Non-Spoiler Review: Apotheosis, by Michael Brown

Over the last several years of running a Classic Traveller campaign I’ve purchased many of the one-page PDF adventures written “for 2D6 games such as Cepheus Engine and the Original Science Fiction Roleplaying Game” by Michael Brown. While I’ve not run any of them (I simply have not fit them into my game yet), I enjoy reading Michael’s creativity. Mr. Brown can get more adventure into one compact page than almost anyone, with creative scenarios and game hooks. He gives the GM all that’s needed to run a session or two without, as he has told me “stepping on the GM’s toes.”

Last week I decided to see what Michael could do in 16 pages. I ordered his adventure Apotheosis from Drive Thru RPG in both PDF and hard copy. The hard copy came in today, and I spent an hour reading it.

First a few comments about the book’s quality and layout. It is printed in what I’d call “zine size” 6″ x 9″. A little bigger than a folded in half letter size paper — not sure what this size is actually called. The cover is essentially a nice quality card stock with glossy exterior (again, I am not a publishing guy, so not sure what the exact terms are). Considering I paid on $6.49 for the hard copy/pdf set, I think the quality is really nice.

Apotheosis, by Michael Brown.

The actual adventure content is 16 pages, plus about 8 pages (front and back) of cover page, Open Gaming License, info, etc. The interior is printed on fairly nice paper, and the spine appears to be glued. I think the spine will actually last, as at about 24 total interior pages it isn’t heavy. One thing I like about this book is that it is small enough and light enough it was easy to handle, which not only makes it easier to read but probably easier to use during a gaming session.

The layout of this book is very nice. Simple black type on simple white pages, layed out simply. A font big enough for me to read without glasses.

The adventure is organized logically. It flows when you read it. Michael starts you with a plot overview, explains how to get your group into the adventure, gives you enough detail to run the adventure, lots of rumors the PCs might hear, motivations of the NPCs, etc. There is no art, but there is one map. I’ve found in some recent purchases that art is not always a bonus. Often it is poorly integrated into a rulebook or adventure, obscuring text and causing other problems. Not the case here. Again, Michael gives you what you need. Do you just have to have a map of a building or whatever? Just draw one. Or find a free one on the internet. You know your team’s going to probably destroy that building anyway, right?

Now, I said the adventure is layed out logically, but it is not designed to railroad your PCs through a linear path. This thing could go a lot of different ways, and Michael give you plenty of ideas as options.

Man, it is hard to do this without dropping spoilers. Ugh.

So, we have a nice little book, well organized content, a great mission on an interesting planet, and plenty of detail to allow you, the GM, to run a fun session or two. I think that it’s just the right length that I will not have any trouble finding things in it. Ever gotten an adventure that is so long, convoluted, and poorly organized that you can’t find some simple thing, like what kind of weapon an important NPC has, or something like that? I have. It sucks. Hell, you can spend five minutes looking for something, then just give up and make something up. That won’t happen with this adventure. It is all right there, easy to read, easy to use. Plenty to work with.

One last thing I wan to say. Michael Brown ALWAYS gives a reason for the PCs to be involved that makes sense when viewed in the light of the question “why wouldn’t the authorities be handling this?” That make a difference to me. I like things to make sense, so I appreciate this detail.

Even if you never play this adventure I would recommend it as an example of excellent adventure design.

That’s all. Now to play Traveller or Cepheus Engine!

 

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