Game: The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End
Publisher: Contested Ground Studios
Review Dated: 22nd, March 2005
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 15
Average Score: 7.50
A|State was a nominee in three categories in the Weird GameWyrd Game Awards in 2004. The dark Sci-Fi game was nominated for “Possessor of the Wow Factor”, “The RPG or Supplement Most Likely to Spark the Imagination” and “The Most Original RPG or Supplement”. Nominations like that suggest it’s going to be a hard RPG to follow with a supplement. Supplements struggle to wow as much as the first game, don’t have the same first impression impact on the imagination and by their very nature are hard to count as just as original.
There’s a lot of weight on the slim 32-paged shoulders of The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End. Yeah. That is a slim page count but the price $10 US (or £6 UK) reflects that fairly (though given current exchange rates you might be best buying in dollars and importing to the UK).
Mire End is a neighbourhood of flooded lanes and dank alleys in The City. There’s a map of Mire End and I like the hand drawn sketchy style used for it. The City is not a place where maps are easy to come by and precision cartographical software even harder. There’s a quick overview of Mire End over a couple of pages before the Lostfinders Guide pauses to look more closely on some highlighted locations.
There’s no one authority that controls Mire End. People fiercely guard rickety wind generators and use them to produce poor and shaky light or sell a trickle of power to their less well off neighbours. Clean water? If you’re very lucky. As you read through the timeline history of Mire End on page 9 you can count those with the luxury of water and light as doubly lucky. Twenty one years ago was the first appearance of the Vigilante who has been dubbed “The Chairman”. The Chairman takes the bones of criminals he (she) has killed and fashions small chairs from them, leaving them on the streets of Mire End.
I like flavour bits like The Chairman. I’m free to go with that as a neighbourhood terror, rumour or ignore it. I can have The Chairman as any thing I want. I’m not fond of more explicit NPCs – that’s those named and shamed in the “highlighted personalities” section of the book. At least Contested Ground Studios doesn’t go as far as to stat them.
One of the reasons the NPC personalities fail to impress is because I don’t care about them. I might now of key thugs in a gang – and of the leader – but I don’t care about the gang. Highlighted Organisations comes afterwards in the book and I suspect it would have been better put up front.
The Lostfinders Guide concludes some adventure nuggets. These nuggets are gold nuggets. A|State is different in look and feel to many RPGs and as a result requires a little more effort to get to grips with it. It’s not possible to leave The City and this is an excellent game world attribute. It does mean GMs have to think outside the box in order to keep things exciting inside The City.
The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End shares A|State’s bold layout. White space is used powerfully and there is no shortage of quality digital art. In truth you could easily squeeze the Guide to Mire End on far fewer than 32 pages.
If you’ve A|State and don’t regret buying it then there’s no reason not to buy Mire End. That’s a bit of a double negative but it seems like the best fit. If you’re in your local store and the slim book is there then it’s certainly worth picking up and buying with your change. On the other hand there’s no compelling reason to rush out and buy it. I think there may be issues in the future where A|State supplements either have to reference The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End – and risk making it one of those annoying ‘forced into having’ books or where the Guide isn’t referenced again – which would leave the book isolated and with no compelling reason to buy it. I think the best reason to pick up The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End is to keep you’re A|State set complete. A|State’s easily one of those RPGs which could go cult and go rare. The Lostfinders Guide to Mire End is better than most ‘buy to complete’ books as it worth the read in its own right and could enhance any A|State game which visits Mire End.