domingo, 12 de abril de 2020

Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! - Review

4 comentarios
In December 2019, Chaosium created a new community content program in DrivethruRPG called The Jonstown Compendium. One of the initial releases was Yozarian's Bandit Ducks!, a fun, one-shot scenario for RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha. An adventure with... ducks? I hear you ask. No, better than that! An adventure in which you play the role of a duck! Weird? Absurd? Intriguing? Keep reading to find out my opinion in this review.

For starters

I had the honor of first enjoying this scenario as a player, with the author running it at a convention, and I had lots of fun. So much so than later, I decided to run it to my friends at home. And again, we all had a blast. So now I can tell you about this scenario from both points of view: player and GM.

The looks

Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! is a 40-page-long PDF in full color, loaded with nice art. The cover by Francisco José Asencio shows the group of bandit ducks in the wilderness, with Yozarian standing on the forefront, looking at the reader with a confident smirk. The overcast sky and the scowling faces of most characters help set the tone of the scenario quite well and makes a contrast with their cartoonish look. Apart from this, the bronze pieces of armor, the runes on the shields, and the ducks themselves make it a very Gloranthan cover. This could not belong anywhere else!

The pictures of each of these characters are used again to accompany the stats of the pre-generated characters. Aside from those, the interior pages are illustrated with several other pieces by Xavier Llobet, who also did some of the art for some issues of the Hearts in Glorantha fanzine. There are also two nice hexed maps, done by the authors of the scenario. One is in full color and the other resembles the style of Dyson Logos. Both can be used in a couple scenes together with the tokens provided if you print them out at double their original size. All in all, a nice looking PDF that I wish I could print on demand.

Contents list of the Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! scenario for RuneQuest Glorantha

The scenario

About half the pages are devoted to the scenario proper, the rest being used for stats and extras like adventure seeds, maps, tokens and even name tents. In this scenario, all players play the role of bandit ducks led by Yozarian, a veteran but cheeky bandit duck NPC. Yozarian has led the PCs to a remote corner of Dragon Pass where he expects to gain lots of silver by robbing travelers of their valuables. But of course, it won't be as simple as that...

Part of the appeal of the scenario for veteran RuneQuest players is a nostalgic return to an old scenario from the RuneQuest 3rd edition, the one published by Avalon Hill. In the Gamemaster Book of that edition, on page 38, you find The Money Tree scenario, to which Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! pays homage. However, there is a twist. In that scenario, Yozarian the bandit duck was one of the encounters the PCs faced. But in Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! you play the role of the bandits together with Yozarian. So the scenario is an exercise of seeing the world from the opposite point of view since you will be playing the part of the "monsters". And that is very Gloranthan in my opinion.

The reason is that in the world of Glorantha there are no clearly evil enemies, only different points of view. (Yes it could be argued Chaos is evil, but it actually comes from outside Glorantha!). These different points of view include what in other settings are described as sentient "monsters". The best example of that are the trolls. And already in its 1st edition, the RuneQuest RPG made that point clear by making "monster" stats as detailed as normal adventurer stats, so it is easy to create adventurers that would be considered monsters in other games. This is great because it not only provides great roleplaying opportunities, but it is also an exercise of putting yourself in other people's shoes, even in your enemies' shoes, in short: empathy.

By the way, having access to The Money Tree might be of help towards the end of the scenario, but it is by no means necessary. I for once didn't need it when I ran it to my friends. However, the fact that Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! is a tribute to that old scenario was a big selling point for me, because that was the first RuneQuest scenario I ever played. Not only that, it was actually my first roleplaying experience, back in 1991.

Title and map of The Money Tree scenario included in RuneQuest 3rd edition by Avalon Hill

The scenario Ernesto Orellana has devised is quite straightforward. Luckily, it is way more involved and interesting than The Money Tree. To sum it up without spoilers: lust for treasure will take the adventurers towards greater risks and across several tense scenes that can also be ludicrous if you look at them as an spectator. One of them even reminds me of the cover of Wyrms Footprints #8. I particularly like the final scene, as it is open-ended, full of roleplay, and can provide a moral dilemma for the players. As the authors say in the introduction, "the tone of the scenario may be comical, but its underlying themes can be serious", and particularly at the ending, "some characters may feel tempted to overcome their deep-set hatred for humans or be tragically carried away by it." So it is up to your players. When I ran it to my friends, afterwards we chatted a while about their impressions about their characters, and the player who had played with Liv confessed how he had been at the point of doubting whether to follow her passions to the end. However, both as a player and as a GM, characters chose to be carried away by them. Maybe your experience will be different? For all this, the scenario itself is actually not the coolest part of Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! Rather, it is...

The characters

What really makes this a fun adventure to play is the adventurers. The scenario provides 5 pre-generated player characters, all of them bandit ducks. They are antiheroes, they are angry, and they have tragic backgrounds. Most of all, they have links to each other in the form of passions that will make players roleplay them in a certain way. This creates several dynamics in the group that will generate fun for themselves, almost irrespective of the actual events set out in the scenario, but often on top of them! I can attest to that because I saw it happen both when I played it and later when I ran it.

A word about ducks: I remember Ian Cooper once mentioned Gloranthan ducks are a bit like British marmite, you either love them or hate them. I personally love them, though I understand why some people consider them to bee "too silly". For me, ducks are the kenders or the hobbits of Glorantha: easily ignored in the grand scheme of things, but fun to play. If you are the sort of person who would never consider playing a duck, this scenario might help you overcome that reluctance! At the end of the day, it is just a one-shot, right?

But there are more reasons than that. The brief backgrounds of each character make you instantly relate to them. For example, the twin brothers remind me of the main characters in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. As I have mentioned before, Liv's background is possibly the most tragic and conflicted of all. But my favorite is Eyra: she is a tall Durulz who was captured and exhibited in a cage at an itinerant circus. She escaped, and now she follows Humakt, the god of Death. Can you guess how she feels about humans? Of course you do. Only Radnak is missing a bit stronger links to the rest of the characters.

Liv is one of the pre-generated player characters in Yozarian's Bandit Ducks

Both when I played the scenario and later when I ran it, players initiated scenes on their own, based on their character's passions. It was extremely cool to see that happen, and that means two things: first, that passions are a great rule, and second that these characters are easy to roleplay right from the start. Two examples of this: When I played the scenario I played the part of Meils, the responsible twin. The player who played Neils' part played him jealous of Liv's interest in his brother, so she had Neils do all kinds of weird and funny things to stop the romance from happening.

When I ran the scenario to my friends, the player who played the part of Radnak played him also jealous of Liv's love for Meils (even though that isn't written in his description!). At one point that tension exploded and Meils, Radnak, and Liv had quite an argument, in character. I just sat there, listening to them and smiling. It's not often that player characters create this kind of scene on their own, but I love when that happens, and this scenario fosters it.

Wrapping up

This is a fun, well-written scenario. As a one-shot, it can be a good change of pace for your players. Although its main characters are of little importance compared to the great epic of the common Orlanthi campaign, the scenario definitely has that epic of the unimportant who struggle against a world that is only too big for them. That is also heroic, even if on a different scale. At the very least, it is a cool scenario to have up your sleeve for that evening when some of your players can't attend your regular game for whatever reason.

The stats of some NPCs of the original scenario, like Henere Hannibal, have been updated for RuneQuest Glorantha.

Moreover, it is a good scenario for introducing new players to the world of Glorantha and the rules of RuneQuest. You could play this scenario and after this first contact, create their actual characters for your campaign. The scenario provides handouts such as the list of common rune spells, and the character's rune magic is described in their character sheets so you don't need to check the rulebook to see what they can do with them. This all helps both new players to play and GM to explain the rules. On top of that, the visual aids like the maps and the tokens are a cool addition (this was only included in the 3rd update of the PDF, so if you bought it soon after it came out, you just need to download it again from DrivethruRPG). Summing up:

What I like the most

  • The characters' passions and the interplay they generate.
  • That it makes it easy to run for GMs and easy to play for players.
  • The maps, tokens, and handouts.
  • The lovely art.
  • The open-ended final scene.

What I like the least

  • That you can't insert this scenario in an ongoing campaign, you have to play as it is. Although you can certainly use Yozarian's bandit ducks as allies or even enemies in your campaign.
  • That some people won't play this scenario because they are too serious to enjoy playing anthropomorphic ducks. To these people I say: "Why so serious?" :-D

Players having fun playing the scenario

Yozarian's Bandit Ducks! is available from DrivethruRPG for 5$. You can read an interview with the author here. Please leave a comment below if you liked this review. Have you run this scenario? Are you planning to?

4 comentarios:

  1. Hmm I think I should write a whole post regarding this adventure. There is too much to say about it.

    Despite I knew I wouldn't never play it, I bought it anyway. I don't like to play adventures in Dragon Pass, and I'm not really interested into ducks. Anyway I wanted to read it, because I know both authors and I was curious about the adventure itself. Did it worth the money? Yeah, I think so. It has some flaws, but nothing that can avoid to enjoy it.

    I disagree with your two cons. There is a lot more to tell about that PC group, the adventure can be used as seed for a whole campaign. There is also a cool prequel that can be created, the story has enough info for the master build it and use the adventure after a few seasons.

    Even if the adventure has some tips to play it as a comedy, it is not really an obligation. The PC have a very hard backgrounds. I really think, with some minor changes, it can be turned into something very dark and tragic.

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment, Master Gollum! :-) I basically agree with you and I would like to know more about the kind of prequel you have in mind.

  2. After reading your article, I buyed "Yozarian's Bandit Ducks!" and I do not regret it ! I still remember the encounter with Yozarian from old Runequest time, and find this scenario very well made, and open to a lot of uses.

    1. Wow, I'm glad you like it, then! :-D
      Many thanks for leaving a comment, DD Ra!


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