Leagues of Adventure!
Leagues of Adventure is a 250 + page game book of Victorian Adventure from the fine folks at Triple Ace Games. Written by Paul “Wiggy” Wade-Williams, the game presents a Victorian era setting – with steampunk elements – using the Ubiquity Roleplaying System. Ubiquity, which was created by Exile Game Studio, was first seen in the popular pulp game, Hollow Earth Expedition.
Since Leagues of Adventure and Hollow Earth Expedition are both pulp style games, I wanted to start out by talking about how they differ. To oversimplify, Leagues of Adventure is to Allan Quatermain as Hollow Earth Expedition is to Indiana Jones. While both games evoke a pulpy feel, they differ distinctly due to the eras in which they are set. It’s easy to look back and lump 1850 – 1940 into one easily digestible “way back when” time frame, but the two eras are quite different. While “Indy” evades machine gun fire from a Nazi in a speeding Jeep, your Victorian hero has come to fisticuffs with his/her well dressed adversary on the roof of a horse drawn carriage. While archaeologists in the 1930′s are deciphering hieroglyphics in an old temple, explorer’s in the 1890′s are still looking for the uncharted areas of the earth where said temple is yet to be found. The Victorian era presents an earth that is still very much shrouded in mystery. These two games are unique and self contained, but also provide very complimentary worlds. It would be appropriate for your young Victorian era hero in Leagues of Adventure to be the elderly, refined, world traveled great uncle of your 1930′s hero in Hollow Earth Expedition.
As I mentioned above, LoA is powered by Ubiquity. This was my first exposure to the system (I have since purchased and read Hollow Earth Expedition for perspective – awesome game!), and I have to say that I like it very much. It shares a lot of common design philosophy with Savage Worlds but still differs in some important ways. In many ways I’d argue that Ubiquity is a little less crunchy than SW, though this is likely subjective. Many of the mechanics are more streamlined than their SW counterparts and overall there is a cinematic quality to the system that is very appealing. This isn’t to say that one system is better than the other, they are both fantastic and have their own merits, I just think it’s worth mentioning since I usually talk about SW and this article veers off that path a bit. I’m not going to go into specific mechanics since the focus of my review is on the setting, and not the underlying system.
Where LoA really shines is in its portrayal of a quasi historical Victorian steampunk earth. This is a place where Jules Verne isn’t making up characters for outlandishly imaginative tales, he’s actually writing about the exploits of his friends. Fictional characters from the time are seamlessly interwoven with historically accurate elements and the result is a very believable fantastic world, ripe for adventure and exploration. Built atop this entertaining framework is a game where characters fly in fantastic airships, travel to exotic locales, encounter amazing beasts and unravel the schemes of nefarious secret societies. The art in the book, by Illustrator Chris Kuhlmann, is beautiful and perfectly captures the feel of the world.
Character creation is pretty straightforward and a key part of the process is choosing a “League” for your character to belong to. Characters can belong to more than one League and membership has different benefits depending on the group in question. There’s even a League known as The Hollow Earth Society, a nice nod to Exile’s Game. The full list of the eight step character creation process is: 1. Archetype, 2. Motivations, 3. Primary Attributes, 4. Secondary Attributes, 5. Skills, 6. Talents and Resources (Edges), 7. Flaws (Hindrances), and 8. Experience.
Another major area of the book that is worth special attention is the vehicle and gadget creation section. LoA offers a very robust creation system that embraces steampunk and weird science aesthetics. It’s a “from the ground up” type system that offers a great deal of crafting freedom and encourages imagination. It’s worth mentioning that this system is very modular and if you were inclined to run a “dry” game that favored historical accuracy over steampunk gadgets, you could certainly do it. Basically, this compartmentalized approach functions well as a weird science dial that you can adjust to personal taste.
The rest of the book is rounded off with advice for running games, information for creating Villainous Leagues, stats for beasts and adversaries and a gazetteer. The gazetteer has a massive amount of information describing the world of LoA and has a ton of adventure seeds. Honestly, there’s enough additional material here to run adventures for a very long time. No matter where your geographic interests lie, you’re bound to find it covered. Need stats for a Eunuch Guard or Doctor Moreau? Check. About to have Professor Moriarty, on mammoth-back, charge headlong into your hero’s camp? Got you covered. As I said, there is an amazing amount of cool information available in this book.
The only problems I found with the book were minor editing issues. They don’t break the text but they do create moments where reading flow is awkward. They are the types of errors that humans find much better than spell checkers. It should be noted that this is not the norm for the book. These errors are few and far between and most of the text is very well written.
This is a great read and an exciting release from Triple Ace Games.. Right now the pdf is available from their site and can be purchased alone or as part of a pre-order of the print copy. I can’t speak of this book highly enough. It’s also worth mentioning that even if you aren’t keen on trying Ubiquity, the book is worth getting just as a Victorian/steampunk resource book for rules of your choice. Ubiquity is close enough to Savage Worlds that a conversion would be very feasible as well.
I’m looking forward to seeing what support materials Triple Ace has in store for Leagues of Adventure. If you’re even remotely interested in the setting I’d encourage you to check this book out!