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Dangerous Times

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A complete tabletop RPG in zine form— Play as intrepid reporters in a 1920s New York filled with speakeasies, crime, and the occult!

Players take the role of journalists who put their lives on the line to document corruption, disaster, and crime— in a 1920s New York that’s just discovered magic.  

There's danger and suspense, but players don't always set out to punch evil in the face— sometimes they just try to live through encounters with it. 

As long as reporters survive to inform the public, there's a chance for the world to change.

While a single session stands on its own, multiple sessions are meant to be strung together into a short campaign, during which recurring motifs and the progress of time tell a broader story about the city, characters, and publication.

Everything you need to get started is included in the Zine. The game comes fully prepared with rumors and events, characters and locations that can be woven into play. Additional preparation is not required, though an interest in history can enrich the experience.

How it's played—

Each play session contains the following phases:

  • A staff meeting, where leads are discussed and resources are allocated.
  • An investigative phase, where players travel the city and gather information.
  • Trouble, which the reporters must get into and out of.
  • A publication phase, where articles are assembled and their impacts are determined.

One player assumes the role of editor-in-chief, and acts to guide play towards interesting situations. They use rival reporters, gangsters and other characters to drive conflict, and work to "make the real unreal" by weaving historical fact into arcane fantasy.

Other players act as reporters, traversing the city and encountering strange happenings and monstrous plots. They'll gather information about happenings within city, and in doing so often encounter trouble, which they'll escape by cunning, magic, or brute force.

At the end of the session, players come together during the publication phase to turn information they've gathered into witty headlines, then determine how each article shapes the world for the next session— what organizations and people it angers, changes it makes to the environment, and how well it sells newspapers.

This system, of adventure (during investigation and trouble) followed by impact (during publication) allows players to build a world that reacts around them, with recurring motifs as problems from prior issues show up again in new ones.

 The Setting—  

 The great war has ended, and an economic boom is pushing American prosperity to new heights. Every day, new technologies are revolutionizing daily life. Jazz music fills the popular nightclubs, Street-cars and early automobiles ferry commuters to and from work, and silent film is giving way to a burgeoning “talking pictures” industry.

A time of progress...

Women have won the right to vote and continue to fight for self-determination and new freedoms. Immigrants from around the world are building lives and homes within the city. Soon-to-be famous black artists, writers and musicians in Harlem and around the country are defying racism through art and politics. Queer folk carve out spaces for themselves, hosting an annual ball attended by hundreds of dancers and thousands of curious onlookers. 

A time of violence...

Yet not everything is copacetic. Every day, scandal, corruption, and violence fill the papers. Shifting societal norms give rise to moral outrage and panic. Terrorists flock to organizations like the KKK, perpetrating vile acts, lynchings and riots. Hard and desperate criminals make a quick dime as bootleggers, and the illegal sale of alcohol brings in enough money to make mob bosses into millionaires. 

A time of magic!

A rising skeptics movement at the turn of the century sought to reveal the "tricks and falsehoods" behind magic. Instead, they revealed its truth.

Though it did not come soon enough to change the outcome of the great war, by 1920 the workings of all major magic tricks and the knowledge on how to perform things like them is starting to spread.

Fire-eating and levitation are practiced by children running in the street. Mourners seek out mediums to find closure, and the crafting of illusionary images becomes a Hollywood staple. Meanwhile, law-breakers use hypnotism and escape-artistry to great and disastrous effect, while those who seek power consort with things best left alone.

This is not only the age of The Great Gatsby, but also the era that gave us mysteries by Dashiell Hammet and Agatha Christie as well as Lovecraft’s horror writing. It's the time period of famous figures like Amelia Aerhart, Harry Houdini and Al Capone. All of these elements come together in a collaborative narrative experience.

 
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Product Information
Author(s)
Pages
64
File Size:
146.31 MB
Format
Original electronic
Scanned image
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Original electronic format
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File Last Updated:
June 13, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on June 11, 2019.
Publisher
Michael Bacon
Publisher Average Rating