There’s something about Victorian Adventure that tickles my fancy something fierce. I’ve always been a fan of Pulp, but there’s a certain romantic charm to the less informed and yet remarkably optimistic outlook of the adventurers of an earlier era that not too many games pay attention to.
Until this one came along.
Leagues of Adventure is the latest offering from Triple Ace Games. Written by Paul “Wiggy” Wade-Williams of the amazing All For One: Regime Diabolique, Leagues of Adventure uses the Ubiquity system and applies it to an earlier era of daring tales.
Greatly inspired by the trends and fiction of the late Victorian Age, Leagues of Adventure draws on the works of H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Rudyard Kipling and H. Rider Haggard. If you’ve enjoyed anything from these writers, then you’ll definitely enjoy this game.
For those curious, there’s a strong difference in tone and style in stories of Victorian Age adventure as opposed to Pulp, so those who enjoyed Hollow Earth Expedition shoudln’t be worried about ending up with the same thing. In fact, one of the strongest impressions I got with the book is that the author spent a lot of time building the necessary groundwork in terms of the themes and mood of Victorian Adventure to differentiate it from Pulp.
The book starts off with a chapter devoted to giving a sketch of Victorian History and the conflicts of the era. I feel that this is a solid opening to a game of this sort as Victorian Adventure needs more than just the trappings of look and feel, but a solid foundation of facts and a sense of place and time to properly communicate the unique nature of League of Adventure’s setting. Some of the items included are fictional, of course, but are appropriate given the conceit that Leagues of Adventure is an alternate history where fictional characters in our world were actually quite real. A few callout boxes discuss other period-appropriate elements such as the Imperial System of measurement, proper phrases and even periods of mourning.
Character creation comes next, and anyone who is familiar with the Ubiquity system will find themselves right at home. The character creation is quick and easy, with a point buy system and a choice of Talents and Flaws by which to define your character. Another important choice is to pick which League your character has a membership in. While it might be interesting to have an entire team be part of a single League, this isn’t a requirement, and a mixed-league team might have a broader range of access to resources than a team belonging only to a single League of Adventure.
The Ubiquity system is a rules-medium set of mechanics, comparable to that of Savage Worlds or the World of Darkness. The basic mechanic involves gathering a pool of dice (any kind will do, as only odds and even values matter) and rolling against a set difficulty. Even-numbered results are counted as successes and if you matches or exceeds the difficulty, then you succeed. It’s an easy system to learn, and while the Ubiquity system itself isn’t revolutionary by any chance, it’s easy to learn and run.
The book goes on to detail hazards, weapons, gear and even stranger wonders like automatons and interesting vehicles like an ornithopter, all very appropriate to the games setting and with complete statistics. Each of these wonders could be a plot hook in itself, something that GMs will probably appreciate.
The book goes on to discuss GMing stories set in this era, with wiggle room for Gritty implementations all the way up to Cinematic ones such as the LXG movie. There’s also a wonderful section here on Creating villainous leagues (COBRA anyone?) as well as premade sample leagues to throw your stalwart heroes against.
But the best chapter of the book so far would be the atlas of the world complete with a massive list of interesting locations and plot hooks. There’s enough material here to fuel an entire campaign and still have something left over. As I’ve become increasingly busy as of late I’ve found that this sort of thing is a godsend, and while all of the plot hooks are completely usable, a cunning GM can use these to spin off even more adventures.
The last section of the book is monster manual of sorts, with builds for NPCs and villains, more than enough to get started. There’s a massive range of sample characters and monsters here from Tomb Robber, to Femme Fatale to Eunuch Guards and Dinosaurs.
The Steampunk genre is hitting a high point in its popularity as of late, but while a lot of the stuff out there is content to handwave a lot of stuff in exchange for mere style over substance, Leagues of Adventure shows off what a healthy serving of research can do to make a game feel grounded and believable while still retaining the fancy aesthetic.
For fans of the Steampunk genre, or anyone with an interest in heroics, I definitely recommend Leagues of Adventure.