A lesson in FUBAR—Charlie Foxtrot: Adventure Compendium [Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century™]

Charlie Foxtrot: Adventure Compendium

Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century

Author: Anthony Oliveira, David Soruco, Kurt Willis
Publisher: 23rd Century Productions, LLC
Page Count: 180
Available Formats: PDF & Print
PDF (DTRPG) – $12.50
Print – Available Soon

Charlie Foxtrot: Adventure Compendium, designed for the latest edition of Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century, is a collection of six adventures that presents the game’s diversity and keep players on their toes. Each demonstrates the variety of mission diversity one can offer characters at various levels of experience.  It’s perfect for Gamemasters just starting out with the system or in need of a quick adventure.

Before we dive into the book’s contents, it is essential to tackle some terminology upfront, mainly Charlie Foxtrot. When a situation goes wrong in the military, it is referred to as a Charlie Foxtrot, which simply means a chaotic situation—a clusterfuck. The phrase uses the military’s phonetic alphabet (radiotelephony spelling alphabet), developed to lessen the confusion of spoken English words over a poor radio connection. Charlie represents the letter C (cluster) and F (fuck) for Foxtrot. The supplement is aptly titled because each adventure has the potential of turning into a Charlie Foxtrot.

The book contains six stand-alone one-shot adventures, and each comes with six pre-generated characters. Readers should note that the adventures do not connect to create a campaign. The provided pre-generated characters are specific to each of the adventures. Players may opt to create their own characters. For those who wish to create characters, at the beginning of each adventure, the Gamemaster is provided with the amount of gear budget spent and the amount of experience the characters should have to place them in line with the offered pre-generated characters. The pre-generated characters are mostly one page, single-sided, and easy to read. A brief overview of terminology and abbreviations found on the character sheet is covered in the book’s opening pages for new players or Gamemasters.

The publication shares the same format, structure, and stylings of the latest Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century rulebook. Each adventure is broken into easy-to-digest acts filled with helpful GM call-outs. The book continues its ease of use with each adventure’s introductions. Introductions use narrative conversational text, which may be read directly to the players or summarised. Each adventure has additional Gamemaster “what if” advice to aid in situations that most likely developed during the playtesting—a clear sign that the authors had new Gamemasters in mind when developing this book. Combine that with the addition of skill prompts and other game mechanics peppered throughout takes a lot of pressure off the gamemaster who might otherwise find the Battlelords game mechanics intimidating.

The six one-shot adventures may not be connected, but they do all have something in common. They all take place in the same sector of Alliance space. The sector consists of seventeen detailed planets, each with basic information—tech level, population density, allegiance leaning, Tier level, and a brief summary. A timeline spanning one year of the sector’s history and the map is useful in creating a nice sandbox to play in and assist in tying in the six adventures together via their proximity to each other.

Below I’ve summarized the six adventures as best I can with the knowledge player characters are given at the beginning. At times I may have given a little more, so if you are a player, I strongly suggest you skip this section and enjoy the surprises that your Gamemaster has in store for you. These are really exciting adventures, and I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of the pleasure of the twists ahead.

Last Resort
The Player Characters are hired to eradicate an infestation of HALs (Hostal Alien Lifeform) and locate a maintenance crew missing in the lower sections of a recreational space station. The station is an old hub-style station and lacks sensors in the lower sections, making it difficult to locate the missing crew. It’s up to the Player Characters to find them and kill the HALs down there. Only if it was this easy, it starts as a search and destroy mission with a secondary locate and extract friendlies but turns into a Charle Foxtrot rather quickly. It’s a challenging adventure filled with plenty of action.

Extract and Deliver
In this adventure, an assistant to one of the Alliance’s formidable weapon specialists has broken away and gone off on their own into the hands of another weapons manufacture. The specialist is currently housed in a heavily fortified tower under guard by his new employer in their compound. The Player Characters are hired to carefully extract the weapon specialist without any harm coming to him. There are plot elements at work against a simple frontal assault. Expect a good amount of roleplaying and careful planning if players are to prevent a Charle Foxtrot.

Express Train to Hades
Time is of the essence in this adventure. A syndicate hires the Player Characters to extract a high-value target, a prisoner being transported to a notorious, unpenetrable prison located on an inhospitable planet devoid of native life. The Player Characters have a short window of opportunity as the prisoner is being transferred to the prison facility via prison transport train. The adventure begins with a briefing followed quickly by an airborne incursion out of the back of a dive-bombing shuttle onto the train. The players will have to deal with the highly corrosive atmosphere and the unknown resistance inside the train. This extraction has fewer roleplaying opportunities than the previous one but more action. As with the other adventures, the extraction has the potential for going Charlie Foxtrot.

Routine Inspection
This adventure shows a very different side of Battlelords. In this adventure, the Player Characters are part of an Alliance inspection team. It’s their job to visit Alliance colonies and ensure that all is well and provide aid where needed. On this particular visit, the colonists are not too happy to see the inspectors, which sometimes happens. Their reasoning for resistance is the main focus of the adventure, which leads to an investigation-style adventure. Obviously, once the nature of the resistance is discovered, plenty of action is likely to occur. The question that remains is will it lead to a Charlie Foxtrot? Expect a lot of roleplaying opportunities and investigation in this adventure.

Hold the Line
In this adventure, we have a traditional-style military engagement that is indicative of Battlelords. The Player Characters are soldiers in the Alliance army and are currently deployed to a hot zone. Their orders are to hold the line in order to allow civilians and other personnel to evacuate the city. Arachnid forces are barrelling down and will be upon the city soon. The Player Character receives new orders to accompany two special agents, the  Alliance’s version of the CIA, and follow their orders. The team is ordered to retreat further into the city to a hospital where they must follow their new commanders’ orders, who have their own agendas other than saving those around them. As the approaching Arachnid forces get closer, the ability to follow orders and protect innocents trying to escape via the shuttle lifts steady increases creating the possibility of a Charlie Foxtrot and serious moral decisions. Expect a lot of action in this one. Out of all the adventure, this one has the most combat and maybe the most complicated to run for an inexperienced gamemaster due to the sheer number of moving parts to keep track of. If you’re looking for a combat-oriented adventure, this one provides.

Pirate Raid
This adventure surprised me the most because it ties in with the first adventure in this book, “Last Resort.”  Reading any further may spoil the first adventure, so if you a player or plan to play in this adventure, skip this section so as not to spoil the surprise.  “Pirate Raid” is a prequel to “Last Resort,”—taking place just before the events in that adventure. The player characters are part of a pirate crew that is conducting a raid on the pleasure station. The Player Characters are an advanced boarding party sent to take control of the station and signal the mothership when completed so the main boarding party can dock. But as with the theme of the book, nothing goes as planned. I’m not going to say anything else about this adventure other than this really caught me by surprise, in a good way. There is plenty of action, humor, and horror within. This, along with “Last Resort,” makes for an exciting and highly entertaining adventure that your players will talk about for ages.

Overall Impressions
After reading through the Battlelords’ rulebook, I didn’t think I would ever run a Battlelords game—believing it too complex for my tastes. Though after reading through Charlie Foxtrot, I am rethinking that decision. A lot of thought and care is present in Charlie Foxtrot to entice a fencesitter like me to give Battlelords a try. The authors have gone to great lengths to make Battlelords more approachable through their GM Notes and other game aids. The book quells a good amount of my hesitations with Battlelords’ heavy ruleset and adventure plots excite me.

For this review, 23rd Century Productions provided a PDF of the book because the physical book is currently being printed. The PDF was a little cumbersome to read on my 8″ tablet—publication uses letter-sized pages. Though in spite of this minor restriction, I found the publication easy to read and its organization easy to follow. It follows the same stylings as the main rulebook, which makes for a nice companion piece. I did note some editorial errors as I read through. Nothing that would prevent its use or deem it unintelligible. 23rd Century Productions did update the PDF as I was reading, so hopefully, the errors I encounter have been corrected.

There was one glaring issue I did have with the publication. The book has fictional stories set in the Battlelords universe to inspire Gamemasters in addition to the adventures and sector information.  The stories themselves were not my issues, but their layout on the page is less than stellar. As a long-time graphic designer, I often overlook errors in RPG publications when unless it becomes an issue. In this instance, It’s an issue. The stories are presented in a single column across an 8.5″ x 11″ page on a black background with white type. The inherent problem comes with what is called in the industry the pica line. The pica line here refers to the width of the column. The pica line used here spans the majority of the page, creating a very long line of text. Most pica lines contain anywhere between 8 and 12 words in a column. When you start to exceed that number, the reader’s eye starts to tire, and the reader can lose focus. A pica line that is too long also causes a reader’s eye to lose one’s place in the text when returning to the next line. Top that off with white type on a black background can be problematic if the type isn’t bold enough, as it is here, which can lead to legibility issues. Adopting a shorter pica line would have made reading the stories easier and more enjoyable.

Putting my minor qualms aside, I think 23rd Century Productions has done a tremendous job with Charlie Foxtrot. The adventures are ready to use with little lifting by the Gamemaster. The extra thought into aiding new Gamemasters is apparent. Charlie Foxtrot fits seamlessly with the rulebook in form and function. The variety of adventures and characters’ level of experience gives a great overview of what Battlelords has to offer. It is a testament to 23rd Century Productions’ achievement to get me to waver in running Battlelords. Overall I think Charlie Foxtrot: Adventure Compendium is the perfect companion piece to Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century™ seventh edition. If you own one, you need to own the other. Otherwise, it may lead to a Charlie Foxtrot.

~Stephen Pennisi

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