Review: Leagues of Adventure

Produced by Triple Ace Games and using Exile Game Studio’s Ubiquity System, Leagues of Adventure is a broad-shouldered yet elegant game set in the age of Victoria and the brave new world of Stream-that-never-was, opening new vistas, charting new courses, and shining light on forgotten places. It is consulting detectives, daring inventors, challengers of convention, firsts-to-do, culture-clashing, mind and territory expanding adventure that never lets up.

Versions:

Leagues of Adventure!Leagues of Adventure at the time of writing is not widely available in hardcover, but pre-orders for the heavy core book are still being taken. Several pre-order packages are currently on offer which include various combinations of the hardcover, the pdf releases of the core rules, and two adventures. A 30-page preview is also available from TAG to whet your appetite.

Until the hardcover release occurs, you can place your pre-order at the TAG Store and get the pdf immediately. What you get is a 250 page steamship of non-stop action, invention, and style. Like TAG’s previous Ubiquity setting, All for One: Regime Diabolique, Leagues of Adventure (commonly referred to by aficionados as LoA) is compellingly illustrated throughout by the artist known as Kuhl. The text, as is always the case with TAG is gripping and on point. For those who might wish to print the pdf, the file toggles easily from screen to print-friendly versions from the index page.

Rules:

Please note, the rules section of the review reprints my earlier overview of Ubiquity from previous reviews. If you are familiar with the system, or have read my reviews of other Ubiquity settings, please follow common practice when reading the Book of Armaments and ‘skip a bit, brother.’

The game is run using the Ubiquity System, licensed from Exile Game Studio, the publisher of Hollow Earth Expedition. Ubiquity uses a die pool mechanic based on evens or odds being successes, where difficulty is controlled by modifying the number of successes needed. The system incorporates a number of features to facilitate fast, cinematic, game play, as well as simple, plug & play suggestions for scaling the heroics across the range from over-the-top to gritty.

Character Generation is:

    • fast
    • streamlined
    • able to produce characters of varying skill levels easily
    • focused on producing characters with a core strength, and a clear concept

Skill resolution is

    • fast
    • intuitive
    • able to give players a good sense of their probability of success
    • able to offer significant options to players to enhance their probabilities of success

Conflict resolution is

    • fast
    • adversarial
    • able to contribute to dramatic tension while reducing player frustration
    • able to offer significant rewards to engaged players without hampering newcomers

Additions to the core system for this setting

    • Extensive period information, GM planning tips, Story Seeds, and Bestiary
    • Smoothly integrated, free-form Invention system drawn from that in HEX’s Secrets of the Surface World
    • Inclusion of several innovations in Ubiquity since its first appearance
    • Period specific gear
Setting:

Leagues of Adventure is set in a fictionalized Victorian Age where special care has been taken to provide groups with the means to shape that age into the period setting they seek. Wild adventures in lost valleys of dinosaurs, explorations up hostile rivers, risky experimentation with all manner of powered flight, or steampulp innovation to the core of the Earth or through the heart of horror… or beyond. Leagues of Adventure is civilization versus the unknown. It is small islands of light in a vast sea of terrifying and alluring darkness. It is your ticket to adventures undreamed.

Thanks to the clean and flowing prose of its author, Paul Wade-Williams, affectionately known as Wiggy to his leagues and leagues of fans, this hefty guide to the era of gaslight and ether, drilling machines and flying contraptions goes down far faster and ever so much more smoothly than the castor oil we all know is good for us. All too soon, it is read, and begging to be read again to solidify and expand the uncountable sparks of ideas which literally explode in the reader’s brain with each passage through.  A core aspect of this approach is the enormous number of clubs and societies, the titular ‘Leagues,’ which focus on different routes to adventure, investigation, exploration, or even digestion in strange ports of call. Going above and beyond, the author even provides insight into designing leagues of one’s own, both pure and villainous.

Regular, affordable, digital supplements on very specific themes, such as Exploration, Gothic Horror, will be offered each month to expand the setting outward across all the points of the compass, and farther. Due to Triple Ace Games’ typically steady pace of releases, please check this link to keep up to date.

Style

The presentation and writing style bring the concepts and mood of the era and its associated genres into clear relief for the reader, and as is usual with the author, retention or relocation of material is easy. Unlike All for One, which tended to offer options for gameplay on a sliding scale of horror and magic, Leagues of Adventure is a much broader template from which to build inspiration. Even so, the support offered within the covers of the game never leaves the reader wondering, “What can I do with this game?”

The layout of the book puts the reader in mind of diagrams, mail-order catalogs, and blueprints precisely printed by pneumatic presses held together by wit, hope, and determination. The art brings the passion and possibility of each avenue to adventure to the fore, as the words give shape to the suggestions step by step, and stage by stage. It is a one-two combination that in its effectiveness is simply… elementary.

Negatives:

There is precious little to complain about with this release. Ignoring the little things like the tenaciousness of the Griant Ape, about the only thing to address is innovation. For those who are already familiar with Ubiquity, there are no new rules in this core book which have not been presented in one form or another in one of the other settings. The book includes all the character options and innovations that have appeared in Hollow Earth Expedition and All for One: Regime Diablolique such as zero-level Skills, Talents, and Resources. Magic rules have not been included, but will make an appearance in an early supplement on Gothic Horror. It does not however, propose any additional or alternate rules beyond its stylish reworking of certain basic elements to fit the setting.  I see this more as a function of the game license than as a short-coming of the release, as TAG has produced a number of excellent rules innovations in the past. For gamers on a budget, however, this may be a concern. Given TAG’s past history we can expect interesting developments as the line matures, such as their fantastic rules for magic, and the excellent rules expansions presented in their series of Richelieu’s Guides for All for One – particularly Richelieu’s Guide to Serious Situations, and Richelieu’s Guide to Nautical Adventures. I think without a doubt we can expect more innovation and expansion when we are presented with the Globetrotters Guides later this year.

Similarly, for those familiar with Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) there is the thin spectre of “Do I need this game if I already have HEX?” I don’t really think that can be answered easily or completely without a post solely dedicated to it, but my short answer is the old RPG chestnut, “Yes, but…”

In my eyes, if you have the time, focus, and resources to develop your own settings, once you have the basics of Ubiquity you do not need anything else beyond your own imagination. That answer is not the whole story, though. There is a lot to be said for atmosphere and shared vision. Each of these settings is our window into adventures we might never think of ourselves. I am not a person short on ideas, but this book gave me more than its fair share of new ones, and I believe it will continue to do so.

Quoting the author himself from a comment on Triple Ace Games excellent forums:

…LOA isn’t about the great mystery of the Hollow Earth*. It’s about the great Victorian expeditions, to be the first to do something mankind will remember forever. An epic automobile journey across the Sahara (back when 3 mph was a high speed), traveling the Silk Road on a camel while sending back bulletins for the newspapers to print (and avoiding bandits and slavers, and then getting side-tracked to rescue a bone fide princess), hunting down missing scientists who have gone looking for dinosaurs while being chased by angry natives, exploring sunken cities in a creaking submersible, and planning a mission to the Moon by being fired from a huge cannon. Don’t think of it as pulp — think of it as Victorian high adventure.

Same goes for the style of characters. LOA characters are adventurous men and women of good breeding, who speak in posh tones, stop fighting to take high tea as the hour chimes, and comment on the poor attire and manners of others, not gum-chewing, fist-throwing, gun-twirling pulp heroes.
* The Hollow Earth Society gets a mention in the book for two reasons. First, the Victorian age is when it really catches the public imagination. Two, it’s a nod and thanks to Jeff for letting us play with Ubiquity. Okay, there is a third — LOA can be played as a precursor to HEX, if you want. Reaching the HE is a goal for one League, but that’s one League among many others, and there’s a lot of adventure on the surface.

In pulpesque movies terms… HEX is Indiana Jones. LOA is Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version).

Wiggy

TAG Creative Director

For those new to Ubiquity you have a world of excitement ahead of you, and I envy you that first period of joyful discovery. About the only criticism  I could level at the book for newcomers (and it’s a nitpicky one at that) is that there is no ‘example of play,’ but there is lots of support online for those looking for one. Worry not!

Reaction:

I was a little surprised when I first saw the promotional material for this game a year ago. As I had a chance to think about it and to look over the game’s preview release for last year’s UK Games Expo, my interest and excitement began to build. I thought I had a pretty good handle on where the game would go, and what it would be about, but I was wrong. Reading Leagues of Adventure took my creative ideas to places I never would have come up with on my own, and took me places both familiar and unfamiliar with a tour guide who changed my view of everything I gazed upon.

I cannot wait to run this game.

Want to read more posts  or story seeds about Leagues of Adventure? Click here.

Comments
10 Responses to “Review: Leagues of Adventure”
  1. I have to admit that I was very interested when I first heard of this new Ubiquity Game coming out. A part of me is just a tad disappointed that the Magic rules weren’t included, as I would have loved to be able to pull off extra weirdness in this sort of steampunk setting.

    That said I think importing the magic rules from All For One shouldn’t be that difficult (I hope.)

    • Runeslinger says:

      One of the many things I like about Ubiquity is how easy it is to drag and drop rules from the different settings into each other. A GM would have no trouble importing and properly redressing the AfO magic rules, or those from HEX, or those from Desolation, or all three into their Leagues of Adventure setting if that is what boils their water~

      One of the earliest expansions on the roster for release is for Gothic Horror (an extra large supplement of creepiness) which will contain magic rules and other supernatural elements for Victorian play. If you want to wait, you won’t have to wait long~

      • Wiggy says:

        We won’t be using the AFO magic system in Leagues — it simply doesn’t fit the genre. Magic (which will appear in the 44-page Globetrotters’ Guide to Gothic Horror) is largely the same as in HEX, with some tweaks to better fit the Victorian era. Until Ubiquity has a standalone core rulebook, reprints are the only way forward for those few cases where we need to use existing rules (because telling you to buy a $30 book just for a few pages of rules we need to share isn’t the way to make friends).

        • Runeslinger says:

          I think a good case could be made for the method being used, although I agree the underlying rationale of the magic of the period is different. Certain mystical societies which grow out of the era certainly found a place in their hearts for ritual~

          I look forward to seeing what develops~

          • SoS Michael says:

            I think adding the magic “module” with the Gothic Horror supplement is a great way to introduce it in a way that is respectful towards the customer.

            I appreciated that LoA took a focused approach that didn’t feel like it was “eveything but the kitchen sink”. Product identity is focused and by starting at the roots, the game is very scalable. TAG has given players and GM’s a solid Victorian era core book. I mentioned in my review that I liked that you can adjust the level of weirdness in your game which is a real strength of the book.

            Some previous “gaslight” type books have hardwired magic and monsters into the system in a way that dictates play. This book elegantly avoids that problem.

            Great review!

            • Runeslinger says:

              Thanks for dropping by; I enjoyed your review as well~

              I have to agree. I think that this approach has been a general strength of Exile (HEX) and TAG (AfO, LoA), and even somewhat for Greymalkin with Desolation, but TAG demonstrated it with aplomb this time out. Unlike the laser-sharp focus of Hollow Earth Expedition, or All for One, Leagues of Adventure zoomed that focus out just enough to widen options and approaches, but balanced providing a core source book for a diverse and explosive period with a strong enough thread of identity and theme that it is still easy to limit, shift, scale, and customize in a direction that make the most out of what each group wishes to explore in the era.

        • Hey Wiggy,

          Given the constantly high quality of your supplements to existing games, I’m looking forward to seeing what else is inside the Globetrotters’ Guide to Gothic Horror.

  2. Black Campbell says:

    I’m a big fan of Victorian speculative fiction settings, ever since Space: 1889 (which also pushed me into history as my field.) I’ve picked up most of the games with this setting and have almost always found them to be lacking something. Castle Falkenstein had some great rules…if you threw out the combat rules and substituted good ones…but I hated the fantasy elements. Victoriana (which I’ve written extensively for) has some solid rules in e 2nd ed…but once again, why need trolls and elves when you have all he other fantastic elements of Victorian scifi? And in the case of Victoriana — there were no steamtech rules! It took Until the latest book I worked one with Walt to get the steam back in Victoriana,

    So I’m a little reticent to buy another steampunk (man, I hate that genre title) game book. The Savage Worlds Space:1889 book really didn’t do much but provide a crossover set of rules, and that’s kind of what this looks like.

    • Runeslinger says:

      Steampulp seems to be more the direction that is being taken in this case, but yes – labels have their negative aspects.

      I think expertise in an area will always breed a degree of dissatisfaction in these cases, and a person well-versed in both Ubiquity and the period, such as yourself, is unlikely to find much or any historical or genre information you did not already possess. That said, the core book doesn’t stop there. It devotes a lot of pages to providing building blocks for globetrotting campaigns, like story seeds, large bestiary, leagues of leagues, and sources of inspiration. You might not gain much or anything from it, but I feel any new players you introduce to a Victorian setting, surely will both in terms of mechanics and mood.

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  1. […] New in store from next week – Its a quiet week for new releases this week, but we’ve got so many great games and restocks in at the moment we’re sure we can still find something exciting for you.  However, there’s good news for fans of Munchkin, with the release of Munchkin Conan (full game, not the mini-expansion that was previously released).  We also have a treat for role-players looking for some pulp steampunk-powered action with the release of Leagues of Adventure. […]



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