Game: Musical Mistresses
Publisher: Seraphim Guard
Review Dated: 13th, January 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Musical Mistresses is a set of adventures designed for us with HeartQuest. This review will contain spoilers. Reviews of adventures always do.
Musical Mistresses is more sophisticated than most reviews though. It begins with player friendly sections – you know, like how to design a suitable character for the adventures, some enticing flavour text and pages on the setting. When the download (Musical Mistres is currently only available in PDF) gets to the point where the players should stop reading – it says so. I think this is a good start; I wish more pre-written adventures had a similar percentage of content suitable for the players. It’s the players who’ll be playing the game after all. I found in the information on the setting of Yokohama interesting. It was more than interesting; it makes playing a game in a real Japanese city that you could well know nothing about actually possible. Rather awkwardly one of the three adventures aren’t set in Yokohama. There is one adventure set around Tokyo Tower. It’s not too much of a problem if the game stays in and around the tower. Is there a map of the tower? No. There are no maps anywhere in this 62-paged download.
Musical Mistresses isn’t the sort of linear pre-written adventure that I’m so fond of disliking. Musical Mistresses is a set of romantic comedies. Romantic comedies where the main characters are 14 year old girls. 14 year old years who can transform into musically themed superheroes. Such in the way of magic girl shoujo manga. If you think this is a stupid idea – then Musical Mistresses won’t change your mind. If you like the idea – then Musical Mistresses should please. Most importantly, perhaps, if you’re debating the idea – I think Musical Mistresses will do a good job in persuading you its possible.
The download is missing bookmarks. It needs bookmarks. PDFs should be as readable on-screen as they are printed off. The contents page is designed for a paper product and the page numbers are off. It is an easy product to print off though. The front page is colour but the rest is black and white. There’s no sidebar to eat up ink but there is a page-footer in the style of a line of music.
The adventures are presented in an intelligent way. The locations in Tokohama that’ll interest the players (school, library, shops, etc) are covered. Noteworthy NPCs are noted.
Character creation is a discussion of the HeartQuest / fudge rules. It’s not a dry number crunch though. Instead the author, Douglas Larke, explains his vision of the three characters and how their personalities might reflect their powers. It’s mainly about personality inspired powers and rather less on apparently trivial things like skills. If the gaming group decide to go with these pre-genned then they’ve got a good idea of what the girls are like. If the group decides that new characters would be better then there are these excellent guidelines on how to create three new Musical Mistresses.
There are some nice bites of advice in this chapter too. There’s a quick observation on “What’s the Point?” That’s there if you’re confused by the lack of killing things and nicking their treasure. Sadly, some people will wonder what’s the point. The reasons given are; the search for true live, facing insurmountable odds and friendship. Oh well. I don’t think any of those are compelling reasons for playing 14 year old girls but these reasons are true to the genre. There’s some advice on what to do if your group starts too in-fight too much. This is good. This is the sort of tips’n’tricks advice is especially helpful when it seems likely that GMs and players are trying something new. The chances are that they are here. There’s also a note on sex or physical intimacy as the title of the section calls it. Larke’s advice is not to, it’s not the point of the genre, the game or even the enchanting powers of a few of the girls. He admits some people might want to though.
Having previously described the campaign setting nicely Musical Mistresses sets about describing the characters and NPCs. There’s no skimping here. We benefit from Fudge’s streamline system; there is plenty of space for the best bits, for the important bits, for the meat of the character. The NPCs are interesting; they’re more than just someone to fight. That’s because they have to be. Sadly there’s a problem with the main villain NPC. His innocent alter ego is a dimwit. I’m not complaining about political correctness here. I’m saying it far to easy for the players to work out. He might as well have a neon sign over his head advertising the fact that he’s the Phantom Thief. Also, he’s called Akira. I know Akira is a common and popular name in Japan but I think it should be banned from all manga roleplaying games. You shouldn’t have a wizard called Merlin in your generic fantasy game either. It’s a complete section; you have NPCs for the interesting places your PCs might just visit. This is just a refreshing treat compared to the bare minimum of stat blocks being passed off as a NPC. I would have liked to have seen more illustrations of the characters though. Manga is a visual thing, the visuals are important. I found the lack of illustration of the Po’Kran aliens especially disappointing.
There are aliens. There is more written on the aliens than on anything else in the download. These aliens account for only one of the three games though (the one in Tokyo). In addition the alien presence has an entirely different feel than the other two adventures. The aliens are actually fairly gritty; there’s angst in their background and moral dilemma too. I think it’s unlikely you’ll be using both the Phantom Thief and the Po’Kran in the same campaign. It’s one or the other. Musical Mistresses would have been better making that call to – although the inclusion of both does help to show the range of the genre.
There are three pre-written adventures. Adventure isn’t really the best term for it. They’re events that the characters will play an important part in. There are a few stages in each – acts as they’re called – and these chain together as you would expect to lead the final scene. Whereas these acts are linear in nature the presentation of what’s going on in side them is not. We have the locations. We have the NPCs. What the pre-written adventures do is explain what certain NPCs are getting up to certain locations and how they’re likely to go about doing it. If you’ve never done anything other than a dungeon crawl then you’ll be confused; but for the rest of us, it’s the best way for adventures to be presented. I think they’re too short. The first has the girls trying to avoid getting detention, going home and then out to a festival where they end up battling a silly cherry monster. This could be done in thirty minutes unless you want to play through a whole school day, weird stuff happens at home or the combat drags out to tedium. On the other hand, if it’s worked into a current campaign and there are other things going on then it does make for a nicely thought out encounter.
There is a whole load of extras at the end, 10 pages worth. There are even two sample songs. Mainly the extras are composed of a list of inspirations; manga, anime and music. Is this too much in the way of extras? I think it’s a close call, especially since I think the three pre-written adventures are on the short side. On the other hand there’s not much missing from Musical Mistresses. The phrase “On the other hand” is one that I found myself coming back to again and again when trying to describe and review Musical Mistresses. It has ups and downs in nearly equal quantity. Nearly equal; I think the ups have the edge.