Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: ROLF: Steve Costigan and the Thief of Youth

This is a short adventure for two-players (one of which is the gamemaster) based on the adventures of Sailor Steve Costigan, one of Robert E. Howard's lesser known creations. Costigan is an unruly and uncultured sailor who solves all problems with his fists and the help of his little white bulldog Mike. Drawing closely on the source material, this adventure is filled with the pulpiest tropes possible and a sprinkling of old-school orientalist racism.

Having just reviewed the ROLF rule book and being left with uncertainties on the system, I'm glad that this adventure provides some insight on how to run a ROLF adventure. Although it is not clear in the rule book, this adventure makes it clear that ROLF should be played with a game master who takes the role of the antagonists and describes the world to the player who controls the protagonist.

Unfortunately, this adventure includes Traits and Combat Maneuvers not found in the ROLF core rule book with little indication as to where to find the new rules. The adventure is supposed to be compatible with a game called The Violent Worlds of Robert E. Howard, which may be bundled with other ROLF products but does not have a listing of its own. I understand that ROLF is a very loose system that is spread out across dozens of cheap supplements, but it would be nice to have some idea what products are required to run an adventure.

Likewise, on at least two occasions the notes state that the protagonist is not supposed to attack during a fight. I'm not sure how that is supposed to work, especially since he is expected to win at least one of the fights. Perhaps I am missing some obscure rule or this is a poor way of saying he should be on the defensive, but I don't see how the encounter is supposed to go down with the punch-happy boxer keeping his hands in his pockets.

Assuming that the players have the all the rules required to run this adventure, it should prove to be pretty fun. The plot is very well informed by the pulp fiction conventions and has its tongue locked firmly in its cheek. There is plenty of old-fashioned racist phrases and Yellow Peril is a major theme of this adventure. If you have a hard time telling sincerity from satire, you may want to pass on this one. 

Oh, and a tip on getting the most out of this adventure: Don't talk to the cops.

Buy Steve Costigan and the Thief of Youth on RPGNow.

UPDATE: NEULOW Games is very quick to respond to feedback. Here is their response to the problems pointed out in this review.
I can see we need to do a better job at labeling these things--or maybe just de-list this particular product. You picked the ONE ROLF! supplement that is the odd-one out among them. It was intended initially JUST for inclusion in the REH anthology "Shanghaied Mitts," but we decided to make it available by itself, in case someone had picked up "Fists of Foolishness" (which included "The Violent Worlds of Robert E. Howard") but didn't want to spring for the second anthology. It's the ONE time where the Combat Maneuvers and Traits not in the core rules but used in the supplement are not included.

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