Fisticuffs at O'Leary's Place
(hereafter referred to as simply Fisticuffs
) was Mongoose Publishing's contribution to Free RPG Day 2007. It's a relatively setting-agnostic mini-scenario for use with Mongoose's RuneQuest fantasy roleplaying system.
First off, style:
Far be it from me to expect much from a free product, but Fisticuffs still manages to leave one unimpressed at first glance. The mini-scenario is printed in black & white on both sides of an A3-sized piece of paper, and then folded in half to result in 4 pages. The layout itself consists of two columns of text per page, with wide margins taken up by Mongoose's standard RuneQuest borders. Overall, not too impressive, and likely to be overlooked in favour of one of the other free offerings unless one was explicitly interested in Mongoose's RuneQuest system.
The style isn't intrusive, but it's definitely below average. (Pages 2 and 3 could probably have swapped positions and resulted in what little plot is present being more coherent on initial read-through.) Overall, I'd give it a 2.
Now then, onto substance.
As mentioned previously, the mini-scenario consists of 4 pages. Of these 4 pages, roughly half of the first page is taken up by logos, credits, and legal info, and half of the last page is taken up by an ad for Mongoose's website and their RuneQuest products. This leaves roughly 3 pages for the actual mini-scenario. So what's in those three pages?
- Information on the setting (O'Leary's pub) and the events that precipitate the brawl (1/2 page)
- Advice/instructions on how to run the brawl, events that should occur during it, &c. (1 page)
- Descriptions of the major personages involved with more background/plot information. (1 page)
- Map of O'Leary's (1/2 page)
Setting the Scene: The setting and background information is fairly generic: crowded pub, customers who don't entirely get along, and a barmaid who deliberately spills drinks to start a brawl. The reasoning for starting the brawl is a little ill-defined, but we'll ignore that for now. Nothing too special on the plus or the minus side.
Let's Get Ready to Rumble: The section on running the fight enumerates a number of pointers for the game master (staff normally doesn't get involved and patrons normally don't pull lethal weapons out unless they feel especially threatened), then breaks down the events that happen once the mini-scenario's only real plot point occurs. The named characters and their roles in the plot haven't been explained yet (that's on the following page), so things don't entirely make sense the first time through this section. In addition, a named NPC is referred to in one of the events for whom no further information is provided.
The Characters: There's a block with information for use for all of the roughly two dozen generic NPCs present in the scenario, followed by information on the 6 named NPCs. The named NPCs are given a brief description, an explanation as to how they fit into the plot, and then their relevant stats in paragraph form. Overall, I'd rate this as the best part of the document. The NPCs are fairly vaguely defined, and in some cases more than a little generic in nature, but still interesting enough that one might want to continue use of them in an ongoing campaign.
The map is a map. It's unlabeled, save for a single X, and could just as easily be improvised on the fly by even the most novice GM. Space filler at its finest.
But Does It Server Its Purpose?: Fisticuffs describes itself as a mini-scenario (it's really more of a scene) for use as part of a larger scenario, a single night of roleplaying, or as an introduction to the RuneQuest combat system. To be honest, I feel it only really succeeds on the first of those three, as it could easily be dropped in as a diversion during a larger scenario. As a single night of roleplaying, it would take a lot of invention on the GM's part, as the plot (involving a stolen necklace) is paper-thin and as an introduction to the RuneQuest combat system, it's just not that great. There's no explanation of the combat rules present, so anyone wishing to use it would already need to own the core rulebook — at which point the only advantage it has over rolling up random characters and having them duke it out is that Fisticuffs already has some skeletal character stats present.
Overall, I give it a 2 for substance as well.
To Sum Up: Even for a free product, Fisticuffs just isn't that great — especially when compared to some of the other offerings from Free RPG Day. About the only bit that I found useful was some of the 6 named NPCs and overall it feels like the sort of thing that any GM with even the barest of experience could knock out on the fly during a session. It's not to say that you can't have fun with it (the potential is certainly there), but just that it leaves you with a feeling of "Is that it?"