Back into print is Tri Tac Games’ Rogue 417 supplement, but it’s more than just that. Mistitled as the single supplement Rogue 417, it is, in reality, four separate Tri Tac Games’ publications combined into one ultimate Armageddon guide. The first supplement is Rogue 417 followed by Invasion US: The Occupation of America, then Guests: A Really Silly Alien Invasion of the Earth RPG Supplement, and finally an unpublished novelette establishing the roots of the Morrow Project written in 1973 by Robert Sadler. All are reprints of past publications in the same style as they were originally published. Each publication is designed to work with Tri Tac Games’ Fringeworthy or Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic and Timeline’s The Morrow Project.
Rogue 417 is a viral apocalypse setting set in the year 2010. An airborne engineered virus, RNA/N 417 (Rogue 417), was accidentally released from its lab in Iraq and went unreported to the public. In January of that year, the virus spread throughout the world, killing 85% of the people infected by attacking their nervous systems and neural tissues—by December, society is in ruin. Diseases once under control reemerge as well as a host of new man-made diseases released from bio war labs. In the years that followed, survivors banded together to form small feudal city-states for their mutual protection and rebuilt society.
First released in 1984, the reprinted supplement within is its fourth revision. The majority of the content was written as a Morrow Project campaign but was edited out, tossed aside, and forgotten. It was later rediscovered from a recovered edited copy and revived. This latest version carries on Tri Tac Games’ simple layout design used with their products produced in the 90s.
This supplement provides basic background information and a timeline of events beginning with the release of the virus to the collapse and reformation of society a few years later. There is an entire section outlining the virus and its effects on the infected. Those infected may develop one of the four detrimental stages: Stalkers—mindless, cannibalistic savages, Prowlers—similar to Stalkers but more intelligent, Idiots—non-violent individuals with the intelligence of a child, or Potentials—victims with the potential to recover fully. Rogue 417 also lists brief descriptions of 18 other survival groups and combinations of the like in each settlement type. A collection of rollable charts provides a gamemaster with set dressings like shelters construction or hazards with existing ones, items to find, population settlements and its occupants’ temperament, technology, government, economics, food spoilage, and other survival obstacles ideas for a gamemaster to further develop their own apocalypse settings.
Rogue 417 is designed to work as a campaign setting set in the beginning year of the virus up to the later years of recovery. Two short adventures highlight various eras of the Rogue 417 pandemic. “Rogue Night,” the first of the two adventures, places the players as military guardsmen in charge of securing two important crates within a building from the population in the early stages of the pandemic. They have to survive 24 hours until relief arrives. The scenario is open-ended with a series of timed events occurring at specific intervals. “Warlord” is the second adventure where the players are guardsmen once again. This time they are working to establish schools and hospitals two years after Rogue 417 was released. They will travel to local communities and in hopes of gaining their inhabitants’ trust. Along the way, they will have to deal with hostile factions. Each adventure is simply in its construction and execution. Gamemasters are assumed to fill in the blanks where needed.
In the Post Regan years, the Soviet Union developed an anti-nuclear detonation device call NDD, Nuclear Damping Device. The NDD prevented nuclear devices from denoting their deadly payloads. The Soviets quickly worked these devices into their missile defense system for themselves and their satellite territories while the US played catch up. Before the world was ready, the Soviets launched several nuclear warheads and quickly crippled The United States. Not long after, the US surrendered, as did many of its allies—only Japan and Australia remained sovereign. Today America is under Soviet control while underground insurgents work to change that.
Invasion US: The Occupation of America is a campaign module for a Soviet-occupied America for Fringworthy and Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic RPGs. Players play as insurgents against the Soviet-controlled People’s Republic of North America. Richard Tucholka wrote the majority of the content for the Morrow Project, but like Rogue 417 was edited out, lost, rediscovered, and revived by Tri Tac Games. Presented in this compilation is a reprint of its first edition from 1984 with typewriter-style fonts found in many early roleplaying publications.
This supplement consists of rollable charts and short paragraphs on various aspects of Soviet-controlled life in The People’s Republic of North America. Inside, you’ll find America’s current economic and monetary system, pricing for government officials and collaborators vs. black market prices, a result chart for when homes are searched, Soviet Law and imprisonment with a calculation system to determine the severity of the punishment based on the offense(s) committed, the collecting of bounties (Greenbax-like booklets) for proper thought and actions; later redeemable for luxury items like new shoes, random result charts for checkpoints with a collection of subtables which may worsen the situation with each chart, and a whole lot more. Since the setting is period-specific, a large number of vehicles and weaponry from this era are provided. The supplement does a wonderful job highlighting the life of the average citizen in Soviet-controlled America. A gamemaster with the content on hand can easily put together a convincing Soviet-controlled North America setting.
Invasion US includes two adventures though finding the first one is tricky. There are no headers or indications that an adventure scenario is being introduced. Instead, we are met with the same text formatting as the rest of the book. It is only when we start reading the content do we see an adventure unfolding. The first untitled adventure pits our American insurgents against time as a Soviet convoy with reinforcements moves towards Spurlock, KY. The player characters have 10 hours to figure out why the Soviets have sent a convoy with heavy support vehicles and aircraft to this location. The second adventure, clearly marked, is a rescue mission. Several important prisoners are being held in a holding area. It’s up to the player characters to break them free. Both adventures have a minimum of content, just enough to give you the gist of the scenario. It is the responsibility of the gamemaster to improvise the rest.
Inspired by the 80’s T.V. mini-series “V”, Guests is a parody setting about aliens who look speciously like Nazis visiting modern-day Earth. Originally published as bonus material in an earlier version of Rogue 417, it lacks the depth the two previous supplements had. It uses the same typewriter-style fonts found in Invasion US and layout format. The authors had an amusing encounter with a scared and confused elderly couple arriving at their hotel where a Sci-Fi convention was going on. The strange and alien crowd dressed in their Sci-Fi costumes convinced the couple to move to another hotel and amused the authors so much they created Guests. The supplement is written for Fringworthy or Bureau 13: Staking the Night Fantastic.
Like the other two supplements, this alien visitor supplement is filled with brief descriptions of setting materials like people and places along with rollable charts. Several charts from Invasion US are reskinned to fit the alien theme. This is the shortest and the weakest supplement of the three, only six pages. On the positive side, there are alien weapons and spacecraft modeled after the mini-series “V”. It’s a nice addition to work into another setting but not a complete setting by itself.
The last item in this collection is a novelette which The Morrow Project roleplaying game was born from. Written in 1973 by Robert Salder and expanded upon by Richard Tucholka, the story tells of the last 24 hours of civilization as nuclear warheads devastate the earth. The first section of the story is a conversation between high-ranking government officials about Bruce Morrow, founder of the Morrow Project. The conversation highlights Morrow’s life and reports of his secret dealings. The scene ends with a call from the “red phone” informing the officials that the first nuclear warheads from the Soviet Union will be reaching their targets shortly.
The second half of the novelette follows Morrow Project officials waiting and watching from a secure location as city after city is destroyed. It continues with a story of a young woman and the new head of the Morrow Project coming together in a romantic relationship.
The novelette is a nice piece of roleplaying history to read, but the story is not very exciting. The story is laid out in straight text, much like a word document with no art or design to it. There are a few typographical errors and spacing issues but nothing too serious. For some reason, a page of text is repeated twice, though nothing looks to be missing from the story.
Little care was taken to enhance or improve these out-of-print incarnations. There are errors throughout the publication to the degree of gross negligence. As a professional graphic designer with over 30+ years of experience, I’ve never encountered typographical errors such as these. It’s like Ed Wood, the B movie director famous for shooting scenes in one take no matter how it came out, decided to publish a book. To be fair to the graphic designer who originally layout these supplements, they were produced at a time when paste-up and stat cameras were the norms. Young publishing companies like Tri Tac Games did have access to or funds for flashy layouts. Though I suspect the most egregious errors most likely are from a software malfunction when Tri Tac scanned or rebuilt these supplements for reprint. The worst of the typographic errors is so skewed it would take more work to get them that way than not. Still, the errors are blatant and should have been corrected before being made available for print.
Never the less the content is as useful as it was when it was first printed. Rogue 417 and Invasion US both contain vast amounts of content to build a convincing setting with. The amount of detail is just enough to get the creative juices flowing without bogging down the creative process by having to inject into memory a length history of the setting. The various rollable charts add nice randomness to scenes and backgrounds. Neither of the three settings has any real game mechanics other than weapon and vehicle stats which are fairly generic (ammo capacity, range, ROF, etc.). Most of what is there can easily translate into your desired system. The final item, the Morrow Project novelette, is a nice piece of RPG history but nothing more.
The reprint of Rogue 417 with the added content is a great starting point to build an Armageddon-like setting for just about any roleplaying system. I would still recommend this supplement to gamemasters looking to build an apocalypse or Soviet-controlled American setting, despite its shortfalls. The setting could occur in alternate pasts without changing a thing or slightly modified for current times. I would have preferred it be better presented, but at least buyers are no longer subject to inflated after-market prices for original prints.
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