by Demian Katz
Disaster! Survival Adventure, Third Edition
Published by Deep7
Original Concept by Todd Downing
Revised by James Stubbs
Editing and Layout by Samantha Downing
Scenarios by Ron Dugdale, Gavin Downing, Michelle Downing, Colin Fisk and James Stubbs
Front Cover by Todd Downing
13-page PDF file
It’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to review one of Deep7’s 1PG RPGs, and I was especially pleased to be given a copy of Disaster!, an earlier entry in the series that I missed when it first came out. I was even happier when I discovered that the 1PG series is now in its third edition. Originally, each 1PG was about ten pages long and contained a character sheet complete with player rules, an additional page of game master rules, and five one-page scenarios. The new versions expand upon this without raising the price. The original content is still there, but it has been formatted more tidily and supplemented with a page of expanded rules (which build upon The 1PG Companion, a separate volume of extra rules), a sixth scenario and a “double character sheet” featuring two copies of the character sheet but no rules (for use by the experienced and paper-conscious player). The only disappointment about the new editions is that players of the earlier versions will have to buy the games again if they want the upgrades. Of course, gamers are probably used to this sort of thing by now, and hey, it’s only four bucks.
Expansion aside, Disaster! is a noteworthy game. It is perhaps the only roleplaying game to be based upon cheesy seventies disaster movies, and the genre is perfect for the fast-playing format of the 1PG series. Characters are disposable and easy to generate, so there’s plenty of room for spectacular deaths and heroic sacrifices. If the game master can go further over the top with each catastrophic plot twist, and the players can pretend to be aging movie stars slumming in the roles of stereotyped scientists, politicians and firefighters, all the better.
As always, the rules are simple. Characters have four primary stats (Fitness, Looks, Craftiness and Brains), a variety of skills linked with the attributes, and a few secondary stats (Wits, Guts, Blood and Fame) to keep track of their condition. Players can either roll up their primary stats or assign them from a pool of points; after this, it’s just a matter of picking skills and rolling up secondary stats. Most game mechanics revolve around rolling a single six-sided die against a target number (usually the sum of the values of a skill and its related primary stat). It doesn’t take long to learn, teach or prepare for, so it’s possible to get ready to play in literally a few minutes.
The addition of extra game-specific rules on top of the generic 1PG system is definitely a nice touch – it helps to further differentiate the rules between the various 1PG games, reducing the “cut and paste” feeling that the earlier editions sometimes suffered from. The extra rules for this volume increase the complexity of injuries, forcing the game master to keep track of severe wounds, bleeding and infection, but this added complexity is worth the effort since it can be used to add to the melodramatic disaster movie tone. My only complaint is that the vehicle stats provided here (for various emergency vehicles) are useless without owning The 1PG Companion, since this product doesn’t explain how they are used.
Even though the extra rules help to differentiate this from the other 1PG products, it is the scenarios that make up the real meat of the game. As usual, these are something of a mixed bag. The biggest problem across the board is the fact that most adventures encourage the players to interact and create interpersonal relationships and conflicts to add to the melodrama. For some players, this will happen automatically, but for less character-oriented groups, there are no tools or advice offered to make this happen, and the players may flounder around until disaster strikes. Fortunately, there is no shortage of tragedy and destruction for the players to deal with, so everyone should ultimately be able to find something to do even if it doesn’t involve soap opera dramatics.
The first scenario, “Sandstorm!,” has the players trapped in a luxury desert resort. It has a good format, with some background information followed by a list of dangerous encounters that the GM can throw at the players in any order desired once the disaster starts. Unfortunately, though, there are only four encounters; I would have preferred less background and more action from this one. The next adventure, “Flight 666!,” should inspire multiple cries of “now what?!,” which is pretty much the whole point of this game. “Disco Inferno!,” the third scenario, is probably the weakest of the lot, with a vaguely-described setting and situation, and little variety. The fourth and fifth scenarios more than make up for this disappointment, however. “Firestorm!” and “Reactor!” are linked adventures, with the second picking up immediately from where the first leaves off. They have multiple plot twists and, more importantly, a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Finally, the sixth scenario, which was added for the third edition, is a bio-horror episode called “Incubation!” Although this offers the interesting possibility of overlapping with the Shriek horror 1PG, it’s fairly generic and offers little that the GM couldn’t make up on the spot.
Even though not every scenario is a winner, Disaster! is a good value for the money. Even if you only run two or three scenarios, you should get a good hour or two of gameplay for each dollar’s investment. Besides, how many disaster movie roleplaying games can you claim to have in your collection? You may not have previously recognized this particular gap, but filling it may well lead to some fun filler games.