Monday, February 13, 2012

Armchair Reviews: The Laundry RPG

The Laundry RPG is based on the series of novels, novellas, and short stories by Charles Stross that detail the adventures of "Bob Howard" in a setting that mixes espionage, office bureaucracy, math, computer theory, geek culture, and unspeakable gods.

Now, since I like the series, it stands to reason that I'd be predisposed to an RPG set in its milieu.

However, I have to say that I also like the RPG on its own merits. Here are the reasons why.


The book / PDF document has a great feel to it, as the layout has the look of a dossier of material. While most of the fonts are the same, there are 'paper-clipped' photos and annotations in different paper types and fonts to reinforce that feeling.


The style of writing is clear and clean, with a mixture of exposition and explanation and just enough of the humor and informality to be The Laundry. It doesn't dip into Stross's tendency to throw sink-or-swim bits of espionage telling detail or mathematical esoterica that work so well in the fiction, but would leave gamers screaming bloody murder.

Updated Character Creation

It looks similar to the fast character creation rules in Call of Cthulhu, and it should -- The Laundry RPG uses the same Basic Role-Playing system. However, there are some modifications and additions to that process.

Characteristic Rolls -- back in the day, there were only Knowledge Rolls, Idea Rolls, and Luck rolls that were all percentile chances based on a STATx5 formula. Now there are Effort Rolls, Endurance Rolls, Agility Rolls and Influence Rolls, also based on the same formula. I like it, because it makes attributes faster than the old method of referring to the Resistance Table (which still exists, but only for instances with opposing difficulties).

Personality Types and Assignment & Training -- in COC, your Profession determined your primary skill set. Now you have Personality Types and Assignment & Training which do the same thing, but with different rationale. This fits in with the Laundry getting people from all walks of life and backgrounds, and then shoehorning them into the org because they know too damn much about the wrong things.

Possessions -- you get some default equipment based on your work in the Laundry and your various skillsets.

Great Setting Resources

Chapters Nine, Twelve, and Thirteen give great starting background material for folks unfamiliar with U.K. government intelligence institutions and their international counterparts, and the Laundry itself, of course.

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty-One define some pretty important code words in the Laundry setting: BLUE HADES, DEEP SEVEN, GORGONS, and of course, CODE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Chapters Ten, Eleven, and Fifteen share some of the gear and flavor of working in an occult espionage agency plagued by modern views of bureaucratic best practice.

Chapter Fourteen is a welcome chapter, as it deals with magic. Devotees of the series know that magic isn't as per traditional Cthulhu spellcrafting goes -- there's a layer of mind-straining electromagnetic and mathematical theory on it. Here's where we get to differentiate between mathematical sorcery, traditional sorcery, and the enigmatically named true sorcery. Also, some spells that are mentioned in the books make an appearance here.

Chapter Eighteen has the statted-out characters that appear in the series, as is tradition for many IP-related sourcebooks. What is great is the inclusion of stats for generic support personnel (Plumbers, Cleaners, Baggers, and Toshers) -- unlike the more maverick and isolated cell-structures of the American-based Delta Green RPG / sourcebook, the Laundry is an organization that supports its personnel as much as it tortures them.

Overall, a great book! I just wish that the PDF had a better set of bookmarks.


That's my side of things. Let me know what you think, my friend.

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