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Tuesday 2 May 2017

RPGPundit Reviews: Golden Age Adventures

This is a review of the RPG sourcebook "Golden Age Adventures", for the Daytrippers RPG.  It is (as always) a review of the print version of the book, which is a gargantuan 364 page softcover, featuring a full-color cover that looks to be a really weird sci-fi image of a human hanging out in a martian-style landscape with a couple of alien creatures, done in a style of classic Golden-Age Sci-fi.

The interior has a mix of black & white and color sections. The art is quite appealing sci-fi work, and there's also some stunning full-color images and maps. It's quite pretty.

I had previously reviewed the main Daytrippers book. It's a game of inter-dimensional travel, so that adventures can take place in any space, time, or even places of the imagination.  My opinion of the game was mixed. But really, that's not what matters much in this case. Because only half of Golden Age Adventures is really an RPG product.

Half of Golden Age Adventures is a set of 16 adventures.  These adventures are based on 16 classic stories from the Golden Age of science-fiction, the pulp-style stories that appeared in magazines in the olden days and have been mostly ignored until very recently.

And all 16 of the stories those adventures are based on are printed, in full, in this product.

Now, the adventures based on the product are generally pretty interesting, obviously the designer had good material to work from. The adventures are presented before each short story, and they don't slavishly follow the story's plot, which is a good thing. They're more or less 'inspired by' rather than just an attempt to recreate a story in RPG-adventure format, which is always a big mistake.  The layout of the adventure parts is pretty great; lots of nice structure, color maps, flowcharts, etc. There's location details, encounter tables, monsters (derived from or in the style of creatures in the literature), and more. It's all obviously set up to fit both the rules and the conceits of how Daytrippers works, which you can read up in the link I provided above.

With regard to that, at the start of the book there are some additional rules that cover things related to these adventures that were not covered in the main Daytripper rules. There's material for hexcrawling, perceptions, the sale value of objects recovered from trips, and a few details specific to how 'daytripping' works in the main rules.

If you like Daytrippers, then without question this is a great book to get.
But let's say you don't give a crap about Daytrippers the RPG. In that case, this might still be a great book to get. That's because of the stories included here.

Now, there's recently been a revival of popularity in the "golden age" retro-pulp sci-fi. Particularly among a movement that could be called a conservative current in science-fiction fandom.  I don't know if the designer of this book belongs to that movement, or it's just a happy coincidence for him. In either case, I think this book will be of interest to people getting into that movement. This book's 16 stories include fiction from the likes of Stanley Weinbaum, Poul Anderson, Jack Vance, H. Beam Piper, Philip K. Dick, Harry Harrison and many others.

Now, I myself am not part of the 'pulp-retro' movement. I don't think I'd qualify as any kind of sci-fi fandom, in spite of having read many sci-fi stories.  I have repeatedly argued that if anything, what geeks today desperately need is to move beyond fantasy/sci-fi altogether, to look at the larger world of literature, history and mythology for their inspiration.  In some ways, obsessing over long out-of-print stories from the early age of sci-fi and treating the genre's equivalent of dime-store rags as though they were profound pillars of our civilization is kind of the opposite of that.

But they are good stories.  They're not great literature or fundamental keys to saving the Decadent West or something like that, but they're a good time. And if you enjoy sci-fi (and what gamer doesn't, to some extent) they're well worth reading!

So there you have it. Golden Age adventure has some decent adventures in them (though some of them will require serious retooling if you're going to use them for something other than Daytrippers), and some more-than-decent classic sci-fi tales! That's not a bad deal.


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