Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/08/25/tabletop-review-the-havering-adventures/
I’ve never been one to run a role playing game using pre-generated characters. For me, a big part of playing a role-playing game is creating my own characters. Pre-generated characters in my games end up as NPCs if they even see the light of day. The only place I see pre-gens being useful is in a convention game, where time is limited, and you’d rather be playing the game than creating a character. This brings us to The Havering Adventures by Cubicle 7 Entertainment.
The Havering Adventures is a supplement for Victoriana that introduces us to the Havering family and gives us three adventures which were created with the Haverings in mind. The Havering family and two of the three adventures first appeared as convention games Cubicle 7 held previously at Gen Con. But this book isn’t just a rehash of a couple convention modules. The adventures have been revised and fleshed out for home play. Also, you are given some additional details regarding the setting of Victoriana. So we have three adventures tailor made for the six specific pre-generated characters. How useful will this book be for a gamer like me? Are the adventures flexible enough to allow player generated characters? Are the Haverings interesting enough to warrant roles as NPCs in my game? Let’s find out as we take a look at The Havering Adventures.
First let’s talk about the Haverings. First, there is Nathaniel Havering, who’s from an upper middle class family and has a gambling problem. Then there’s his wife, Lady Susanna Havering. She’s the free spirit that associates with artists and bohemians, attends wild parties and other things that are not becoming of someone of her social standing. There is also Jonathan Havering, a middle class police detective and brother of Nathanial. Selina Tamworth is Jonathan’s fiancée, who was orphaned at an young age and taken in by a Chinese family that ran an opium den. That’s how Jonathan and Selina meet, while she was working at the opium den and he was partaking in the opium. How romantic. Rounding out the group are Patterson Briggs, Nathanial’s dwarven servant, and Tobin Charteron, a gnome hired by Nathanial’s father to teach him thaumaturgy. The Haverings, as you can tell, are a rather flawed bunch that goes against some of the societal norms of the Victorian times. I could see using them as NPCs for sure. Perhaps instead of talking to generic policeman man #2, they talk to Jonathan Havering, police detective. Or maybe there is a socialite at a social function causing a ruckus that happens to be Lady Susanna. There are lots of opportunities to inject the Haverings into a campaign. If you chose to use them as pregens you’ll find a rather well rounded group of characters from different social classes and complementing skills that should be well prepared for any adventure you may throw at them. So the Haverings have some utility to them, but what about the adventures?
The first adventure is a former convention module, entitled Lost Luggage. The setup involves the Haverings returning from a vacation abroad, and their luggage being stolen by some dockhands, and a mysterious green liquid leaking out of a luggage dropped by the thieves. The first act is the case for the luggage, and in the second act you’re investing the mysterious liquid and who is behind it. And the third act, takes you to a horse race to find the mastermind behind everything. You can definitely feel this adventure’s roots as a convention game. It starts off with the theft of luggage to engage your players right away. If you are using this as part of a home campaign, putting your existing characters into this situation could require some work. If your players are world travelers, it should not be difficult. Otherwise, you will need to rework the opening to make it fit with your players. These adventures, and really all of the adventures in this book, also need at least one upper class character to work properly. If your group consists of only lower class characters, it’s going to take some reworking by the GM because some of the situations require an upper class character to be present. Explaining why lower class characters are present at these high society events is a lot easier when you can say they tagged along with their upper class friend/boss. Lost Luggage also has a tie-in with the last adventure in the book, Dead Man’s Hand. So while it’s not required, your players will get more from it if you play Lost Luggage first, then Dead Man’s Hand.
The second adventure in the book is Behold, The Valiant Ones Shall Cry. Here the players receive an invite to be on the maiden voyage of the Valiant Rose, the most luxurious airship ever built. Again, the way this adventure is set up, it works best with at least one upper class character. However, suggestions are given to accommodate this. Once on the airship, they’ll find there is a saboteur onboard looking to bring down the airship, and it’s up to them to thwart them without raising the alarm of all the other passengers. This adventure is the easiest to work with, if you are not using the Haverings or upper class characters. The suggested alternate beginning would work with any group, and unlike Dead Man’s Hand in particular, does not require one member of the party to have a specific skill.
The third and final adventure is Dead Man’s Hand. It starts of with one of the player’s winning a watch in a poker game, but the watch ends up in the hands of a money lender and the previous owner ends up dead. An evil cult ends up being linked to the watch and it ends with a dramatic scene with one player fighting for his soul, while the other players are trying to stop a human sacrifice. From a story stand point, I really enjoyed reading this adventure. It’s very well written and I liked the concept. There is a problem with it, though. One, for this to work, one of you players must be a gambler. If you’re playing The Haverings this is not a problem because Nathaniel fits the role to a tee. If you’re using you own characters and do not have a gambler in the group, it’s suggested that a friend of the groups is the gambler. To me, this is unsatisfying. It puts too much of the focus on the NPC. That role is best filled by a player, so if your group is lacking a gambler, I’d say pass on this. There are also multiple situations where the party is split up, so you’re going to need a GM that is good at juggling multiple scenes to pull this off right. Also lastly, the person who is the gambler will be doing that for most of the adventure, so they better enjoy role playing because that’s mostly what they’ll be doing. They won’t even be really playing poker half the time since it’s required they win certain games to keep the story moving. That makes the adventure a little too railroady for me. I think this adventure is an example of a good story that makes for a poor adventure. If you have a group that has a gambler and doesn’t mind being railroaded to an extent, this would be a fun adventure to play. Otherwise, I’d suggest reading it for the story but avoid playing it.
Besides the adventures, you also are given additional information on the world of Victoriana that ties into each adventure. The world of Victoriana era horse racing is explained. It gives you a good synopsis of its origins, how it is organized, and its place in society. The Royal Family is covered in depth, and this is one point that Victoriana is an alternate reality similar to ours but not exactly, since I highly doubt Princess Louise was a talented magician in our world. Poker is covered as well. You get an explanation of types of poker played in Victoriana, straight or stud poker. Sorry, no Texas Hold’em, since that wasn’t invented until the 1900’s. Rules are also given on how to adjudicate poker games in the game. I do like that the have a system for when only one player is gambling that is quick to resolve, and something more elaborate for the times when multiple players are playing. This way one person doesn’t bog down the game for everyone because they can’t resist gambling every chance they get.
If you’re looking for a way to introduce to players to Victoriana but do not want to spend time creating characters, The Havering Adventures is a definitely for you. You have a group of interesting pregens with 3 adventures tailored to them. You could definitely run a fun series of adventures, if you don’t mind using pregens. Or if you’re the type of GM that likes taking existing adventure modules and making them your own, The Havering Adventures is worth looking at because it does contain lots of interesting story ideas and fluff. However if you’re looking for adventures you can plug into your existing game with minimal fuss, you’d be better off with The Marylebone Mummy.