Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tommy's Take on Average Joes

Bedrock Games has done a nice job with Terror Network in the past, covering multiple facets of terrorism, but their newest supplement takes an interesting approach: Normal folks versus terrorists.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Average Joes is a 77 page PDF, available on RPGNow for $4.99. It is a combination sourcebook/module, placing - er - average joes in the War on Terror. The PDF is bookmarked and searchable, and lacks a really flashy layout, though it does pack a lot of information per page.

Compared to Terror Network agents, Average Joes are at a pretty big disadvantage, lacking skill points, resources, contacts...heck, most of them won't even have weapons, at least at first. What they DO get are Civilian Careers and an Attachment, which can be as much of a hindrance as a help. Interesting shift in dynamic.

The scenarios chapter notes that most of the time, an Average Joe will be wrapped up in terrorist situations against their will, and are likely in way over their heads. However, a couple of rules tips are provided to tweak it more cinematically, so you can play "Average Joes Save The Day" and not "Average Joes Get Lucky And Call The Cops". A number of scenarios are presented, with the first being my favorite: A rock band's airbus is mistaken for Air Force One and the band (the PCs) must stop these terrorists before they kill again. Over the top, cheesy fun, yes? There are also a couple of campaign ideas, such as the PCs going all vigilante in their area.

I do so love the Bedrock Games adventures, in large part because of the flexibility they provide. This book does include an adventure, in which a group of eco-terrorists take over a mall while the PCs are there shopping. We get a complete terrorist organization with backstory and bankrolling figure, eco-terrorists known as the Sacred Heart of the Earth. The adventure is a Timeline adventure, with the PCs having the ability to move about the mall and disrupt the actions of the terrorists. The terrorists are on a schedule, too, so the PCs have just over two hours in which to stay alive. The map of the mall shows the likely locations of the terrorists, and a random roll table is provided to set the locations of the PCs at the time of the attack. A good chunk of the map is dedicated to the Areas of Interest and how things might change in a given location (like a terrorist being encountered at Bo's Booze Barn completely plastered). There is also a gun store, in case the PCs hope to even the odds (and you know they do).

The endgame is in the hands of the PCs, even if the Swat Team invades the mall (their success or failure is set up, inadvertantly or not, by the PCs). The wrap-up is open ended as well, being used as a springboard for future adventures, leading to the terrorists seeking revenge, your preference.

The final chapter is a listing of NPCs, from generic stats for the terrorists, to hostages, to the leadership of the organization and local police, as well as specific hostages. Everyone gets a character sheet, bio and relevant notes, like tweaking one of the hostages to either make her a damsel in distress or a brave woman standing up to threats.

WHAT WORKS: A great idea for Terror Network, putting normal schmoes up against the terrorists...and Bedrock Games should be commended again, for showing that terrorism comes in multiple forms. As usual, the adventure is well done, setting up a situation that will play out eepending on the PCs actions.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The layout isn't anything splashy (but then, the price is only $5) and playing an Average Joe alongside standard Terror Network characters isn't terribly balanced.

CONCLUSION: Another great expansion of the Terror Network series, hitting on normal folks having to stand up to terror themselves. A slew of campaign and scenario examples are there to help you out, as well as a fine full-fledged adventure. There are even a couple of option to tweak it to a more cineamtic style, for that Die Hard feel. Is it a complete blow-away, MUST HAVE product? No...but it is a swell, well-written spin on Terror Network without only minor gripes on my end.