Game: The Sleeping Kin
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Series: Judge Dredd: d20
Review Dated: 7th, November 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
You don’t often see scenarios coming out of the great Swindon machine but I think it was a wise choice to put something together for Judge Dredd. Mega-City One is just a huge place and the Judges are so powerful in their own right that I can imagine putting together a scenario might be more of a challenge to many GMs than putting together another dungeon crawl would be. The Sleeping Kin isn’t a dungeon crawl, in fact it’s refreshingly balanced between investigation and slugging it out with perps. In some ways then that it’s a shame its designed for four to six players of 3rd to 4th levels – but I suppose there are plenty of valid arguments in starting any street judge at 3rd level anyway.
If you’re likely to play the scenario then stop reading because this review will probably give something important away.
It’s really easy to provide a synopsis of the Sleeping Kin because that’s just what the book does early on in. GMs are advised to read through the whole book, get to grips with things and to be free to allow their players to stray off the beaten track. The plot in the scenario is typically 2000AD. Surprisingly so, in fact, impressively so. The Judges begin by investigating an alien smuggling ring but discover it’s actually a weird cannibal club. The organiser behind the cannibal club is found dead and the players will realise that the killers were probably modified cleaning bots.
“The players will realise” is a dangerous phrase. What if they don’t? In a Judge Dredd setting it isn’t so dangerous. If you’re playing in a Judge environment, especially with the players as rookies, then the various NPCs that will be involved in the investigation will discover important clues as needed and when the players miss them. In fact, there’s a tough lock that needs to be picked in the Sleeping Kin and if the players can’t pick it or don’t decide to blast the door open then they can call for backup for that sort of trivial detail too.
The 32-paged book is formatted to assist the GM trying to run the game directly from it. The paragraphs that a GM could read verbatim to the players often appear in italics. Just sometimes though the formatting messes up the quote continues out of the italics and into normal text. It isn’t a disaster or even all that much of a problem; it’s just something to watch out for. I’d watch the italic text closely even when the formatting is behaving itself too. It’s perhaps an issue for me because it’s a pet peeve but sometimes, just sometimes, it tells the players what they’re doing rather than what’s happening. For example, “You walk around the examination table to join Gaunt.” Did I? No. I was going to talk to him from the doorway. Cheap – but possibly true. To be fair, it doesn’t happen very often and when it does happen it is most often in small details like that – but to be the perfect scenario it shouldn’t happen at all.
Okay. I missed some of the plot synopsis out on purpose. Sleeper agents from East-Meg (read: Russia) have been re-actived and are going about finishing their mission from a war that ended decades ago. The sleeper agents really have been asleep – in suspended animation. It’s probably there in plain text but I can’t for the life of me find a mention of just why the agents kill off the head of the Gourmet Club – but they do, and it’s just as well, because it’s a vital link. The characters do go up against the agents again. The last scene in the book could be truly epic, a large-scale melee when a march goes wrong and then a cinematic chase/combat scene around some of the interesting features of the gigantic Mega-City One. My only concern with the final fight is that it involves a bit of player railroading; just a little. The situation needs to get out of hand and so no matter how impressive the players are. I think its one of those times when the plot gets away with such an event but its never something to take lightly.
The Sleeping Kin makes a great showcase for Judge Dredd and Mega-City One. The scope of the game is good and takes full advantage of the genre. It’s similarity to the comic strip is worth noting too, some ideas are borrowed straight from plots in the graphic novels but that’s not a crime when the whole RPG comes from there too. The illustrations in the book are heavily supplement with strips of comics from the series and this is a familiar feature in the roleplaying series. I think GMs will be very much better off of they’re familiar with the scenario to the point where they don’t need to read the italic text and when they can roleplay the important NPCs that show up rather than trying to steamrollers their appearances in key scenes. The Sleeping Kin is also particularly nice in as far as you can chop the sleeping kin, the East-Meg agents, out of it entirely. The investigation of smuggling that turns into alien eating is a nice Judge Dredd encounter in its own right and is just the sort of thing which you can pull the game book out for and use anywhere else in your game.