Books RPG

Hot Targets: a New ‘Dark Sea War Chronicles’ Game

So last week was Mark 1 of a completely new experience for me. I’ve played Roleplaying Games for a while, but I had never GameMastered one and least of all one based on a Universe that I created.

That’s right. Last weekend was the weekend of the Rolisboa Festival in Marvila, Lisbon, Portugal. Rolisboa 2019 is an annual Lisbon-based tabletop games convention featuring role-playing games, story games and LARPs. It took place on the 28th and 29th of September and I loved it. Beyond the speaking events, the networking and the amazing games, I was there for a special treat. My friend and Game Maker Sérgio Mascarenhas invited me for the World Premiere of his new game HOT TARGETS – THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES, a game he created based on Universe of my books THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES/A BATALHA DA ESCURIDÃO.

For those of you who don’t know the books they talk about Byllard Iddo, a young man who accidently killed his father in a martial arts training session. He leaves to join the Space Navy when a war breaks between the Webbur Union, its ally the Kingdom of Torrance, and their rival, the Axx Republic. A lieutenant in the powerful Webbur Navy, Byl will serve in different ships and face danger as the war grows in violence. My personal premise, though, is this: what if WWII’s Battle of the Atlantic happened in Space, thousands of light-years from Earth? So in the second volume of this trilogy, Iddo arrives at the Raven dwarf-planet, at the pirate city of Fumu, a destitute place where all kinds of degradation happens. This city is mostly like a dirty favella inside a giant bright cave. Here’s how Byl Iddo himself describes it in the book:

«As we were speeding through the dirty streets in Thalof’s car, I thought I was looking at a giant lump of mold made of aluminum and zinc and dirty grey rocks and white chalk bricks that was slowly growing in an organic unorganized wild fashion inside a monstrous white ceiling cave. Huts after huts after huts.

The city, the last big pirate city, had been founded about 200 years before by an outer system’s explorer that was looking to form a colony closer to the sun. Aghu Fumu, as he was called, discovered the Raven dwarf planet at the edge of the Mirox belt, with a large cave where he could live with his family protected from radiation, using two gravity controls from his merchant ships to balance his settlement. About a century later, the cave had been excavated to become four times the size, and the settlement was already a pirate town. A hundred years after that, it harbored around a million people.

All I could see, in truth, was poverty, famine, misery, disease, and desperation.»

So, what Sérgio did was pick up this scenario and imagine a parallel story that happens just before the events in the book happen. Then he invented a few characters, picked up his game system Pentagram and off we went. First of all, I have to say that Sérgio’s effort to make the city of Fumu more complete and interesting while still managing to keep it loyal to the book filled me with humility and pride at the same time. I felt he did a great job and that my story and my books became more vivid and colorful because of it. The story in the game fits very well with my books and if you are able to both play the game and read the books you’ll have a different and richer experience.

Secondly, let me tell you that it was really a lot of fun to play. I played twice during the Festival: first as character player on Saturday and then as a co-GM on Sunday. The first time I really enjoyed it because I was always trying to understand what came next and discovering what the game had in common with the books. The second time I was thrilled with my first experience as GameMaster and felt it was a lot like writing, and could have done it for many hours – I was creating new problems and difficult challenges for the characters and that’s what I love doing. The Pentagram game system uses common decks of cards and it is very simple and enjoyable, more focused on the story and the characters than on complex decision making and tit-for-tat dice-throwing and endless conflicts. As we later discussed with other players, the main fun is to be inside the characters and be put in difficult situations. I loved it!

HOT TARGETS – THE DARK SEA WAR CHRONICLES will be played again at the up and coming Fórum Fantástico just next week and I’m anxious to see what other players will think of it. It is likely also that it will be published very soon – so eventually you yourself may be able to try it as well. Meanwhile, thank you so much to Sérgio Mascarenhas for the idea, the creativity, the investment and the wonderful times I had last weekend.

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