#1 2020-09-14 04:42:08

AlfonzoNjk
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From: Sweden, Kode
Registered: 2020-09-14
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PBTA: Star Wars World / Streets of Mos Eisley

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So,  continuing  on from reviews of  and , here’s D&D’s latest setting sourcebook.
Theros,  apparently , is a setting from Magic: The Gathering that’s a Mythic Greece style fantasy.
I’ve written here before about how good this setting is for fantasy (see my review of Agon ), so it’s  interesting  to see how Wizards have transplanted this to D&D.
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If there’s one thing that is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s decent one-shots for D&D 5th edition.
There are hundreds of them out there on DMs Guild, but picking through them to find those with good quality and the style of play that I like is a  challenge .
After I spent last summer , I’ve kept D&D as a regular source of one-shot fun,  particularly  for newcomers to the hobby (read the posts linked above for my reasoning why I think D&D is right for this).
So, there’s (this review is of Volume 1 – there are now three more volumes).
From it’s own product description, it’s a set of folklore-themed  adventure s that “subvert tropes around female mythological creatures.” If that sounds a bit complex, in layman’s terms each adventure is focused around a female creature of myth, and does interesting stuff with them.
Because of this, though, it helps when you run it to try and embed the PCs into the  adventure  and setting a bit deeper – I’ve used  when I’ve run them to make sure the PCs feel like they have a shared past.
It’s also a good opportunity to share out some of the fleshing out of the stuff that isn’t always in the adventures – in case they  encounter  some town guards, the PC who used to be in them can describe how the guards work in this city.
There’s also quite a few bits where skills are tested and  investigation s take place.
This is an opportunity, if you’re inclined, to try out one of the skill challenge systems  – how they are presented in each  adventure  varies.
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First, a disclaimer.
My reviews aren’t thorough, and I don’t review things I don’t like – there’s enough negativity around.
That’s not to say that I like everything – just, if I’m not a fan, I don’t see the point of telling the internet.
But if something is good, I like to share why and how it’s good, and give a feel for how it could be used in one-shot games.
And Eberron is bloody good.
If you’re after more complete reviews, I can recommend Pookie’s site  – and there are many other review sites a google search will find you.
is D&D’s latest setting – although it’s not brand new to 5th edition.
First emerging in the 3rd Edition era, it was an attempt to design a world from the ground up – it arrives completely free of old-timey weirdness in the way, say, Forgotten Realms has Elminster everywhere, and Greyhawk is full of dungeons and places called Geoff.
It’s pulp, and steampunk-pulp, and is actually designed for exciting adventures… the whole world feels like it sits on a knife-edge, as if brave heroes could actually make a difference.
And as with most D&D5 supplements, there are a lot of tables, and plenty of maps.
The move towards sourcebooks as inspiration-dumps is great, and Eberron, like  before it, demonstrates this brilliantly.
Even where it becomes more of a traditional setting gazetteer (describing the districts and buildings of Sharn, for example) the information is presented with usability considered – there are lists of important buildings, rather than long sections of prose describing daily life.
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After writing about the , I thought I’d look at some other starter sets to compare how useful they are for the one-shot GM.
(L5R) is a ‘classic’ system of Samurai action, where warring clans battle against taint and shadow (and each other) while labouring under the demands of Bushido.
It’s a complex setting, and one that treads a careful line between authenticity and excitement; in previous editions, combat was lethal and fast, with a very ‘trad’ take on the realism of action.
FFG’s new edition takes all that and adds, naturally, funky dice, and a variant of the Roll & Keep system.
Hard core fantasy samurai intrigue may not be your thing, but the L5R Beginner Game is really good at one thing – in that it presents a tutorial level for the game.
The box itself contains a Rule Book, an Adventure Book, four very pretty pregen booklets (another three are available online for free at FFG’s , under Player Resources), a nice map of Rokugan (the land of L5R) and a card set of counters with 59 counters for PCs and NPCs from the game.
There are also, of course, a set of the dice – black d6s and white d12s for Rings and Skills respectively.
If you’re looking to teach the rules of L5R in order to put a campaign together, this is brilliant.
If you’re looking for a convention game to offer where some players may already be familiar with the system (even from earlier editions) – this may not be usable as-is.
Buy it and read it, though – this is an excellent example of how to structure a complex system in a one-shot (I did talk a bit about this in , as well).
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So, the.
It’s a slim boxed set, with three books, handouts, investigator sheets (some pre-generated – always useful, some blank), and a set of dice – with an extra tens d10 for bonus dice rolls.
Like all Chaosium’s recent products, it has stunning art and layout, although the covers of the books leave me cold with their massive text and small pictures.
Alongside the pregens, there are four adventures in this starter set.
The first, Alone Against The Flames, is a choose-your-own-adventure solo game, in which you generate your investigator (which is a nice touch!) and attempt to avoid being burned in said flames.
I know from my own experience that these things are a bugger to edit and write, but it’s a great way to learn the basics of the rules and even character generation, and well worth the effort.
It would be great if new games could have something like this – I can think of only this and the excellent  that have this.
The second book contains “introductory rules,” and is easily the slimmest of the three.
It manages despite this to contain character generation, skill description, and sanity and combat mechanics, which is admirable.
I’d go so far as to say you could just use this for long-term play – you could easily buy  after this and continue your game.
This is an excellent resource for the one-shot GM.
Both of the two full-party adventures are ideal for single-session play, and contain a lot of explained structure that really helps you to think about prepping your own investigative one-shot (for more on this, see the series I did that starts ).
All in all, a great product – and a fine addition to the new crop of Starter Sets.
Even if you play  or , all the adventures in it are classics that it’s easy to drift or steal structure from – and it’s excellent value.
May 4, .

2019           Star Wars One-Shots: The “Way” is Strong in These Ones

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To celebrate Star Wars day, here’s a review of the options you currently have if you want to run a one-shot in the worlds of Ewoks and Gungans.
Why would you want to do that, apart from the aforementioned furry/aquatic aliens.
Well, firstly.

Star Wars has really clear tropes and expectations of its heroes – redemption

fighting the good fight, and starting from humble beginnings – which make it easy to motivate a group of adventurers to carry out a specific mission.
It’s also got an unknowably huge canon, with cartoons, comics, and fiction alongside the films – and lots of sources of inspiration.
And finally, there’s  lots of space opera tropes in it – human-like but diverse aliens, survivable and fun space combat, big beasts and monsters… it could already be a D&D campaign, just with blasters and laser swords.
But what system to run it with.
I’m going to attempt a quick tour of them ….
although I think I’ll probably only scratch the surface of the options… Edge of the Empire / Age of Rebellion / Force and Destiny.
Fantasy Flight’s big RPG offering with the license, these are high-production value RPGs (and they are three separate games, although sharing almost exactly the same system) with a pile of supplements and adventures to go with them.
Personally, I’d skip the player-facing sourcebooks that focus on specific character classes, leave the adventures alone (apart from the starter sets) and look at their ‘proper’ sourcebooks, where there are some absolutely brilliant sources of hooks and adventures – Strongholds of Resistance, for example, details rebel bases and is full of mini-adventures – I ran a really fun one-shot on Hoth based on the details in this.
Lords of Nal Hutta does a similar job with criminal enterprises – you could plot about a dozen great one-shot games from each of these books.
It can be a bit of a rabbit-hole to fall down, particularly as, yes, it uses weird funky dice, and no, you can’t use regular polyhedrals.
The dice are, for me, just about worth it – they give a range of successes and complications that add depth to task resolution.
This means that, although the game is still towards the trad end of the trindie continuum, there’s always exciting consequences of actions.
Decent and quickish space combat, and although it’s been criticised as a money-grab, I actually like how the 3 separate core books can focus on different kinds of games.
When I want to run Star Wars, I need a solid reason to stray from using this system.
Sooner or later I’ll write up my Hoth one-shot and put it on here.
West End Games’ D6 Star Wars.
One of the original RPGs that gamers of a certain age wax lyrical about, there’s no doubt that the original Star Wars game has aged better than most of its contemporaries – a straightforward d6 dice pool system and a neat archetype character creation system – which you could almost complete at the table.

If you really wanted to – yes the PCs aren’t always balanced

and yes the Force rules are awkwardly funky to the point of being broken, but the core mechanic is great fun, and works well enough to still be inspiring games.
There’s now an anniversary edition out from FFG, but there’s also the entire original game line available from Womp Rat Press here – really useful if, say, .

You wanted to run one of the classic Star Wars adventures with a different system

Some of the old adventures even start with a ‘script’ for the players to read out – playing the roles of NPCs before the start of the game – which is a weird and funky way to start a one-shot today, let alone in the 1980s when these modules were written.
Star Wars d20 / SAGA Edition.
Remember the d20 bubble.
In the explosion of mediocrity that it brought to RPG publishing (including, to be fair, the odd gem) – Wizards of the Coast brought out a whole line of d20 Star Wars built around the 3rd Edition D&D system.
This early-2000s line produced loads of supplements, and to be fair if you are a big fan of d20 and it’s associated quirks it’s an obvious choice.
SAGA edition saw lots of rule changes that for me improved the game a lot.
With both of these game lines, though, if you’ve got them you’ll run them, and if you haven’t they’re really tricky to get hold of, and probably not your best choice unless you’ve been invited to run for a group of D&D gamers from 2001 and want to meet their sensibilities.
Wizards lost the license in 2010, so the link above is to the wikipedia page – be prepared for a longer search of ebay etc if you want to get hold of the game, since it also dates from when Wizards didn’t do .pdfs.
Scum & Villainy.
The first of the big Forged in the Dark games based on the Blades in the Dark engine (for more about Blades, .

See ) is space opera that is very Star Wars

For Blades-style play it works really well – ideally for a double slot, or a tightly-run training mission like this one – in play it feels so Star Wars that it’s easy to forget.
I played a Mystic once and really struggled calling my powers “the Way” and not the Force.
Great fun for a lower-prep player-driven one-shot, and the “heist” system works well for smugglers and low-lifes if you want the Han Solo end of the genre.
PBTA: Star Wars World / Streets of Mos Eisley.
I’ll highlight two Powered By The Apocalypse (PBTA) options for your Star Wars one-shot – Star Wars World, by Andrew Medeiros (I’m not entirely sure the link above is to the latest version – I got it via another blog – please correct me if I have it wrong), is a full-blooded hack of Apocalypse World with a moves and playbooks.
I haven’t played it but from a read through it looks great and Andrew really knows his PBTA stuff (having co-designed the brilliant Urban Shadows).
Streets of Mos Eisley is a simpler game, a hack of World of Dungeons which is a hack of Dungeon World, on of the first PBTA games (are you keeping up?) – it’s a tighter playset, with a much looser system.
I think if I was running, I would favour Star Wars World, but for a more relaxed, system-lite game, SoME looks great.
Cypher System.
This final entry is probably a little leftfield.

But Star Wars has influenced a lot of RPGs

and hidden in the Worlds Numberless and Strange sourcebook for The Strange, are details for playing in the Rebel Galaxy recursion – which is, like Scum and Villany above, very Star Wars.
Because Cypher is so easy to adapt (or even to busk), it would be easy to run a game using this, either with The Strange of the core Cypher rules, and it gives a significantly different playstyle to any of the games above.
At it’s heart Cypher is, like Gumshoe, a game that’s led by resource management to affect probabilities.

And so I’m not convinced it fits the kind of action heroics I want in a Star Wars game

but if I was running a murder mystery, or a one-shot focused more on exploration than conflict, I would certainly be looking at Rebel Galaxy.

Cypher is also a really good system for newcomers to RPGs

in my experience, so it might be a good starting place for them.
So there are your options.
As I’ve said, for me it’s FFG (Age of Rebellion is my go-to style of play for one-shots) all the way – with an exception for D6 Star Wars and maybe for PBTA if I want that sort of game.
It’s far from an exhaustive list, either – I’m sure there are people out there running Star Wars games with D100 (shout out to River of Heaven, D101 games science fiction game.

Which is pretty straightforward to hack into Star Wars)

Traveller, or even The Code of the Space Lanes.
I’m sure I’ve missed some, and it’s not like Star Wars to divide opinions – what are your go-to Star Wars games for one-shot play.
Review: Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica (D&D5).
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There’s lots and lots of random tables.
D&D5 has really embraced these and I think it’s a good thing.
Where previous D&D settings sometimes left me feeling stifled at the weight of background needed to navigate it consistently (Forgotten Realms in particular), distilling implied setting into random tables is a much clearer way to set your imagination running.
If you’re not convinced, you can listen the The Smart Party  use the DMG to create a random adventure, and see what I mean.

There’s enough variety within each guild to make a sufficiently distinct group of PCs

and the mission-based structure works really well for a tight opening to your one-shot and an obvious climax.
Conversely, the urban environment and the option to move around the city quickly make it easy to have multiple resolution options in the middle of your one-shot (the swell, which I talk about ).
It even comes with a sample adventure, which is good (but not Great – I’d have preferred a more exciting enemy than a Goblin gang-lord, and you could fairly easily set most of the adventure in Waterdeep or Sharn), but it gives a good framework as an introduction to the setting.
Of course, it’s written more as an intro to the setting than a one-shot.

And so provides leads at the end for the PCs to follow up

but having an adventure as a matter of course in a setting book is a good thing generally.
January 1, 2019           2018: The Year in Review.
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I’d like to spend some time talking about my gaming year in review.
It’s been great, and I’ve managed to not just get lots of gaming in, but also expand what I’ve done – try some new stuff, if you like.
Big thanks to everyone I’ve gamed with, who’s run games for me, or with whom I’ve set the industry right with – never have I felt more part of a UK RPG community than this year.
Conventions – Running Games.
Not counting , the monthly gaming meet-up I run locally, I think I’ve made it to seven conventions this year.
Most of them have been documented through the year – although there were two conventions, Dragonmeet and UK Games Expo, that I didn’t run or play anything at.
At Revelation I ran a Dungeon World adaptation of Forest of Doom, and 24 Hour Party People, an Urban Shadows game set in Britpop Manchester.
North Star’s first incarnation saw me finally run Tenra Bansho Zero, a white whale of gaming put to bed (for now – although I’m tempted to get it out again sometime this year).
At Seven Hills I ran 7th Sea (which now, makes me realise how much I liked it – must get it out again in 2019) and 13th Age in Glorantha (13G).
At Continuum I went with 13G again and Blades in the Dark, and at Furnace I ran three different games of 13G.
At Grogmeet, I ran Twilight 2000, a fun game despite a very dated system.
I had a lot of fun trying to make it more enjoyable for my own style of GMing – although it’s not a system I think I’ll be returning to any time in the future.
One thing I did at Furnace I’m going to do more of – to make sure when I’m running multiple games at a con (I usually do) they are the same system, even if not the same scenario.
Carrying around just one set of rules in my head made the weekend much less stressful than even if I’d run two games with different systems.
I’ve also taken Simon Burley‘s advice and re-run some con scenarios; I think Beard of Lhankhor Mhy has seen three outings at least, and I’ve just finished running Night of Blood for WFRP4e for the second time.
Simon is dead right about the benefits of this in terms of producing quality game time and being much more relaxing for the GM, and I wish I’d listened to him sooner.
Conventions – Games Played.
I’ll start this off by saying that there are very few bad convention games, that even if it’s a game that I haven’t enjoyed I’ve always found it useful, and I haven’t had any real stinkers this year.
I try to play as much as I run at cons and I think I’ve achieved that.
That said, the mark of a great game played for me is often that I go off and want to run it myself, and I’ve had memorable games of Blades in the Dark (from Pete Atkinson) and Warhammer 4th Edition (from Evilgaz) that have made me do just that.
I’ve also managed to get some ongoing play this year, in the form of a game of D&D5e playing through Waterdeep Dragon Heist.
Scheduling has become tricky for this game – my job means committing to a weekly evening difficult – but it’s been great to see our PCs develop, and remember the fondness you develop for characters that emerge with a history and backstory – a great group of players and a great DM help with this too.
Plans for 2019.
Looking forwards to 2019, I feel like I’ve got a few things already in mind to achieve in the coming year.
Continuing with this blog, which has settled down into a mixture of game commentary and actual game material; I started this thinking I’d never look at hits, but you can’t help but do it and it’s pleasing that the number of people reading my words has increased to a level where this feels worthwhile.
As always, feel free to suggest topics or games to look at either here or on other internet ventures (I’m @milnermaths on twitter).
I’ve got some writing and editing to do early in the year, with the Liminal RPG being released early in the year – I’ve got some case files, some locations, and a book on vampires to get down.
There’s also a little project for the , some stuff for 13G with D101 Games, and I plan on getting more one-shots up on here for people to play with for other systems.
One of these is appearing in Role-Play Relief, a charity project from Simon Burley and others.
In terms of gaming, I plan to get some more online games under my belt, both one-shots and short 3-session minicampaigns.
Go Play Leeds continues to grow, and it’s now got to the point where I no longer worry about having enough players, but having enough GMs to accommodate them, and I’ve taken up the reins with helping to organise the 7 Hills convention in Sheffield.
I play to go to Airecon and Expo properly this year, and actually run some games.
Go Play Leeds has also spawned a sister event, Go Play Manchester, which launches in January – which I aim to get to when I can.
I seem to have a pretty full schedule already.
So, more games, more writing, and more stuff in the new year.
People used to talk about the decline of the hobby, but it’s surely in another golden age now, yeah.
Hope everyone has a great new year, and any gaming-related (or other) resolutions are easy to stick to.
December 6, 2018           Review: Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (4e).
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For a certain demographic of gamer, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (WFRP) will always have a special place in their heart.
The first edition was the very first RPG I owned, probably bought with some Christmas money, and first read sat on a crowded diesel train back from Leeds, rat-catchers, road wardens, and stevedores pressed up to my eager eyes.
If you’re not familiar with the hold WFRP has over gamers, you could do well to listen to the Grognard Files episodes about it.
It’s history is storied; it was a lumpy, workable but odd (although it felt fine at the time) 1st Edition, and a tidied-up and well-supported (which also took some magic out of it) 2nd edition, before Fantasy Flight debuted the funky-dice shenanigans they would later scale down for Star Wars with a massive boxed set of 3rd edition.
The system was completely different (although recognisable now with FFG Star Wars being a stripped-down variant) and the idea of £70 for a base game was sniffed at by many in the hobby.
Oh, those innocent years, before slipcases and Invisible Sun and kickstarter add-ons (and postage) made such a price seem mainstream.
But, anyway, the 4th edition is out, from Cubicle 7, and it stays closer to the original system while tidying it up and making it work.
A few key design tweaks make it a much better game, in my opinion, and it’s crawling with C7’s usual high presentation standards.
But is it one-shot suitable.
Let’s see…  This is proper grimdark fantasy.
Late medieval pseudo-europe is great for a one-shot, and all the Germanic names give plenty opportunity for accents at the table (always a winner form me).
Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and an assortment of colourful Careers make characters easy to inhabit for players, and the setting is realistically grimy while still leaving plenty to do for erstwhile protagonists.
The 1st edition supplements are now available in .pdf, which detail locations full of plot hooks, and there are rumours that the classic Enemy Within campaign is to be updated for 4th edition.
It’s a great example of system wedded to setting; it’s clear when you look at a WFRP pregen what kind of world they’ll be adventuring in.
The Reikland (the default setting) is beset on all sides by skaven, orcs and goblins, and the insidious taint of chaos in the form of beastmen and chaos cultists, so there’s lots of obvious opportunities for adventure and low-down heroics.
And, as you’d expect from C7, the book is a thing of beauty – the art is lovely and harks back to the old 1st edition illustrations.
WFRP has always been a percentile system; where it differs from other D100 games is that you roll against characteristics, with bonuses for skills, rather than skills themselves.
Historically combat in particular could be a drag; when you’ve both got a 30% chance to hit and a 30% chance to parry it can take a while for somebody to score a blow.
A small tweak has solved all of that and made combat much more exciting – it is now opposed rolls, so you only have to score a better success (or a less-worse miss) than your opponent to make contact.
Degrees of success determine damage, so no extra dice roll, and damage takes from Wounds until those are used up and a set of amusingly lethal critical hit tables are rolled on.
Combat is lethal, and rightly so, but it plays out as giving plenty of options in the game.

PCs have a Career rather than a Class

and these ground them very much in medieval society rather than setting them up for orcslaying (excepting the Slayer, of course).
In contrast to previous editions, each Career is given 4 levels of expertise, so your Townsman can progress from a lowly Clerk to a powerful Burgomeister.
Each level unlocks new Talents and Skills, and manages to capture a level of progression while still remaining very much low fantasy.
The One-Shot.
There’s a few reasons why you might think is a long-form game rather than a one-shot; the richness of career progression, the wealth of lore about the world, and the prospect of the legendary Enemy Within campaign being some of them.
But I’d urge you to try it as a one-shot too.
I played it at Grogmeet run by Evilgaz of the Smart Party and it was an excellent game.
Firstly, the setting is so familiar and cosy to so many gamers it really does feel like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers to adventure in the Old World.
Having so much of the setting baked into the characters makes it easy for players to inhabit the setting, and the streamlined combat system of opposed rolls makes combat fun and fast.
And never mind Enemy Within, C7 have released Night of Blood, a classic one-shot from the days of old White Dwarf, as a free download, with more to come.
So I’d heartily recommend a doom-laden adventure with WHFRP.
It’s definitely something I’ll be bringing to the table soon at , and you should too.
April 9, 2018           Review: Invasions: Target Earth.
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I know, I know, I’m reviewing a supplement from over 25 years ago.
I blame finding it on the All Rolled Up stall at Student Nationals last weekend.
Invasions: Target Earth (I:TE) is a supplement for Champions, 4th edition, from 1990.
It is available in .pdf here.
It’s a cracking book, which I’m glad to have reclaimed a print copy of – particularly since it’s a very good supplement for any sort of invasion plot, whether superhero roleplaying is your bag or not.
I:TE presents a review of how to structure a plot involving invasions, giving a solid list of events that you can expect to happen in an invasion storyline, modified for whether it’s an open invasion (aliens rampaging through the streets) or a secret one (subversive shapechangers taking over Earth’s military).
It has a useful breakdown of the likely command structure of invading forces, and several examples of both superhero and more mundane invasions.
It then gives a full-length example of an invasion, which is very… 1990s.
Demonicus Rex and his army of Demons and Demon Lords (including ratlike Kobolds and flying Furies) have come from an alternate dimension to invade earth.
The Demons look and feel an awful lot like Rocksteady and Bebop from the old Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles cartoon, and it gives a quirky Saturday morning cartoon feeling to what could have been pretty dark subject matter.
This being a Champions sourcebook, the majority of the crunch lies in stat blocks for the demon invaders, along with details for some weird Breeder aliens, anodyne “Space Invaders,” giant animals, and robots that could be used with multiple invasion foces.
Honestly, unless you’re a the particular type of grognard who still actually runs Champions 4th edition, I can’t see this being very useful.
Hero System doesn’t just feel like an algebra textbook, it also reads like it, so don’t expect to be able to make sense of phrases like “1 pip HKA (1/2d6 w/STR), bite” in the Breeder Hatchling description.
You’re better off using the pictures to convert some stats.
Don’t buy this for the crunch.
Buy it for the story structure.
Seriously, this gives a very good structure for a short, or longer mini-campaign dealing with an invasion.
The 10 steps it gives for plotting an invasion, together with numerous examples, are easy to adapt to whatever system you’re running with and give a nice structure to work on.
For a 3-4 hr one-shot, I’d simplify the sections to these 4 (which I’ve picked from the longer list):  Arrival.
Invaders win Battles.
The Defenders get Organised.
Final Battle.
This gives a good, if tightly railroaded, structure to use as a basis.
As with one-shots everywhere, though, the key to making it not feel like a railroad is to make everything else flexible.
The idea of The Defenders get Organised is that you rally enough support or manufacture a special weapon that the invaders are vulnerable to, so I would have several options there.
Likewise, the location and environment of the Final Battle and the vignettes you use for Invaders Win Battles can be flexible and informed by player choice.
With a few stat blocks (with or without phrases like “Transform 5 1/2 d6, Area (1250 hexes), any shape Non-selective target”) and settings, there’s your superhero alien invasion sorted.
I’m very pleased that the plot sections of this supplement seem to hold up as well as they do, and it makes me wonder what other gems are lurking in the 1990s supplement time machine.
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