Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tommy's Take on The Old Country

Ever feel like published adventures are too rail-roady?  Bedrock Games, makers Terror Network and Crime Network, apparently have a similar complaint.  That that end, they have released Old Country, a module for Crime Network which is their gangland RPG.

In Crime Network, the PCs are soldiers in a mafia family, doing Bad Things with a unique sense of honor.  In Old Country, the PCs are given a pretty intense – and harrowing – task: Venture into Sicilian territory, without back-up, and find a traitor who flipped on the Family fifteen years ago.  He's been living in the Witness Protection program ever since, and as his info began to run dry and the feds lost interest, he wormed his way into the Savarino family, where he's been working his way up.

With Old Country, Bedrock Games gives the PCs the situation and drops the right into the middle of it.  The GM gets the background on the situation and the little city of Conaca, then the bulk of the adventure is laid out in three types of encounters: Timed Events, which are things that happen regardless, such as church services on Sundays.  Investigation events are keyed to places the PCs may search for information, what they may find there, and what it may lead to.  Through all of this, the PCs have to worry about Profile Events: Unless the PCs are super careful about how they go about their business, their actions will begin to attract the attention of the Savarinos.  Once the Savarinos realize that a rival hit squad is in their territory, they'll start taking steps to scare them off, which can escalate from there and turn into car bombings and out and out warfare on the streets.

Ultimately, though, the PCs are given much freedom to do as they will.  How hard or easy it turns out to be is partially up to their luck and their choices.  Every major NPC in the city is statted out with roleplaying profiles to guide the GM in their interactions with the PCs, including Useful Information the PCs can squeeze out of the NPCs, either by coercion, bribery or sweet talking.

Old Country is designed to be used as either a stand-alone module or one to be inserted into the middle of a campaign, with advice on how to appeal to the PCs before sending them in, rather than just making them look like they're called because they're available, and a helpful listing of ideas to follow up on the module in your game, such as having the PCs use Conaca as a base of operations to help an allied family in Europe spread their operations, or dealing with repercussions on the PCs home turf as the Savarinos track the PCs back home.

The PDF is only $4.99 and clearly laid out, fully searchable and bookmarked.  The only problem I see with it, technically, is that the bookmarks are organized...oddly...definitely not in the order they appear in the book, as is common.  Incidentally, I noticed that the Crime Network rulebook itself has a similar issue.

The adventure is a great example of flexible, functional design as it would be a perfect scenario for a one shot, or the tension of the mission could be huge in an ongoing campaign, as the “behind enemy lines” situation gradually (or quickly) worsens.

My only previous exposure to an “organized crime RPG” (aside from using The Kingpin a time or two in some Marvel games) has been Gangbusters, and they never had anything quite as cool as Old Country.  Technical issues with the bookmarks aside, this is a very fine product.  Highly recommended if you want some modern day, seek and destroy, anti-heroic, blood drenched fun.