Sexual Predators (OSR)
This Alpha Blue supplement clocks in at 60 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page kort’thalis glyph, 2 pages for note-taking, leaving us with 55 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This supplement’s rules are based on Alpha Blue’s iteration of the VSd6 engine, which is d6-dice-pool based and rather rules lite; due to the focus on random tables and ideas over mechanics this sports, it does allow for relatively painless conversion to most OSR-games like Stars Without Number, which is still my go-to scifi OSR-game.
Let’s address the elephant in the room before we get to the actual content, shall we? The title of this supplement. I am genuinely not sure if it’s a bit tone-deaf, intentionally controversial or something else. Now, the cover artwork makes clear what’s meant – the predators from the scifi franchise. Which are, at least to me, both cool and ridiculous. I distinctly recall all the observations by various people, of predators having a vagina dentate mouth back when I was in puberty. Anyhow. Alpha Blue is a 70’s/early 80’s scifi-porn-parody inspired game, as you all by this point probably know. And Venger As’Nas Satanis’ aesthetics are deeply rooted in the exploitation film genre, wherein taboos are broken, boundaries pushed. The most defining feature of exploitation cinema, indubitably, would be the transgressive nature of the subject material depicted. As such, a title like this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me – but it still was. Why? Because I did not expect to see a title that evokes tragedy and trauma as a title for a fun, beer and pretzels style game.
Personally, the last thing I want to think about, even for a second, particularly in the context of a funny, juvenile rules-lite roleplaying game that focuses on unrepentant smut and casual sex, is being reminded, for however briefly, of the vile scum that turns one of the best aspects of the conditio humana and ruins it or attempts to do so. The title, even though intended as an obvious reference to the predator-franchise, left a bilious taste in my mouth. It did what very few supplements have achieved – it made me feel genuinely uncomfortable posting this review; it kinda offended me. That being said, it is not up to some reviewer like yours truly to tell you what you should or should not consider to be bad taste; it’s subjective, and perhaps (I certainly hope so!) you did not have the same associations I had when reading the title. I do maintain that, for a light-hearted RPG that’s supposed to be funny, the choice of title is utterly inappropriate, and if I reacted this way, there are bound to be more folks out there that felt the same way, or worse. I don’t advocate censorship – I never have, and never will; it is not conductive to discussion and debate, but I do maintain that, for this particular product line, a vagina dentate-based pun-title might have been smarter…
After some serious deliberation, I decided to go review-bot mode here, abstract my personal bias here completely, and refrain from penalizing this supplement for the title, in the hopes that all you fine people out there are self-determined and mature enough to engage with this in the manner you see fit, that you consider appropriate.
Anyhow, it’s not my task to discuss what an individual considers or doesn’t consider appropriate. It’s my task to take a look at the content within, which I intend to do.
So, after a brief discussion of how Alpha Blue’s sexual freedom is an anomaly in the federation, we do get a random table to determine how sexually restrictive a given sector is. After this, we receive an interesting essay of sorts, titled brothel shyness. Condensed down, one can sum it up with the paraphrasing of a LaVey-quote provided, namely that “There is a beat in man that should be exercised, not exorcised.” For most sane folks, this holds certainly true and, given my somewhat hedonistic tendencies, is a sentiment I can get behind. In the context of this essay, we are basically told that, while restraint in everyday life is very much a part of the glue that holds society together, no restraint needs necessarily be shown in imagined settings. (As a personal aside – I would have personally resounded the per se feasible statement here wholeheartedly, were it not for those damn associations that this pdf’s title evoked in me…which made my mind wander to dark and unpleasant places in the context of this sentiment.)
Anyhow, next, we get a new profession/career for Alpha Blue, namely the righteous tradition of porn salvage! A funny and interesting aspect would be “the Last Alpha Blue Optional Rule” (I believe it when I see it…) – this rule acknowledges that days and weeks mean different things in different places of the cosmos. As such, whenever a PC or NPC forgets to put “standard” before a unit of temporal measurement, you can roll on a random table.
All right, this out of the way, let us take a look at the first scenario within – “Earth Girls are Not Easy.” I will proceed to thoroughly SPOIL what follows, so consider this the SPOILER-warning. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, just BDSMs (Bold Space Dungeon Masters) around? Great! So, there is a predator called Upgrayedd, and there’s a chance the PCs have heard of this guy before –a d6 table lets you determine it. There’s a fat bounty on the predator, who stole Professor Quandry’s time machine, after giving the poor man a lethal dose of space herpes. He used this device to travel to…Earth! 2018, to be precise. Why? Earth girls are the hardest to conquer, or so the rumor goes. The PCs are bound to follow the predator through time, arriving back in time, somewhere in an abstract South America jungle-ish scenario. Here, the module pretty much drops any pretense of providing a storyline per se, and instead opts for some roughly sequential encounters, with the random table of time distortion effects acting as a kind of glue, I guess. While these distortions rock, it’d have been nice to get e.g. stats for sudden influxes of dinosaurs in the jungle. The vignettes include a hub of sorts, El Sleazo Cantina, which is pretty much Titty Twister V.2.0, including sexy space vampires that can only be staked by plastic dildos. I never thought I’d write that last sentence. At one point, the PCs will meet mandatory’an Da’ave, who wants “Back to the Future”; there is Will Ferrell, who has mechanically-relevant cowbell. And there is, obviously, Arn’ld! (Whose stats are powerful, but for Arn’ld? Still a bit pitiful – okay, 4d6 dice pool, I get that. Choking out foes in one round? Yeah. But only 55 hit points? It’s Arn’ld!! There’s a zero missing! 😉 (Sorry, I’m a huge fan – I even have the Austrian Death Machine albums…) Anyhow, Arn’ld is still better than Upgrayedd, better than the inevitable Alien that will show up, and yes, better than The T-111 Termination Droid, so I’m good there. I do like that we get stats for all those folks, but I also kinda wished there’d be more adventure here, instead of one location and some admittedly cool NPC-pop-culture references.
Scenario #2 would be “Kaiser So-You-Say”, who is btw. the grey eminence of the Terra Nostra, who has invited the PCs (and the galaxy’s best martial artists) to a tournament on his laser-shark guarded moon Ha’an. While he, until this point, seems to have worked with the Hunan empire, a covert missive offers serious credits for killing him off – due to, ostensibly, him having joined the federation. Random events during the tournament and one “accidental” death match, including stats, are provided. Somewhat to my disappointment, we don’t get sample competitions or rules to resolve them, which makes the whole tournament angle basically window-dressing. Ultimately, the PCs will get an audience with the mastermind – and the chance to pull the lever that will activate his doomsday weapon and annihilate 1/4th of the Federation. Federation agents will teleport in, though, while Kaiser runs – and inside the moon, there is a tentacle god-thing! This is per se a great adventure outline, but one that, more so than usual for Venger’s scenarios, really would have benefited from a bit more meat on its bones; competitions, mini-games, an idea how the whole moon/tournament site actually looks like – you know. Perhaps even a timeline. You can easily make this a fantastic module, but prepare for some serious work fleshing this fellow out. As written, only about 40% of the work’s done here.
“Crimson Dwarf” is, no surprise there, basically the Venger-ized take on red Dwarf. All the crew of the ship has died while the PCs were in stasis, and 8 random reasons for why the PCs were in stasis are provided. Not only do we get a full mapped and keyed (!!!) version of the fantastic map of the vessel, we also get a high-res jpg. version! EDIT: Venger has listened to feedback (KUDOS!) and included a proper, unkeyed version of the map as well! That is amazing and provides VTT-compatibility! A robot asking the PCs to check their organic privilege, a crystal pirate with a nasty droid, psionic, tentacle sharks, a zenobite, a nasty and rather unpleasant AI. Space siren strippers cloaked by illusions – this one is a great little sandbox that has a lot going on; its rooms are contextualized properly, and while there is no linear plot, this still represents easily the best Alpha Blue scenario Venger has penned so far.
“Dude, where’s my starship” is basically the Alpha Blue version of the classic movie, including nods to Leisure Suit Larry (I loved those games back when they were actual adventures…),and it represents a return of sorts to the source: Alpha Blue needs saving, as a species of psionically potent aliens has taken control. Making use of established entities like Grabba the Butt, the plot has the PCs defeat a nasty fellow, only to hear about Repo-men from the 8th dimension coming – the dude they just off’d had serious debts, you see….and ultimately, the PCs may be pressed into service by Grabba…One of the better adventure outlines for Alpha Blue, this has plenty of stats and its reference of the base station and established players helps contextualize it.
“Ra’aj Blake” is about the man of the same name; nay, the legend. Insurrectionist, terrorist, freedom fighter – it depends on who you ask, and a d12 table of rumors are provided. It’s a fact that he’s coming out of hiding, and the PCs travel to the mauve zone to meet him, with a table of odd things happening in transit allowing for a bit of flavor. The man, as it turns out, has crafted the shadow algorithm, which ostensibly can shut down federation AI…and now a lot of people want him. Pirates, Darth Kray-Kray and psychopathic space-clowns are included. Whether Ra’aj is lying or not depends on your game, fyi.
The next adventure outline, “Order 66” has the PCs witness an assassination (or attempt thereof, if they’re fast) of a woman that tells them that someone knows about order 66. The lady, should she survive, does btw. not really contribute much to the story here – the following text seems to assume that she’s dead, as the PCs actually get to do a bit of basic investigating, which is a nice change of pace. There are assassination cyborgs, and order 66…is actually something that made me smile. And no, I’m not going to spoil that here.
“Messiah of Po’on” casts the Pcs in the middle of a religious conflict between two factions of the space muslims of Po’on. Interestingly, the PCs have a chance to sabotage the rite to call a space Jihad, and the set-.up here allows for more than one way to achieve this. If anything, this set-up would have really benefitted from being expanded into a full-blown module, with notes of the culture, environments, etc. It’s interesting in its weirdness.
The book also features an appendix that contains tables to determine lady bits, locations of vaginas and clitoris, means of pleasuring them, 30 different surprises, 100 different scents down there, 84 types of relationship agreement, d8 punishments for violating them…and thus, this supplement ends. If you’re (more) into males, sorry, no new tables there.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf sports plenty of artworks that range from risqué to being pinups or Mad Magazine-style drawings. The artworks help make the tone as light-hearted as it is intended. The cartography of the Crimson Dwarf is excellent, and inclusion of the map as a high-res jpg is great, and EDIT: The map now also comes with a keyless, player-friendly version perfect for VTTs. Two thumbs up! The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Venger’s, äh, I mean Zoltar Khan Delgado’s supplement here actually ranks as one of the better Alpha Blue supplements, as far as the structure is concerned. In contrast to some of the previous outlines, the new ones do feel tighter and smoother in their implementation, and we get quite a lot of stats, which is a plus! This is more immediately usable than before. That being said, this is still an Alpha Blue supplement, which means that you will need to do some work on the respective adventure outlines. They are sketches, at least for the most part. The most efficient and probably best Alpha Blue scenario penned so far, “Crimson Dwarf”, with its proper map and site-based chaos, is a boon for sore eyes, and I honestly wished we had gotten the same attention to detail everywhere. Venger *can* write classic adventures, he just elects not to for the most part, which, I think, is a pity.
Vignette-wise, “Dude, where’s my starship?”, is probably my favorite herein, mainly because it kinda cheats a bit and lets the BDSM use previously established and fleshed out components and slot them into the outline pretty seamlessly.
In short, from a craftsmanship perspective, this may be the best or one of the best Alpha Blue supplement as far as adventure outlines are concerned. (For dressing, rules, etc., “Universal Exploits”, for example, is better). That being said, I also wished that its title wouldn’t leave such a sour taste in my mouth.
How to rate this, then? Well, if the title didn’t offend you to the Alpha Blue station and back, and if you enjoy the sleazy, sometimes puerile pop-culture reference laden game, then this will deliver some truly evocative outlines to work with, with “Crimson Dwarf” being perhaps my personal highlight for the whole product line. That being said, the structural shortcomings, while lessened, still somewhat mar a few of the scenarios within. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars. EDIT: Now, this supplement also features a proper, VTT-friendly version fo the cool map. My final verdict will now thus be rounded up. Kudos!
You can get this pdf here on OBS.
Going to see what I can do about the virtual tabletop, unnumbered Crimson Dwarf map. I never use that stuff and just assumed having the numbers would make it easier for players to remotely say where they’re going, but that was just a blind guess.
Will give you an update soon…
A numberless, VTT, Crimson Dwarf map has been added to the DriveThru files… just now!