Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/0-
God Game Black is a sourcebook for The Laundry RPG primarily based on material found in The Apocalypse Codex, another novel in the literary series the game is based on by author Charles Stross. This sourcebook has a little bit of everything: Laundry personnel, adventures, expanded setting information, monsters, flavor fiction, and more. I really enjoyed reading this, the material is just so fun to read and captures that Lovecraft flavor excellently, plus it is presented excellently for game masters to use. Let’s take a look.
Creepy Dreams and The Sleeper
I feel like I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I have not read the novels related to the game, and the fact that this sourcebook draws on a lot of the material “revealed” in The Apocalypse Codex did leave me feeling a bit in the dark about a lot of details. Still, the way that the book reads is so engaging and well-written that it made me want to read the book, like immediately. What I gathered, and what one major portion of the book centers around, is this thing called “The Sleeper” who resides in some pyramid building on the Plateau of the Sleeper. In the core book, the code phrase “CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN” comes up a lot, and it basically references a scenario where an Old One awakens and humanity must defend itself or be destroyed. Well, The Sleeper awakening is some sort of herald or signal that things are in motion to move the scenario closer to actually happening. There is a major section in the book and one of the adventures that centers around this other plane of existence and the history and activity surrounding The Sleeper. The premise and the ideas surrounding this part of the book are fascinating, I really enjoyed reading it. It feels very much like a Lovecraft creation, with plenty of mysterious strangeness and murky occurrences that give you a taste of horror without revealing what is actually happening.
The book also contains some info that might be considered updates or additions to the core book in terms of characters. There are now rules for characters or other entities that are classified as “external assets”. These are essentially resources that The Laundry can’t officially have on the payroll for whatever reason. An external asset can be anything from some hired gun the organization keeps on call in the Amazon to a monster that is somehow useful to the department but can’t otherwise be kept around. External assets are particularly useful for one thing: conducting unofficial (read: illicit) missions that The Laundry can’t be directly associated with. Players can play a campaign or one-shot after having made characters specifically as external assets. Since they often undertake dangerous missions, being one of these hired guns can be a lucrative but short career, unless you’re really good. This can be a good alternative to the play style put forward in the core book where characters are part of the department and have to deal with bureaucracy and procedures etc., instead your group can roll up external assets characters and immediately jump into their mission which can be as action-packed or full of subterfuge as you want. Again, might be great for conventions or one-shots.
Made in America
So, you’ve got The Laundry looking out for British interests…what about the other side of the pond? In God Game Black, the American counterpart is explored in detail. This entity is known as “The Black Chamber”, and is rather infamous for having taken its own path in regards to the occult and its relationship with the Old Ones. Basically, instead of strictly watching and keeping the occult forces in check, The Black Chamber has a much more open attitude toward the powers of darkness, looking for ways to harness the occult for power. For some reason, entities within this organization have names or descriptions drawn from Tolkien: Dark Lords, The Nazgul, and “The Unblinking, Red-Rimmed Eye” (which is the description of Control); maybe it is some sort of jab at British-American relations in Stross’ view. People working for The Black Chamber might not even know who their overseers are, the B.C. tends to appropriate non-assuming organizations for itself, redirecting the activities of the group toward other ends, those more useful for boosting U.S. control and power. This section is another example of the wonderfully engrossing reading in this book, The Black Chamber is wild and crazy, and makes a great sometimes-friend to The Laundry. And guess what? Playing a character or group working for the B.C. provides yet another option for The Laundry RPG games.
In keeping with the mish-mash (as wonderful as it is) of stuff found in this book, there are a few pages about the history of British occult management from about the Renaissance period on. However, this material is rather sparse, and while the book suggests that you can play a historical campaign using this information, I don’t think it would be feasible without making a lot of stuff up. There are literally five pages of historical information covering history up to about the 1930s, I just don’t think it received enough coverage to be a ready-made setting for a Laundry campaign.
Toward the end of book you have two adventures. These both seem really well thought out and well-written. The first one involves (surprise) occult activity behind the shiny veneer of an educational institution, and the second one involves The Sleeper as described earlier in the book. The adventures are not outlines; they contain notes on playing the NPCs, documents that you can print out and hand to the players, contingencies for the ways the scenario can go, it’s just great. Really good stuff here.
Dog Dame Smack
This sourcebook is a great addition to the core book. It gives you a little bit of everything, and expands the setting for The Laundry RPG in excellent and interesting ways. The entire book is well-presented, well-written, and thorough in most places. There were a few typos here and there, but no glaring errors or anything. Not only does the book have lots of great information, it is really fun to read. I keep saying that about the books for this game, but the material is just really engrossing. It’s got more of all the stuff that makes this game thematically great: conspiracies, thrills, horrors, humor…did I mention conspiracies? If you like The Laundry RPG, I think this book should definitely be in your collection or on your buy list.
[4 of 5 Stars!]