Wow. Just wow. I have been a very busy blog writer/teacher as it has been report writing season here in Tasmania and I think I just got through. But in every spare breathing moment I have been poring over the Silent Legions material and creating a game that I could run because I needed a serious role-playing game to shake my games up a little! I can say that I was not disappointed in the least.
I made up a set of Gods, some cults, a Kelipot, some aliens and then nine places developed along the same lines as suggested in the book. It was a labour of love that gave me some fantastic place settings and made the world feel alive to me. I then worked on an adventure template for last night and in the end, sat back very happy with everything that I developed. The area was Tasmania, the adventure set largely in and around Burnie (the city about 20 kilometres from where I live) and the story elements considered and intriguing. I made a point of not using one of the red herring locations so there was some nice hidden material for the players to pick up on.
Putting the game up late last week I hoped to get enough people to run a game and in the end I got four players. They each wanted to play a different class so they were all represented. Libby Furr, Jesse Angell, P J Coombe and Craig Vial joined me for the mothers day bash. I was actually very nervous to be running this, despite the fact that I felt so well prepared. On the lead up to the game I kept double checking things. I tore up pieces of paper and put an infinitesimal amount of mini bookmarks in the rulebook, almost one a page it seemed. And then the game started.
I started with a brief of the rules once we had introduced ourselves – I had played with Libby and Craig before but Jesse and P J were new to me. I was delighted at the fact that the rules talk took me pretty much five minutes to explain. There are literally only three things that need to be explained in the way of dice rolling and the characters are pretty much self explanatory. One of the other things that I realised is there is a rules summary sheet in the book and I laid it open to that page. Of the bookmarks I used only one other and that was the suggested DC for checks. The rules are really that easy.
The other thing about the rules simplicity is they never got in the way. The players intuitively picked them up and ran with them. I never thought “What is the ruling for that?” I am not 100% sure why. Is it because this game steers players away from combat apart from the last resort? I do not think so as the rules for combat in the book are terribly brief. The real reason is that it leaves a lot open. Plain and simple there is not a rule for every happen-stance but there is a current in the book that empowers the players and the GM to run with it and treat it old school. If you are unsure what I mean by that statement, it refers to the fact that players and the referee should just roll over problems with quick, logical solutions rather than stop and look for rules. It is the idea that the players come to a security panel and one wants to know if they have studied the workings for this device. Rather than taking an in-depth look at skills the GM sees they have skill ranking 1 in it and says that they have worked with these before. Taking an in-depth look at the skill would be wasted anyway, they are concisely written out over two pages.
Enough gushing about the rules, lets talk about the game. The four players initially found themselves at a party held by a Federal Senator in Burnie. They were uncertain as to what the party was for but being socialites, or having been invited in one way or another they were there. The only one that was not inside was the Private Investigator (PI played by PJ) who was staking out the Senator as she had been implicated in the disappearance of the son of a wealthy Burnie business family but never charged. The PI was on his last legs with his business, had the worst equipment in the world and knew that proving the involvement and even finding out what happened here had the possibility of turning things around.
Soon after placing them at the party a group of four blacked out vans drove up and around the back of the mansion. The PI and the Internal Affairs (IA played by Jesse) cop who was having a smoke on the balcony to get away from the Senator both saw this. The PI knew there was nothing around the back and so jumped out of his car and headed across. The IA officer saw the PI push through a hedge and thought that he must be a burglar and went for the front door to find him. The PI got around the back and there was no sign of the vehicles. Just about that time he noted that there were vehicle tracks that went through the recently seeded dirt and the tracks stopped dead at the back wall of the house. Making careful notes in his pad he noted where the entry was. The IA officer then came around the corner but could not see the PI. At this stage security lights were flooding the back section of the building and a portion of the wall opened up. Four black trench-coated individuals with crucifixes as a lapel pin appeared through it with torches as if searching for something. IA stepped forward and started to question them, though they successfully turned it around on IA and soon had him return to the party. Only one spoke to him whilst the other three were moving along the property edges clearly looking for something.
PI had returned to his car when he saw the “security” out searching so he continued to watch the party. The Senator took her guests out on the balcony to give them some form of speech when BANG! Something rammed the car (a beaten up 1974 orange Torana) that the PI was in. The guests all saw the car thrown 50 feet into the air and land on its roof – but they did not see anything that could have caused it. The Socialite (played by Craig Vial) whipped out his smart phone and started filming while the Senator attempted to block his view. The scholar (played by Libby Furr) and her friend that had invited her who had some skill in medicine ran out of the party, along with IA to see if she could help the injured. Arriving on the scene there were two of the trench coated men trying to get the door open and also a couple of discarded torches by the car, as if another two of the men were somewhere nearby.
There was no other car and what they thought had been a rear end collision showed no damage to the rear of the car. Libby managed to open the door to the vehicle using a bit of leverage and engineering and the two trench-coats eased the PI out who was unconscious. Libby managed to bring the PI back to consciousness and the PI had a flash of blue jeans covered in tendrils, weeping sores and tentacles. Large tentacles. But it was only a flash as instead the tentacles quickly turned to cables that had near crushed the car. Libby’s friend saw that there was some form of liquid viscously oozing down the door and it was also burning the paint off the car and rapidly corroding the door. She took a sample (Libby’s friend was a geneticist) and then told Libby that they needed to get out of there. She had “seen this before” but could “say nothing”. She gave a card to the IA, the PI and the socialite whom she had seen doing the filming and asked them all to meet with her the next day in the lab.
The trench coats were deliberately confronting and suggested that the PI was an ICE addict, hence his business failing and they stood around causing confusion the whole time. Just as the ambulance and police arrived Libby saw a red flash in the darkness under a street lamp that had just gone out. At that time the demeanour of the trench coats changed and they backed away. Leaving Libby noted that the door was now completely dry (no more fluid) but where it had been had turned the steel beneath the paint to rust, the kind of rust that you get over years of exposure. Driving past the outed street light Libby could not see anything and the scene ended.
We picked up the next day as the group all arrived at the lab. We determined that the socialite had put a portion of the video on Instagram, but just the “amusing bits” that he quickly determined after returning to his accommodation the previous evening. Doreen (Libby’s friend) had spent all day working on the samples and had not spoken to her all day. As four o’clock came on she sat down with the group as they arrived and showed them a gag order that had been placed on her by the Senator. She explained that she had been called in by the hospitals disease clinic four weeks prior to determine if they had an ebola case on hand. She arrived, dealt with the nurses, took some samples and left to go back to the lab. The man she saw had huge lesions that were ebola like but they also had growths coming out of them which were not like the disease. Bundles of nerves. At the lab she found something but she could not tell the group about it because of the gag order, and when she returned to the hospital the man had disappeared and all there were was lawyers.
IA was keen to get to the bottom of it and asked if there was any way that she would break the gag order. She replied that if they could somehow convince her that she was not crazy. She then went on to speak of the genetic sample that she had taken the previous night and though it was a preliminary report she believed the DNA to be human but with seven extra chromosomes. They asked her if it was alien and she stated that based on the research that she has considered over her time she can simply say that nothing like it has ever been recorded. As to its origin, she pushed the gag order in front of them. Then they watched the full video from the socialite and for three to four frames a figure can be discerned with giant tentacles coming from a seal like humanoid form with a human head. It is tearing itself away from the car and disappears.
With this Vera breaks and tells them that the sample was from the same individual that was at the hospital, though the tentacles were not formed then. PI then shows her a photo of the son of the businessman and she confirmed that he was the individual that disappeared from the hospital. By the end of the night they had queried a priest in Launceston, whom the black vans were all rented to and they also spoke to a couple of nurses that were on that evening with Doreen. Things went from a frivolous laugh-a-thon from the party into some dark dialogue and morally ambiguous areas, especially with the fate of one nurse. I watched as the players became more and more involved with the way the investigation played out and was thoroughly impressed by the evenings play.
I choose not to cover all the end of it in close detail as it was, at points, very full on – which a game of this nature can tend to be. I can with absolute joy state that this game has lifted me up. This is the style of game that I really love. Involved, emotional and focussed on interaction, not just combat encounters.
Silent Legions is a game by Kevin Crawford, and while I own a few of his games, I have never run one. I have done a lot of work with prepping games but never actually taken it to that next point. I am so glad that I did. Silent Legions is a game that I would hope gets a lot of play. I got a great comment on the blog last night about how another person ran his first session last week and ran a converted Call of the Cthulhu module in it. He agrees that it runs really well. I realise that there have been a few reviews on some blogs but I have not seen a review based on the game after play. I did not really set out for this to be a review, but as you can tell, I think this game is something special.
Will I run this again? Yes. Would I run this regularly? Yes. I am even thinking about writing the adventure up so I could run it at on-line conventions in the future. It is that good. So go and get a copy of this game. Get a PDF at least and just look at the generation materials for some excellent advice on how to build a sandbox game up from scratch. Until next time, keep rolling!