by Aaron T. Huss
"Ripped From the Headlines is a series of system-less adventure modules inspired or derived from real events or stories and given a role-playing game appeal. Each adventure is meant to be played in one or two game sessions as stand-alone storylines. They can be inserted into ongoing campaigns, used as encounters in longer adventures or simply played as one-night gaming scenarios."
This product reminds me of the better written scenario articles in Imagine and White Dwarf, back in the days when magazines were still edited to appeal to players of a broad spectrum of games. Despite being systemless, the author addresses how to adapt the scenario to different genres of fantasy games* as well as tips on how to insert it into a current campaign. (*Aaron Huss has already won my fawning respect as a specialist in game genre awareness in his highly informative Gamers’ Guide to Tabletop Role-playing Genres)
This product is well structured, the main characters are outlined, plot elements are clearly defined, a cast of opponents is also described in "The Bestiary". The NPCs are generic enough to be suddenly rustled up for an evening game from any rules appendix (nobles, elite warriors and so forth). Although the trigger events are urban, the scenario can include a dungeon-chase for the climatic encounters. It's recommended that the location is a small province, or small town in a remote location distant from the main action of the referee's campaign. In my own game I would probably put the politics and events in a town on the way to another quest location - remember, that town's aren't just for taverns and shopping. ;) The plot is rich enough to be played out as a "backdrop", whilst there would always be the option of the players getting their hands dirty by influencing local events, just by protecting one of the main protagonists.
Premise: a corrupt decadent leader is on the verge of being deposed by a peasant revolution, led by a focussed hero, who has yet to survive rooftop sniper archers and dedicated denizens in the form of a feared "honour guard"...
Without wishing to spoil a plot twist, if played in a certain way, the scenario presents some ethical dilemmas which may be at odds with codes of conduct or principles with which they align themselves. If this is the case, then some seriously interesting, challenging and engaging role-playing from the players has to occur. That's my interpretation - much of this scenario relies upon your chosen style of play.
Clearly inspired by the Iraq War, Lord of Tyranny is a post modern deconstruction of events in our own world (or media representations of), broken down and efficiently translated into playable fantasy game elements. The "Ripped From The Headlines" series will hopefully bring us a refreshing alternative to the usual tombola mix of plot elements derived from film or novels.
Well written, well presented with inset gaming suggestion text boxes and easy to digest sections, this is a small and perfect springboard for several gaming sessions. It is adaptable to a variety of gaming styles - appealing to storytellers and dungeon crawlers alike. Ideal as part of a larger fantasy campaign, whilst being as "self enclosed" as the referee wishes.
Available in two flavours:
1. Black and white, very printer friendly;
or 2. Lush on-screen version.
Buy this. It's a bargain.
I defy you not to gain something for your game by just reading it. :)