Whisper Campaigns – Review

Disclaimer: This pdf was graciously given to me for the purposes of review by Ryan Chaddock Games.  All opinions within the review are my own. Whisper Campaigns is finally out; Ryan Chaddock Games’ newest Numenera pdf brings courtly intrigue to the Ninth World.  As seen in my reviews of Echoes of the Prior World, Celestial Wisdom, and Angels & Ashes, I am a pretty big fan of RCG’s books.  Whisper Campaigns is the newest addition to the line of quality gaming products from this company. Whisper Campaigns Image Whisper Campaigns is a 99-page pdf that is available on Drivethrurpg.com (for $5.00 at the time of this post).  Sometimes third party products, I am looking at you OGL, have great content but the layout makes the book practically useless.  RCG’s books keep growing in size but they maintain the quality and ease of use found in their smaller products.  The layout of Whisper Campaigns matches that of Angels & Ashes; it looks clean, is easy to read, and comes with pages of cyphers designed to be printed out and used at the table. Chapter 1 – Whisper, Cloak & Dagger Intrigue games are tough games to run.  Not only do they require a high level of PC proactivity (as opposed to the more reactive attitudes found in traditional fantasy plots), GMs have to invest a lot of extra attention to the game, as intrigue games will tend have more NPCs, more plot thread, and more reactive situations for the GM to handle.  The authors take the time to lay a good foundation for what an intrigue game entails, then give both players and GMs the tools they will need to create stories and plotlines among the shadow courts of the Ninth World. You are given 16 intrigue plots and advice on how to start your game and avoid common problems found in intrigue games. The chapter ends focused on how the mechanics of the Cypher system can be used in this type of game.  We are introduced to intrigue cyphers, and five new descriptors are provided: Deceptive, Esteemed, Informed, Protective, and Seductive.   Intrigue cyphers work just like regular cyphers, but each player is presented with the max they can use at the beginning of each session and lose any they have not used at the end of the session.  Mechanically, their use is very familiar as they are single-use items. In addition, intrigue cyphers are broken out into Anoetic and Occultic activations and represent the plots, agents, assets, and tools a character has to leverage against her foes in the battle of courts. This is an amazing way to give players a familiar framework for direction and focus during the tangled mess of an intrigue plot.  36 unique cyphers in all are presented here, and they cover everything from an assassination attempts to clandestine meetings to betrayals.  If you want to introduce intrigue as a focus to your game, this will facilitate the transition for your players. Chapter 2 – Blood & Lines Now that the themes, plots, and tools are established, Whisper Campaign gives us the players.  Eleven elite houses of the Steadfast are outlined here, each with descriptors or foci for players who want their characters to be noble scions of these houses. RCG does a great job of giving each house their own flair and tying traditional political powerbases into the Ninth World.  Some are powerful due to connections, either with stronger powers or  with information-gathering organizations.  Another’s power base is built upon the drug trade, only this drug slowly gives its users reptilian features.  A third house is guided by its elders, but they transfer their essence to their younger descendants, granting them effective immortality with which to oversee their plans. Each house is given an introduction, brief history, a description of where their influence lies, how they interact with other houses, and who the major players are.   Seven foci and seven descriptors present players and GMs a lot of options for integrating these houses directly into their home games. Chapter 3 – Duty & Honor Numenera has one foot planted in the realm of fantasy while the other one rests in science fiction.  RCG’s supplements have focused on bringing fantasy tropes into the Ninth World, and Whisper Campaigns is no different.  What book on courts and nobles would be complete without a chapter on the iron fist of the courts, knights?  Seven knightly orders are explored in this chapter.  A player can join an order at the cost of 4 XP.  Moreover, by sacrificing a skill at character creation, they can join the order and gain the ability to select that order’s available descriptor or foci. Some of the orders directly tie back into the setting of the Ninth World, such as the order that protects those who travel the Wandering Walk or who were empowered by the octopi.  One is a varjellan-only order.  Others stand alone or are linked to the noble houses of this book.  Each order entry tells about the order’s introduction, member benefits, origins, initiation, training, fealty, and major players before giving the order’s descriptor or foci.  One descriptor and six foci bring the book’s total to thirteen descriptors and fourteen foci. Chapter 4 – Swords & Daggers 100 new oddities, 36 new cyphers and 6 new artifacts make up this chapter.  The cyphers have an intrigue bent, and with names like the Farscanner, Duplicate army, and the Spy Creature, this is not hard to see.  The oddities are unique and, well, odd.  All in all, they are great additions to the numenera of the Ninth World. Chapter 5 – Iscobal on the Brink In the main rule book of Numenera, on page 158, Monte Cook Games introduced us to the nation of Iscobal.  It is a nation on the edge of civil war.  This is an appropriate setting for GMs who want to use the new options in Whisper Campaigns.  RCG digs a bit deeper into the factions within Iscobal, providing a GM with plenty of ideas for intrigue plots. Conclusion Whisper Campaigns is a great addition to Ryan Chaddock Games’ product line.  As usual, their grasp of the Cypher System mechanics provides the reader with a wide range of new Descriptors, Foci, and numenera.  This book is also worth the price even if you don’t play Numenera.  The first chapter is a great guide for anyone wanting to run a game filled with intrigue, whispers, and shadows.  The advice that the authors assembled goes beyond Numenera and is something I wish I had when I was running a Song of Ice and Fire.  The advice given in Chapter 1 could have helped me avoid many of the pitfalls that I suffered at the start of that game.  I can’t wait to use this book at the table and am looking forward to the next product from RCG.

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