Pitford: Gateway to the Ruins
for short, not to be confused with the town Pitford described in the book) is billed as a “Community Supplement” for the Mutant Epoch RPG, an old school, grim and gritty, post-apocalyptic setting with mutants, cyborgs, androids, clones, and more. It details a rough and ugly town on the outskirts of ruins, where explorers go to rest and restock between adventures.
Who Shouldn’t Get This: Rather than have readers waste their time on a book they won’t like, I’ll just throw this out now. Those who were offended by the existence of prostitution and slavery in the core rules won’t like this book. The community of Pitford is full of both, and the book doesn’t romanticize such things. Now that that’s out of the way….
Introduction (2 pages) - A brief overview of the contents of the book, with nothing exceptionally good or bad. Just standard fare for these types of sections.
Part One: Overviews (5 pages) – A reasonably detailed look at the history of Pitford, along with a somewhat broad overview of the surrounding regions. Pitford is part of the Northern Freehold, a small alliance of city-states caught in the struggles between a nation of human supremacists and a nation of mutant supremacists (along with a few other cults, raiding tribes, monster breeding nests, and so on). Pitford is a kind of old west style boom town, only instead of catering to gold miners, it caters to ruin explorers and artifact hunters. As such it’s filled with crime, booze, drugs, prostitutes, and the like. But with the addition of mutant powers, cyborgs, weird religious cults, patchword relic defenses and so on. There’s also a group of the traders (the Association of Business Owners, or ABO) running the place, rather than a more traditional “mayor” or “king”. I should also point out that Pitford looks a little bit like a turtle, with the entire town encased in a protective shell of random construction materials, various weapon emplacements, and the occasional multi-story tower or two.
Part Two: the Pitford Town Watch (2 pages) – A look at the life and mindset of the local law enforcement offices. I’ll point out that while this chapter makes them out to be normal men and women just doing the job of protecting their community (with somewhat insufficient resources and pay perhaps), elsewhere in the book they’re presented as being crooked as often as not. I think GMs will probably want to decide, as a whole, just how corrupt the Watch is or isn’t in advance.
Part Three: Ground Level (86 pages) – Here we have all the shops and locations a visitor will find on the ground of Pitford. This is the most law abiding level of the city, but even here crime is rampant. Water merchants, brothels, bowyers, slave traders, robotics salesmen, blood sport arenas, taverns, and more are to be found. There’s an abundance of shops and stores here, with something to meet just about any need an excavator could have. There’s about 6 pages devoted to random generation of robots for sale. 9 pages covering games of chance. A bit over 3 pages covering random encounters one might have if fighting in the arena. There’s a ton of depth and detail here, with plenty of interesting and memorable NPCs.
Part four: Ground Level Streets and areas (8 pages) – A look at the general atmosphere of the streets on the ground level. How safe or unsafe the streets are, any noteworthy encounters or rumors that PCs might stumble across, along with a look at a few buildings that apparently didn’t fit in the previous chapter.
Part Five: Topside Roof Area (2 pages) – The situation regarding the roof of Pitford. Since there’s not a lot up there, and PCs are unlikely to spend lots of time there anyway, this section doesn’t say a whole but covers what it needs to.
Part Six: Basement level (6 pages) – If the ground level of Pitford is bad, the basement is worse. Here you have the businesses and people considered unfit to live above. You also have monsters breaking in, mysterious pits, and other horrors. Speaking of horrors, the hospital on ground level refuses to perform abortions, forcing the poor and desperate to seek the procedure from a poorly trained (at best) shaman/medic in the basement level. I mention this because (my politics aside) I found the subject matter to be uncommon in RPGs and here it was actually treated in... well, there was one dice roll to survive the procedure and another to see if the patient was rendered infertile, so I don’t feel good saying the subject matter was treated in a mature manner. But at the same time the fluff around it really was a mature and decent look at why somebody would seek an underground abortionist, and why that’s not a good idea.
Part Seven: Defensive Positions & Pitford/ ABO facilities (21 pages) – The resources of the Town Watch, the town supplies in case of a siege, the various gun emplacements, and random encounter tables upon entering the town or being thrown in jail are among the offerings here. This is where the Town Watch starts really coming across as being just another gang in a city full of crime, but that’s mainly based on random encounters; players may never meet a crooked guard based on random rolls, but they’re likely to. Overall though, this chapter provides some interesting information regarding how the town defends itself and supplies itself. I especially liked the idea of the local government operating a greenhouse that grows and sells produce to its people when the town isn’t under siege and has plenty.
Part Eight: Assorted Tables (4 pages) – 2 pages of tables for generating rumors, and 2 pages of tables for generating the weather. Nothing exceptional, but nice to have, and I like that the weather tables give me some ideas for what the broader climate in the area is like.
Part Nine: Encounter Tables (24 pages) – Random encounter generators for day or night, based on where a person is in regards to Pitford. A lot of variety is to be found in these tables, with encounters on the topside at night actually being pretty different from groundside during the day. There are also lots and lots of subtables for each subcategory, and often further randomization within each entry. There’s even a table devoted to determining how many patrons, prostitutes, serving girls, barkeeps, bouncers, and encounters one might have in each of the 5 main bars of Pitford.
Part Ten: Pitford and Area Sample Adventure Hooks (3 pages) – There are seven thumbnail sketches of adventures, ranging from adequate to downright uninspired (I’m looking at you “Beast in the Basement.” Having an unspecified monster burrow into the basement level and kill people was pretty much spelled out already earlier in the book; no need to repeat it).
Appendices (10 pages) – In appendix one (two and a half pages) we meet the Freehold Scouts, who are basically a band of wandering heroes that help protect the Northern Freehold. Appendix two gives a terribly brief look (less than a page) at the Association of Business Owners. They seem to care about protecting and growing and ruthlessly exploiting Pitford in about equal measures. Appendix three is several pages of player handouts and (very nice) maps. Appendix four is one page covering a cult of fanatical anti-excavators, who see exploring the ruins as an affront to God.
Rounding out the book is a directory of tables, several pages spent on enlarged versions of earlier maps (which is odd, given that the earlier maps are perfectly legible, but this isn’t the first time I’ve seen such a thing), and an index.
Style - The editing in this book is pretty bad, with typos abounding. And there’s a repetitive “wall of text” feel I get at times. On the flipside, the art is quite good I think, the layout is at least easy to read, and there are some pretty decent maps to be had. And in my opinion, good maps are always worth a nod in a book like this. If 3 is average I’ll give it a just under the line 3 for Style since there’s only one name attached to the project that I could find, and the quality is impressive if it really was just one person’s work. With the author doing a better edit that score would easily go up to a 4.
Substance - There is a ton of information and ideas leaking out of this book. There is some repetition here and there, and some elements aren’t very clearly defined, but there’s still a lot to admire. Objectively speaking, the biggest shortcoming I found is that the book doesn’t really explore the political structure or factions of the city. Who are the leaders and what do they individually want? Who are the gangs, and where do they lurk? What are Pitford’s plans for future growth and what initiatives does it intend to take? The book doesn’t really touch on these things, which is an unfortunate oversight. Some information on the nearby ruins the town bases its economy off of, and more detail regarding how Pitford relates to the region as a whole, would’ve been nice. Also, there are many references to other books that have yet to be produced. Still, what is here is pretty good and interesting. I’m going to give it a low 4 for Substance; it needs some additional material to raise that score, but it is a pretty good start and I can see people using material in it for other post-apocalyptic RPGs if they wanted.
Conclusion - There really is a lot to love about this book, and GMs may find some really good ideas for use in their Mutant Epoch or other post-apocalyptic games. When it’s good, it’s solidly and soundly good. When it’s bad, it needs more material to fill it out.