Weird Heroes of Public Access:
A Role Playing Game
Author: Rev Joey Royale
Publisher: Get Haunted Industries
Page Count: 20
Available Formats: Print
Print – $10
The county of Fairhaven recently established a public access television station—WHPA-TV13—which is woefully underfunded and striving to make a go of it. WHPA-TV13 thrives on cheap sets, inebriated guests, pranks calls, and similar gimmicks. They are no match for the likes of your charm, wit, and wisdom. Last summer, Fairhaven saw the rise of a full moon that just won’t quit. With the moon came the amplification of strange happenings. WHPA-TV13’s station manager is seeking new Hosts who can double as sleuths to get to the bottom of the strange goings-on around town. Welcome to Fairhaven; let’s get weird!
In Weird Heroes of Public Access, WHPA for short, players assume the role of “Hosts.” The WHPA-TV13 station manager has called upon an interesting cross-section of the local community to investigate the strangeness while acting as Hosts of a local public access show as cover. Along with your station manager, who, by the way, communicates to you indirectly regarding such matters, the Hosts set about investigating the weirdness befalling your lovely little Fairhaven.
Note: reader Pookie of Reviews from R’lyeh provided Rolling Boxcars with a review copy for this article. Please visit our Product Review Request page if you have an item you’d like Rolling Boxcars to review.
WHPA uses a simple d6 die pool mechanic to resolve all actions within the game. The dice pool comprises a 1d6 plus an additional d6 for each skill point assigned to the relevant skill. Dice results with a 5 or 6 are considered a success, and typically only one success is needed, but this may vary. Rolling all 1s, a Host’s Hope score is reduced by 1 point. Hope is the WHPA equivalent of health points. Conversely, by rolling all 6s, a Host gains a supernatural point they can use at any time in the adventure to fuel their supernatural talent.
If the Hosts find themselves in a jam, combat might be their only way out—time to roll them bones. To determine initiative, players and Ref (Gamemaster) roll a d6 and act in descending order. To attack, the Host or Ref rolls a Body Check and, if successful, rolls another d6 to determine impact: 1–4, the opposition loses 1 Hope; 5–6, they lose 2. Should an opponent be reduced to zero Hope, they are lost. Should a Host be reduced to zero Hope, they have a chance of stabilizing, but failing that, they are out of there!
Creating a Host is fast, but it may be slightly confusing at first glance as the instructions could have been worded more clearly. Otherwise, it is simply a matter of determining your niche programming focus, such as talk, fitness, sports, special interest, etc., which provides basic character information; think of it as an archetype. In addition to this selection, two skill points are assigned to the core skills (Mind, Mouth, Body, Spirit), those things under the programming focus are assigned or selected, and various other basic determinations are made. These include: getting a day job unrelated to your show, dreaming up a supernatural ability, recording Hope points, establishing connections within the community, etc.
Building your version of Fairhaven is a team-building exercise. The Ref and Hosts collaborate to sketch a simple map of Fairhaven. Like all good towns, it has iconic locations like the library, cemetery, medical center, town hall, etc. Everyone takes turns marking these locations on the map. Everyone, in turn, adds several new locations related to specific themes provided, which include comfort, utility, landmark, and shadows
, to spice things up and personalize their version of Fairhaven.
There are two starter adventure concepts and a handful of seeds to get groups to the table with minimal effort. That said, the Ref must put some effort into fleshing out these concepts and seeds into fully playable adventures. Additionally, there are no monsters or supernatural beings provided in this publication.
Weird Heroes of Public Access is only available in print as a digest-size zine with a black and white interior with a pink card stock cover. The interior is filled with zany little ads you might find in a 1980s community newspaper. The general layout has a consistent overarching style, but readers will quickly notice that font styles and sizes vary, which is a little jarring visually.
The super simple mechanics are easy to grasp and support the stories that WHPA is designed to tell. I find the overarching premise appealing. I am always down for a good mystery hunter game that peels back the curtain. Add to this the craziness I recall from my youth when I would catch the rare glimpse of a late-night public access television show. I like Weird Heroes of Public Access, but I am having a hard time grasping why the local station manager is involved and needs a group of disconnected television show hosts to investigate the weird happenings. It is just a mental leap I am not ready to make.
I think it would be more plausible with the following modifications. First, instead of each player being a Host of their own unique show, which really only helps to build their character and doesn’t really have a bearing on the greater narrative, have them all be part of the same production team for a single late-night “special interest” show that is focused on the weirdness. Second, reimagine the “programming lineup focus” selection. Instead of setting the theme for the show they “host,” let it represent their personality or specialty on the production team. Either way, the end result is still the same—character building.
As written, the game is fine, but if you are like me, you will find the theme is tenuous at best. In the end, Weird Heroes of Public Access has potential but needs a little tweaking, in my opinion, to make it really shine.
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