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Posts tagged ‘aeon trinity’

Trinity Field Report: Media - White WolfIn my last review of a Field ReportPsi Laws — I pointed out that the great strength of the format was that it allowed Andrew Bates (Trinity’s creator and line developer) to explore themes and concepts which would otherwise be difficult to do in a standard roleplaying sourcebook. Psi Laws was an excellent example of this. So is the Media report.

Rick Jones takes a very good look at one possible course of evolution from the modern media of today to the future media of tomorrow – blending film, television, and the internet (along with a number of others) into a future of a fragmented OpNet and “the miracle of holovision”. The use of the Field Report motif of the product being a “real” Aeon Trinity field report to its field agents allows Jones to take a very subtle approach to what is far too often treated in a cavalier manner. As a result you end up truly believing that the pastiche of media forces he describes could actually exist.

If nothing else this product is a useful addition to your Trinity collection because it helps you make greater sense out of other Trinity products. That seems a little odd at first, but you need to realize that significant portions of most Trinity products consists of media excerpts of one variety or another (artifact storytelling is the technical term for this) – hence the Media field report serves as a guide to those excerpts.

The one major drawback of the Media field report, however, is that it pulls a Verhoeven. Paul Verhoeven is the director of Robocop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers (among others). Anyone who has seen these films know that they hold a single trait in common: They all use fictional commercials and television programs as means of advancing a story or introducing a setting. The thing all of these fictional programs have in common is that they’re all cheesy – looking more like paraodies of television commercials rather than actual television commercials. Although some of the visual elements of programs covered in the Media field report are actually quite good (Retrospective with Warren Shaw — a news program whose dead host was replaced with a sim of himself — is a good example), others are quite pathetic (Tuna Sandwich and Jake Danger: Aberrant Hunter). This is a prime example of how poor visual presentation can spoil an otherwise decent product. Since the book deals with the media of the twenty-third century the fact that that media comes off looking hokey cheapens the whole thing.

In any case, although this Field Report doesn’t quite live up to the reputation of the others so far due to its poor visual performance, it is still worth $5 – particularly for Jones’ excellent work. It would take a lot more than this type of minor foul-up to make these products worth less than their dollar value.

(For those of you who are following the developing meta-story for Trinity check out the sidebar on pg. 15. It kinda ruins the mystique of this being an “actual” field report – but that’s a pretty juicy tidbit they’ve decided to give us.)

Style: 4
Substance: 5

Author: Rick Jones
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Cost: $4.95
Page count: 25
ISBN: 1-56504-771-0

Originally Posted: 1999/04/26

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Trinity: Psi Laws - White WolfTagline: The Trinity Field Reports continue to be one of the best elements of the Trinity line.

Since Dungeons & Dragons first appeared on the market over twenty-five years ago the vast majority of roleplaying games have shared a standard motif in which the roles that the player’s assume are always (and I mean always) individuals who spend 99% of their time together in what is essentially a gang, wandering around, and engaging in thinly rationalized acts of violence. It has been interesting to watch over the past few years as the seemingly inevitable backlash against this ideology has slowly materialized. The backlash, in fact, has almost reached the point where it is fashionable to include it as a disclaimer – even when doing so is patently absurd. (For example Unknown Armies includes the disclaimer that people who “follow this type of logic” usually end up in insane asylums… just before describing a game in which the players take on the role of people who believe that they can perform magic. Violence, I guess, gets you locked up a in a nuthouse. Thinking that you get magical powers through self-mutilation is perfectly normal.)

That being said, it’s not that bad a trend. Even if you aren’t looking to get your games completely bogged down in real world causalities (what fun would a Feng Shui campaign be, for example, if your PCs were always worrying about civil suits?), such things can occasionally be used to add an original twist to an old story. Take the storyline in the Flash comic books a couple years back, for example, in which the Flash is put on trial for failing to save someone from a fire. That’s clever. Or take the brilliancy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Normally you just quietly ignore the fact that Batman is an unlicensed vigilante; Miller explores the concept (along with others) and creates something fresh and creative. (Costumed superheroes make an excellent example of this because so many realities are quietly put on hold in the genre; bring one or all of those realities back into play and you have a whole new playing field to explore.)

All of which brings us around to Trinity Field Report: Psi Laws. This is a product which probably never would have existed fifteen years ago, because the only question it asks is: If your main characters use their psionic abilities, what are the legal ramifications?

I’ve commented before on the greatness of the Field Report concept. It allows Andrew Bates to deal with concepts, fill holes, and correct sizable mistakes which just couldn’t be handled any other way. These are things which could not be expanded effectively to fill a full-sized sourcebook, but of such a nature that they cannot be incorporated into another product in a convenient matter (or, in one case, something which should have been included in a product but was not – letting them correct the mistake in as clean a manner as possible). Their unique, cheap nature means that the Trinity universe can be fleshed out in ways other universes cannot.

Psi Laws is an excellent example of this. Giving both the GM and the player (due to their format as field reports to Aeon Trinity agents) a general overview of the way psions are treated by laws in all the major areas of the Trinity setting – and, through inference, the way law functions in general two centuries in the future — Psi Laws gives Trinity something no other science fiction setting has: Laws. Most games simply assume (or rather, let you assume) that the laws of their future realities will be, for all intents and purposes, identical to those of 20th century America. It’s an interesting oversight considering that the laws of today are substantially different from the laws of twenty years ago… let alone a hundred or two hundred years ago. Often these future settings have new technologies and new societies, but no conceptual base for how the law has changed over the years. This is a particular oversight in settings where the PCs end up being law enforcers of one variety or another.

Taking all of that into consideration I can give Psi Laws the same high recommendation I’ve given the other Field Guides — this is $5 well spent.

(Psi Laws does contain one serious mistake where a block of text was apparently pasted into the wrong place (it appears in its correct place as well father down the page). I also have reservations about the cover – a blow up of an interior image which is severely pixellated. These are minor concerns, however.)

Style: 5
Substance: 5

Author: Bryant Durrell
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Cost: $4.95
Page count: 25
ISBN: 1-56504-769-9

Originally Posted: 1999/04/26

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Tagline: I’ve given my thumbs up to the Trinity Field Reports before, and this product is no exception.

Trinity Field Report: Alien RacesI offered hearty compliments to the first Trinity Field Reports: Extrasolar Colonies for fixing almost everything I found to complain about the main Trinity rulebook in an elegant, creative, and engaging manner. Just so you’re warned, I’m going to rave about Alien Races.

First, this product possesses all the strengths of the first Field Report. It would be very difficult to produce a roleplaying supplement for $4.95 in which I could not find some scrap of information which would justify the purchase price – and these Field Reports come nowhere near that minimal threshold. The pages are all glossy, full-color affairs with high-quality artwork which is directly related to the text. The text itself is not only well written, but also tantalizing in that it says enough to begin working with what the subject matter is, but leaving everything you wish you knew unsaid (I literally finished reading these 25 pages and had an uncontrollable urge to pick up another Trinity supplement because the cliffhanger full of questions which this book left me with meant that I desperately wanted to fill in more of the picture). Finally, because the entire product is cleverly presented as a field report to Aeon Trinity operatives (as the title suggests), it is a handout you can safely give to your players.

Second, this product improves upon the example laid down in Extrasolar Colonies in a couple of ways. First, as mentioned above, the loose ends and half-answers are beautifully constructed to leave you begging for more. Second, this report provides oblique references to the Darkness Revealed series of adventures. If you didn’t use those adventures it doesn’t matter – the references aren’t all that important and are self-explanatory in the context of this product – but if you did the minor mention here provides an extra feeling of importance to your PCs. Because of the nature of the comments made the players can really feel as if the actions of their characters are having a long-term effect on the setting. Definite kudos.

There’s really nothing bad which can be said about this Field Reports : They’re a great read, they’re high-quality, they’re cheap, and they’re useful. Is there anything else you could possibly want in a roleplaying supplement?

Style: 4
Substance: 4

Author: Bryant Durrell
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Cost: $4.95
Page count: 25
ISBN: 1-56504-772-9

Originally Posted: 1999/02/17

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Tagline: The concept of the Trinity Field Reports is excellent, and this work is filled with healthy tidbits and intriguing hints of things to come. Two thumbs up, ten out of ten, five stars, and kudos are all in order.

Trinity: Extrasolar Colonies - John SneadWhen the original, limited edition of Aeon (The Game Which Would Become Known as Trinity) came out I snatched up a copy – I loved that hard black plastic cover and the slick interior design at first glance; and I’d been hearing good things about it for months.

Perusing it I was definitely not disappointed (as anyone reading my review of the game elsewhere on RPGNet can attest). About the only serious problem I had with it was that, although it had a fascinating setting which was obviously going to develop in a fantastic manner, not enough information was given about certain elements of the game to make me feel comfortable about running it immediately.

One of the specific problem areas I sited were the “lost colonies”: Several years before the start of the game Earth had lost contact with five colonies located out in deep space, and we were informed that only “just now” was contact being re-established. The game was even hyped in some places as “taking back the stars”. The problem was that although we were told that contact was being renewed even as the game begun – and that a primary plot suggestion was for the PCs to go out to those planets – absolutely no useful information was given about what they were going to find there. Did the mining colony under attack by a hostile alien species get destroyed? How did the rebellion on another turn out?

After posting my review here at RPGNet I became vocal about this problem on the various Internet forums, newsgroups, and mailing lists. By various people I was told that I could “do whatever I wanted” since things hadn’t been defined. As I pointed out at the time, this missed the whole point. Obviously Andrew Bates, Trinity‘s designer, had a plan of how these events would unfold – and I wanted to be lead down that path and tie his meta-story into the specifics of my campaign. Unfortunately there was no way for me to proceed at the moment because if I – for example – sent the PCs to the mining colony and had them discover that it had been completely destroyed, only for it to turn out later that it had not been destroyed and would play a major role in the future development of the Trinity universe, I would be royally screwed and I, and my group, would be unfairly excluded from using the unfolding developments.

There is a narrow line between “not giving everything away” and “giving enough clues so that we don’t misstep” that the basic Trinity game had overstepped. All of that being said, Trinity Field Report: Extrasolar Colonies not only vindicates my conviction, but also solves most of my problems.

First, it vindicates me because these twenty-five pages are exactly what I thought was lacking in the main rulebook – and the quality of material found here is fantastic. Extrasolar Colonies takes the format of selections from the actual reports of the jumpships that traveled to the distant colony worlds, and it is used to drop hints and tantalize us very effectively. A direct measurement of how successful this product was lies in the fact that when I reached certain places where “data decay in transit” had caused the message to become unreadable I would occasionally yelp in frustration (so I’m a dork, but it’s an indication of the success of the product – that nobody will deny).

“Wait”, you might be saying, “if they’re still omitting data which is so important that you’re yelping because you don’t know it – isn’t that still a problem?” Not at all, because this time they only excluded information which will end up advancing the meta-story. However, they gave me enough of the broad, general details that I can still take my PCs out there and explore the colony worlds. The trick is to give me enough information so that I don’t end up stepping on the toes of future products, but not so much as to ruin the surprises. It’s a balance which the core rulebook failed to maintain at places, but which this product nails perfectly.

Second, it solves most of my problems because of the price of this product. At $4.95 for 25 glossy, full-color pages these Field Reports are excellent impulse buys and a great format. I can even hand this stuff directly to my players because it’s not only presented as in-world source material, but it’s source material which doesn’t reveal any “deep, dark secrets” (although it may hint at them). Any product which is cheap, has high production values, has great source material, and is useful for both the GM and the players gets automatic high ratings in my account of things for obvious reasons.

I do have a remaining problem: I’ve never liked the tendency of game lines to become “supplement oriented” – where the game, instead of focusing on one or two core products from which you can optionally branch off as you need, instead has no central core and, instead, expects you to pick up at least 95% of the supplements produced for the game. Although the Field Reports are cheap and seem to be targeting the specific areas I noted as lacking in the core sourcebook (besides the colonies I also mentioned aliens, which is the subject of the other Field Report released to date) I am not particularly happy that it was necessary for me to buy them in the first place (although I probably would have anyway).

However, that particular problem is with a minor concern I have regarding the game line as a whole – a concern which, so far, has been outweighed by the general high-level of quality material being released for it. This product, in itself, is excellent not only on the merits of its concept, but on the merits of its implementation. Hey, at $4.95 how can you go wrong?

Style: 5
Substance: 5

Author: John Snead
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Cost: $4.95
Page count: 25
ISBN: 1-56504-771-0
Originally Posted: 1999/01/24

These books really were the perfect impulse buy. Back in 1999, my go-to gaming shop was Phoenix Games on Lake Street in Minneapolis, MN. I remember the Field Reports fondly because at $4.95 a pop they were like full-color candy to an RPG addict like myself.

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

Tagline: Compared to the first installment, Passage Through Shadow works even better as a basic story and premise and has solved many of the problems which flawed the first. However, there are still some significant flaws – particularly in the first of the two scenarios.

Note: This product is a module. In the following review there will quite likely be spoilers of various sorts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Trinity: Darkness Revealed 2 - Passage Through ShadowThose of you reading my review of the first installment of this adventure trilogy (Darkness Revealed 1: Descent into Shadow) know that I had two main problems with it: First, although the basic conceptual idea and story were excellent they were adapted into module form in a sub-standard fashion. Second, the design principles behind the color insert sections were extremely flawed and had the potential to ruin the gaming experience if used in the manner intended. The overall product was salvageable simply because the basic conceptual idea and story were excellent – although requiring slightly more work than should be needed, you can transform what is a fairly railroaded set of adventures into an excellent set of first-condition adventures.

Darkness Revealed 2: Passage Through Shadow, happily, is an improvement. The basic conceptual idea and story remain excellent, drawing the PCs into an even higher echelon of the Trinity universe. The color sections, while still possessing some doozies, are much more reliable. And, although the first adventure still possesses some flaws, the second is really excellent.

Like the first, the value for $15.95 compared to the $20 and $30 products emerging from other publishers is fantastic. Highly recommended.

THE COLORED SECTIONS, REDUX

Okay, the weakest part of this product remains the colored sections. Designed to be handouts to the players they still possess the physical flaw of being located in the middle of vast tracts of GM-only information – meaning that only by tearing your book into pieces or by expensively color copying will you really find value here.

Fortunately, however, you’re never going to want to give these handouts to your players, so that basically solves your problem. The first color section is definitely the worse of the two, among its faults:

1. Presented as a mission briefing for the character’s new assignment it contains memos of people discussing the character’s arrival at their new assignment.

2. The entire course of the investigation is telegraphed and revealed: Basically the players know exactly where they’re supposed to be looking and, generally, what they’re supposed to be looking for. Why? Because the colored section gives briefings on all the important areas… and only the important areas. More general information, like floor plans, would be more appropriate than secret communications which should, rightfully, be discovered during gameplay.

3. A central question of the PC’s investigation should be, “Is Basel, the location of our assignment, involved in this conspiracy plot?” This is rendered into a no-brainer, however, because on pg. 13 of the handouts we read a “Huang-Marr Project Briefing” recovered from “Aesculapian databank [Basel]”.

4. Another central question is whether or not high-ranking officials are involved or not. Again, pg. 13 not only gives that away – it gives a list of names!

5. I have serious suspension-of-disbelief problems where a funeral for one of the NPCs in the first adventure is interrupted as dissidents stomp all over his grave… AND NO ACTION IS TAKEN TO STOP THEM.

The second color section errs far less (largely because the GM is instructed in the text of the adventure to reveal certain sections only at certain times during the game). The only serious problems are:

1. At the beginning of the adventure the PCs have no idea they will eventually end up on the orbital station Eyrie. For some reason, however, their briefing file contains an extensive report on the station.

WHAT HAVE THEY FIXED?

The most noticeable problem they fixed is that the adventures no longer seem too brief to consume an evening of gaming. One reason which may be trotted out for this is that this book only contains two adventures, instead of three. More essential in my mind, however, is the fact that they’ve fixed a more pressing problem: The plots are no longer railroaded. Railroaded plots take longer to explain (because you not only need to express initial conditions, but also exactly how the adventure will progress at each step), and tend to have gaping holes in their design (because they require leaps of PC intuition that, in my experience, rarely happen at the scripted moment).

The first adventure still suffers from this slightly (the most telling example being that the adventure assumes that the PCs will make no concerted effort to get in touch with their major lead at the clinic they’re visiting until he comes into work the night after they arrive), but the second avoids it completely.

So they’ve fixed my major beef with the first product, which is that the mysteries don’t operate as mysteries.

CONCLUSION

In addition to solving the problems of Descent into Darkness, Passage through Shadow has all of its strengths: A strong story, great artwork, high production values, an attention to detail, and focus on PC involvement. Not only that, but if you’re the kind of GM who likes to have your PCs operating at the highest levels of the campaign world, then the Darkness Revealed trilogy is definitely an elegant way of going there – the first volume lets the PCs into this rarefied world by a lucky break, and the second expertly develops that break into major sociopolitical importance (a key sign of how effective this volume was, is that when the PCs meet and work with the Orgotek Proxy it seems like a natural result of the events which have transpired – unlike many such cases where PC-involvement with important setting figures seems forced and artificial).

So that’s my conclusion: Although it still needs some minor work and modification, I definitely recommend it, particularly since it only costs $15.95. Excellent product.

Style: 4
Substance: 4

Author: Bruce Baugh and Richard E. Dansky
Company/Publisher: White Wolf
Cost: $15.95
Page count: 120
ISBN: 1-56504-752-4
Originally Posted: 1999/01/24

Read the review of Darkness Revealed 3: Ascent Into Light

For an explanation of where these reviews came from and why you can no longer find them at RPGNet, click here.

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