Last week, I told you about The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross. It is the first book in the Laundry files. I was pleased to find out that Cubicle 7 had put out a role playing game based on this series entitled aptly enough, The Laundry.
In order to capture the feel of the books, the authors utilized the same system that is used in Call of Cthulhu. This percentile system is both light-weight and flexible which makes it easy to learn and allows it to handle the investigative style of the novels well. A character’s skill is represented by a percentage and success is determined by rolling that number or less on percentile dice. Simulation of more difficult or easier circumstances are handled by adding or subtracting a set number to the base skill. This allows for play to proceed smoothly. In addition, the Basic Roleplaying System has a sanity mechanic that allows it to emulate the mind-breaking nature of the setting.
Two things really stood out for me about this game. It captures the feel of the books well and provides an excellent reference for the novels.
It takes a page from the Dresden Files playbook and has notes from Bob, the main character in the novels, scattered throughout the book. These asides provide a touch of the snarky humor that you can find easily with the pages of the novels as well as providing for interesting ideas for hooks that could be used to run scenarios. The advice for running the game that is scattered throughout the book goes to great lengths to help further accentuate the more up-beat nature of the Laundry setting. In this setting, much like Call of Cthulhu, the opposition that players face can be overwhelming. Unlike Call of Cthulhu, The Laundry strives to make it apparent that the actions of the characters actually make a difference.
The Bulk of the book is dedicated to the Laundry itself. It provides a history of the agency itself and then provides a breakdown of how it works. This is done through breakdowns of the organizational structure, What each department within the Laundry is and their responsibilities, and even short explanation of matrix management. One of the most interesting parts is the mechanics centered around Budgets and Requisitions. In the novels, all most all the employees live in fear of the audit department and work very hard to make sure that these two things are kept as up-to-date as can be expected when dealing with elder things from the upper reaches. Having an explanation of this in the game and a mechanic to represent it was awesome. I also appreciate that there is some warning given when spoilers for certain parts of the books are about to arise. This way, if you have not made it that far in the books the game does not spoil it for you.
Overall this is an excellent adaptation of the series. The mechanics fits well within the tone of the setting but are easy enough to learn so as not to be distracting. It also provides a welcome addition to the library of anyone that is a lover of The Laundry Files by Charles Stross. I highly recommend picking it up.