Game: QuickShots Mission File: Charlie
Publisher: The Brood
Series: d20 Modern
Review Dated: 14th, November 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 2/10 [ Total disaster ]
Total Score: 14
Average Score: 4.67
The Quick Shots series from The Brood is a good idea. For not much money and with the quick delivery of a PDF product you get 20 encounter ideas with just enough set up to get you going. The idea is that you can use them to plug a whole in a campaign or cover up for a lack of preparation (we all know how RealLife can steal much need game planning time). Even better; this is for d20 Modern rather than the already well supported D&D style d20 fantasy.
I quite liked Mission File: Alpha which was just geared towards vanilla d20 Modern but Mission File: Bravo which also used Urban Arcana was less engaging. Sadly, this edition of Quick Shots, Mission File: Charlie goes the same way as Bravo insofar as it doesn’t quite come together.
Quick Shots Mission File: Charlie is paired with the rather good d20 Modern campaign setting Blood and Relics from RPGObjects. It’s great to see support from other third party publishers for Blood and Relics. That said; it doesn’t work out very well in this instance for The Brood and Mission File: Charlie. I’ve my own idea of how Blood and Relics should be played, what the mood and atmosphere of the campaign world would be like and anyone who’s read Blood and Relics will taken their own ideas, inspirations and perceptions from the game too. In this case my views on what Blood and Relics is about and how it should be played is clearly very different from The Brood’s. I see Blood and Relics as being subtle and insidious for the most part, moving towards the out and out supernatural show downs only as the story nears the climax. I see Blood and Relics games involving as much in the way of dusty (almost CoC style) library research, action-adventure archaeology (ala Indiana Jones) and certainly as supernatural thriller. Mission File: Charlie is much more in your face with the demons, almost like Mission Impossible meets Hellboy.
It’s no surprise then that the 20 quick shot encounters are all action based. Let’s take one as a random example, the second last quick shot seems to start fairly well; characters are sent in to guard a small church which has been repetitively vandalised. Actually, stop there. These encounters need to be as flexible as possible to be effective quick shots. Already you have to be in a situation where your characters are in some sort of chain of command and go off on “missions” like this. But fair enough, that’s the case in most of the Quick Shot products and these are “mission files”. You have to ask, though, why are characters going in to guard a small church? Churches must get vandalised all the time and is the appropriate reaction to trouble with local youths to send in a team of highly armed operatives? Of course not. You couldn’t blame the players or their characters for assuming that their headquarters knew something more seriously sinister was going on at the church – so why didn’t they say anything? There’s no mystery at all at the church. The characters turn up and then so does a great big and very dangerous junkyard golem. Begin big combat scene. The Mission File does discuss some background considerations in the scene variants. Perhaps the church screwed up rather than successfully consecrating the land and that’s what attracted the golem. It doesn’t explain where on Earth such a strange creature came from. One variant suggests parts where bought from the internet and shipped straight to a warehouse which burnt down even as the golem exited it – in other words, dead end here, nothing to investigate, move on and don’t worry. But you can’t not worry. The ethos, I think, of Blood and Relics is to seize on these supernatural dramas and find out why, what, where, how, when and who about them. In this instance characters might also be left to worry about why they were sent in to deal with such an obvious melee mosh under the guise of a so-called investigation. Perhaps someone in their organisation is trying to get rid of them… and these are not the sort of long term, campaign influencing, concerns that I want injected into my game after a time killing and disposable encounter. By the way, this quick shot is called “Holy Harmony, Batman!”
To get any at all from these encounters it’s quite important that your Blood and Relics game is set up with a Them and Us, agency versus agency/cult/syndication, structure in place.
Mission File: Charlie came out before the recent election in the USA however reading the following mission file introduction made me wonder. “At times, there can be no choice but to use naked force to eliminate politicians.” Heh. In this particular quick shot, Sex & Politics, the politician turns out to be an incubus. The way the introduction is written does not make it clear whether the characters are sent in “by the good guys” to assassinate a (corrupt) politician and he just turns out to be an incubus to boot or whether they need to kill the incubus who’s annoyingly got himself the great cover of being a well known politician. If it’s the former than that could put a rather dark spin on your game; would your heroes get involved in political murder? In the standard encounter the characters are supposed to barge in just when the demon, in demon form, is ‘serving’ four prostitutes (At once? Is this a multi-limbed anime style demon?) and they’ve these converted-corrupted minions to deal with too.
This is a mature reader product. It has to be after the introduction from the author suggests that some of us need to get a f**king life and promises that he’s not s**ting on anyone’s religion. I like swearing and only put those stars in to save people reading this from work with content filters which might ring alarm bells in their boss or tech department’s internet watch, but I also like diplomacy and persuasive language. I’m only getting one of those three here. In fact, I approve of mature reader RPG products, not necessarily adult supplements just for the sake of being adult, but as the average age of roleplayers increase then it would be nice to have supplements reflect that. I don’t see why we should pitch at the lowest common denominator all the time. Unfortunately I don’t think Mission File Charlie gets this quite right. It’s mature at times (demons determined to mate with young women and young women willing to trade sexual favours with the PCs in order to escape the demon) but still not above the lowest common denominator.
In fact, too many of the quick shots are cheap shots; “Stop Shooting Jesus!” is an encounter with a non-buddy Christ (a reference to Dogma) and “When Ecologists Attack” features a naked woman who whips a “M19IIA1” out from between her legs to shoot at the PCs. I assume M19IIA1 is a type of gun, perhaps I’d better go look at Ultramodern Firearms – a supplement which we’re told is handy but not necessary for the game.
I’m not even sure I’ve the ‘1’s and the ‘I’s right in M19IIA1. The font used in the PDF is awful and it’s not made an easier by the fact that the whole product is written in capital letters.
In the back of the PDF we’ve some splat stuff. There’s a new class – the Sin Eater (taken from the movie of the same name), iconic NPCs (which we’ve had already in Mission File Bravo) and new creatures. But we’ve had monsters like the Junkyard Golem already in Mission File Alpha.
Although there’s more text in Mission File Charlie than there is in Mission File Bravo there’s less I like in it and even less which can actually be used in a Blood and Relics game. Blood and Relics is a great game to do a mission file like supplement for because it is a campaign where the GM really could benefit from some professionally crafted one off encounters. You’d want these encounters to be carefully balanced so they could sit alongside the main campaign, not wipe out the group or leave important-seeming questions unanswered or wreck previously established dynamics. At least, this is what I’d want and I don’t feel I get that from this issue is Quick Shots.