Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Adventures of The Adventures of Indiana Jones (spoilers)

Art by John Byrne & Terry Austin

To supplement its The Adventures of Indiana Jones role-playing game, TSR produced “Adventure Packs” for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – the two films of the franchise extant at the time.  All other Indiana Jones adventures – including the introductory adventure, The Ikons of Ikammanen – were derived from story arcs from the Marvel Comics series The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones.  While John Byrne gets credit for Ikons, credit is not extended to Marvel writers responsible for other stories adapted for Adventure Packs.  Perhaps this is because the copyright for the Marvel material belongs to Lucasfilm.  Since TSR had access to Lucasfilm properties, one would think that the Adventure Packs would incorporate art from the comics; however, this is not the case.

The Ikons of Ikammanen contains various ingredients one would expect in an Indiana Jones story:  exotic locales, legends that turn out to be true, treasure, an overconfident villain, a chase scene, narrow escapes from traps, etc.  (Even Nazis make the scene.)  The adventure is something of a railroad, which is to be expected of an introductory adventure.  At first, Ikons serves well in educating a new player about the game; eventually, however, there are aspects of the story that are ill-suited for an introductory adventure.

The true villain of Ikons is Edith Dunne, who arranged the murder of her brother.  In the story, Indy realizes this when – not having informed her of the circumstances of her brother's death – Edith reveals she knows her bother died in Indy's office.  Unfortunately, the reader doesn't know that Indy didn't tell her, so the 'reveal' comes as a surprise.  Somehow, the player in the Ikons adventure is supposed to figure out that Edith is the villain.  The Referee is instructed, “Your to arouse suspicions in your player's mind about Edith's motives.”  Suggested lines of dialogue make it clear that Edith is claiming credit for the archaeological discovery of the titular ikons.  This might make her a bad person, but it's not indicative of fratricide.  If the player doesn't figure it out, Edith eventually admits her complicity.

Earlier in the adventure, Indy chases a “goon.”  This episode of the adventure immediately follows the rules about conducting chases.  Rather than providing an example of how the chase rules work, the adventure has the player determine Indy's movement rate.  As it turns out, Indy's movement rate is irrelevant because Indy successfully follows the goon regardless.

At one point in Ikons, a villain named Solomon Black announces his intent to kill Indy.  “Your player must now persuade Black to let Indy and Edith live,” states the adventure, “Indy must bluff Black.”  However, prompting the player as to what he or she “must” do is not something the adventure does well.  “If Indy can't come up with a good bluff,” the adventure lists three things Black could say.  One of the statements is:  “Perhaps I should keep you for the time being”  The adventure text continues, “Then allow Indy time to come up with another bluff...If he still can't, Black”  The episode ends in mid-sentence; the contingency is not explained.  I think a more efficient means of handling this would be to have Edith whisper, “Maybe we should try to bluff him.”  The onus of the actual bluff would remain with the player.

If you think this is an instance of Chekhov's dynamite, you're right.

For its James Bond 007 role-playing game, Victory Games published adventures based on the Bond films.  However, those adventures did not adhere precisely to the plots of the films.  The adventures were familiar, but there was sufficient uncertainty so that the players participated in a game and not merely followed a script.  Regrettably, TSR did not take a similar course with Indiana Jones.

The Raiders of the Lost Ark Adventure Pack “recreates the action from the famous film – but YOU decide how it all ends.”  This assumes that YOU decide it “all ends” just like the film.  A “recreation” of the film allows one to see how the film's action is translated into the game's rules, but it does not make for an entertaining gaming experience. It negates the suspense which is essential to the Indiana Jones oeuvre.

In the Adventure Pack, there are some (potential) variations from the film, but they are quite minor.  For instance, in the film, when Indy and Sallah visit Imam, the dates are poisoned.  The chance of this happening in the Adventure Pack is 40%.  Other options include a cobra being released in Imam's dwelling (30%) and a knife being thrown at Indy (30%).

Of course, if a Referee runs more than one player through the Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure, one player gets to be Indy, any other not.  “It's OK for the players to trade off playing Indy during the course of the adventure,” the Introduction states.  In 'Episode 1', non-Indy players can be Satipo or Barranca.  Starting with 'Episode 2', one non-Indy player can be Marion.  A third player can be Mohan (the bartender) in the second episode, Sallah in Episodes 3 through 5, and Katanga in Episodes 6 and 7.

If any player characters remain on the Bantu Wind after the Nazis remove the Ark, the ship can follow the submarine:
Since the U-boat must travel very slowly, the freighter can easily stay with it.  In fact, if the Bantu Wind stays on the same course the sub has set, it gets to the island before the sub does.
No explanation is given why the Nazis wouldn't just sink the pursuing freighter.

Want to know what happens if you don't close your eyes after the Ark is opened?  “Any PC who has insisted on keeping his eyes open is blinded (the blindness is temporary, but he shouldn't realize this for quite a while).”

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