Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#11 Weirdest RPG Owned - The All Australian Role Playing Game #RPGaDAY

While riding a hotel shuttle from the San Diego Comic-Con back in the early 90s, I overheard a young man excitedly describe a game to his friends in the seat behind him. The player characters are cartoon-like alien tourists who go on hunting safaris on backwoods planets, tracking and killing the low intelligence native species there. One particular backwoods planet is called "Earth" though, due to a translation error, the alien hunters call it "Dirt." There, the low intelligence native population of "Whoomens" are fighting back, retaliating with all manner of absurd ordnance. Also, the game is entirely focused on Australia, written by Australians, played by Australians, published in Australia and features an Australia-centric view of Earth on the front cover.

I continued to my hotel, probably to play some AD&D with a cadre of friends I shared a room with (the hotels were expensive even back then).

But the image of that Australia-centric view of Earth never left my mind.

...

Some 15 years later I found Hunter Planet.
Target: Dirt.
The game is every bit as bizarre and Australia-centric as my memory of that overheard description. Imagine a cross between Paranoia, Predator, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Toon. The alien player characters are working class schlubs who saved up their vacation time for an exotic safari to shoot easy game and bring home a nice trophy for the mantlepiece (or alien equivalent).
Smile!
What they find on our home of Dirt is a Whoomen population ravaged by constant hot wars and cold wars where most citizens have access to arsenals that outclass the tourists' laser rifles and automatic crossbows. The Hunters become the hunted. The powerful Whoomen weapons are also more likely to backfire, so a tourist who steals a Whoomen rocket launcher is bound to end his vacation in a predictably tragic, yet hilarious, manner.
Sample Character
The game is run with several different players in the roles of the Hunters and one player as CM (which may stand for Control Man, Condition Modifier, Chocolate Milk, Carbon Monoxide, Crazy Man, Chance Master or Certified Maniac). The players create their characters by rolling 1d10 for each characteristic (Strength, Dexterity, etc.) in order with two rerolls allowed. Luck is rolled on 1d6 and is rerolled at the start of each game.

At this point, we are directed to refer to footnote 87. Spoiler alert: there is no footnote 87.

Players roll 1d10+10 to determine Hit Points, a term which is not explained. It is assumed the players role-play enough to know what any D&D-derived terms mean.

The players now select their equipment and weapons, but no more than three grenades and no Alpha-Beta Plus Gamma Radiation Neutron Destructo Particle Accelerator Beams. Otherwise, the players are free to choose what gear they wish... with the realization that the natives they encounter will probably have something equally egregious. If the CM determines that your character is carrying too much weight (footnote 35 says you probably are), he will probably strike any excess off the character sheet. Example equipment is listed, such as Light Sword, Tangle Grenades, Dehydrated Water, 10 Sided Die, Anti Gravity Belt and "Whammo" Door Charges.

The CM then describes the scenario the Hunters find themselves in on their one-week tour of Dirt before they are beamed back up to the Hunting Tours Incorporated ship. They probably won't survive.
Note: this is not Emperor I. M. Wunndafull. I think this is his secretary.
My biggest surprise when I picked up Hunter Planet was the realization that this was the second game I owned by designer David Bruggeman. The first was an obscure set of miniature wargaming rules titled WWII Book of Armaments that I picked up somewhere on a whim. The rules are good, but the game is SO obscure that I can't find a good web link for it (EDIT: I created a page about the game HERE). It was published by The Australian Games Group (TAGG) best known for publishing Lace & Steel, the swashbuckling fantasy RPG with innovative card-based mechanics and illustrations by Donna Barr (see Ms. Barr's Boinger and Zereth at the bottom of this post).

The Book of Armaments includes a photo of the designer:
This is Emperor I. M. Wunndafull
Bruggeman devotes four full pages of the 35-page Hunter Planet to his "Guide to Better CMing (or The Dos and Don'ts of CMing)." Some pieces of advice are obvious but many are quite good. I summarized several of them as follows:

DO
Read widely (An extensive general knowledge is an important benefit to all CMs)
Prepare a scenario (Prepare a situation where the Hunters will find themselves)
Concoct various surprises (Ammunition wasting creatures, traps and tricks, strange inhabitants, etc.)
Roll dice frequently (This puts the players on edge and causes them to react to non-existent dangers)
Build tension and action up to the beam up time (The mothership checks in with the Hunters once every four hours. They may be beamed up at this time, but at no other time. Actually, they can request it at other times, but the request is ignored)
Ad lib frequently (Unexpected events create confusion, excitement and fun)
Inspire character conversations with non player characters (The CM gets to role play a more interesting character than a stupid Orc and gets to hear what the players call a logical, convincing argument)
Cheat (But cheat fairly)
Tell the Hunters only what they would know as aliens (Which isn't much)
Ensure that everything in the game has both a good and bad side (Called the "Bad News Factor," all weapons and equipment have at least a 5% chance of something horrible happening when used)
React to players comments (Once a player says something, even in jest, it will be acted upon by the CM)
DON'T
Be sadistic (The adventure should be dangerous, not a suicide trip)
Play strictly to the rules (What rules?)
Give away benefits easily (Benefits must be earned)
Hide behind the CMs screen (The screen is designed to hide the CM's game information, not the CM himself)
Forget (The CM should remember when a player forgets to reload his weapon and tries to shoot, etc.)
Land the Hunters in the middle of nowhere with nothing to destroy (Where they land may "appear" to be peaceful but it should be nothing of the sort)

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