A roleplaying toolkit written by Phillip McGregor.
I recently purchased and downloaded the two-volume set of Displaced. The first volume is "Lost in Time and Space" and the second is "Survival and Rebirth."
McGregor is an Australian High School history teacher who has been involved in gaming and game design for about thirty years (about the same period as myself). Therefore, he knows plenty about history and how games and gamers function. Fascinated with the SF trope of alternate timelines and parallel worlds, Phillip McGregor has written two very large and very detailed books on how to best simulate this type of adventure with an RPG.
The first book- "Lost in Time and Space"- is fairly short (just 74 pages), but manages to very succinctly deal lethal blows to the average gamer's notions of history and time travel adventuring. This book discusses how history is written and perceived, including how our so-called understanding of history is so fatally flawed by our educational processes and prejudices.
In the course of this essay, McGregor shows how differently people of the past thought and acted. He details how displaced adventurers can be trapped by their preconceptions and assumptions. Space is set aside to deal with how such a party would survive and how time-travelers would or would not be able to affect the past.
The first book concludes with a short, neat bibliography reviewing some of the more well-known genre books, including Islands in the Sea of Time, by S. M. Stirling, 1632 by Eric Flint, and rather significantly, Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague DeCamp. He also reviews several RPG's of the genre, including Stargate: SG1, GURPS: Infinite Worlds, and EABA, among others.
The second book of the Displaced set is "Survival and Rebirth". It is the far-larger of the two, topping out at 207 pages. And it needs every one of them.
This book explains how technology works; how it is made, how it is maintained, how it is repaired, what materials are required to do it, and, more importantly, what tools are needed to make the tools that will be used to build the tools to make the technology. By the time I finished reading book two, I was thoroughly amazed that our civilization worked at all! It seems to be hanging by a series of very delicately balanced juggling acts, themselves suspended on the rather taut thread of energy production.
This book tells you how and why things work. It also tells you just how difficult it will be for our displaced adventurers to create and maintain any of that technology in a more primitive milieu. All of it is interdependent, requiring many other seemingly separate developments to exist. This is all very impressively researched and my hat is off to Phillip McGregor for managing to dumb it down for his reader's understanding.
Next there is a very impressive catalog of assorted technologies and how difficult each would be to create and how much each would relatively cost. My favorite is the Sten submachine gun, which apparently can be produced as far back as the Roman Republic with only a little extra effort. My prejudice towards flying machines was well-fed in the volume with the inclusion of hang-gliders, ultra-lights, and small aircraft- many of which are buildable in very primitive eras.
Following this, McGregor then provides a set of different "gifts" that the GM can give to his displaced adventurers in the form of air-raid shelters, malls, secret bases, future tech labs, a small Australian town, and the McMurdo station in Antarctica (among others). This Christmas present of resources for our heroes would more than enable any RPG group to survive and exceed in an alternate past. McGregor includes hints about what might be found in freight containers, Liberty ships, survivalist's basements, junkyards, and the like.
Of particular note is the inclusion of the Australian town of Nyngan (population 2500). This is significant because Phillip McGregor goes to great trouble to detail as much about Nyngan as possible; including maps, power, resources, stores, schools, police and fire stations, local mines and gas wells, airport, and so forth. What he has done is extremely evocative of Eric Flint's 1632 novel(s).
In Flint's story, the West Virginia Appalachian coal town on Grantville is scooped up and transplanted to the year 1631 in Thuringia, Germany, in the middle of the Thirty Years War. When Eric Flint set out to tell his story, he based Grantville on a very real Mannington, WV, and took great pains to constrain his characters and resources to what would realistically be available. Phillip McGregor has done likewise with his similarly populated town of Nyngan and it would seem that he intends that players would potentially use the descriptions to put Nyngan into a similar situation- not necessarily in the Thirty Years War, but perhaps in the slightly later English Civil War, perhaps? One especially interesting comparison between the two towns is that Mannington, WV has the typically American abundance of firearms and ammunition. The Grantville version of the place has easily 17,000+ guns, including a Vietnam-era smuggled home M-60 general purpose machine gun. In the case of Nyngan, just about the only weapons available are in the hands of the NSW Australian police department, and consist mainly of sidearms and a few shotguns. This contrast between the restrictions on firearms in the two different countries will make adventuring from displaced Nyngan very interesting indeed.
Book two winds up with a thorough set of tables detailing all of the equipment, weapons, and vehicles listed in the book, in their correct readouts for D20 Modern, Action!, Spycraft, Impressa Express, and EABA. While this is a generous layout by McGregor, he makes it plain that he prefers Greg Porter's ground-breaking EABA system to the others. Also, while he lists Action!, McGregor fails to mention that Battlefield Press has released Eric Flint's 1632 roleplaying game using that system. Battlefield Press chose to address just the first book of the series (so far), and the volume has received mixed reviews (primarily due to the lack of a promised coherent map and key of Grantville and it's surroundings), but is still an excellent, basic introduction to gaming in that period.
I found Displaced to be a thought-provoking, useful toolkit filled to the brim with excellent critiques and essays on the problems of cross-time adventuring. Extremely reasonably priced at $9.99, Displaced only lacks an actual adventure and game rules, and those are easily obtained- in some cases as free downloads. Indeed McGregor promises that there will be future volumes coming, using the EABA system. I look forward to them.
<b>LIKED</b>: The honest assessment of the treatment of history in RPG's. The complete lists of gear for various systems.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Didn't quite go far enough and actually give you a game. Lot's of typos here and there.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>