The Most Secret Conspiracy

By Maksim Kotelnikov
Monthly Adventures

A small group of adventurers through the fault of chance are caught up in the investigation of a mysterious conspiracy: someone is turning the entire city into a strange magical rune.

This 29 page adventure details a “plot” from … eons ago? To destroy … humans? Weird shit happens in a city, you’re led around by the nose, things happen to you rather than you doing things, and it’s all presented in a very story-game driven way while giving the trappings of the party having agency. Not something to do, in spite of a decent premise.

What attracted me to this adventure was this statement by the designer: “There is no main villain or his minions, nor are there any necromancers, cultists, or thugs. There is no opposing evil here to antagonize the heroes. This is an adventure in which they face their own incredulity and paranoia as they unravel the mystery of a weapon designed for a long-forgotten war.” Which is pretty intriguing, except for the long-forgotten war part. 

Long ago the elves lived and loved and were happy. And then the humans showed up and cut down trees, etc. You know the drill by now. Anyway, the elves have this mage dude who does this spell that Makes The Land Itself protect itself. It goes off, but takes a few millennia to get to power and work. Meanwhile, someone builds a city on the ancient burial ground, err, I mean elf lands. Twenty years ago weird shit starts happening in the city. Mayor Dickcheese and Wizard McWizardson figure it out and start building and demolishing streets and buildings to turn the layout of the city in t a giant anti-magic rune, to protect everyone. And they don’t tell anyone about it. This is the extent of the the whole “no evil cultists” thing. The party shows up, see some weird shit, investigates, and then goes and gets a magic item to complete a ritual to save the city. 

I don’t know. Good premise, with a couple of good elements going on in the adventure. At one point you look in to two weird deaths. One of them has a dude who has choked on a moth. The other has a woman who has hung herself from a tree branch .. that she could not reach. Kinda nifty. A little frustrating since there is no way for the party to arrive at an answer, until the very end of the adventure, so it’s just window dressing to fill up time. But, still, nice ideas.

The entire adventure is, though, a hunk of junk. On page one we’re told that this is a “Script for a tabletop RPG” Ought oh! Script. Tabletop RPG. And, sire enough, the adventure is arranged in Acts, under the heading of The Story. Sure, you can do this and have it not be a shit show. But that rarely happens. 

The first half or so of the pages are devoted to locations in the city, a kind  of overview. The mayor, the museum (which is more of a Believe it or Not attraction, so I’ll not bitch much about it existing), a tavern, and so on. And then the mayor, the only mage in town, Timmy te Weasel (a mary sue) and the leader of the smugglers, wh o is a lycanthrope. But while the designer acknowledges that all lycanthropes are evil … not these lycanthropes. Okey doke. The locations, such as the hucker and the bar, are not too bad. They are overly described, but at least they are not the standard fantasy fair. Also, they don’t really matter AT ALL to the adventure. As a general town feature, sure. And the NPC”s are also overly described. Paragraphs of information that don’t really mean anything or have an impact on the game. 

On to the adventure proper!

It doesn’t really exist. It’s just an outline. Act One is a page and half of Let The Party Get To Know The City, finishing with them fucking some elf bard chick in the tavern. Act two are just a couple of vignettes … rats come out of the bakers shop, from a hole in the ground, that guards wont let you investigate. And, of course, the two dead bodies I mentioned before. These are both handled in a paragraph, with nothing more to them. The first is, in its entirety “The first of them was named Radomir, and he was a rather plump burly man who had recently worked as a glassblower in the weavers’ quarter. All the evidence suggests that Radomir simply suffocated while he was taking a leak. A careful examination of the body reveals no marks on the neck or any signs of poisoning. However, a common night moth was strangely lodged in the poor man’s windpipe.” Fill in the rest. And, I note, this is one of the more detailed things to happen. 

And this happens over and over again. A sentence about what could happen and then another explaining what really is going on and how the party can’t really do anything. No real encounters. No real challenges. Eventually you make it to the sewers, near the end of the seven acts, and get attacked by the weres, who were driven insane by the spell. Thats all you’re getting for detail though. Make up everything else yourself. 

It’s all very abstracted. An outline in First This Happens And Then This Happens paragraph form. There’s no real agency here. You’re told to interfere with the party doing things, by using the guards, etc. This is a story game, but, it doesn’t lean in to that. It’s trying to be a traditional game, but it doesnt lean in to that either. He licked the one. He chased the other. And then he ended up dead. It’s what you got.

This is $3 at DriveThru. The preview is eight pages and shows you a bit of the town locations, which are moderately interesting, but not so much so to take up the space they do and, ultimately, are just window dressing.

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5 Responses to The Most Secret Conspiracy

  1. Artem the Orc Blade says:

    Like Mad Troll, seems like another artefact of the so-called Russian Old School (i.e., Storygaming School) that peaked in the early 2000’s. I don’t remember the original, could be either a really obscure example or some sort of Storygaming Revival.

    Contains all of the cancerous elements that plagued my younger years as a gamer and were thought of as “real roleplaying, not that Yankee hack’n’slash”: system-neutral, storygaming, railroading, mudcore (light in this example but still), hokey names, generally “ain’t I clever” masturbatory.

    I wonder who wastes their time and bandwidth to translate this dreck into English?

    • Brandon H. says:

      ??? ????? “????? ???’?’????” ?? ???????? I apparently missed out on this stage of the Russian gaming scene. The irony to me is it sounds very much like the rhetoric coming out of the “storytelling” games by White Wolf in the 90s, which were very much American. A bit less on the mudcore and hokey names, though.

      • Brandon H. says:

        Today I learned that WordPress comments don’t allow Cyrillic text. I asked how to say “Yankee hack’n’slash” in Russian.

        • Artem the Orc Blade says:

          “Pindosskoye mochilovo”. (‘Pindos’ is a slur for Americans, ‘mochilovo’ is slang for a big fight, violence, massacre, etc.)

          >>>the rhetoric coming out of the “storytelling” games by White Wolf in the 90s

          V:tM was also big in early 2000s Russia.

          >>>which were very much American

          The main irony of that magical time was that everyone in the (scanty, tightly-knit, insular, and borderline cult-like) Russian RPG community thought they were so way ahead of those dumb Yanks… while regurgitating the very same trends, only with a 5-10 year time gap.

  2. Knutz Deep says:

    I’ve created adventure outlines for my games and just winged them based on that. Outlines worked for me because I knew what I wanted to do but I’d never try to publish something like that for use by others. $3 may not seem like a lot but I’m not paying $3 for someone’s barely fleshed-out ideas. Put some work into it. Make it into a proper adventure.

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