Treasure at the Dalles rings in at about 48 pages and uses the D6 EPIC rule set which is a little more advanced than the old West End Games D6. The game is set in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse (or Changeverse as the game puts it) and takes place in the first year of the Change.
For anyone who hasn't read S.M. Stirling's emberverse books, The Change was an event that occurred at 7:15 PM on March 17th, 1998 in which an electrical storm over the island of Nantucket sent the island back 3,000 years as well as change the laws of physics in modern times. Electronic devices just stopped working, gun powder no long burned the way it should have and steam didn't reach the levels of pressure that it should have. Basically the modern world in a single instant was pushed back nearly 600 years.
As I've stated in previous posts this setting makes for an excellent RPG setting (I personally believe FAE would be best) and has been sorely missing from the stage for too long. The idea of trying to survive in a world gone that wonky, of trying to relearn old ways while worrying about your fellow humans AND keep some sort of society going is intriguing.
Unfortunately Treasure at the Dalles does not succeed in making the setting, the major Stirling characters or the situation seem intriguing.
Take this piece of interaction from early in the game when the players are introduced to the charismatic leader of Clan MacKenzie:
"I hear that you have volunteered to go for possible cache of medical supplies that we have learned about."
For such a character as Juniper MacKenzie the sentence is stiff, cold ... almost robotic. The thing is, no one in adventure speaks with emotion or care. Everything seems stiff and fake as if the player is a player in a game and not in an alternate world.
The gameplay itself is solid but introductory at best and walks the players through “days” with another learning lesson in the form of an encounter, this I could understand but it would take a decent, experienced referee to handle any situation that deviates from the learning lesson.
The adventure touts that S.M. Stirling himself playtested the adventure; however, given his style of writing his personal flare in that writing and just how well he creates various characters all I can think is that he had a vary talented referee.
In the end the game suffers from flat, cardboard NPCs, a one note fetch quest adventure and a feeling that the player is a player and not a living, breathing person in the world.
Positives have to be what little artwork is in the book, interesting uses of road maps and the setting itself. In a good referee this setting can shine even with a system that doesn’t seem to suit it.
I unfortunately need to give this game a 2 out of 5. It didn’t feel like the Emberverse for me, and the inability to create immersion just killed it.
I do hold out hope, however, that Final Sword’s next Emberverse adventure will feel more natural and more like the Emberverse. If I could give them any advice it would be to ditch the McKenzies and go with the Bearkillers which lend themselves more toward the type of stories that Final Sword wants to tell.
Treasure at the Dalles is now available at RPGNow/Drivethruprg for $7.00 (normally 14.95)
Now that that is out of the way, I need to remind everyone that this Friday at 10:00 am EST I will be running a playtest of “Lights over Innsfjord” VIA google hangouts. Also, this Saturday I will be running a Grimmsgate and Innsfjord table at MEPAcon in Clarkes Summit, PA so come and join or just say hi!
Finally, Liberation of the Demon Slayer … Holy F-ing Hell. Venger you succeeded in what you were going for. Full review of LotDS next week!
Now then what did Juniper say about three-fold … Innsfjord is doomed!