Review : Adventure!

White Wolf’s game of Pulp heroics.

By White Wolf, $25.95/£16.99

Action, Adventure, and Really Wild Things

It took me ages to get round to buying Adventure! I wish I’d bought it earlier. Adventure! is, in my opinion, a spot on roleplaying game. It is a wonderful combination of loyalty to genre in both presentation and mechanics. Adventure! is White Wolf’s pulp game, and you know exactly what it’s about just by looking at the cover. Flip through and you’ll see the slightly discoloured paper and illustrations that fit the subject matter perfectly. This is the game for all those Indiana Jones and Doc Savage fans.

The first part of the book is filled with background material in the form of short stories, and the annals of the Aeon Society. The stories manage to nicely convey the feel of the pulp writing on which the game is based (and as a Planetary fan I’m a sucker for Warren Ellis material). The rest of the background material manages to avoid many of the things I find annoying about in-character background, and gives a nice idea of the types of stories Adventure is design to create, as well as providing a reasonable world overview for the 1920s.

The game information doesn’t actually begin until page 107, at which point we’re given the standard White Wolf introduction to roleplaying, which I’ve read too many times, but which is essential for newbies. The first chapter deals with the basic storyteller system rules, how traits and abilities work. It’s nice and brief, and has plenty of examples for people who haven’t played before. The system is a tweaked version of the original Storyteller rules: You roll some ten sided dice equal to a attribute + ability, any result of 7 or more is a success. The more successes the better you do. If you don’t get any successes and roll a 1, you botch, causing a mishap. If a task is more difficult, you need more successes. Simple and easy to remember.

Character creation is, some would say thankfully, not splat focused. It follows a fairly familiar format: allocate set points to attributes (strength, wits, intelligence etc), abilities (firearms, stealth etc) and advantages (powers, connections, resources, etc), then spend transformation points to tweak. The chapter is nicely succinct, with a good summary and a running example. The rules for character advancement seem oddly out of place to me (though I can see the logic in putting everything in a chapter called Character). I also found myself flipping forward to the chapter on traits, so that I knew what Knacks (cool pulp powers)and Backgrounds there were.

The next chapter covers all the traits that define a character. It covers possible character origins, allegiance, and natures, along with attributes, abilities and backgrounds. A big thank you to White Wolf for finally noticing that it’s pointless to describe each level of every skill. Each skill gets a hefty and entertaining description of what it’s used for and suggested specialties, but no pointless repetition of “one dot is trained” etc. The backgrounds all have a nicely pulp feel (with some neat associated quotes), and include Sanctum and Nemesis. Characters can also take their backgrounds to astounding levels, so a character can have legions of followers or be wealthy beyond avarice, which is a nice touch. Characters in Adventure! also get Inspiration as a trait. Inspiration is used to power Knacks, as well as for “Dramatic Editing”. Dramatic editing is by far the coolest addition to the game, and allows for a large amount of player authorial power in the game. More on that later. Inspiration is also sub divided into three types, Intuitive, Destructive and Reflective, each of which can give a variety of bonuses to situations and help define your character’s style.

Chapter 4 details Knacks. Knacks are powers possessed by Pulp heroes. A lot of effort has obviously gone into making these evoke a pulp feel. Knacks are divided into three types: Heroic, Psychic and Dynamic. Heroic powers, aren’t really powers and allow characters to pull off all those coincidences that pulp heroes are famous for. Dramatic entrances, defying death, being a one man army, knowing how to design weird devices, there all here. Psychic powers are mesmerism, mind control and similar. Dynamic powers are much like heroic ones, but go beyond the normal bounds of humanity. Your character can be as tough as Bronze, or be inhumanly fast, but not at a superhero level, at a pulp level. The following chapter deals with Super Science. It gives a brief summary of how your character can create weird pulp-style devices, how long this would take, and how to repair them when things go wrong.

The next chapter is on Drama, which is White Wolf speak for rules. Here we have a rundown on how the system deals with dramatic feats, along with a comprehensive section on combat and damage. Here we also get the rules for Dramatic editing. Dramatic editing is a player empowerment technique, that allows you as the player to influence things outside your characters sphere of control. It gives the game the feeling of those old pulp cliffhangers. It allows players to add facts to a scene in their advantage. Those of you who have played games like The Pool or OctaNe will recognize it, but it’s nice to see this style of mechanic appear in a mainstream game.

Chapter 7 is about roleplaying, and covers a host of elements in a small amount of space. There’s a discussion of making sure characters fit together and don’t overlap, along with motivations and connections. There’s a look at the way the world of Adventure works (in terms of genre and period conventions), as well as a nice piece defining Pulp and comparing it to other styles of fiction. The storytellers section is a small, but gives good advice on plotting a pulp story, creating suitable villains, and how to deal with problem players.

Chapter 8 is a summary of the heroes and villains of the official setting, along with generic stats for commonly encountered bad guys. This section is handy for the Storyteller who lacks inspiration, and also useful reading for players whop want to get an idea of how to create pulp style character. Finally there’s an appendix, giving details of weapons, vehicles, the cost of travel, drugs, and a timeline. There’s also a handy list of resources and inspiration.

Overall: I love Adventure! It wonderfully evokes the atmosphere of pulp series. It is a joy to read, and leaves you wanting to start a game straight away. I can’t give any RPG a higher recommendation than that.