Bloode Island DicelessGame: Bloode Island Diceless
Publisher: Politically Incorrect Games [Site Info]
Series: Active Exploits
Review Dated: 28th, August 2003
Reviewer's Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Your Rating: [ Log in ]
Total Score: 18
Average Score: 6.00
Politically Incorrect Games are getting rather good at this. They're increasingly skilled at finding the roleplaying equivalent of a Midnight Movie and producing an Active Exploits Diceless version of the game. This is a smart move. The type of game that tends to fill this Midnight Movie niche is also the type of game that's likely to appeal to diceless roleplayer. In this case we're looking at Bloode Island Diceless and it's a conversion of the Deep 7 original. There's a boost for Deep 7 too, I don't imagine I'll be the only one who'll be inspired to go shuffle around their website after sailing into Bloode Island from PIG's website.
Arr! Me hearties! Sling yer hooks! Okay. I admit it. I'm a pirate fan. This is an important admission to state, these niche products tend to live or die by how directly they appeal to the gaming group's tastes.
Bloode Island pitches itself to both the historical aspects of piracy and the swashbuckling, adventure movie, cool but not quite accurate portrayal of these swarthy sea dogs. If the two clash, if accuracy doesn't gel with fun, then Bloode Island always goes with the more entertaining option. This is RPG is supposed to be fun. I suppose it is, it's certainly not boring, there are no detailed charts for how far you can sail in the summer before the food rots or tables to calculate how quickly a skeleton crew can brace the main sail. Tables for game mechanics would be largely redundant in the diceless game anyway. You need a copy of Active Exploits for the core game system, but Active Exploits is free and should be downloaded by canny gamers everywhere.
There's no shortage of historical information in the game. In fact, and perhaps despite best efforts, Bloode Island feels like a historical game. It's not a heavy history RPG though; I didn't suffer any flashbacks to Mr R. Small's history classroom at school, and I suspect I'm not the only gamer who likes to discover the origin of the word "cannibal". The Carib were a fierce tribe. That's the sort of information we get; the tribes local to the Caribbean and what the Europeans did to them, the ebb and flow of European struggles and who's currently active where. It wasn't so long ago that the Pope divided the world between Spain and Portugal. It's not gone well for the two naval super powers since then. Spain consumed Portugal but then lost control of Holland and had their armada beaten by the English. The politics in the Caribbean can be nicely summed up as "Everyone get the Spanish!" - and they do, especially the English. The Spanish consider all English vessels to be pirates and yet it's the Royal Navy, deadly and fast, which is the biggest threat to the pirates. This background isn't really responsible for the historical feel of the game, even though it's history; instead I get my vibes from the RPG's artwork. What we have in Bloode Island seem to be old illustrations, probably free to use, of sea captains in period costume. They have strange looking baggy trousers, weirdly cut jackets, shoes with giant buckles and curly wigs. In this case historical accuracy should have given way to fun. I'd rather have had the Hollywood style swashbuckling pirates illustrated, crew men in bandanas hanging from the rigging with a knife in their teeth and even the improbably dressed female pirate captain.
Mojo. Hoodoo. Voodoo. Bloode Island is about Caribbean Pirates and the time period gives us a clear overlap with the appearance of voodoo. Sailors, including pirates, are notoriously superstitious. Also, mojo in a pirate RPG would be un-questionably fun. Bloode Island introduces Mojo as a new ability and supports it with the likes of potions (mojo), charms (mojo), spirits (mojo) and spells (mojo). You can run your Pirates of the Caribbean ghost ship variant with these rules if you want.
I've said that Bloode Island doesn't bog you down with game system mechanics for nuisances like days-sailed-weather-conditions-food-store-chances-to-rot tables. Bloode Island does proffer rules for naval combat. This isn't a war game, we're diceless after all, but simply suggestions on how much effort it'll take to pull off certain manoeuvres and how factors like wind affect that. There's enough here to keep out sailing the Royal Navy a tactical success for the players, but there's no so much here that the tactics become cumbersome. If you've seen it tried in a movie; ramming another ship, grapeshot in the cannons, etc then this is the sort of rules you'll find here. Later on in the supplement you'll find a few pages that describe popular ships at the time and offer up mechanics for them. Do you want a slow but heavily armed ship? Would you rather a smaller ship able to hide in shallower water?
Bloode Island isn't just the name of the game; it's a place. This diceless RPG serves up the history of Bloode Island, starting from its discovery by one of Columbus' lieutenants, its removal from official charts and then its role as a Pirate Republic. We're given key NPCs for the Island. I'm tempted to bin them all but I can see others using them. Sir Francis Drake is in control of the island. You what? Sir Francis Drake? Ah well, there's a debate as to whether the head pirate is the original British naval hero (and therefore be incredibly old), a descendant or someone using the name. There's a witch doctor (who might be keeping Drake alive) and a few other notable pirates.
The setting is a black powder era - cannons, muskets and blunderbusses. If there's one era that roleplayers won't have a stack of equipment stats for then it'll be this one. Bloode Island offers up a decent collection of interesting weapons and equipment. The pistol dagger, for example, is best used to "add insult to injury" or, more likely, a bullet into a stab wound and a killing shot.
There are a handful of adventures and the scenario ideas inherit there towards the end of the RPG. They're enough to get you going if you've just bought the PDF and want to play straight away. If you already know Active Exploits then you'll be able to play Bloode Island almost immediately.
The download concludes with a few pages of glossary. It's good stuff; I think any pirate roleplaying will demand generous quantities of "Avast!" and "I'll Keel-Haul ye!" Besides, you need to know how to react if a pirate offers you some bumboo!