Tabletop RPG Review: Gradient Descent

Mothership is a game with a ton of potential that has already gained a lot of fans.  I don’t know, ultimately, if it’s for me.  However, the books from Tuesday Knight Games are excellent tools for a GM thinking about running some Science Fiction tabletop RPGs, especially if they might lean toward Horror.  Gradient Descent is the fourth book for Mothership from Tuesday Knight Games, and contains a “megadungeon.”

What is a megadungeon?  Essentially, it’s some kind of giant complex, often with a specific theme, that your player characters need to explore, interact with, and eventually “solve” in some way.  In traditional Fantasy RPGs, “dungeons” were not in fact dungeons most of the time.  They were tombs, caves, sunken cities, mines, etc.  Three or more rooms that your party of adventurers would enter, explore, clear out, and likely claim some treasure at the end.  Megadungeons were that, but taken up several degrees.  Instead of a cave, it’s a massive cave network.  Instead of a sunken city, it’s a sunken empire (or an empire that was always underground, because of who built it).  Grave Descent is that…in space…and mostly in zero-G.

As with the other Mothership books, there is an eye to playability and modularity here.  If you run it straight, as written, there are sort of three major locations.  First there’s a blockade of ships.  There’s stuff going on there and challenges to face.  Then there’s a little satellite space station with a few odd characters.  This can function as a “safe” house, a place to use as a base of operations.  Then there’s the dungeon itself, a massive space station with a lot of dark secrets.  I won’t get into what those are, but I’ll say that, like the megadungeons of the past that I’ve heard positive things about, the space station features a particular theme, a major baddie, multiple factions, and lots of diverse locations.  Being a Mothership book, it also has a LOT of useful stuff that you could pluck out of here and plug into other games.

If you’re a GM who runs Science Fiction, especially if that Science Fiction leans toward Horror, I think having Mothership and its supplements in your toolbox would be a good idea.  The Horror can range from supernatural stuff like ghosts and demons, to xenological stuff like aliens and extraterrestrial environments, to technological like cybernetics and runaway nanotech.  So, depending on the game you run, there’s likely something in these books for you.  I know A Pound of Flesh will get some use if I ever end up running the Cyberpunk 2020 scenario I’ve got bouncing around my head.  I think Gradient Descent might be plugged into the new Alien RPG without much effort and it would fit just fine.

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