Monday, November 5, 2012

Inspiration: Imirrhos

Jeff Dee's cover illustration for Revolt on Antares

As I look over the posts that comprise the first year of this blog, I am reminded of some of my ideas that I have yet to exploit.  One such idea is to present games (but not role-playing games) – as well as other media – of yesteryear as potential settings for your role-playing adventures.  Today marks the first of an intermittent series of 'Inspiration' posts.  Given that today is also Tom Moldvay's birthday, it is only fitting that we look at one of his creations.

Starting in 1980, TSR produced a series of rules-light, low-priced 'minigames' which typically consisted of a rules booklet, a fold-out map/board, 84 counters, and two six-sided dice – all contained in a plastic shell.  One such game was Revolt on Antares.  Although the back cover clearly states “by Tom Moldvay,” I would be remiss if I did not mention Kevin Hendryx' 'Development' credit.

Being a 'minigame,' Revolt on Antares was meant to be easily learned and played; thus the rules are relatively simple.  Antares accomplished its commercial purpose as a 'good' minigame, but it's not the sort of game that has a dedicated fan base three decades after its publication.  Yet it is the setting, not the game itself, that draws our attention this day.  The setting hints at a rich background that does not deserve to be forgotten.  Antares gives us interplanetary intrigue, restless natives, psychic powers, combat, colorful personalities, strange aliens and stranger alien artifacts.

The game takes place on Imirrhos, the ninth planet in the Antares system.  (Moldvay must have liked the name Imirrhos; he also used it as the name of the leader of the Puppet Masters in his Lords of Creation game.)  Imirrhos is part of the Terran Empire (sometimes referred to redundantly as the “Imperial Terran Empire”), although local power is concentrated in “seven clan-like families” called 'houses.'  Military units available in the game are “power infantry, laser tanks, artillery, jump troops, hovercraft, and airjet squadrons.”

The houses, along with their respective leaders are listed below.  The indicated color refers to the holdings of a house on the included map.
  • Braganza (dark green)  “Catherine 'the Mad' Braganza can summon lightning.”
  • Edistyn (yellow)  “Nureb Khan Edistyn has precognition.”
  • Fitzgerald (red)  “Simon Fitzgerald can create ion waves” that can improve morale.
  • Kinrabe (light green)  “Barracuda Kinrabe has the power to cause hallucinations.”
  • MacKenzie (light blue)  In another instance of name recycling, “Black Dougal MacKenzie has teleportation power.”
  • Orsini (purple)  “Messalina Orsini has the power of fascination.”
  • Sessedi (orange)  “Ariton Sessedi has long distance telepathy.”
The game allows for three scenarios.  In the first scenario, rebel houses fight against Terran forces, loyal houses, and the natives of Imirrhos.  In the second scenario, the alien Silakka invade with the cooperation of some of the houses.  The Silakka appear to be part slug and part squid with three faceted, insect-like eyes.  (Moldvay also recycled the word 'Silakka' for Lords of Creation; however, in that game Silakka are giant, silicon-based porcupines.)  The last scenario is a free-for-all among the various houses that can accommodate up to four players.

The Imperial Terran Consul for Imirrhos is named Ward Serpentine.  The native leader is Mirrhos and the Silakka leader is called 'Magron the Invincible.'  Leaders are important in that they can engage in 'Leader Combat' with one another as well as with 'Galactic Heroes' than can be recruited.  The 'Galactic Heroes' include:
  • Andros is an android that can summon “The Phantom Regiment.”
  • Corvus Andromeda is an intergalactic assassin.
  • Doctor Death can create “zombie-like troops from the dead.”
  • Emerald Eridani commands a mercenary company of laser tanks.
  • The Iron General is a cyborg who commands a mercenary battalion of laser tanks.
  • Lyra Starfire is an intergalactic adventuress who commands an airjet squadron.
  • The Nullspace Kid also commands an airjet squadron.
  • Skarn 3 is an “Alien mercenary captain of a...jump troop.”
  • Subadai O'Reilly commands a battalion of power infantry.
  • Tovan Palequire is an “Intergalactic smuggler and weaponsrunner.”
“An unknown alien culture once flourished on Imirrhos.  The culture destroyed itself, leaving behind a number of artifacts now controlled by the seven houses.”  Without describing their game effects, the artifacts are the Devastator, the Dimensional Plane, the Energy Drainer, the Field Generator, the Force Cannon, the Sonic Imploder, and the UFO.



The map represents a (portion of a) globe; units moving off of the right edge appear at the appropriate hex on the left side and vice versa.  Although there are three types of rough “terrain,” they all have the same game effect – ground forces pay an additional “movement factor” in a turn when they enter one or more such hexes.  There are also no distinctions made among the “economic” symbols.  For scoring purposes, control of hexes with economic symbols grant one victory point each.  One imagines that Moldvay originally created a more complex game where the various terrain and economic types had distinct effects, but that level of detail was not appropriate for a minigame; thus we have a superfluity of symbols.  Of course, if we use Imirrhos as a role-playing game setting, these symbols acquire useful meanings.  Whether as a basis for an in-depth campaign or an isolated adventure, Imirrhos is a setting ripe with potential.


4 comments:

  1. Pretty cool! I wasn't familiar with the game, and it's interesting to see the Moldvay-isms it had.

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  2. I had no idea this game was by Moldvay. I had a copy back in the day. I have no idea what happened to it.

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  3. Pretty neat idea. I remember seeing Revolt on Antares back in the day, but didn't pick it up. After reading this, now I wish I had.

    At some point you may want to check out Kung Fu 2100 by Steve Jackson games as a inspiration source for an RPG campaign: clone masters, space fortresses and kung fu.

    -Ed Green

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    1. Yeah, I've wanted Kung Fu 2100 for a long time.

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