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

Friday, 25 February 2011

Box of Frights & Delights

In one sense, Doctor Who is all about the monsters and the aliens. After all, not is only the Doctor an alien himself, but if he and his companions never got to meet any, the television series would be a whole lot less exciting and inventive. So if there was a Role Playing Game based on the series, then it too would have to feature lots of aliens and monsters. Thus it is no surprise that the very first supplement to be released for the award winning Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game from Cubicle Seven Entertainment is devoted to entirely that aspect of the series and the game. For if there was an issue with the core game, it was that its boxed set did not come with enough monsters or aliens, but fortunately, the release of Aliens and Creatures for that game goes a long way fixing that issue, and it does a bit more along the way.

Aliens and Creatures is, like the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game, another boxed set, and again, it is very full. Inside its weighty tuck box can be found the one-hundred-and-thirty-four page long Aliens and Creatures book, the thirty-two Aliens and Creatures: Adventure Book, over eighty Creature Reference Cards, seven new Gadget Cards to accompany the entries in the book, five blank Gadget Cards, a map to go with one of the scenarios in the Adventure Book, and a sheet of Story Point counters. Just as with the core set, everything is in full colour, tidily laid out, and illustrated with the right photographs from the series. It needs another slight edit, but is otherwise well presented.

The very first thing that you need to know about Aliens and Creatures is that unlike Doctor Who himself, it is grounded in a certain time and a certain space. By that I mean that its source material is drawn from aliens, creatures, and monsters encountered by the Doctor during his tenth and eleventh incarnations, that is, when he was played by Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant. Thus no unique monsters encountered by the first to ninth Doctors, nor the twelfth are described. Neither are any monsters that the Twelfth Doctor encountered that previous incarnations had run across updated to take account of the new information. For example, the entry on the Daleks does not take into account the events of the “Victory of the Daleks,” or the entry on the Weeping Angels of the episodes “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.” This should not be seen as a problem or a deficit upon the part of the supplement. Cubicle Seven Entertainment have always been up front about the remit of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game and the scope of each supplement. Plus, a GM is always free to add the updated details from the continuing series or have his player characters encounter the contents of Aliens and Creatures at any point in time and space across the galaxy. Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game is a game about travelling in time and space after all.

The bulk of the Aliens and Creatures book is devoted to the aliens, creatures, and monsters that we have seen on screen. They start at Adipose and end with The Wire, with every entry receiving at least a page devoted to it, and major races like the Daleks and the Cyberman having eleven and ten pages devoted to them respectively. In both cases the entry covers the long histories of each race and the menace that they have presented to the universe at large. These longer entries include multiple sets of stats to cover the many and varied versions and experiments created by both races. Thus besides the standard Dalek as described in the core set, stats are included for the Dalek Mutant, Davros, the Dalek Emperor, Imperial Guard Daleks, Assault Daleks, Supreme Daleks, Cult of Skaro Daleks, Human/Dalek Hybrids, Pig Slaves, and Human Daleks. Which covers quite a range of the series’ history, and Aliens and Creatures does exactly the same for the Cybermen with a discussion of their Mondas/Telos origins in our universe.

Major and minor figures from the series are also described, from Cassandra and the Face of Boe to Professor Lazarus and Thomas Kincade Brannigan. In truth, some of these, and indeed, some of the monsters might be a little hard to work into an adventure, such as Professor Lazarus and the Toclofane, but the book is the all better their inclusion. Anyone reading through the Aliens and Creatures will find some their favourites described in its pages, mine being the Judoon, the Vashta Nerada, and the Weeping Angels.

For the most part, these descriptions are drawn from what we have seen on screen. In places, the authors do develop the creatures a little, but to honest it is unreasonable to expect the authors to deviate too much from the series, given that the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game is aimed primarily at an audience that came to the television series via its revival rather than its history.

The Aliens and Creatures book ends with two relatively short sections. The first of these is initially devoted to analysing and creating aliens, creatures, and monsters, and then how to create them in game terms, whether for use as NPCs or as player characters. There is some repetition from the core rules for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game in that this section lists all of the game’s Alien Traits such as Alien Appearance and Immaterial. While this repetition might be irksome to others, it is actually useful to have these Traits listed in the same place as the rules and guidelines for alien, creature, and monster creation.

What will attract the attention of some players is the inclusion of several Race Packages already to be selected by the players. The given packages are for the Catkind, Forest of Cheem, Hath, Human Daleks, Judoon, Malmooth, Ood, Plasmavores, Sontarans, Tritovores, and Werewolves. Some of these of these might not make a GM’s game – for example, I am not sure that I would want a Sontaran as a player character in a game that I was running or playing, not without it being in the hands of an excellent roleplayer, but that is a GM’s decision. Naturally, the Dalek is not included as a Race Package. That, after all, would be bloody silly.

The last section provides a means for the GM to create his own worlds and species using a series of tables. The process for both requires a number of dice rolls and takes about ten minutes in each case to provide the bare bones of either a planetary system or a sentient species. Adding further detail will probably take the GM a little longer. The results can be a little bit crazy such as a binary system orbiting a Magnetar, the two inhabitable worlds being Earth-like, one a cold swamp world, the other being a large, low gravity archipeligopolis, or a peaceful, interplanetary insectoid species three legs, two arms, four tails, and wings. The point is that the GM should really only use these tables as guidelines and for inspiration.

Rounding out the last section and the Aliens and Creatures books are three sample worlds and their species. These are described in detail and are only not accompanied by Race Packages for each of the species, but also by quite detailed Adventure Ideas. This is in addition to the adventures and adventure ideas given in the Adventure Book, which at just thirty-two pages is more of a booklet than a book. The first full adventure, “The Next World” has the classic structure of a Doctor Who story and pits the characters against a classic foe. It is an enjoyable, if straight forward affair though it does not always go out of its way to offer the possible solutions to the players. It is followed by the second adventure, “The Rosetta Plague,” which feels very much more like a modern adventure with intriguing situation and idea at its heart. If I have an issue with either scenario it is to wonder why the “The Rosetta Plague” required a map and “The Next World” not. Both adventures are ready to run as is, and should provide two or three sessions of good play. They are followed by nine adventure ideas, one of which is somewhat banal, another feels like a bug hunt, while another feels like a crossover with the television series, FireFly. Others though are much more entertaining and even wacky, including an encounter with the Vashta Nerada, a Sontaran invasion of the Earth during the Great War, and a Dalek invasion of Camelot!

Lastly, the Aliens and Creatures boxed set is filled with reference cards for each of the entries in the Aliens and Creatures book. These are double-sided with an image on the front and the stats on the back. Several blank sheets are included for the GM’s use.

The problem is that the Aliens and Creatures boxed set is never going to please everyone. It is never going to have every monster that everyone wants and probably has a few that people do not want. Nevertheless, this is a solid selection, many of which will find their way into a GM’s game. The extras are very useful, whether it is the new Race Packages – “Can I play a Judoon in my next game please?”, the new rules and guidelines for sentient race creation, and planet creation, while the adventures will also find their way into a GM’s campaign.

If you happen to be a fan of the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game, then you are going to want to have more monsters, creatures, and aliens for your game. The Aliens and Creatures boxed set will provide plenty of those and more. It is a good looking and useful supplement for the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – The Roleplaying Game.

This Skull Needs Flesh

If you are of a certain age, you will recall an image from the rulebook for the version of Basic Dungeons & Dragons designed by writer, Doctor John Eric Holmes. The image showed a cross section of a dungeon consisting of seven levels with two standout features. One was that the last level of the dungeon consisted of a cave system containing a lake surrounding an island that was home to a domed city. The other, more evocative feature was the entrance to the dungeon was through “Skull Mountain.” What exactly lay behind that Skull Mountain we will never know, but now Faster Monkey Games has picked up the gauntlet to present a dungeon adventure based on that map. The result is an adventure designed for a party of four to six characters of fourth through sixth levels for use with the Retroclone, Labyrinth Lord and its supplement, the Advanced Edition Companion.

Skull Mountain comes with a setting outside of the dungeon, plots going on inside and outside of the dungeon, six levels of dungeon, plus a complex within the dungeon itself. The setting outside of the dungeon is the town of Wolford, which stands within sight of the gently smoking volcano that is Skull Mountain. The town has always been prone to banditry and robbery, but of late there have attacks and worse committed against its populace. Further, Aidan, the teenaged son of the ruling noble, has been kidnapped, and the town’s seneschal, Master Grüber, needs to ensure his safe return before his father discovers his disappearance. This sets up the reason for the presence of the player characters to be in Wolford, to rescue young Aidan, and is the adventure’s initial plot.

Yet for a plot that is meant to drive the party into investigating Skull Mountain, its set up and support are both woefully underdeveloped. Their patron, Master Grüber, has been left a blank canvas and his terms for the party’s employment have also been left blank. Two pages lay out the scenario’s extensive background, but no means of presenting or just hinting at that background is given, when all that was really needed was a traditional rumour table. This omission is at odds with the treatment of the other plots in Skull Mountain which actually encourage the player characters to return to the dungeon and explore its depths after they have rescued Aidan. What this means is that a DM will need to do a bit more work than he really should to fully flesh out the beginning of the scenario.

The dungeon itself below Skull Mountain feels quite small given the feeling of space conveyed in Holmes’ original cutaway. Most of the individual levels consist of between six and eight locations, the lowest level having three times that number in total. Getting down to the level where Aidan has been imprisoned should take no more than a couple of sessions, but there is much more to the dungeon than just that. It is expected that the party will leave once it has located Aidan, hence the need for a plot nudge that will persuade them to re-enter and explore the lower levels. The route to the adventure’s final areas is unfortunately very linear, but it does start with the dungeon’s most memorable feature, a stairway that spirals down round the outside of giant stalactite. Unfortunately, the author does not make as much of it as he could have done. Later on, the characters have to walk over a lake of lava under arrow fire while being snapped at by a salamander, yet the only problem they might face on the way down is catapult, which is easy to avoid. All the characters have to do is run around the other side of the stalactite. The location itself is exciting, but it just needs something a little extra to make it really memorable.

The finale of the adventure is plotted such that it plays out as a fitting climax to the exploration of the dungeon and revelation of its mysteries, essentially delving back into the adventure’s background that goes back over a thousand years. The player characters will find themselves facing a tough foe, but will be well rewarded for that effort. As with the set-up of the adventure, Skull Mountain also fails to deal with its aftermath. There is no discussion of what happens when Aidan is returned, how the player characters are rewarded for dealing with the threat that lies at the heart of Skull Mountain, and how the villains of the piece react to the adventurers’ efforts.

Physically, Skull Mountain is a well written, well presented thirty-six page 9.13Mb PDF. Its maps are nice and clear, but its artwork budget has been saved for a set of five illustrations that can be shown to the players. These have a pleasing Old School feel to them.

Ultimately, Skull Mountain is an excellent dungeon, but not necessarily a good adventure. The dungeon is well thought out and tied into the adventure’s detailed history with some memorable locations. There are probably three or four good sessions of play to be got out of exploring the dungeon alone. Unfortunately, neither Skull Mountain as a location or its plots are as well supported or as well developed as they should have been. For the want of six or eight pages extra support and development, and Skull Mountain would have been as good an adventure as it is a dungeon. With some effort upon the part of the DM, it still can be.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Without the West?

The publication of Basic RolePlaying in 2007 by Chaosium, Inc. brought together a number of different rules variants using the Basic RolePlaying System that had long out of print. Together, they provided a set of tools for the GM to do what many had been doing for years – create their own settings using the percentile mechanics. In its trail came a number of setting sourcebooks, many of them only available direct from Chaosium as monographs. Some though, have made it onto the shelves at your local gaming store, of which the latest is Devil’s Gulch: A Basic RolePlaying Historical and Supernatural Wild Western Supplement.

This slim eighty-six page supplement describes a Wild West location typical of the period between 1870 and 1885. More specifically, it describes the main buildings and their inhabitants along the single dirt road that runs through the town. Beyond this it describes the railroad and train station that lie on one border, whilst on its outskirts can be found a mine, a ranch, and a box canyon. The inhabitants include the law, gunfighters, a preacher, the undertaker, various outlaws, the saloon owner, and its resident “soiled dove.” Each location is fully detailed and given a full map and every inhabitant is given a full write-up.

The setting is supported with a set of rules that enable Devil’s Gulch to be run with Basic RolePlaying System. These cover the type of archetypes to be used with the Old West, plus new skills that let a player do all of the type of things he has seen on screen. Primarily this the Gun Spinnin’ and Quick Draw skills, but a variety of manoeuvres are also detailed, from using Two Guns and Fannin’ Your Gun to the Road Agent Spin and the Rifle Spin. Other rules cover the effects of gun smoke, horse and wagon chases, and showdowns. The various weapon types are also discussed. That said, anyone familiar with the Basic RolePlay system via another version of the rules, such as Call of Cthulhu, could run the scenarios included in the supplement.

In addition, Devil’s Gulch is flexible enough that it can be dropped into other genres. The suggestions given include placing it in a steampunk setting on Mars, but it could easily be placed on a frontier planet and be visited by the crew of the Serenity.

At face value, Devil’s Gulch is a very atypical setting. Yet the book gives the option for the GM to move the town from the Old West to the Weird West. This allows him to add elements such as mad science and magic to the setting and thus the players to take roles such as hex masters, mad scientists, medicine men, preachers, and snake oil hustlers. Each has their set of powers, whether it is the preacher’s holy book, the mad scientist’s clockwork and steam driven devices, or the snake oil hustler’s elixirs. In addition, both scenarios have similar options that allow them to be run in the Old West or the Weird West.

The two scenarios are “Wealth & Privilege” and “The Medicine Show.” The first deals with a spoiled brat on the run, while the second exposes a dark period of Devil’s Gulch history. Both scenarios are lengthy and should provide two or three sessions’ worth of gaming. There is also a separate pull out that provides a handout for the second scenario. On the other side of the pull out is shown the map of the town as well as an accompanying illustration. The map is a little difficult to reconcile with the illustration, and it is a pity that the map is done in simple silhouette.

Physically, Devil’s Gulch is clearly written by Troy Wilhelmson. Stef Worthington’s maps are nicely done, if perhaps a little too dark. Where the look of the supplement really shines is in its artwork, Thomas Boatwright’s slightly scratchy style echoing that of the Franco-Belgian comic series, Lucky Luke.

Now whilst Devil’s Gulch contains everything needed to run its scenarios, it is perhaps a bit too concise in other areas. One might suggest that in covering just Devil’s Gulch’s one street is not giving the GM enough information, but that does leave enough room for the GM to develop its side streets. If the GM wants to do that, then I can absolutely recommend The Knuckleduster Cow Town Creator. Yet there are aspects in which the supplement is lacking – primarily historical ones as they relate to the characters. There is no information on the why of character creation, leaving the players and GM to look for the verisimilitude. If I had a recommendation as an easy source for that type of information, it would be the article “Call of Cthulhu in the Wild West: The Good, the Bad, and the Utterly Insane” from Worlds of Cthulhu #2. It is entirely compatible with the Basic RolePlay System mechanics of Devil’s Gulch and has the degree of detail missing in this supplement. Similarly, it needs more rules if the GM wants to handle such Western staples as cattle driving, handing out frontier justice, panning for gold, and so on – and that before you consider the setting’s alternate Weird West possibilities.

Devil’s Gulch: A Basic RolePlaying Historical and Supernatural Wild Western Supplement is not an unlikeable supplement, but it is not a full supplement or a full RPG in the sense that you could run a full Old West campaign with it. For that it needs not just more input from the GM, but more information from other sources. Until then, a GM and his players will get several sessions of entertaining play from the contents of Devil’s Gulch: A Basic RolePlaying Historical and Supernatural Wild Western Supplement.

Your Zobeck Handbook

If you follow the gaming hobby – and to be fair, that is not necessarily an easy prospect with the dearth of good news sites – you will have scarcely failed to notice that one of the projects currently under way at Open Design is the development of Wolfgang Baur’s own campaign of Midgard into a full blown campaign setting. Since the launch of Kobold Quarterly in 2007, Baur has been drip feeding us small details about the world, or more specifically, about its signature setting, the Free City of Zobeck. From these we have learnt that Zobeck is a mercantile city ruled by a council rather than the nobility, that it is famed for its manufacture of clockwork and steam driven mechanisms, that it is known for the high number of Kobolds who number amongst its population, and other interesting facts. Unfortunately, beyond that, finding out more about Zobeck takes a little effort, as the only book available is the Zobeck Gazetteer and that like many of Open Design books being only being available from the publisher’s website.

Published in 2008, the Zobeck Gazetteer: An Introduction to the Free City is a slim volume that provides just about information to get you started, but still leaves you both wanting more and with questions unanswered. It is written for use with the d20 System, so is compatible with Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition and to some extent, the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but apart from details on the Gearforged, clockwork devices, and clockwork magic for both arcane and divine spellcasters, the book is low on technical details. For example, not one of the single NPCs mentioned is given a full write up with attributes and statistics. Rather they are given simple thumbnail descriptions along with an indication of their class and level.

The Zobeck Gazetteer confirms much of what has been hinted at in issues of Kobold Quarterly – and indeed, actually references issues of the magazine for more information – that the city was ruled by House Stross until eighty years ago when the populace rose up against its harsh rule and demonic practices. Since then, under the patronage of Rava the Gear Goddess, the city has grown and prospered, establishing itself as a Free City and a trade nexus founded on its skill with cogs and gears, the silver from the mines worked by the Kobolds below the city, and the smuggling that passes under the city via the Cartways. The book also suggests that some of those infernal practices goes on still in the city, but obviously in secret. It does not elaborate on this though.

What the book describes the Free City’s rulers and most notable figures, its most notable inns and taverns, the presence of the Kobolds and their Ghetto – with a focus on the traps they lay for the unwary, its main districts, guilds, and gods, the latter known for penchant for dabbling in Zobeck’s affairs. Every section is accompanied by two or three adventure hooks for the GM to develop. A little information is given about the locations that lie outside of the city, but still within its borders. This limited geographical detail does mean that the city could be placed in a DM’s own campaign. A map of Zobeck is included the book, but it is in black and white – a colour version is available, and it does not show the full extent of the city’s borders beyond its walls. It is full of little details, such as how the Kobolds waylay their quarry, the Great Stross Clock which is said to hide an oracle and a temple to Rava the Gear Goddess, and how the Vigilant Brotherhood of Scribes serves the city not just as its memory and history, but also as its secret police.

Along with the description of the actual city, Baur also includes his designer notes for the setting. From these, the main thing that we learn is that his aim in creating Zobeck is to present a setting that does not draw from Western Europe for its fantasy influences. Even apart from the fact that the Zobeck Gazetteer describes a partly industrialised city rather than a rural idyll, this is not a Tolkienesque setting and its fantasy is low rather than high. Instead, he primarily draws from his own family’s origins in Eastern Europe, bringing to the fore elements already present in Dungeons & Dragons like Golems and Kobolds whilst also adding the Ghetto, mentioning the Kariv – who might be the setting’s equivalent of the Gypsies, but they are never explicitly described, and so on. The Golems show up in the presence of the Gearforged and the other mechanisms in the city, whilst the Ghetto in Zobeck is not home to a religious minority, but to the Kobolds, who have turned its tiny narrow streets into a warren of traps and tricks to foil any non-Kobold daft enough to enter the Ghetto. Even then, the Ghetto’s border guards take great delight in searching any non-Kobold going in and coming out for contraband and then taxing them.

That said, the Zobeck Gazetteer’s influences are limited, Baur never quite managing to bring in those from further afield that he clearly wants. It is true that they are hinted at, such as the dark and oppressive forests beyond the city’s borders and neighbouring nations ruled by undead masters, but the book’s influences are mostly confined to emphasising things already present in Dungeons & Dragons and thus to a limited area suggested by the presence of both Golems and Kobolds. The former suggests Prague, while the Kobold suggests Germany. So what the setting is more of a “mitteleuropan” feel, more the feel of central Europe. For anyone who has played in the Old World of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, this will certainly be familiar.

The book’s technical details include the first write up of the Gearforged, an alternate player character race to the Warforged that is now a staple of Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition. Clockwork driven, each Gearforged possesses a soul which passed into it via a ritual from the elderly, the dying, the dedicated, and the convicted crook, which means that a player character can live on if he purchases the materials and undergoes the correct ritual to become a Gearforged. Revered in Zobeck for their aid in defending the city, but there is nothing to stop a DM adding the Gearforged to his own game. They are described in more detail in the recently published Kobold Quarterly #16. Clockwork devices are also covered along with the Clockwork school of magic as well as numerous new spells, which together would make useful additional source material to go with “The Clockwork Adept: A Prestige Class of Mechanical Precision” article in Kobold Quarterly #16.

Lastly, several clockwork creatures are described. These include the Clockwork Watchman, the Steam Golem, and the pleasing little Weaving Spider, complex devices used by the Honourable Guild of Weavers to create amazingly fine pieces of cloth and tapestries. The Weaving Spider also has other uses, but the Honourable Guild of Weavers will admit nothing about this. If the player characters have to face one of these mechanisms, then they will soon discover that the Weaving Spider can shred cloth as well as it can weave it.

While the Zobeck Gazetteer: An Introduction to the Free City is certainly full of information, it only just about serves as an introduction to the setting. The issue is that not that it is not well written, but rather that each individual section is well written. It feels very much like a compilation of articles rather than a cohesive whole, even if they are all dedicated to the one setting. It also feels incomplete because not only does it refer to articles in Kobold Quarterly, sometimes for the smallest of details – for example, it mentions that a Kobold mining gang as being armed with kobold picks and refers to Kobold Quarterly #5 if the DM wants their statistics, it also refers to other aspects of the setting without explaining them. For example, who are the Cloven Nine?

Another issue is that of the map and the constant need to refer back to it when reading through the descriptions of the various districts. The map could have better used with relevant sections of the map being placed on the appropriate pages where the districts are described. This is a minor issue, but as a design feature it would have been useful. Similarly, it would have been nice to have had some discussion of how to apply the Dungeons & Dragons rules to the setting, for example of what character classes and races are available at the very least, if not the Domains for the various gods worshipped in Zobeck.

One of the reasons that I am looking forward to seeing the Midgard Campaign Setting is that it will address the issues that I have with the Zobeck Gazetteer: An Introduction to the Free City. That it will be a more rounded, cohesive book with more depth than is available in this primer. This does not mean that the Zobeck Gazetteer is worth dismissing out of hand, as it provides more information than is available elsewhere. Indeed I would recommend it for that very reason and for the fact that presents an introduction to an interesting setting that feels very different to the other cities described for Dungeons & Dragons. The Zobeck Gazetteer: An Introduction to the Free City evokes the heavy and close feel of an industrious European full of aged, but solid stone and timber buildings with secrets to hide. While still not quite perfect, The Zobeck Gazetteer: An Introduction to the Free City is the best starting pointing for anyone wanting information on the setting. Once there, you will be intrigued enough to both stay and want more information.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A Guide to the Thoneport Guide

This is not a review that I wanted to write about a product that I was looking forward to reading and reviewing. I have been a fan of SkyRealms of Jorune for almost a quarter of a century and although I have not played the game nearly as much as I would have liked, I rate the game as being amongst my favourites. It is in my top ten, if not my top five games of all time. I even have a twenty-five year old tee-shirt to go with the game, and besides playing it, I have been involved in at least two fanzines devoted to the game. So I was more than pleased to hear that there was going to be all new material available, the first in nearly fifteen years. Unfortunately, that new supplement, The Gomo Guide to Thoneport, is not as nearly as good as I would have liked it to be.

Available from Oak & Lotus Publications as either a 69.64 Mb PDF or a seventy page book via lulu.com, The Gomo Guide to Thoneport is the first in a series of fan driven releases that aims to provide support for the classic Science Fantasy game of the 1980s that is somewhat difficult to categorise. It presents information and background on one of the more contentious locations on Jorune, that of Thantier, the devoutly Human nation where the genetically mutated strains of Muadra, Boccord, Trach, Salu, and Acubon, along with all of the Iscin races – Blount, Crugar, Cygra, Woffen, Bronth, and Tologra are unwelcome and worse. All such races are known as “Thone.” The Human mutations are at least tolerated, and will need to be accompanied by a genetically pure Human who can vouch for them if they wish to travel across Thantier. The Iscin races are reviled though, and again unless accompanied by a Human who can vouch for them, are in danger of being beaten up and even killed. Some alien races – Shantha, Thriddle, Thivin, and even Ramian – are accepted under the patronage of Thantier’s seven ruling Great Houses, while other Ramian, and all Cleash and Scarmis are subject to summary execution. Fortunately, the Great Houses saw the need for their nation to trade and interact with the outside world, and so established Thoneport, a port city with a “foreign” Thone Quarter where the Thone can reside where their interactions with the Thantieri citizenry can be kept under control. The Gomo Guide to Thoneport provides a description of both port and foreign quarter.

So having got this far and unless you are in the know, a Joruni, if you will, then I have just boggled you with a whole load of weird words, and that is a problem. The Gomo Guide to Thoneport is not a supplement for the uninitiated, and while it comes with a handy glossary, it is only relevant to Thantier. Still, you do need to the basics about the setting of Jorune to get the most out of it. The other problem is that in Thantier, you have a setting that is racist, and not everyone is going to be comfortable with that. Obviously, racism is wrong, but The Gomo Guide to Thoneport does ask the Sholari or GM to portray racism and enact it against one or more of the player characters. Worse still, the racism espoused by the Thantieri is firmly entrenched, intractable, and systemic, so there is not a great deal that characters can do about it. It is also understandable.

Understandable in the context of the given history and background for Thantier. Originally the site of one the colonies from Earth, the colonists were relatively untouched by the war with the Shantha, but suffered a thousand years of attack by the alien Cleash and only a century and a half ago was attacked by the Maustin Caji, the radical Muadra who rampaged throughout the country. It is also understandable in game terms, because SkyRealms of Jorune is not any old roleplaying game, it is also a “culture” game. By which I mean that it has its own milieu and customs that the players are expected to embrace and explore as they game, even if they are repugnant to modern Western sensibilities. Other games have similar issues. For example, in Legends of the Five Rings you expected to play characters who have a more than dismissive attitude towards anyone who is not Samurai or Rokugani, while games such as Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne and Cthulhu Invictus, it is perfectly reasonable to own slaves. None of these elements sit well with modern man, and if you feel strongly enough about the issue here, The Gomo Guide to Thoneport is not the supplement for you. The world of Jorune is wide open for other types of gaming.

So for these reasons, The Gomo Guide to Thoneport comes with plenty of warnings for the traveller, even the Humans. Thantieri like to do everything by contract and delight in taking advantage of non-Thantieri or Thone with sharply worded agreements, even Human Thone. It also describes various Thantieri customs such as courtesy and gift giving; how the Thantieri trade, for example, usury is unacceptable, but the giving of an appreciation is; how the sewer system works in Thoneport – it is all bio-tec, and constantly changes, forcing sewer workers to regularly re-map the workings; and how the use of Isho is policed in Thoneport – strictly is the word here. All seven of the Great Houses are detailed along with their interests, their customs – many of which are derived from different cultures on Earth, and their positions in the city. Also described are the two Fallen Houses, both long dispossessed, but whose members continue their traditions as best they can. Also given is a description and map of Thoneport, including its most notable locations, along with a history and timeline of Thantier.

It is only when you get the last two pages and find a list of the titles for sale from Tan Incrid do you realise what The Gomo Guide to Thoneport actually is – an in-game sourcebook. In that regard it is much like The Tauther Guide to be found in boxed versions of SkyRealms of Jorune which could be given to players whose characters attempting to become Drenn. This explains why there are no game stats anywhere in the book and why there are no adventure hooks. That said, the book is rich in detail, so any Sholari worth his spiced durlig should be able to create an adventure based on something within the pages of The Gomo Guide to Thoneport.

What The Gomo Guide to Thoneport really does get right is its artwork; and that without one single original piece. Now some of the artwork has been modified, to depict some of Jorune’s races for example, but all of it has been publically sourced. The majority of these photographs and images are of peoples and buildings from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Far East, and when slightly aged and appropriately captioned, they convey the strange exoticism of Thantier. Even the inclusion of images of a traditional Town Crier and a man in eighteenth century Western military dress do not break this feel.

Unfortunately, what the authors of The Gomo Guide to Thoneport get wrong is the editing. It is, to be blunt, dreadful. The writing is never unreadable, but in places it is never easy to read, and at times you have to wonder whether Yoda from Star Wars or a Thriddle student wrote it. All right, so the book is fan written, but these days that is no excuse, and certainly not if the book is on sale. A more minor issue is that some of the text is repeated verbatim later in the book, mostly the history.

There is much to like The Gomo Guide to Thoneport if you are a fan of SkyRealms of Jorune. There is plenty of detail within its pages, there is plenty of exoticism, and there is plenty of difference between those details and what has previously been seen for the setting. Yet it needs a disclaimer somewhere to tell the casual browser what the book actually is, and it needs some support to make it more than just a travel guide. Most of all, it needs an edit to make read better. Right now you are going to love what there is in The Gomo Guide to Thoneport, but in places you will find it just a little hard to give it that love.

Bug Eyed Dumb Arse Monsters!

InvaderZ is a pick up and play RPG from PostMortem Studios designed to be run as an occasional alternative to deeper, longer, more involved games. Describing itself as a “beer and crisps” RPG – we have to go to particular vendors if we want pretzels in this country to go with the beer – it plays quickly and easily, and with a single read through, the GM will have a grasp of just about everything involved in InvaderZ. It comes complete with background, fast character generation, rules, some twenty “Battle Plans” or rather, Mission Seeds, plus a sense humour.

In InvaderZ, the players take the roles of aliens who serve the planet-sized Jerkian Emperor. Primarily, these aliens are the Jerkians themselves, clones of his Imperial Immenseness who serve in his army as Troopers, Assault Troopers, Scientists, Engineers, Embedded Reporters, and so on. Alternatively, they might be one of the Jerkian Empire’s slave races, like the loathed, polyamorous Furrian diplomats, the annoying Hamstoid Minesweepers, or the pent up with rage, Squaloon labourers. Whatever their training, which includes extracurricular activities such as baking or brick laying (or whatever a player can devise), the Jerkians and their slaves are assigned to a squad along with an A.R.S.E. (Automated Robotic Servile Entity) and sent to latest planet targeted for admittance into the Jerkian Empire – Earth. There they will perform missions that hopefully lead to the defeat of the Earth Emperor, Heff-Nor. Performing these missions to the best of their abilities will gain the Jerkian Troopers merits and possible promotion, especially if their efforts entertain the Planetoidal Potentate who might be watching if they have an Embedded Reporter assigned to their squad. Of course, missions will often result in the death of one or more Trooper. Which not a problem, as replacements can easily be sent very quickly via the Empire’s teleporters.

Character generation is fast and simple. A player rolls for his character’s name and role, the latter providing one or more skills that he is Good at; selects a second skill to be Good at or increases a skill he is Good at to a skill he is Very Good at; and lastly, rolls for an extra piece of equipment. The result takes a minute or two, which is can only be a good thing as it makes it easy to replace a dead Trooper.

Assault Trooper
Meat: 5
Brain Meat: 2
Expertise: 3
Luck: 3
Skills: Good at Hitting Things, Good at Baking
Equipment: Power Mittens (+1 Hitting Things, -1 Expertise), nifty black leather pseudo-leather outfit, extra ration pack

To do anything, a player rolls a single six-sided die and adds the appropriate attribute and skill, if applicable, to the total. A Good skill adds +1 to the roll, a Very Good Skill adds +2. An average target is three, while an impossible one is eight. Combat in InvaderZ is just as fast as the simple mechanics suggest, with Troopers and most objects have three health levels – Fine, Disabled, or Splatted.

Much of InvaderZ is devoted to the possible equipment that the Troopers might have to deal with. Much of it is unreliable, but the GM will have to rule exactly how unreliable. My advice would be when it is funny. The rest is devoted to providing an “Earth Field Guide” that the Troopers might be able to consult and that which should be as much a source of mission ideas as the lengthy equipment list. This is in addition to the given twenty mission seeds.

InvaderZ comes as a one hundred and eighteen page, 6.95 Mb PDF in black and white. The artwork is odd mix of line art and sixteen bit sprites reminiscent of computer games of the eighties. The writing is clear and laced with humour that is reminiscent of the Classic RPG, Paranoia, though the humour in InvaderZ is broader, more tongue in cheek, and not quite as black, being perhaps reminiscent of the Warner Brothers cartoons with Marvin the Martian. Of course, this being a game about the alien invasion of the Earth, much of that humour revolves cows, posterior probings, and the aliens’ – or rather the Rotund Ruler of the Jerkian Empire’s – interest in Earthian women. In particular, he is interested in the women who serve the Earthian Emperor. The game’s elevation of Heff-Nor to the position of “perceived” Emperor could have been worse of course. It could have been Silvio Berlusconi instead…

As a game InvaderZ is anything other than demanding upon its players, but to the get the best out of it, the players need to relax and throw themselves into the silliness of their characters and the situation that they are in. They need to accept that their characters are as throwaway as InvaderZ itself almost is. In addition, they need to accept that the GM in InvaderZ is going to be anything other than impartial – the rules do say that it is perfectly reasonable to bribe the GM! If I were running this, it would be mandatory for every mission briefing to end with the singing of the Jerkian Anthem, which is included in the game.

InvaderZ is a game with low expectations, low demands, low humour, and a low price. There is nothing wrong in that because sometimes, gamers need a change of pace, and if they play down to InvaderZ’s standards, then they will still have fun.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Box of Delights

To date Graham Walmesley has written three scenarios for Pelgrane Press’ Trail of Cthulhu. Beginning with The Dying of St. Margaret’s and continuing with The Watchers in the Sky and The Dance in the Blood, each has been an exercise in the Purist style of Lovecraftian horror, using the GUMSHOE mechanics of Trail of Cthulhu to push and pull the investigators into the situation of each scenario before intentionally driving them mad. In terms of narrative though, there is nothing to connect these scenarios in the traditional sense to be found in the classic and linear Call of Cthulhu campaigns of Lovecraftian investigative horror. Then again, there is as yet no such campaign for Trail of Cthulhu, primarily because writing such a beast is a more demanding and lengthier project. That said, this will change with the release of Walmesley’s own forthcoming Cthulhu Apocalypse, and also Eternal Lies, the campaign written by Jeff Tidball and Will Hindmarch of gameplaywright, for which there is already a musical suite composed by James Semple.

Digression aside, there is a point about making the comparison, for Graham Walmesley’s Purist scenarios do actually form a campaign. They might not have an obvious connection beyond the fact that they are in turn one shot affairs with dark and dark inevitably nihilistic endings, but they do form a campaign. Even though they are designed to be played through in any order using different characters for each scenario, they nevertheless form a campaign. This being a Purist campaign, it not surprisingly, an unconventional campaign, for what actually makes it campaign is the fourth and last scenario in Walmesley’s Purist series, The Rending Box. What The Rending Box does is provide an explanation that caps the series while still providing another bleak story. What sets it apart from the previous three though is that it actually comes with a climatic ending. Well, a potential climatic ending right before the Mythos delivers its quietly uncaring riposte…

The Rending Box opens with the investigators receiving a postcard from a long-time acquaintance. Doctor Jakob Tulving, an academic with an interest in English folklore asks them to collect and deliver an antique box to him to the hotel he is staying at in the English Lake District. The box becomes an object of curiosity for investigators, its strangeness soon a source of questions that mere research cannot or does not want to answer. Perhaps the good doctor has them? Yet when they arrive at his hotel, it is cold and dark, almost deserted. What has Tulving got them involved in?

Thematically, as the capping scenario to the Purist Quartet, The Rending Box is all about revelations and the truth. Obviously, this being a scenario about Lovecraftian investigative horror, such revelations and truths can only have a negative impact upon the sanities of the characters, and this certainly proves to be the case as Walmesley takes the “Drive Yourself Crazy” mechanic he employed in the previous scenarios and pushes it as far it will go. In The Rending Box, the aim is not for the investigators to drive themselves crazy, but to drive themselves insane. As more and more of the truth around them is revealed, the investigators gain more knowledge about the Mythos and the spiral downwards into insanity grows faster and faster, but unlike in most Trail of Cthulhu or even Call of Cthulhu scenarios, the characters, even insane, remain functional for a time able to act in spite, or perhaps because of their madness. One more push, or revelation rather, is enough to break an investigator of his ability to carry on…

In addition to providing an explanation for the scenarios that have gone before, The Rending Box also provides another link to each one. It is possible through research to discover clues that refer back to events in those scenarios, the author suggesting that the clues be altered to account for what the investigators played by the players did in each one.

Physically, there is a conceit to The Rending Box that will be lost once it is properly published. Made only available at Dragon Meet 2010 as a limited edition of twenty copies, The Rending Box itself comes in a small three-inch square box, black with coloured markings. Inside can be found two six-sided dice that match the colour of the markings, along with four booklets and two sheaves of paper. The first of the sheaves contains the handouts, the second a set of five pre-generated investigators. Simply done in black and red with red highlights, each of the booklets the sheaves has a rough feel to it. This is due to the fact that each copy of the boxed The Rending Box has been hand assembled. The result is that The Rending Box feels and is, quite rough around the edges, though there is a certain charm in that. The format of the four small booklets also means that not everything is quite where you want it to be, especially on an initial read through which has you looking for things that appear a few tiny pages later. The rough feel to The Rending Box is also due to the fact that this is a playest scenario, so there is the possibility that there may be changes to made it prior to publication. Certainly I think that at least one of the provided pre-generated investigators needs a hook into the scenario. Perhaps these small things will be fixed by the time that the scenario comes to be published, though in the meantime, the author is planning to release another set of twenty boxes – the collector in me hopes that they will be marked slightly differently to the edition that I already have.

In comparison with its predecessors, it is not as strong or as atmospheric an adventure, and it is certainly not as bleak or as grey as the first and best in the series, The Dying of St. Margaret’s. The horror of The Rending Box is also placed much more on show than in the previous scenarios, but that is due to its revelatory nature as much as any other factor. Nevertheless, there is the potential for some nice little moments in The Rending Box, most of them to do with the box itself. Despite its roughness, The Rending Box brings Walmsley’s Purist Quartet to a fittingly downbeat close.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Retrospective: SkyRealms of Jorune

My gaming group first encountered this RPG on a cold, dry day in October 1986 when SkyRealms Publishing came to London and held their own trade stand at Games Day ’86. The game, with its large eye-catching box, mystifying slogan of “leave your world behind” and captivating art proved popular and sold out. I was there and wish now that I had bought a copy of the game then and there; instead I bought a much treasured SkyRealms of Jorune tee shirt. Not long after though, I did purchase a copy of that boxed set. In almost typical fashion, we played the next day, a brawl in a tavern, but we would later go on to play in a lengthy campaign.

“Leave your world behind” sums up everything about SkyRealms of Jorune: a totally alien world with strange creatures and stranger abilities where you adventured to do daring deeds and fight for the common good in an effort to attain citizenship. Whole mountains floated across the sky, and around the planet flowed a stream of ambient energy that could be harnessed to your will. At the time it was so unlike all the other games I had seen or played with their Earth-like settings, cultures and so on. Well, that’s not entirely true, for there is one game to which SkyRealms of Jorune bears some similarities and that is Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.

Their first similarity is that both SkyRealms of Jorune and Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne are games with cult status. The fact that neither has ever remained on the shelves at your local gaming store for very long has not hindered that, as the publishing fortunes of each game has waxed and waned over time. There are similarities in their settings too. Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne describes the planet Tékumel, which lost contact with the rest of humanity in its ancient history, but far in our future. Likewise, the planet of Jorune is an Earth colony, which also has lost contact with the home world. Whereas Tékumel has had to survive tens of thousands of years, Jorune has a human history only lasting three millennia or so. In both games there are strange alien creatures and access to ancient technologies, though in Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, such devices are treated as magic, not Earth technology as they are SkyRealms of Jorune.

Their histories are markedly different though. Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne began life not as a game but as an experiment in languages, to which rules were added later on, though it would take three decades for the setting to acquire a decent set of rules with the publication of Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne from Guardians of Order in 2005. Even though that book is out of print, the setting and world remains the creation and brainchild of M. A. R. Barker, a professor of languages.

SkyRealms of Jorune began life as a personal campaign run by the game’s creator, Andrew Leker, using the game system from TSR’s Metamorphosis Alpha. This thirty two page book described how players could explore the “Warden,” a lost colony ship travelling at sub-light speeds, the population of which had degenerated into tribes of humans, and mutated humans and animals. Metamorphosis Alpha would later form the basis for TSR’s Gamma World, an RPG that would go various incarnations and influence the design of Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition from Wizards of the Cost before returning to publication itself last year with a seventh edition, also from Wizards of the Coast. Meanwhile, Metamorphosis Alpha would return in 2006 with its own Fourth Edition from Mudpuppy Games, as an interesting, but poorly realised setting.

Meanwhile, back in 1981, Andrew Leker took his campaign from Metamorphosis Alpha back to Earth and then onto onto a planet of its own, a planet called Jorune. Together with his sister Amy, he formed SkyRealms Publishing in 1983 and the company launched the first edition of SkyRealms of Jorune at Gen-Con in 1984. This consisted of a single book, which would later be broken up into four books for the second edition which came out in 1986, and then be brought into a single book for the third edition from Chessex. Many gamers though were fascinated by the adverts for the game that ran in Dragon magazine in the mid 1980s.

The game itself described an alien world over three and a half thousand years into our future. Long ago man had developed the ability to travel to distant stars and Jorune was the first suitable colony that they found, but it was already inhabited: Shanthas, tall eyeless natives of the world able to master the ambient energy of Isho winds that flow across the surface of the planet. They allowed the foundation of a colony, which prospered with the support provided from home. Yet without this support, the colony could not be viable. The colonists were forced to expand into lands sacred to the Shantha when communication with Earth ceased after what was presumed to be a war. This initiated a war that destroyed the colony. Shanthic use of isho allowed them to strike through the colony’s shields with devastating destruction. The colonists found themselves on the losing side and desperation developed and released a plague that all but wiped out the Shantha population.

In the three millennia since the war there have been many changes. Humanity has endured many hardships to form its own place of safety in the realm of Burdoth. They also have evolved—alongside and sometimes against humans are the Boccord—bigger and stronger, able to disrupt the use of isho; and the Muadra, smaller and weaker, but like the Shanthas, capable of mastering the use of isho in order to cast dyshas (a cross between spells and psionics). Only humans though, can operate the powerful weapons and equipment found in the caches of “Earth-tec” hidden by fleeing colonists.

Stranger still were the other races found on Jorune: the fearful and xenophobic Ramian; the Thriddle, fig shaped bipeds that control vast knowledge in their libraries; and the Iscin races. A scientist once part of the original colony, Iscin was a bio-engineer who did not want the Earth’s transported flora and fauna, which found most Joruni native plant and animal life poisonous, to die. He developed stronger and more intelligent strains of various Earth animals to survive on Jorune. Some of these, such as the bear-like Bronth, cat-like Crugar and wolf-like Woffen, as well as the human races, are available to play as characters in the third edition. Although the inclusion of these races make the game seem part of the “pets-in-space” RPG genre (typified by the Justifiers RPG from StarChilde and FGU’s Other Suns RPG), there is more to the game than this, with the designers having made the effort for the Iscin races to have developed strong individual cultures and societies of their own.

Character generation was quite a lengthy process in SkyRealms of Jorune with a player needing to roll for twelve attributes and then using points derived from his Education statistic to buy career packages, practical knowledge, and personal interests. Careers are quite varied from the typical soldier or thief, through to the scientists and innkeepers. Muadra also must purchase the dyshas that they know, although some careers offer them the chance to gain a limited number.

Although the generation of the characters changed little in the transition from the second to the third editions of SkyRealms of Jorune, the game system did. In the second you rolled character attribute checks and combat damage on six-sided dice; skill checks on percentile dice; and combat manoeuvres and dysha use on a twenty sided die. All this meant that the character record sheet consisted of four sides of paper, which like many things for the third edition was streamlined. The sheet became a standard double-sided sheet and a twenty-sided die was used for all rolls except for determining combat damage and the initial attributes.

The notion of similarities between SkyRealms of Jorune and Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne rears its head once again when considering the classic campaign for each game. In Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, the players were simple foreign fishermen, arriving at the docks in the city of Jakalla. They must not only survive in the city, but also work to gain acceptance and possible recognition in the eyes of the native population. In SkyRealms of Jorune, the players are natives of the human realm of Burdoth, who have decided to travel from their homes to the capital, Ardoth. There they decide to register their application for citizenship or “drenn” status, for only then will they have the right to own land, to vote and ask for the use of Earth-tec. Once registered, they are known as “Tauther” and through their future deeds may gain the respect of individual drenn who might then support their continued application. Humans have the least difficulty in attaining drennship, with Boccord and muadra finding it harder, and the Iscin races having the hardest time of all— the feline Crugar in particular.

In both these campaigns the aim is not for the players to focus their attention on the acquisition of wealth, bigger and better weapons or other resources, but primarily on attaining both social recognition and status, and how to live up to the standards of that status. Loss of face and honour can have a potentially devastating effect on your standing with others and in extreme cases can be dangerous to your health.

Just as important as being able to protect yourself in a fight, if not more so in some cases, is the ability to interact with others in the correct manner and to respect their cultures. So, remember that Thriddle only sit in friendly company (they are slow runners and they lose a few seconds in having to stand up), to always look a Bronth in the eye and never, ever mispronounce “Chaun-Tse” the language of the Crugar. In SkyRealms of Jorune there are language, etiquette and interaction skills for all of the intelligent races found on the planet and it is useful to know at least one or two. With Jorune being so potentially hostile because of the number of volatile races, the failure to observe such rules can be a matter of life or death.

There are plenty of other options in both games for adventure other than that of gaining social recognition, though in Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne it remains the major focus of the game. In SkyRealms of Jorune, you can investigate the ancient underground ruins of the Shanthas with their strange technologies; explore the floating SkyRealms full of hidden secrets or home to a band of the feared Ramian; cross through the East Trinnu Jungle Lands, once again infested by raiding parties of the uncommunicative Cleash; or travel in style to your destination, sailing through the skies on a Jaspian crystal schooner.

Jorune is a world with seven moons; it is so unlike our home planet of Earth, lost long ago. A place of mystery, wonder and intrigue. It literally is a chance to, “leave your world behind.” One thing that strikes everyone upon seeing SkyRealms of Jorune for the first time is the art, done by Miles Teves, a high school friend of Andrew Leker. His work graced all three editions of the game, but would later be supplemented by the efforts of other industry stalwarts. Some of his art for Jorune, as well as he current work in the Hollywood film industry can be seen on Miles Teves’ own web site.

Another similarity between SkyRealms of Jorune and Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne is that of language. Both settings require a certain approach by both players and GM alike, since they use a great number of unfamiliar words, more so than most RPGs, and certainly, the point of this heavy use of different and alien sounding words is enforce the alien nature of each world. Yet each setting is very different in its approach to language. Not surprisingly, Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne is the more mature given its academic origins, with five fully developed human languages of its own, complete with grammar books – some of which have been available for purchase. Indeed many of the words, phrases, and concepts to be found in Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne are taken from human history, though not our occidental one. The roots for Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne lie in the ancient cultures of Central America, ancient Egypt, India, and South East Asia. When playing Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne it helps to have an understanding of many of these words and to be able to pronounce a few, and the same can be said of SkyRealms of Jorune. Yet that game lacks the verisimilitude to be found in Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, the terms and phrases, such as “Sholari” for the GM, often suffering from a degree of artificiality. In both games the issue of language and the various terms and phrases are a barrier to play, more so in SkyRealms of Jorune than Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.

Throughout its publishing history, only a handful of books were released for SkyRealms of Jorune. The First Edition is now impossible to find, while the Second Edition’s boxed set and its supplements, Companion: Ardoth, Companion: Burdoth, and in particular, Earth-tec Jorune, are more difficult to find and more expensive to buy. Chessex’s Third Edition is the most accessible, with the most useful beyond the core book is The Sholari Pack, a combined sourcebook, adventure and screen. Particularly, the errata, glossary, gazetteer, and timeline are all very useful. Beyond this, The Gire of Silipus is a better scenario than Innocents of Gauss and The Sobayid Atlas is a useful supplement detailing the southern region of the human nation of Burdoth.

Unfortunately, The Gire of Silipus was the last book to be released by Chessex. That was in 1993, and the game has remained in a limbo ever since, part of the reason being a clash over who owned the rights after Alien Logic, the computer game from SSI was released in 1994. Chessex’s website still claims to have the game in stock, while the writer and editor of the Third Edition, Joe Addams, has done much to keep the game alive in the years since. The internet enabled the fan base to keep in touch, with fans creating their own sites and adaptations to other game systems, including HERO, GURPS and Trinity, and just as with Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, the game has seen its fans provide support and a point of contact with various fanzines. Some of these adaptations can be found at the game’s previous website, while the publisher of fan driven material, Oak & Lotus Publications also has its own site.

So fifteen years on, the future of SkyRealms of Jorune remains uncertain, perhaps destined to be no more than a relic of the gaming past. This is a pity, as there still remains a core of fans and potential for more if the game were to receive the support it deserves. Perhaps there is a future in the fan driven supplements from Oak & Lotus, but that is a question to be answered another time. In the meantime, SkyRealms of Jorune is a rich world awaiting your exploration and worth your time tracking down a copy.