The Oxford Articles
In early October 1953, investigators are summoned by Ernest F. Jacob, Chichele Professor of Modern History at All Souls College, a constituent college of the famous University of Oxford in England. Professor Jacob believes that something untoward is happening or about to happen. There has been an uptick in interest in a particular niche subset of early books on Mesoamerican history, colonial activity in the Caribbean, North America, and other subjects linked to the occult. A rash of book thefts from the university conglomerate libraries also has the professor worried. Even the fire at St. Michael’s Church on the previous night of their meeting may be connected.
The investigation’s underpinning begins in 1928 when two men, Howard Brant from General Motors and Willard Fendleton, an employee at the Smithsonian Archives, met and bonded at the Smithsonian’s archives. The two men found they had a common interest in something called the Green Gate, to which they eventually formed The Order of The Green Gate on the 17th of June 1928 to further their research. In the intervening years, the society grew its international membership. A now prominent member, Sir Henry Jackson, has informed Brant that his connections in Oxford have uncovered a series of articles that may be related to The Green Gate. It is up to the investigators to take the available clues, connect the dots, and thwart a plan years in the making.
The investigation will take players in and out of several of the University’s prestigious buildings, local booksellers, a night on the town, and the annual Oxford Book Fair. Nearly all of which is accompanied by copious advice for the Keeper.
The Oxford Articles is designed for 3-6 investigators, playing out over 6 to 10 hours. It provides Keepers and players with a unique setting, the University of Oxford and its surrounding city. Set in 1953, not a decade widely used, author David Wright goes to great lengths to provide robust contextual information for Keepers who may not be familiar with the area or time frame. He gives a nice overview of the University and areas of Oxford that are pertinent to the scenario and a summary of pre-decimalization currency.
This scenario has a lot going for it. First and foremost, the plot is plausible and nicely constructed. The secondary and tertiary information included is nicely thought out. There is enough there for creative Keepers to provide their players with continued adventures in Oxford. However, it is not without a few, albeit superficial, problems that can be easily addressed via a revision. First, there are some layout style inconsistencies; nothing overly egregious, but noticeable all the same, namely paragraph indentations. Second, the author states upfront about using specific American language terms regarding building floors. However, the UK and American terms become intermixed. Finally, like many community content products, it could benefit from the services of a professional proofreader. This should not be confused with a need for structural editing, which is sound. As I said, nothing egregious.
Despite the layout faux pas I mention above, the layout is otherwise smartly executed. The inclusion of a scene flow chart is a nice touch that I think Keepers will appreciate. The art selection is mostly open source or creative commons. The maps appear as if they might have once been insets in a larger street map. The building layouts are simple
r but functional affairs. The pre-generated investigators offer an interesting mix of occupations that appear to provide a balance of relevant skills. The street maps, building layouts, and pre-gens are provided as separate compressed files.
The Oxford Articles was created as part of the RPG Writers Workshop through the Storytelling Collective. As I have noted in past reviews, the end results of these workshops can vary significantly from author to author. To David Wright’s credit, he has published a nicely crafted scenario. Therefore, if you’re looking for something slightly different for your players, The Oxford Articles is well worth looking at. David Wright has done a fine job researching the location, devising a solid plot, and crafting a nicely honed investigation worthy of your table.
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