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Day of Dr Null
[0]
$4.95
Publisher: Lame Mage Productions
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2006 00:00:00
I like Dr. Null, the villain in Lame Mage production?s Day of Dr. Null. Well, I don?t like him per say (he?s an amoral sociopath, after all), but I think he?s a cool character. By necessity, super hero roleplaying games have to rely strongly on clich? in order to stay true to the medium that inspired them. Characters like Dr. Null, the evil genius bent on world domination, are a dime a dozen in comic books. In order to stand out from the pack, a memorable villain must have something?unique. In the case of Dr. Null, it?s his backstory that draws me to the character.

Dr. Null was once a genius with unlimited scientific potential until a freak accident erased his memory?and his humanity. With no knowledge of his previous life and no emotional connection to anyone or anything, the doctor became a textbook sociopath. Dr. Null is probably the smartest man in the world, and he?s filled with a dangerous combination of self-importance and utter disregard for human life. These are the makings of a truly depraved and memorable villain.

When writing this adventure, the designers chose to use a very abstract style. There are no maps, and scenes are described in very generic terms. Fine details are glossed over in favor of a focus on action and moving things along. Most of the time, this works well and captures the feel of comic book adventures. In a few cases, it requires some tweaking and may not work as written.

For example, the big climatic battle near the end of the adventure is intended to run without maps or miniatures, even though it involves potentially hundreds of participants. The designers offer advice on how to keep the action flowing, and they?ve included a clever means of keeping track of the fight without bogging things down with tactical movement. I really like this section, and appreciated the vignette-style sample encounters where the heroes rescue helpless citizens.

I would have liked to see some kind of maps, however, if only as a point of reference. While I agree with designer?s philosophy here, I like to use a battle mat to get a vague idea of where the PCs are in relation to their surroundings. Collateral damage, after all, is one of the most fun parts of comic book battles. I can create my own improvisational maps for this purpose, but it would have been nice if the adventure did the work for me.

There is also big pseudo chase scene that suffers from lack of detail In this part of the adventure, the heroes are up against the clock in a race to thwart Dr. Null?s plans before they come to fruition. The problem is that the adventure gives very little consequence for the heroes taking too long to reach their goal. If they arrive late, the worst that occurs is they miss the initial part of the doctor?s attack. This doesn?t make things any harder for the PCs, it just makes the surprise attack less surprising, and therefore less exciting. On the other hand, a speedy handling of this section is swallowed up by the Deus ex machina and the big surprise attack occurs anyway.

Finally, there is a body switching scene that, as written, would play out a little clumsy in my home campaign. I don?t relish the idea of putting one character into solo mode while the others sit around and pretend not to know what?s going on. Its not bad design, it just wouldn?t work very well with my group. Fortunately, the adventure suggests a few other ways of handling his entire scene. With a little tweaking, I could make this work without a problem.


LIKED: Overall, the good of the adventure outweighs the bad. The abstract style, as I said above, really matches the flow of comic book style action. All of my problems with the adventure itself are easily fixed, and it certainly isn?t uncommon for a GM to need to tweak a published adventure to best fit his group and campaign. I also should give the designers a ?thumbs up? for including some character art. Art is especially important in comic book RPGs, so I really appreciate the villain illustrations. The art itself isn?t the best I?ve seen (its black and white, for one thing), but it serves its purpose and I appreciate its inclusion.

Also, did I mention that I like Dr. Null? I think he?s a compelling villain, and I?d be happy to use him in my campaign. The adventure assumes that he?s someone of prominence, an infamous bad guy in your campaign world. I would prefer to have him make his debut as a new threat to the world, and Day of Dr. Null is a good way to do that. With just a bit of prep and customization, this adventure looks like it would be a lot of fun to play.

DISLIKED: The GM must do some work to make this adventure run properly. This is not really a plug-and-play module in any way. If you want an adventure that holds your hand and does all the work for you, or you need such an adventure because time is short and the game is at hand, Day of Dr. Null won?t work for you.

It?s also worth noting that the adventure is pretty four color, and some of the elements would not work well in other types of campaigns. I have no problem with four color adventures, but it does limit the module?s versatility a bit.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks Andrew. As you point out, aspects of Day of Dr Null are a bit experimental. One of the goals is to help GMs escape the "map trap" and run something that really feels like comic book superhero action, not like a D&D game with capes. The Battle Tracker allows you to use a mix of small battlemap "street corner" battles (if you prefer), orchestrated through the strategic view of the Battle Tracker. If a GM wanted to lay out a whole map of their fair city and run the battle wargame-style, that would require a lot more preparation and it would be a pretty slow game - the adventure is designed to avoid that and keep the action dramatic. The mind swap section might not be for everyone, which is why the scenario includes more traditional ways to run that part of the adventure, but it might turn out better than expected. When our playtest groups tried it, the GMs had reservations ahead of time, but when they ran it players enjoyed it and reported it was like playing a scene from a comic book. Anyone who has more questions about Day of Dr Null can visit this forum (http://www.atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?t=17983) for more info.
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