Thursday, October 21, 2021

Mothership: Running Ghost Ship from Dissident Whispers

One of the books published by Tuesday Knight Games is Dissident Whispers, a great collection of dozens of short 2 page modules for various game systems, including system neutral, original B/X D&D (and therefore compatible with OSE), D&D, Mork Borg and more. Key among the selection is 11 modules for use with the Mothership RPG, which is one of this new wave of RPGs that I think spawned out of the Zine Quest movement to focus on tight but versatile RPG designs and modules which function with the utmost brevity while still delivering content.

Two page modules aren't new, and prior years have seen products focused on one-page dungeon crawls and other "brief' but useful designs for DMs with an excess of creativity/flexibility but a dearth of time. These modules work really well for me, once you figure out the intended structure of the designer's narrative (or lack of it), as they are very similar to how I used to write modules, especially back in the nineties and early 00's, using a round outline, notes and some charts to identify what I needed to know. I tend to write more robust modules for my own use these days, but module designs like this allow for a high degree of customization and improv....they are essentially skeletons on to which you can drape all the flesh and clothing you want, and can be very suitable to GMs who benefit from this style. If you're not sure if this style is for you, ask yourself this question: does a 2 page module with lots of brief ideas that can last 2-3 sessions easily sound appealing, or does a 64 page Adventure Path module from Paizo, in which you might get about as much actual content as the 2 page module, but with a massive additional word count and a lot of hand-holding and pathing provided by the author? Or, like that, but in a 300 page Wizards of the Coast tome? The appeal of that 2 page module is strong if you're not so worried about improving details as needed.

The first module from Dissident Whispers that I picked is Ghost Ship, a fun romp through a haunted ship with shades of inspiration from various haunting movies and a nod to Event Horizon, the grandmaster of B-Movie ghost ship stories. The premise of the module is incredibly simple: the lost ship Somnus reappears periodically out of nowhere in random locations, people investigate, and they get trapped when it disappears again. Meanwhile, on the actual ship are actual horrifying ghosts, an eerie alien artifact and a mad android to contend with. The module is only two pages, but I will go in to no further detail; we're on session two as of last night and the group ended on a cliffhanger that likely will solve the mysteries (or blow them up). 

If there's a negative to this module, it is that it is, after all, only two pages and while it provides quite enough content for you to run a good 1-3 session game, if you happen to be using Roll20 for a VTT game like I am, there's no real VTT support. I took a lazy route and copy/pasted the tiny ship map from the PDF into a Roll20 window, but it looks god-awful blown up; still, asking for a ton of VTT support from the module seems a bit much; I could have taken some time to draw or design a custom map easily enough, just call me lazy/low prep.

Because the core module is more of an outline on which you can choose (or not choose) to drape as much additional exposition, description and detail as you wish I have had a bit of fun with the ghost manifestations and some other elements, but honestly this module provided just about all anyone would need to run a haunted house in space. Good stuff, in other words!

I'm planning to run more of the two-pagers in Dissident Whispers soon.....some are a bit convoluted (the logical flow doesn't work for me) and some are very high concept (Escape from the Violet Deathworld feels like an outline of a grand campaign) but all offer enough stuff to make for many fun nights of gaming.

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