It’s been pretty quiet here recently. There’s a number of reasons for this, and I’ll come to them shortly: it’s a mixture of good and bad news. Simply put: I’d had a lot of plans but some are going to have to take a back seat. I’ll be attending the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet conventions this year, but no other conventions.
Again it’s down to time – and sanity. I’ve pushed myself to the limit over the last six months, for a number of reasons, most of them personal. They’ve no place here, but suffice to say, I’ve had to compartmentalize things and take some steps.
The following is somewhat bullet-pointed, but it helps me get things ordered in my head.
I’m running two fortnightly campaigns at ORC now: Achtung! Cthulhu’s Shadows of Atlantis, and the Mutant Chronicles Dark Symmetry campaign (the latter of which I helped write in a tiny fashion). I’m enjoying running both. I’ve good players, decent attendance; and as they’re already published, easy to prep for.
I’m doing freelance work for Modiphius Publishing on the Mutant Chronicles line – the indexes and occasional demented captions in most of the supplements are mine (as well as some of the proofing!). I’ve also been helping stat up the Dark Eden Supplement. I’m hoping to pick up more freelance work in the months ahead. I’m finding it very rewarding, as well as giving me a creative challenge.
I didn’t make it to Conpulsion this year, sadly – nor will I make Q-CON owing to a prior commitment. I hope to, next year; if time and finances permit. I will be at the UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet, of course! Looking forward to doing a bit more networking this year at them, plus I enjoy meeting other gamers. Not signed up to run anything this time, so I might get to actually play some games this time around.
My Edinburgh Gaming page still proves incredibly popular, so I’ve been keeping that updated! On the down side, I’d hoped to try to get the disparate gaming communities to talk to each other more, but I just haven’t had the time. I try to do it when I can though, but I step back from the politics now: it’s still very entrenched in old rifts and personal vendettas.
Over the years, I’ve been asked to review products or publicise Kickstarters and game launches. I’m of two minds about these. Often, it’s someone looking for free publicity or product evangelist for products that aren’t even ready. Also, getting time to do a playtest or demo review session can be tricky. On the other hand, it’s pretty good fun to do.
ORC’s Games day at the Kilderkin was a big success. There’s stuff we could do differently, and more effectively, and I/we’ve learnt from it. Not sure when we’ll do the next one, but next year I think! We had a lot of new visitors. The Kilderkin has also hosted the Conpulsion’s after-party and the Board Gamers took over the pub at one point. I like to think that I may have had something to do with that.
I ran a fun game of Conan (mid-Kickstarter) at Tabletop cafe , just up the road from the Kilderkin. I hope to run more demo games there soon, when time permits. Good food and drink, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere. I need to visit there more. As part of the Kickstarter, I’m going to be drawn in as a stat’ed NPC in Conan: Adventures in the Hyborian Age. I’ll also be appearing in art and as an NPC in the Infinity RPG.
The novel has been assigned as a secondary aim, along with any short fiction. I know I’m technically capable of writing them; just not temporally! It’s one of those things that I may revisit in future months, but for now, it’s on the back-burner.
I’m part of the Modiphius Silvershield scheme that allows GMs to get credit from running games – in my case, I ran a lot of games last year, so have built up some considerable credit. I also get points for referring new business. You can get 10% off Modiphius products in their store (both PDF and print) by using this link r.sloyalty.com/r/uc3wlqcchb8R
I’m taking my freelance work seriously enough to register with the Inland Revenue for Self-Assessment. Morally, and practically, it is the right thing to do. I’ve done it before, during my Nova Games era. There’s a chance I may or may not have to pay more tax; but I don’t think I’ll be lucky enough to get any tax rebate. I’m certainly not paying for an accountant to do it.
I’ve managed to ask some members of ORC Edinburgh (the gaming community I help run) to take on Moderator roles for the site, so I can start taking a step back from that side of things. It’s an easy transition to make, thankfully. I’ve lost count of the different groups now, or what games are currently running and/or looking for players. ORC is now so big, it’s become difficult to keep track of things, in that respect.
I’m not doing any war gaming or board gaming now, I’m afraid. I don’t have the time during the week, and need to maintain a “normal” life as it were. Plus, I seem to have trouble dealing with some of the more complex ones – I think it might be a side effect.
I’d hoped to get a chance to play some starter games of Cassus Belli’s Infinity game (the miniatures are absolutely amazing), and Battletech. I’d been thinking of trying to develop some of the Cthulhutech setting into the Battletech rules for some time now. I’ll get around to it at some point, I reckon.
I’m still awaiting the RAFM Cthulhu minis from their Kickstarter, and the Cthulhu FATE book, Into the Shadows. I’ve got doubts I’ll ever see these, as it seems anything Cthulhu-related on Kickstarter is doomed to “eternal lie”… but at least the 7th Edition of Call of Cthulhu shipped (which I should get from my FLGS)!
I’ve tried to do a lot over the last six months and it has caught up with me spectacularly, so I think it’s for the best that I “clear my head” of the extraneous clutter.
In other news…
I’m reducing my time on social media. It can easily consume a huge amount of free time or attention. I’m on Google+ and LinkedIn, but hardly use them. I am still on Twitter and Facebook. It’s easier if you spend 15 minutes on there, rather than getting involved in the minutiae! In moderation… I should probably update my profile on LinkedIn anyway to reflect the changes in my professional circumstances (and the About Me part of the site)!
I’m moving out of the flat (briefly) for renovation work, which could take a week or more. Had another aqueous insurgence (water ingress) in January! I can’t say it’s not a stressful place to be in (in every sense of the word), but things are moving forward. Looking ahead to getting it over with: every stage completed is one step forward. Still, it’s a bit of an “embuggerance”. I’ve got to get quotes for removal and storage and have to make it clear to the loss adjuster I’m NOT going to be staying in the flat while they rip down the plaster-and-lathe ceiling.
My day job has recently thrown up a number of challenges. I do a lot of work with virtualised machines (VMware) and field sites. The Chief Executive at my work has personally congratulated me on the work I do supporting the science. I’m becoming far more comfortable with the High Performance Cluster running Scientific Linux at my work. I’ve also manage to remove Flash Player and Quicktime from our PC estate of 1500+ computers. By the way, if you haven’t removed these, you should! Flash in Chrome is “sandboxed”, but not in other browsers like IE or Firefox. Quicktime is longer supported or patched by Apple, and is now insecure.
I need to reorganise this website: make it more simple. There’s too many pages, and this site has evolved, content-wise. It’s gone far beyond what was a simple RPG setting site. In fact, it’s been largely sidelined in recent years, as I’ve become more focussed on Edinburgh’s gaming community, conventions, and freelancing. That’s pretty easy to sort, thankfully. Not sure if I’ll keep using this site theme, though.
I’m also heading down south for the May Bank holiday, to Craster Tower, a 5* accommodation. It’s owned by my other half’s family, so I thought I’d give it a plug! Plus I’ve never really been anywhere 5* 🙂 My girlfriend used to work as an Archaeologist on Ernest Shackleton’s base camps in the Antarctic so we’re heading to London for the Shackleton Centennial service at Westminster Abbey. I’ve been reading up on him, and her experiences there might be very handy when I run Beyond the Mountains of Madness or Assault on the Mountains of Madness (Achtung! Cthulhu).
All in all, feeling I’m in a better place than six months ago!
Adventure fragments is my name for either short scenarios that never go beyond a session, ones I’ve used at Conventions, or never really got around to describing fully. The name comes the “fragments” of unfinished work left behind when HP Lovecraft passed away. It’s also a nod to the “Fragments of Fear” Call of Cthulhu campaign. I plan to occasionally write some up completely (like I have done for WFRP’s Legacy of Praag) and Heart of Chaos), so keep an eye out for these in the future.
When I’m running a game, I don’t really need much to run. Most of my sessions tend to start out as Adventure Fragments. An idea, some basic stats, and NPCs is usually all I need. Obviously I’ve still planned it to a certain extent but I do prefer to “Wing it”. See http://www.themandragora.com/winging-it/for how I often do this. There may not be enough for some GMs to do much with but that’s why I call them Adventure Fragments!
Hunters Moon (ORC Edinburgh)
Originally an Ebranch game.
The players are investigating suspected “mindsmog” (the psychic taint on Lumley’s Wamphyri), but it is actually a devolved vampire of the Francezi family. See Brian Lumley’s Necroscope: the Lost Years for the details of this Wamphyri/Mafia family. As the investigators get drawn in, it becomes obvious that there’s something other than a vampire lurking beneath the ground in the ancient sewers and catacombs of Rome. A shoggoth underground would be a terrifying thing. It was a blob of vampiric protoplasm in the Ebranch game, all mouths and feeding tendrils, but could easily be a shoggoth. I could imagine it seeping up through the street’s drains, surrounding the PCs.
The solution? Fire, and plenty of it.
Crom-Cruach (ORC Edinburgh)
Originally run as part of my Cthulhutech Through the Looking Glass setting, and published on the ORC wiki.
See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crom_Cruach. The Great Old One Crom-Cruach is believed to be related to Shudde M’ell. However, it is unclear whether it is a Cthonian of huge size, or a unique entity.
Few Mythos tomes refer to Crom-Cruach, with the exception of an obscure passage in Prinn’s De Vermiis Mysteris. It is mentioned there as “From beneath it devours”.
Worship of the Great Old One was largely restricted to a few Druidic sects in the region of Fife outside Ireland, where various sacrificial barrows were marked with a spiral symbol. Victims were left tethered to sacrificial altars for Crom-Cruach to devour through various feeding tendrils, giving it the name “The Thousand Maws”.
The Great Old One actually resides far beneath the Longannet area of Fife, where it is tended by a tiny human cult. Since the Night of the Worm, it is believed that the Great Old One is dead – however, Section 13 Telepaths have picked faint emanations from something beneath the Longannet fields…
The Night of the Worm
This was actually split into two games – the first were Investigator PCs finding Crom-Cruach . The returning ” Deep Patrol” took place as part of a mecha game.
The Night of the Worm saw the destruction of the Rosyth naval base by the Great Old One Crom-Cruach. It has been theorized by Section 13 since that David Nichols orchestrated the rise of the Great Old One in an attempt to weaken NEG military forces in the Forth valley. The subject of some debate among the intelligence community, many feel that the proximity of the Night of the Worm to the Inchcolm Insurgence was no chance occurrence.
For several weeks, attempts had been made by Nichols and Crom-Cruach’s tiny cult to wake the Old One, using sacrifices from the rural communities where disappearances would not be remarked upon. Rosyth and nearby communities also reported increasing numbers of people manifesting psychiatric disorders. Seismic tremors were also reported, and even the weather was affected.
An investigative team from Section 13s HQ at The Basement was dispatched and their investigation confirmed that the Great Old One was waking and active beneath Longannet. Narrowly escaping the feeding tendrils of Crom-Cruach, they escaped back to the base, closely pursued by the ravenous Great Old One. Once Crom-Cruach rose the place became a scene of utter horror as the Great Old One feasted, the ground erupting with tentacled maws plucking victims at random in an awful hunger. In a bid to save nearby towns and the Edinburgh Arcologies, the Command staff ordered a returning Deep Patrol of Mecha and Engels to turn their weaponry upon the ammunition bunkers. The resulting detonation is believed to have destroyed Crom-Cruach but it is rumoured that he has only been injured.
All six of the Hamshall Engels allocated to Rosyth survived, but the base suffered almost 80% losses and only a handful of Mecha were salvageable. The garrison was then ordered to evacuate to Musselburgh. To date, the Night of the Worm is the biggest single loss of life since the Arcanotech Wars.
Beneath this Placid Surface (Q-CON 2014)
Now vampiric blobs in this one, just the classic Deep Ones! I used this for a game of The Void RPG at Q-CON. The PC Wardens are sent to the terraformed ocean moon of Tethys to investigate the death of an Earth Senator’s son.
The PCs aren’t exactly made to feel welcome as Wardens (with good reason as it turns out). The Senator’s son was disliked and it becomes obvious that his injuries were not caused by a diving accident. As the Wardens investigate it becomes obvious that there’s something not quite right in the submarine habitat. The victim had been killed elsewhere, and the body dumped. Metallic deposits found on the victim suggest he was swimming in “uncharted territory”, according to the locals.
As the group investigate they notice the population is far less than the Earth records would indicate. Parts of the habitat stand empty, and stay sealed off apparently. Power consumption is also less than a facility of this needs. Cue some scary darkened tunnel crawling through the abandoned sections as the Wardens suspect something hiding there…
The real truth of the matter is that the missing members of the population aren’t actually missing at all. They’re Deep Ones and hybrids who came from Earth. They’re not using the space or power as they’re not inside the habitat at all. They’re in the uncharted territory, constructing their own city in the depths around the tomb of a Cthulhu Spawn, who is very close to waking. And the Wardens are right next door.
At this point I’d recommend the following movies to get some idea of how to run this fragment: Leviathan, the Abyss, and Deep Star Six. You can imagine what happens when the Spawn wakes up. if you can find it, you could combine it with the Grace Under Pressure adventure for Call of Cthulhu. You may need to Google for it, or check out ebay. It’d be a lot of fun with two GMs running at the same time.
Synchronicity II (ORC Edinburgh)
Many miles away something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish lake.
This adventure was inspired by the film Deep Rising and a visit to the island of Rum. For those interested, Cthulhu Brittanica: Shadows over Scotland details this island. Again chasing mindsmog, the PCs find themselves on the remote Scottish island of Tallavallish. The only village in the island is abandoned, with strange holes in the ground everywhere. The scryers are unable to locate the source of the mindsmog, but it appears to be everywhere. A ground mist has wrapped around the island too, so the PCs were pretty nervous. Wamphyri can generate mist and use it to send psychic probes. Being Call of Cthulhu players too, the group also wondered about ghouls dwelling in the tunnels. A loch in the centre of the island was supposed to be inhabited by a monster too, although the players thought it was an urban myth.
Ironically, the latter was true. In WW2, a Nazi aircraft containing a vampire lieutenant crashed in the loch. Feeding upon the local wildlife, the vampire had devolved into a huge mass (similar to the shoggoth-like blob in Hunters Moon, only bigger!). Having fed and grown fat it was literally the island itself. It could also sense movement, so cue some fun Tremors-style moments as the PCs tried to escape using various plans, when the island “woke up”. You could also use some other burrowing horror in other games – such as Purple worms or Landsharks from D&D 🙂
I later used much of this idea again when I ran the Night of the Worm adventure for Cthulhutech (see Crom-Cruach above).
I’m heading to London for Dragonmeet this weekend, where I’m hoping to run a few demos of Achtung! Cthulhu for Modiphius. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there!
I’m feeling a little disappointed from news I’ve seen about Wildfire LLC, the makers of Cthulhutech and The Void.
Sadly, from discussions I’ve seen on the Wildfire forum, it looks very likely that they are heading away from RPGs, and plan to focus on boardgames and card games. There’s only going to be a few books to wrap up the line of each in all likelihood. Cthulhutech and The Void are both among my favourite RPGs, lavishly illustrated and with a great setting. You can read my review of The Void here, and information on running Cthulhutech here. The books (at least the later ones, not the Mongoose one!) are excellent quality with amazingly evocative illustrations.
There’s always been problems with Wildfire bringing out their products, not necessarily as a result their own actions. It seems like they’ve been cursed, and suffered a catalogue of misfortune:
- They have parted company with a number of publishers over the years – Mongoose Publishing, then Catalyst Game Labs, then Sandstorm. They seemed to have the worst luck with publishers. Of course each time they changed it would delay print runs, royalty payments, legalese, and of course the take-down of PDFs on sites like DriveThruRPG while the change took place. Not their fault though.
- The Cthulhutech website is never updated, likewise their Twitter feeds. Why isn’t there a link to their PDF products on DriveThruRPG or RPGnow? It isn’t difficult to have a news feed. There’s been no activity on the website for ages.
- The Wildfire Forums moved from yuku.com, but because there was nothing to engage the community (like news or a new product) the forums are largely inactive. There used to be dozens of posts daily, now its more like once a week.
- A miniatures game, mecha book and other products were talked about then apparently shelved, even in the current Kickstarter culture. Like vaporware.
- Staffing changes at Wildfire LLC pretty much left the community hanging. Fair enough.
- Wildfire saying that they are running Wildfire as a “hobby”, not as a business. That doesn’t really impress the fans like me. They could be a little more professional, or perhaps take the lead from other companies.
- No new product pretty much killed the fanbase, not just on the forums. There was nothing for us to be excited about.
I might be wrong of course, but I’ve got the strong feeling that I’m looking at the end of both games. If so, it should be a lesson to all “hobby” companies. Neglect your fans at your peril.
RPG retrospective 2013 is the latest in what has become something of an annual tradition for me. I’ve let the GMs and players over at ORC speak for themselves on the ORC website, but its been quite a year for me.
I’ve not written so much on this blog this year, as to be quite honest I’ve not had time. What content I have put up has hopefully been of some use to anyone using the site. I hope to try and blog more over the next year, but will try to include more quality content, both specific gaming content, and otherwise.
Games I’ve been running this year included Pathfinder, AD&D and WFRP, and Wildfire’s new RPG, The Void (part of the Cthulhu Saga, a review of the game can be found here). The Pathfinder game I ran was part of the Ronin GM idea I had. I used the Sands of Time setting I made up (some of the places are detailed on the ORC wiki here), an Egypt-meets-Cthulhu, style setting. I only ran it for five or six sessions and although it proved a lot of fun to run, I didn’t really achieve aims I had for my role as “Ronin GM”, although a few people that had never played RPGs or Pathfinder got the experience! I’ve described the Void RPG elsewhere, but it has potential.
AD&D has been something of a cathartic experience. It’s nice to have a simple dungeon bash that doesn’t challenge GM and players yet remains considerable. I’ve run it using AD&D before and its surprising how easy it came back to me, and even new players find it fairly intuitive over 3.5/4e. It also had the first PC fatality I’ve had in a game for quite a while. The group has finally got a full complement after a few folk dropped out during the year, and the new mage seems to even the score a bit. Expect a more detailed description on how I’m running the mega-scenario “The Temple of Elemental Evil” in a future post, or posts.
WFRP has gone from being bleakly grimdark (and po-faced) to something that hopefully has been fun to play and run – after my mistakes running Shadows over Bogenhafen (detailed here), Death on the Reik has been a joy to run. A number of fantastic experiences have been had by the players and the Queen of the Reik (under Captain Priscilla) now feels like home to the party. Heart of Chaos and Legacy of Praag were two of the encounters I came up with to spice up the adventure. I’ve chosen to skip “Something Rotten in Kislev” after Power Behind the Throne, choosing to run Drachenfels instead. SRiK isn’t a good module, and I got bored just reading it.
EDIT: I also ran Fires of Perdition, and, although it ran for a short time, was immense fun to both run and play. This was a mash-up of the Only War rules with the PCs as members of the Adeptus Arbites. Set in the Hive city of Perdition, on the world of Crucible, it was pretty much a knock-off Judge Dredd setting (more info on the setting here). If I ran it again, I’d definitely try to be little less epic – the players said they enjoyed playing a “street level” judge without the whole Chaos-warp-doom that pervades so much wh40k.
Other achievements? My freelance work on demons (and the artist’s interpretation) finally appeared in the supplement: Fragment 1: The Way of Tree Sword, & Flame, working alongside designers such as: George Strayton, Logan Bonner, Tony Reyes, Thomas Reid, Bill Smith, Ptolemy Slocum, Ron Corn, Ed Greenwood, Mike Curtis, John Adamus, Steve Winter, and Jim Ward. I recently appeared on Hazard Gaming’s Penny Red podcast, as part of their “Inside the Roleplayers Studio” series. I was recently interviewed by playbymail.net about my part in the Nova Games PBM partnership, for Issue 2 of the new PBM magazine “Suspense And Decision” (yet to be published).
I’ve backed a lot of RPG Kickstarters over the year (and other games). I’m especially looking forward to getting Deadzone setup and running (although I’ve a few gripes about the mini construction). Also the “Horror on the Orient Express” boxed set for Call of Cthulhu and “Rise of the Drow” Pathfinder campaign are due for release next year.
RPG plans for 2014
As well as running WFRP and AD&D, I’d like to get cracking on my novel idea. I’m not having troubles with ideas of the plot, it’s the actual linking them together and getting the words out of my head 🙂 .I’ve also decided to run a game session on Sunday evening called Survival Sunday; where we play Shadows of Esteren, The Void (the Stygian Cycle in all likelihood), CthulhuTech, and of course, Call of Cthulhu. Once “Horror on the Orient Express” arrives I’ll be running that.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!
The Void RPG is the latest offering from Wildfire, the makers of Cthulhutech. It’s a hard sci-fi setting, billed as part of the “Cthulhu Saga”. What follows is a review of sorts, although I should warn the reader that I do love Cthulhutech, so it may be slightly biased in favour of The Void RPG. Previously billed as “Cthonian Stars“, the book has been released as “Pay what you want” to want on DriveThruRPG. There’s quite a lot to The Void RPG, but the Core PDF gives the impression that its not quite finished yet. All the rules are there, but there’s often the sensation of something missing.
The basic core test of The Void RPG is a familiar one; work out Attribute + Skill; roll that number of six-sided dice (a dice pool). A 5 or a 6 is necessary for a Success, and you need a number of successes to achieve one of four difficulties: Easy is 1 success, Hard requires 4. Epic fails occur in tests when you roll all ones. In all likelihood things will go very badly wrong – like botches of fumbles in other games.The GM can assign modifiers to the dice pool. In play, this worked very easily – it’s intuitive, easy to pick up, and works for everything, combat included. A welcome improvement onCthulhutech‘s poker system.
There are a vast number of skills, as there were with Cthulhutech, but this the dice pool system also allows for related skills. For example, if you don’t have the Guns: Handgun skill, but have Guns: Rifle skill of 4, you have a related skill (with one die less). This means you have one die less in the pool, but it gives a much better chance of success, and makes PCs a bit more well-rounded. The sheer number of skills is a little off-putting, but each Warden type has some skills recommended to them.
Character creation takes around 30 minutes. Starting PCs in The Void RPG have the option of being one of the three Warden types: An Enforcer (soldier), Investigator (detective), and Researcher (tech/library). Each of these give you a number of skills that you can add points to, and give each PC their own distinct skill set. Interestingly too, the planet you come from also gives some extra skills, e.g. being able to move in low G, or being able to use EVA. You can also create your own PC from scratch.
All Player Characters (PCs) in The Void RPG have a number of additional components as such:
- Fate Points, as they are called, allow characters to cheat death in the same way as they do in WFRP. For example If a PC is about to fall off a giant cliff on Mars, perhaps he falls fifteen feet and grabs a handhold or falls to a ledge below. The PC is still alive, but now only faces the difficult task of climbing back up.
- Quirks are something I’m ambivalent about. Each PC has two of these, such as Juggling or Recite Movie Quotes. While this may give a bit of depth to a PC, some groups or players may think that they are too jokey and not in keeping with a Survival Horror game.
- Talents are special abilities, just like in Cthulhutech. They’re special abilities like “Wicked Smart” or “Double Tap”, much like feats in d20 games.
- Qualities are various advantages and disadvantages, like Eidetic Memory or Persistent Injury. In the case of Disadvantages, extra points are available during character creation depending upon the scale of disadvantage. If Cthulhutech was anything to go by, Players often forget any Disadvantages during the game 🙂
The are also some extra rules for the group as well.
- Nixes allow a group a veto on a specific roll. They can cancel a die roll one of the the group has rolled, but not the GM’s roll.
- Tension Points are very similar to the Drama Points as used in Cthulhutech. They are assigned to the GM and to the group, not an individual. They can be spent by both GM and players. Players can use theirs to re-roll a single roll. A GM can use these to deny players finding a needed item or resource, force a player to re-roll, or give an NPC a Fate Point (see below). This probably works, but I didn’t use it in the game.
Combat in the Void RPG involves a contest; the successes compared to see if they hit or not. As things work, with individual initiatives (Awareness + Reaction), combat is relatively straightforward, even with firearms, and new player will pick it up quickly. Each weapon does a certain amount of damage in D6s, Armour reduces damage, then this is applied to your Health score. And it is here that I find a minor niggle that irritated me in Cthulhutech and has persisted in The Void RPG. Everything has a number of Wound Levels, five in total: Healthy, Bruised, Battered, Hurt, and Incapacitated. However you have to do some mental calculation when applying damage as a result e.g. most Humans have around Health 10. At up to 10 points they are Bruised, at 10 they are Battered, 20 they are Hurt, 30 Unconscious, and 40 Dead! One rule I really like is Armour becomes half as effective once the Hurt level is reached. It still protects you but is nowhere near as effective.
I ordered the book as a print On Demand (POD) from DriveThruRPG (who use Lightningsource). Unlike Cthulhutech, which was a hardback in a larger size, The Void RPG is a smaller paperback. It’s pretty robust and well presented, and the paper is good quality. If there are more pages being added to it I’d prefer a larger format hardback though, as the corners of the paperback are already a little worn – that’s not Wildfire’s fault though.
The internal content is well laid out in two columns with useful side bars that give you an “At a glance” summary. Like Cthulhutech the artwork is gorgeous, and is very high quality colour throughout. Both index and table of contents make things easy to find. However not all of the pages are numbered and it’s not always easy to find the information in one place. I still can’t find the section on Personality Traits anywhere. The obligatory character sheet is at the back and available for download – everything fits on one side. I’ll likely make my own fillable version of the PDF. While I don’t mind the fiction fluff in the book itself, there’s a lot of it, and sometimes seems like filler text.
The Void RPG setting
There’s a lot to the setting, and it’s here there are gaps. There’s hardly any monsters, aside from the ones in the initial adventure (although they are available separately as a PDF download). What language does everyone speak since there are only three real power blocs left on Earth? How are the Wardens organised? I would have liked to see a map of the solar system together with the moons of each planet clearly listed. A floorplan of a space station or colony would have been good for the adventure (see below). The setting feels unfinished as it were. I understand that Wildfire will add to the setting as their fans want, so that’s no bad thing.
Despite these gaps its a very rich setting, especially in regards to its Survival Horror aspect – the nearest help is days or even months away in many cases, and the setting is very evocative of films such as Event Horizon, Outland, Alien, and Pandorum. Everything is held together by spit and baling wire and everybody is slightly on edge. Good GMs will quickly find it easy to creep out players, even without the monsters.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the impression I get is that Wildfire would prefer to place more information in the book at a later date. There’s enough detail to get the game going but its not too heavy. Cthulhutech suffers that in spades, and it puts a lot of people off playing or running it.
The Introductory Adventure
I ran the introductory adventure with a group of new players. As well as the Void RPG rulebook, I downloaded the Void RPG Quick start rules, which are free and includes the adventure “To serve and survive”. Its very much a learning curve adventure for four players. I made it into six players as I wanted to create two new PCs for the purposes of this review.
If your players haven’t got the rulebook, it may be worth spending some time explaining some of their Qualities and Talents if they’re using the pre-generated characters. Players picked up the contest system easily and its pretty intuitive at that point. The biggest failing I made was not knowing where Chiron actually is (it isn’t stated) – it is a body orbiting Saturn. The adventure works well for introducing the players to the setting but there’s a few holes in the plot, and some GMs may lack the experience to deal with some of the complications resulting from the actions of the PCs. Many parts of the adventure will remind PCs of the movies, probably intentionally.
A map of the Mariner Valley Colony would have been great, along with floor-plans of both Chiron Station and Pandora’s Hope. All of these were missed, plus its never clearly stated how many infected are on board.
However, given the creatures the group face in the adventure it is quite possible that the PCs may end up dead, even with Fate Point use. The Pandora’s Hope incident isn’t clearly explained as to how the crew of the Pandora’s Hope became infected from a drug destined for use by the miners of Chiron. The infected crewman are also very tough – 0ne infected crewman lasted several rounds of flame-throwers and shotgun blasts. That’s before the Karrak’in are found. So there’s a good chance your PCs will be running low on ammo and fuel, after a couple of run-ins with infected crewmen.
As a GM, you’ll need to tailor the adventure to your players – conceptually, it works in introducing the players to The Void RPG universe, the tests, horror, etc. but there are flaws. I would run it again but with the following changes:
- More things happening in Mariner Valley, to give it a bit more colour (think Total Recall), possibly expanding Chloe or the Martian Outback.
- Make sure the crew complements for each adventure site are noted down.
- A bit more background on the Pandora’s Hope crew could be useful.
- Figure out who owns the Pandora’s Hope, the Company (like Alien)?
- Encourage the players to gear up their PCs before they go – ammo will be hard to come by.
- You only need a handful of infected crewmen – the PCs will get swarmed under otherwise.
- The radiation leak is getting stronger (nothing like a countdown to get your players moving!)
Overall, the The Void RPG system is really intuitive and easy to use, compared to others. The Tension Points and other rules may cause some issues for GMs, but such things are optional anyway. The design quality is clear and consistent, the content is of good quality and its a nice little game. It could do with less fiction and maybe more background info – as I’ve said elsewhere – and its a shame there are no maps of floorplans included. However, these are minor criticisms at best. The “Pay what you want to pay” for a book of this quality is pretty good value. If there’s more of The Void RPG still to come from Wildfire, I’ll be very happy.
Review © Bill Heron 2013