All Hands on Deck
Reviewed by Nicholas HM Caldwell, Copyright 2000
All Hands on Deck, published by Iron Crown Enterprises, is the second support product released for the Run Out the Guns! (RotG) Adventure Kit line. (The first support product was Written in Blood, which was really a glorified character sheet.) This "journal" is a very slim 32-page compilation of material written by enthusiastic fans.
The main focus of All Hands on Deck is on "characters". To begin with, the guide to character template selection will help players to create new RotG characters faster and eliminate the statistical comparison of the various templates, which occurs with some players. The guide describes each foundation template in a sentence and highlights its particular strengths. Strangely, one of the new templates (the French Naturalist) has been omitted from the guide.
Speaking of templates, All Hands on Deck expands upon the sixteen introduced in the boxed set by adding five new templates: the French Fop (an exiled Huguenot noble fallen on hard times), the Irish Deserter (an ex-mercenary looking for employment), the English Former Officer (a court-martialled naval lieutenant), the Dutch Barber-Surgeon (a competent sawbones), and the French Naturalist (a "scientist"). The new templates are well balanced in terms of statistics, abilities and equipment. Four new character backgrounds appear, namely the Native Son (a European who has gone native), the Stowaway, the Prisoner (a former victim of the Inquisition), and the Coxswain. The templates and the backgrounds supply new variety to the game - they would have been very useful in my Baroquon game last year as I came painfully close to running out of distinct characters.
That's it in terms of new character material as far as All Hands on Deck is concerned. So what else is in the supplement?
General guidelines for convention character creation and good manners can be found in the "Brethren of the Coast" section, and this may be useful to gamers attending the annual Origins and GenCon USA events. Four new small ships, complete with sail and gun diagrams, standard equipment and statistics, are presented in the "Ships Ahoy" section. A list of commodity prices from lumber and ores to manufactured goods will inspire gamemasters to fill the holds of the new ships with something other than pieces of eight. "Clear for Action" is a two-page essay on the process of preparing a ship for battle from readying the guns to casting off the boats. Its accurate details will assist gamemasters in raising the realism of their games. "Corazon De Oscuridad" (Heart of Darkness in Spanish) is a grim adventure seed that will send player-characters on a unexpectedly different mission from commerce raiding.
The remainder of All Hands on Deck is taken up with a narrative poem, an account of the 1998 GenCon RotG event from the perspective of a player-character, and some fiction. Personally I would have preferred to see these items replaced with more characters, adventure seeds or the GenCon event written up as a full scenario. Doubtless ICE published the best-submitted material.
Nevertheless, All Hands on Deck is a must-buy for the dedicated Run Out the Guns! gamer who wants to keep his or her piracy campaigns fresh and varied.
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