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Saturday 26 October 2013

RPGPundit Reviews: The Patriot Incident

This is a review of the adventure “The Patriot Incident: A Terror Network Game Module”, published by Bedrock Games, written by Brendan Davis. Its an adventure written for the Terror Network RPG.
I don’t have Terror Network, nor am I a particularly huge fan of either modern rpgs, spy/law-enforcement rpgs, or the like. However, I do have to say I found this a very well-written adventure. 
The game assumes the players are FBI agents, and the action of the game plays out a bit like an season of “24″ (at least, that’s what it reminded me of).  A good mix of action and investigation, twists and turns, a race against the clock to prevent a terrorist threat, and all the other kind of goodies you’d expect.

The action in the adventure begins with the PCs being called in to investigate the murder of a Syrian arms dealer, with the possibility of this death being connected to international or local terrorist organizations; the Syrian died in what looked like some kind of arms deal gone wrong, but with who, and to what end?

I don’t want to spoil the details of the adventure’s plot itself, since it involves some twists that I think make it very interesting; in the classic style of this kind of genre, player characters might find that the initial suspects don’t turn out to be who they’re really looking for.

What I will talk about instead, then, is the adventure’s structure.  First, its non-linear: the PCs aren’t railroaded from one scene to the next, they can end up moving through any number of directions in their search for the truth and to stop a potential disaster. The GM is provided with a handy “investigation map”, which is really a kind of flowchart that shows which directions the PCs can go, and where these directions can in turn lead them to.

Nor is the adventure set up in a stupid “narrative” style, where things happen in a set order regardless of what the PCs do; instead, events take place along a timeline; character’s actions can change the timeline of events, and inaction will lead to things happening when they happen, not when the PCs happen to show up. Thus, this is a firmly immersive adventure, the kind I like.

The book is about 80 pages in total, small in size, with a full-colour cover, and a few black and white illustrations scattered throughout the interior text.  You also get a map of the Boston area (where much of the adventure is set), location maps of a terrorist compound, repeats of the same at the end of the book, as well as player handouts for clues and whatnot.

The book provides detailed and credible descriptions of the main terrorist organization that are the “villains” of the adventure, lots of information about Boston to help the GM run that part of the game (including things like websites for more information, notes on Boston lingo and accents and information about the Boston FBI Field Office), guidelines about things like obtaining warrants and the Patriot Act, and details about several locations in Boston (and other towns in the Mass. area) that give me every sense that the author is writing about real locations in that city (whether this is the case or not), all of which would really help for emulation.

There are also detailed descriptions of persons of interest and suspects, which are detailed with both information about the character, and crucially, “what this character knows”.  At the back of the module there are stats for all of the important NPCs in the adventure.

All in all, while like I said this is not the kind of setting I typically get excited about, I have to admire how well the design of this adventure really is. I think that anyone who’s interested in this kind of FBI-agent Jack Bauer kind of action RPG would do well to pick up this adventure at least, if not the Terror Network game itself (though I think that the way the module is written, to its credit, it could very easily be run with any other game system; mechanics are very much in the background of solid adventure design here).


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(originally posted May 3, 2012, on the old blog)

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