Posted on April 24, 2007 by Flames
SLA (read ‘Slay’) Industries was a landmark game when I first bought it many years ago and I rather regret the series of events that saw my copy deposited on the bed of the River Han in Seoul. It is with considerable joy, therefore, that I found that the original is now available as a free PDF download. Once again there is the chance to become immersed in the nasty doings of the Planet Mort, where 900 years of deception have led to the exploitation of just about everyone by the infamous SLA Industries itself and, above all, where it always seems to be gloomy and raining. This is the future as a Glasgow tenement, or at least so it always was in my imagination.
SLA Industries is, if not quite omniscient, then at least very, very powerful indeed. This is the description: “SLA Industries is progress personified. A ruthless company that will use any means within it’s grasp to remain the supreme power and corporation in the World of Progress. SLA Industries is a society unto itself, it sells everything from militarized armaments to civilian foodstuffs, but most importantly, SLA Industries sells lifestyles, it teaches the public what to do and think under an overwhelming barrage of never ending T. V. media hype that spans the length and breadth of the World of Progress. The oppressive regime of a company is owned and headed by the ultimate businessman, Mr. Slayer (p.8).”
This is a ‘twisted and nihilistic’ world in which characters are encouraged to play half-crazed freelance hedonists who await contracts to use violence (sanctioned by SLA Industries) against its enemies, the vile Darn Night Enterprises and Thresher, Incorporated, for example. Alternatively, players could become more idealistic in nature (or perhaps have the truth bashed into them by repeated use of a power glove) and fight against the Man in favour of the exploited, downtrodden and utterly miserable. Whatever happens, make sure that it is televised – on Planet Mort, if the revolution is not televised, then it does not happen. Besides which, it is media sponsorship which pays for all the bullets.
SLA Industries is a 304 page book stuffed with rather nice, moody and evocative illustrations. I am not a big fan of artwork and would generally prefer publishers to save money to pay writers more. However, in this case I can really say that the artwork enhances the atmosphere and explains the nature of the game as it is anticipated to be played. The ‘fluff’ pieces and background history also perform the same functions. This is a book which really sets out its stall to enable readers to understand the nature of the world in which they will adventure and does so very effectively. Even if not all of the background or even any of it is used, there will certainly be material that will be inspirational or at least thought-provoking.
The game uses a 2d10 system to resolve all rolls. Characters have various skills, characteristics and so forth which adjust the target roll and exceeding that makes for a success, variously defined. Dice systems satisfy some people and do not satisfy other people. I do not think it would be very difficult to dis-embed the dice system from the game as a whole and substitute another that better serves the group. One particularly enjoyable characteristic from my point of view is the interaction between fear and cool – top characters can wade through blood, guts and disembodied body parts without pause, a lesser character would flinch, scream and even soil underclothing in a way which, with millions of television viewers plugged into the character’s brain, could be very embarrassing.
Characters can be humans or aliens such as Shaktars or Wraith Raiders. Shaktars are somewhat ugly warriors of honour, not a million miles away from degenerate Klingons. Wraith Raiders are adaptable survivors with enhanced ability to become attuned to psychic powers. All three races can be enhanced with a range of bioengineering, nanotechnology and military hardware. Some can specialize in psychic abilities or varieties of computer networks – like most games, SLA Industries struggled to predict the rise of an omnipresent internet and does not represent it very well. Character types include stormers, frothers, brain wasters and ebons. These more or less comply with the standard stereotypes in RPGs of fighters, lunatic barbarians, resourceful techies and mystical-magical creatures of mystery. There is scope for character definition to a reasonable degree and the fact that the game has been brought back into the public domain suggests there will be additional material made available for further exploration of these types.
Customarily, characters will form a loosely-organised team waiting around for a contract from SLA Industries or from another corporate source. The contract will be colour-coded according to the type of task to be undertaken, resources to be made available, amount of violence sanctioned and the level of pay offered. This structure makes it quite easy to structure a campaign, since the contracts can be made progressively more difficult as the skills and abilities of characters improves, with occasional off periods when they can go about their role-playing aspects. Those who enjoy the role-playing can spend more time on the latter than the former, while those who are big into combat can focus on the tactical elements of contracts. Groups wishing to go beyond this structure should find enough information to be able to do so without much difficulty.
This is a game that can be strongly recommended for players who enjoy shooting things or cutting people up with knives, or who enjoy the border between tactical skirmish gaming and RPGing or who enjoy the over the top possibilities inherent in the game universe. Chainaxe against power gun confrontations with psychotic serial killers will never go out of fashion.
Reviewer: John Walsh
Look for SLA Industries eBooks at RPGNow.com.