Saturday, 7 January 2017
RPGPundit Reviews: Alpha Blue: Girls Gone Rogue
This is a review of the RPG supplement "Alpha Blue: Girls Gone Rogue", a sourcebook for Alpha Blue. It is a combination of additional optional rules, and an adventure. Both the supplement and the original book are written by Venger Satanis, whose name I won't make fun of this time because he's recently had twins.
This is a review of the print edition (as always with my reviews) which is a 78 page softcover. The cover is full-color showing a profile image of the face of an attractive young woman with a punky haircut and a neck tattoo. She is probably, guessing from the back cover, the principle character of the adventure, a "slut series replicant" named "Ilsa SS".
The interior contains a significant amount of black and white art. Much of it is 70s-style sleazy sci-fi art, but several pieces are outright pornographic art, featuring explicit sex acts. So if that's an instant 'no' in terms of whether you'd buy it or not, I guess you may as well stop reading this review right here.
Alpha Blue, which I've reviewed previously, is a 'sleazy' kind of RPG setting set in a massive space station that is in essence a space-brothel. It's concept is of 'sleazy 70's-style sci-fi adventure', though I think it's a bit more R-rated than most 70s sci-fi it claims to be based on. Anyways, my review of Alpha Blue concluded that I felt it had some interesting potential but that the smutty part of it was, to me, the least interesting part of it. I have to wonder if Girls Gone Rogue isn't just going to take that least interesting part to a higher level!
But the book certainly begins on a high note, from my point of view: lots and lots of cool random tables (something Venger is particularly good at)!
In this section you get: some new design aesthetics for a 70s sci-fi look, some aesthetic details to make your alien look more alien, a table to randomly determine how experienced your character is, and a table to provide some alternative professions (allegedly for people who rolled 'interior designer' in the careers table of the main book and were unsatisfied with their result). Then there's some more guidelines for the "Zedi" and "templar" occupations (which were covered to some degree in the main book). After this, there's a table of 'archetypes', describing the 'essences' of characters (these aren't occupations, they're character-types like 'the renegade', 'the voyager', 'the innovator', etc).
Diving into far more silly territory, there's a random table of Monty Python references to act as random-encounters.
Next you get a table to roll to determine what characters did between adventures. Then there's a 'sexual vibe' table for female characters (with options like "prostitute", "frigid", "super freak", or "weird fetish"; the Feminist Outrage Brigade is going to have a field day with this one).
Speaking of 'weird fetishes', there's a multi-entry table to determine random weird sex fetishes. I should say, REALLY weird fetishes. They basically combine five random elements and then its up to the GM to determine just what the fuck they mean. For example, you might get "vibrator", "hot soup", "Christmas", "Blindfolds" and "choking". I'm not a completely vanilla sort of guy, but honestly as a GM I'd have no fucking clue how to combine those into a sexual fetish that wasn't completely ridiculous. And I didn't pick particularly odd ones, just at random. It's noted that the 5th table (the one I got 'choking' from) is of particularly dark fetishes, and so the book advises a GM might want to only roll on the first four tables (you know, if he wants a regularly degenerate porn-game instead of a really extreme degenerate porn-game). But as my randomly-selected examples above demonstrate, I'm not sure that makes the fetishes from this table any more viable.
Then we have a table of "her reaction to your unsolicited advances". These follow a range from "knees you in the groin" to "shows you her pussy". Again, not one of the great contributions to rpg history, here.
There's also random clothing tables for male and female NPCs, and a series of rolls for look (hair color, body type, hotness, profession and name) for women found at the 'local space disco'. This is followed up with a large table of "peculiarities of the female".
I really question what type of games people would be goofing around with where this sort of thing would be needed. I'm obviously not a 3rd-wave intersectional feminist or whatever, but I just really don't find this productive in any way to the type of RPG play I do. I could also really understand how even women on this side of the insanity spectrum from Tracey Hurley would still find some of this material offensive. Not that I think "offensive" is a valid reason for "should not exist". Just, I could get people thinking some of the material here is really stupid, be it or practical or personal reasons.
Which is a pity, because the parts that aren't just smut for its own sake are usually pretty creative. I wish there had been more of that and less of rolling to see if an NPC you are roleplaying hitting on has bad breath or man-hands.
There's a much shorter table (d20, vs d100) for male characteristics. The justification given for the male table being smaller is that 'men are simpler'. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that the people who would end up using these tables would much more likely be emotionally-stunted heterosexual men rather than women or gay gamers.
Just when you think it can't get dumber, there's a "what face does the NPC make while having an orgasm" table. No, I'm not joking. I wish I were.
After that, the only very slightly less stupid "how long would it take her to orgasm" table, ranging from "not going to happen" to "about 5 minutes".
And then, finally demonstrating that Venger is definitely doing his utmost at this point to dethrone James Desborough as the poster-boy supervillain for censorship-happy Feminist outrage-crusaders out there, we have the "Stockholm Syndrome" table. This is a table to randomly determine how long it takes until (and I quote) "a captive female will cease her struggling and begin to accept her new role". This ranges, at the worst cases from "she will never submit" or "it will take about a year" to "several hours" or "immediately...she wants to be dominated".
Man, I'm really going to hate having to defend this bullshit from ctrl-left totalitarians.
Anyways, from here we have a few more tables, none of which are quite so terrible. First, you have the "What the fuck did I do last night" table, which is OK but having only 10 options will really just be usable a limited number of times. Suffering from the same problem is the "1d6 random finds from a pawn shop" table. There's a (d12) table of "noir-ish victims, fall guys, and losers", and a d8 table of even more Alpha Blue NPCs. Then there's a d10 table for petty banter topics.
After that, there's a section about how to make Alpha Blue fit into the "sci-fi Spaghetti Western" style. This includes a very simple, totally random and quite lethal table for the classic shoot-out.
There's also a 'trouble with technology' table, which is a bit more useful than most in this book. Also quite useful are the random-planet generation tables. These are definitely not hard-sci-fi Traveller style, instead they just let you determine if a system is related to the Federation, what the planet is generally like, weird details, and stuff that might be on it. Also the prevalent government and the tech-level.
There's a ship-to-ship combat mechanic, based around a table where rolls are made on a damage table based on ship-size, with dice augmenting in lethality each round of battle. There are modifiers for whether the ship has a competent pilot or not, escape attempts, and repair. The system is simple but elegant and is probably the best thing in the book so far.
This is followed by a somewhat silly 'alternative fuel source' table (sample fuel sources include "explosive diarrhea", "rock n roll", or "cherry flavor frozen fusion".
At this point, we get to the adventure.
Ilsa SS is apparently a 'replicant' (a "Slut Series" replicant, hence the "SS"), who has broken free of her programming as a sex toy and has 'gone rogue', charting a trail of destruction and chaos throughout space in her wake. In the adventure, the PCs end up being hired (partly by force) by the Federation to destroy her.
The adventure commences by presuming the PCs are having a drunken orgy. Which is, I suppose, fair for Alpha Blue standards, but it really emphasizes again to me just how far this is from what most of my players in most of my campaigns would be considering a normal style of play.
The PCs are given some nice gear when they're sent on their mission, but some of this potential gear makes reference to other books by Venger; and I don't mean Alpha Blue! If a GM doesn't have Crimson Dragon Slayer or The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, he won't be able to make use of those items (or will have to just improvise their function).
Anyways, what follows is a mission leading away from Alpha Blue and into a desert world, where, without giving away too many spoilers, there are some twists, complications, and dark secrets to be revealed.
The adventure itself isn't too bad, it has some random tables of its own; some very particular to the adventure, but others which could be useful for other stuff. One example are the random "scum and villainy" tables that let you generate a general kind of NPC you could find in a space-cantina in a borderline world.
There are of course some ridiculously silly parts too. A morbidly-obese version of boba fett. A vagina-mouthed sand-whale monster. Special sex-bot attack moves.
The adventure ends about 14 pages in. Only, in what I figure has to be some kind of error, that isn't really made clear. You see, after the Isla adventure, there's a series of smaller scenarios and encounter seeds (about another 15 pages worth, with some entries being tiny, and others occupying several pages). Now the problem is that the Ilsa adventure just carries through (with some denouement) until it's suddenly not that adventure at all. I'm guessing there's a missing header in the book, which unfortunately meant that I'd read about a page and half asking myself "wait, what the fuck is this stuff?" before I went back and figured out where the Ilsa adventure had ended.
Among the additional material, there's some guidelines for encountering a "galactic typhoon", an adventure involving protecting a kind of princess as bodyguards, an adventure where one of the PCs gets accidentally made a high councilor of a galactic government, an adventure involving slavers, another involving cthulhu-esque drug dealers, and one involving Rick Moranis. Plus a few others too. Most of them are only a page or so long, and mostly just have descriptions of the adventure concept, sometimes but not always with an initial set-up scene, and then that's pretty much it. One or two have some complications or twists described. They are mostly relatively creative, though filled with sci-fi references and silly humor. That's par for the course for Alpha Blue, though. None of the adventures are absolutely explicitly pornographic, though many of them are racy.
The very back of the book has some fancy floorplans, for a cantina and various spacecraft mentioned in the book (including the one with tentacles).
Anyways... conclusion. Hmm. I think all I can say is this: if you've already bought Alpha Blue (and you liked it), or if you like the idea of X-rated sci-fi RPG play where you sit around with the type of people you have in your gaming group listening to them living out descriptively the sexual fantasies that were previously safely kept behind the walls of social propriety and human decency, you'll probably like this.
If not, then there's not enough straightforward non-sleazy-porno sci-fi material here to really warrant its purchase, I think.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's chestnut