Posted on September 18, 2008 by Flames
Published by Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
Written by Dave Allsop, Tim Dedopulos and Rob Wood.
Illustrations by Dave Allsop
The war between the GMs and the players continues to rage unabated. Each side takes no prisoners in the struggle to force the other side to accept a vision of created reality that is biased to the home troops. Rules-givers vary in their preferences for one side or another and technological innovation too has its role on the battlefield. In Dungeons and Dragons, for example, the power veered first towards the DM/GM clique to the extent that players had little control over the world or power to affect the gaming environment (and if they ever gained a foothold on reality a few well-placed ‘wandering’ monsters soon put them in their place) and then decisively away from that side to the Player clique. Now, in the fourth edition of the rules, the DM is threatened with permanent and total extinction as the players now wield tools of incredible power and flexibility and the return of the random dungeon tables is an unsubtle hint of where the power now resides. Access to technology by the players, particularly online RPGs in which players could reach high levels of achievement and power if they played long enough, meant that expectations of the distribution of influence within the ‘game’ had changed radically. Expect the few remaining DM/GM clique members to be driven into the dark like Morlocks, while the Eloi players disport themselves aboveground in the sun – although it is strange that all the Eloi looked exactly the same, as if they lacked sufficient imagination to differentiate themselves from their comrade creatures.
SLA Industries is somewhat different. It posits, in the typically dour, rain-swept and pessimistic style it has achieved, a contest between the players and the monsters – er, a series of psychopathic serial killers – which may or may not be equal or fair in nature. The conceit is that the players take the role of quasi-official operatives who may accept contracts to eliminate undesirable presences on the mean city streets, returning if successful with evidence of the kill (ears, perhaps, in the Mongolian style or some other previously agreed token). There are twenty such ‘Hunter Sheets’ provided in this supplement, which runs to a length of 77 pages in a PDF item. As well as initial and concluding fluff – sorry, intensely-wrought and crafted flavour pieces (there is a reason why publishers are so reluctant to pay for fluff) – the twenty serial killers are presented one at a time, first with information for players and then the same for the GM. The first would be presented to the player group, depending on how much choice the GM is prepared to offer them, while the second is reserved for subsequent use. Some clues are presented for working the individual killers into play but, inevitably, too many of these in a row will make game play feel a little repetitive. Perhaps they may be reserved for occasional interludes when a campaign reaches a natural break or when an impromptu game breaks out for one reason or another.
The different prey vary in deadliness but share the atmospheric qualities that SLA players will enjoy (since they presumably do not play if they do not enjoy it) and are consistent with that atmosphere. The style of the book is also consistent with the theme and the portraits of killers are sensibly located in the players’ part of the text. The text itself is divided up into sections artfully arranged across the pages in exciting post-modern style and, for some reason which escapes me, lengthy sections are written entirely in capital letters, which can make it feel like the reader is on the receiving end of an extensive character assessment by an ex-spouse. Still, no doubt it will appeal to some people.
For would-be entrants to the SLA GM clique, this is likely to be an invaluable resource in providing means of involving the players in urgent action and preventing them from having the leisure time to write poetry, open hardware stores and raise llamas and all the other stuff that players will get up to if they are not being continuously threatened by vile and violent sociopaths. The GM is unlikely to use all of the hunter sheets, at least not all at once, but some will be very helpful in getting things going. Above all, it helps ensure the continued power and existence of the GM clique.
Review by John Walsh
Look for more SLA Industries eBooks at the Flames Rising RPGNow Shop.