioiello all by itself as a target of the Player Characters’ larceny. So there is the possibility that the Game Master could use the parts of the scenario rather than as a whole. The nature of the scenario also means that it is difficult to work into a campaign, but an inventive should be abale to come up with something suitable.

Galileo 2: Judgment Day—inspired as the author admits by Terminator 2: Judgement Day—takes the concept of the unstoppable robot killing machine and drops it into the last situation you would think of. It has the potential to be a classic slasher horror with a really weird premise that could be run as a one-shot and thus a convention scenario, or it swirl out of control and end up in another of the scenario’s various endings, which would probably take another session to play. Galileo 2: Judgment Day is a ridiculous, but still enetrtaining scenario, whose set-up is pleasingly detailed as are it various different endings.


DISCLAIMER: The author of this review is an editor who has edited titles for Lamentations of the Flame Princess on a freelance basis. He was not involved in the production of this book and his connection to both publisher and thus the author has no bearing on the resulting review.

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