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21 Plots go Forth

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue.

21 Plots Go Forth. John Watts et alia.
Independence Games https://independencerpgs.com/
48pp., PDF or Softcover

Continuing my engagement with stuff that’s currently available, Independence Games (formerly Gypsy Knight Games) do a 21 Plots range available on DriveThruRPG. Others have reviewed previous incarnations of their 21 Plots, and this is me looking at 21 Plots Go Forth.

So it’s a bunch of Patron Encounters; 21 of them, and Patron Encounters are a trope of Traveller starting from the classic Classic Traveller 76 Patrons. I’ve even had some of mine published.

Patron Encounters are the basics of an adventure. They’re more than just a hook, but less than even the most rudimentary detailed adventure. The author sets up the encounter, and provides 6 different twists or outcomes to spark the imagination of the referee. Originally, you were supposed to roll a die and go with that outcome (and this volume encourages that), but I expect that this doesn’t happen in real life.

As referees we know they are not fully fledged adventures. We know we are going to need to do some work to fit them into our campaigns. We can’t really use them directly at the table; they are idea mines. The authors have different thoughts than we do and that difference provides variety and possibly a different direction than we would have thought of.

That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something I can work with, something I can get my teeth into, something that sets me running off somewhere I can take the players that’s interesting and provoking and evocative. And I have to say that 21 Plots Go Forth fails that test.

On the plus side, each encounter has 6 options. I think it’s a bit lazy of the author if they only provide, say, three or four options. I’m after ideas, I’m after the options. I’m after that spark. If you only give me 3 and the first one is “all is as it seems, and nothing happens” on someone turning up and paying 10% more for their passage because they want to get off world quickly, that’s not a Patron encounter; that’s just a passenger. If there is nothing especially out of the ordinary then why write it up? So a plus here for 21 Plots Go Forth. All of them have 6 options.

The encounters aren’t bad, they just aren’t that inspiring. They are all a wall of text though, and they are pretty much all specific to the Clement Sector, so not only do you have to wade though the text to get to the guts of the encounter you have to try and ignore the specificity of the setting.

For example the first encounter in the supplement is some bloke who offers the PCs money for their help. But you don’t know what help he wants (to get off world and for the PCs to protect him) until you get to the end of the set-up. And the wall of text is about this specific planet of this sub-sector with Hub Federation Credits. Is there a need for this distinction? Are there any other kind of credits? And do I really care?

Or the second one “While walking though any appropriate venue” … I mean … really? They had to write that? Although to be fair we do get “He quite adeptly walks the line between charming and smarmy.” which is good in that it gives you something to work with, although a bit difficult if you’re not that good an actor. I put my hand up to this. I couldn’t pull that off as a referee trying to play this NPC. Some might.

I don’t know; is it me? I read them all. I read all of the options, and can’t now for the life of me remember any of them two days later when I came back to finish this review.

Each of the plots fits on a page, so there is 21 pages of content, there is some computer generated art work, which doesn’t really do it for me, but might for others. And there is a massive index of all the other 21 Plots in all the other 21 Plots books at the end.

21 Plots Go Forth is $6 from DriveThruRPG. The preview gives you the first Patron Encounter and it pretty much gives you the flavour of the others. Wall of text, setting specificity, 6 options. Not a bad preview from the fact you know what you’re going to get. Is it value? For me no. There weren’t any that stood out on their own. There wasn’t one where my thoughts ran off and had me thinking “now I can run this, if I just …” Now that’s not to say that you won’t, but I think the product could have been better. Drop the fluff, be more interesting, provoking, evocative. There are better examples of Patron Encounters out there. If you haven’t come across them check out the ones on The Zhodani Base or on Freelance Traveller.