Saturday, May 30, 2020

Reading 90's Modules, or, In Which I Have Learned Nothing

A couple years ago, I had a series of blog posts where I bagged on some 90's Ravenloft modules.

After today, I'm starting to wonder if 90's modules just sucked in general. 

I had the idea of making some pre-gens and doing one of the modules from GURPS Time Travel Adventures for my group.

 The adventure uses the Time Corps setting from the main GURPS Time Travel book, which is basically duelin' quantum present days that share a common past do time espionage to reduce the probability of the "other" present from existing while increasing the probability of "your" present existing. It's a pretty neat premise, to be honest. 

...but holy fucking set pieces, Batman! This module almost smacks of latter-day D&D adventure design: here's a couple set pieces that you will visit in order. The set pieces aren't as reliant on straight-up combat, but they are pretty rigid in terms of what can actually go down there. 

Spoilers ahead. Not that it matters, because very little your character does is going to have much of an impact 

Set Piece 1: Tel Aviv, 1973- PCs need to get find out why a nuke blew up the Great Pyramid of Giza in '73. There's a guy intel thinks is a spy for the other timeline. You have to get into an Israeli prison to get info out of him. Despite the organization that the PCs work for, they don't get cover IDs. A group of Israeli civilians are supposed to break into a prison. 

The PCs will find the guy, and right when they do, Syrian terrorists attack the prison. They do this only when the PCs are about to get info out of the guy, no matter when this happens. The spy gets shot, no matter what, and scrawls a cryptic clue on the wall in his own blood. If the PCs dick around or can't get into the prison, this event will happen anyway. The PCs can literally just chill and let this resolve itself.  

Interlude: The PCs clock back to their home time. If they're not smart enough to figure out the crytpic clue, an NPC will literally do it for them. 

Set Piece 2: France, 1798.  The PCs get disguised as French soldiers and sent to figure out if Napoleon is actually a time agent. No, really. This time you get plausible cover IDs and there's a French officer time agent to vouch for you. 

This piece consists of you watching an NPC agent give Napoleon mind control wine. (Basically) You can't stop him. He has a case of bottles of mind control wine, and mind control wine in a poisoned dart in his ring. He gets Napoleon and you get to watch. 

Later that night, mind-controlled Napoleon sneaks into the pyramid and arms a nuke...that's already in the blocks dun dun dun. You can't stop him because your time officer guy turns traitor for...reasons. He also has a gun and if the PCs try to stop Napoleon, he starts taking headshots with a skill level of 20. If you know anything about GURPS, you know how fucking stupid it is for a guy to have a skill level of 20. Oh and if you shoot Napoleon you all automatically teleport home and get yelled at at the adventure is over. You guys, I hear the author hissing, Quit ruining my stoooooooory. 

More like Napoleon Dynamite, amirite? 

Interlude 2: You go back home. Your superiors kind of don't give a shit about the guy who turned traitor and possibly shot some PCs in the head. Time travel make some people crazy, you know? Anyway, strap in bitches because you're going to ancient Egypt to stop the bomb before the pyramid is finished. 

Set Piece 3: Ancient Egypt. You've got to get on a work gang as unskilled laborers and find the bomb. There are three people who are stone cutters who are basically wearing "I am an evil time agent" t-shirts, but you have to investigate because your bosses will get mad if you just guess and murder. (How would they even know?) They have backup in the form of a dude who's been hiding in the wilderness who is ridiculously well armed. I think his weapons actually violate the time bullshit rules of the setting but fuck it, cool fights are cool, right? The module at this point grudgingly offers you a way to circumvent the set piece fight, but you can tell it's real sore about it if you do. 

The third set piece is almost cool. The PCs actually have freedom in how they approach the situation. You don't get to disarm the bomb though. You have to summon NPCs via a note to the future, like you're Bill and fucking Ted. 

The epilogue is that you boosted your timeline's probability and fixed the historical shift that had the pyramid blow up. The author gives the GM the option of just having the pyramid blow up anyway, in case you wanted to make sure your game table is empty next weekend because that entire adventure was basically watching the author jerk himself off, and I guess you got to make a stealth roll and do a combat or something. 

In the end, two thirds of this module is killing time until the cut scenes end. It actually kind of feels like when you're about 50 minutes into Metal Gear Solid 2 and you suddenly get to do something. 

If I'm going to run this, I'm going to have to take the very, very basic idea and just make a flowchart or something. Might have to add some other time periods in case the PCs don't feel like getting shit spoon fed to them. Maybe I could run the (actually much better) Titanic scenario in the same book. 


  1. This brings back some very vague memories. I am pretty sure I was a player in this module, but we revolted at the sheet railroadiness of it and quit. No, we quit by completely mucking it up until the GM quit in protest.

    1. Did you fuck with Napoleon? You fucked with Napoleon, didn't you?