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Reviews - Dime Heroes / Jungle Adventures
 
by Matthew Pook


Dime Heroes cover Title: Dime Heroes
Written by James Stubbs
Price: $3.95

Title: Jungle Adventures
Written by James Stubbs & Rogan Hamby
Price: $2.50
11-page Adobe Acrobat PDF files

Deep7 Publishing has built a solid range of small RPGs using Todd Downing's 1PG System as the mechanics for each game. The concept behind a 1PG game is that the rules to each are simple and clear enough to fit exactly onto a single page. The rules do and don't exactly adhere to the concept. More specifically, the player receives a sheet that doubles as both character sheet and rules explanation, the referee receives one page explaining the rules in more detail and an additional page of advice for running the genre of the game they have just bought. Each 1PG game comes as an Adobe Acrobat PDF document, purchased from the Deep7 website, and once downloaded and printed out, really can be ready to run within an hour or so! Beyond the game itself, nothing more is needed than a single six-sided die each, character sheets, pencils and the willingness to play within the confines of the game's genre.

The latest Deep7 RPG is one of two-fisted adventure entitled Dime Heroes. This game takes the cliff-hanger series of the thirties as the source for its inspiration. The game is rather large when compared to others in the line, as it comes as a 2.56 Meg zipped file (compacted down from almost 2.72 Meg). The cause of this lies with the attractive color cover that really is unnecessarily large. Otherwise, Dime Heroes is well laid out and illustrated with a range of suitable pieces of clip art, though it is not without typographical or grammatical errors. The impression gained is one of feeling that it was rushed a little during its production.

Character creation in Dime Heroes is a simple affair, all explained on the character sheet. Roll 1d3 for four attributes -- Moxie (Physical), Glitz (Charisma and Social), Cunning and Gray Matter. The simple renaming of these statistics to fit the genre goes a long way toward helping the players get into the feel of the game. A single d6 worth of points are assigned to the game's eighteen skills. Two more die rolls determine a character's background and status, which add a few points to attributes, skills and secondary statistics. Thus a character with the scientist background gains +1 Gray Matter, and +1 to their science and repair skills. The Prodigy status gives a +1 to any single skill, the Vigilante gains +1 to their Cunning statistic, and as a nod to the gadgetry of the genre, the Gadget status provides a single unique item from a table. These include the Rocketship and Pack, Bullet-proof Cars and X-Ray Goggles.

The 1PG mechanic is exceedingly simple: roll a single die against the combination of an attribute and any appropriate skill and hope to get under. A roll of a one always succeeds and a six always fails. The game runs quickly, but unlike in Battleforce Bravo, Deep7's World War II RPG, combat is too brutal for the genre. The referee is advised that in a pulp adventure setting such as this, it's bad form to kill off player characters, but when a rifle under the 1PG rules does a damage of twelve, a pistol a damage of eight and the average hit points for any character is also twelve, someone's going to die. To counteract this trend, the GM is advised to fudge a few rolls. This is a dissatisfying solution, especially when it would have been a simple matter to adjust the rules to take into account the conventions of the genre.

The emphasis in Dime Heroes is upon the crime fighting serials, though there is the nod to gadgets with the small table of technological gewgaws. Other aspects of the pulp genre are not covered here. The addition of another table listing some otherworldly powers could have added another dimension to Dime Heroes by allowing the creation of characters like the early superheroes of the period, such as The Shadow.

The RPG is supported with a serial of its own, organized into five chapters. Titled "The Crimson Tiger," it opens with Doctor Fennigan unfurling his new invention, an atomic ray, which he plans to use to provide all of the city's power requirements. Suddenly a bunch of thugs burst in and successfully steal the device. With clues to follow, including the corpse of a gangster who was reported dead the week before, the party is soon on the trail. Then the city receives a ransom demand for a $100 million from a criminal mastermind, known only as The Crimson Tiger. It is suggested that each chapter of this adventure should last two to three hours, but really, half that time is too long for a game that is meant to be fast paced. Overall, "The Crimson Tiger" should last no more than two gaming sessions. This makes Dime Heroes a viable purchase for the referee who needs a quick adventure for whatever pulp game they are running, from the FGU's recently re-released Daredevils to last year's Adventure! from White Wolf.

Dime Heroes lacks the polish of earlier Deep7 titles, but this doesn't make it either a bad game or a poor take on the genre. The referee will need to work around the lethality of the combat system, but otherwise the game is complete and can be downloaded, printed out and prepared to play quite quickly.

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Book of Eldritch Might coverIn addition to Dime Heroes, Deep7 has released the first supplement for the game, Jungle Adventures. Where the main rules concentrated on crime fighting in the pulps, this focuses upon another aspect of the genre: journeys deep into the dark interior of the African Continent. Less rules and more source material, the supplement suffers from the same minor problem as Dime Heroes: at 2.69 Meg zipped (2.93 unzipped), it is an unnecessarily large file, made so by the full color cover.

The first part of Jungle Adventures looks at characters within this setting -- the Jungle Lord or Lady, plus the Explorer and Hunter. Each character type gains extra abilities or additions to basic statistics, making the supplement into "Advanced" Dime Heroes. A Jungle Lord has increased statistics, extra hit points and the Language (Animal) skill, and has the option to buy a loyal chimpanzee or elephant animal companion. Explorers receive excellent equipment, but have the disadvantages of having to take a burdensome companion upon their expedition (the small kid or the expedition's sponsor's adventurous niece), and need to be successful in order to keep their funding. The Hunter gains better advantages -- favorable rolls on tracking and survival skills, plus they are better shots with a rifle. In case things go wrong, they can occasionally cheat death with the amusingly named "Deucedly Close" Luck Rule!"

Introducing other character types from the basic Dime Heroes rules is discussed and suggestions are made on how to put them on par with the new character types in Jungle Adventures. One example is given, that of a showbiz photographer, but using her as a guideline, the referee and the player should be able to devise adjustments for the player's intended hero.

The next few pages are each devoted to a single topic -- Natives (friendly, hostile and cannibalistic), Lost Civilizations, Other Adventures and Survival. Considering that Dime Heroes is a light, fast paced game, these topics are covered in more than enough depth without weighing the referee down with too much detail. Particularly good are the pages on Lost Civilizations and Other Adventures. In the former, three types are looked at: Historical (an example of a lost Roman colony is given ala H. Rider Haggard's She); Alien (some society from outer space); and Dinosaur, for which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World is the inspiration. The page on Other Adventures looks at using the material in Jungle Adventures outside of the traditional pulp era. These include looking for medicines deep in the jungle, racing to grab new colonial territory for your government, and even making use of the setting during times of war. This could make Jungle Adventures a useful supplement for Battleforce Bravo as well.

The inference throughout Jungle Adventures is that it's an RPG of adventure in the Dark Continent of Africa. Yet the adventure "The Blood God," written by James Stubbs and Rogan Hamby, is set in Central America. The party must penetrate the jungles of Guatemala in search of the lost Mayan city of Cancuen. Their guide is one Harry Byrd, an American who is thought to have gone "native." Over five chapters the authors tick off all of the genre's clichés -- strange religions, drums in the night, tropical disease and bad weather. But all of this is well handled, until the utterly underwhelming ending letting the scenario down. It is a pity that the party could not have found some lost civilization, which would have been more in keeping with the rest of Jungle Adventures. Unlike "The Crimson Tiger" in Dime Heroes, "The Blood God" will take longer to play because there is a slightly greater emphasis on roleplaying over action.

In some ways, Jungle Adventures is better than Dime Heroes. This is because it has more room to explore and impart its information without rules getting in the way. Indeed, it has enough depth that an owner of other pulp action RPGs would do well to purchase and download a copy of Jungle Adventures. This is in addition to it being a good expansion to Dime Heroes itself.


 

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