Hurt me plenty.
Slipgate Chokepoint, written by Andrew Walter and Paul Cronin, is one of my favorite books of this forlorn year. It’s a brilliant supplement for Chris Garske’s equally brilliant Stay Frosty, a Black Hack-based, rules-light, action-focused sci-fi space marine RPG that might be the best Aliens, Predator, or Starship Troopers game ever made (take your pick). You don’t exactly have to squint to see the influence of DOOM, Quake, and other 1990s FPS games on Stay Frosty, but Slipgate Chokepoint takes that thread and runs with it, developing the game’s mechanics to further bring the feel of an Id shooter to the tabletop.
First though, a few words about Stay Frosty. I’ve been running a homebrew campaign involving space mummies for a couple of groups with it and it’s been a smash hit. With the estimable Black Hack as a foundation, Garske has tooled the lean rules to provide a high impact experience without a lot of bullshit – this is a game that cuts right down to business. It’s a roll-over-stat mechanic (Brawn, Brains, Dexterity, Willpower) with advantage/disadvantage and a couple of interesting elements, such as damage in excess of HP adding to stats and death when one of them hits 21. Ammo depletion occurs after combat if you roll a 1 on a weapon’s ammo die, and there is a psychological facet in the game’s simple tension mechanic. Certain events or situations may cause a player’s tension to rise from Warm up to Ice Cold. Each of the six levels of a Marine’s Frostiness confers cumulative bonuses, but if the Tension explodes, bad things can happen and you may have to roll on a Going Apeshit table.
It’s a super fun game that lends itself well to pointcrawl-style, survival-focused adventures. This is not heroic space opera suited for telling sweeping stories of epic proportions. It’s highly lethal (if you GM it right) and it requires very little preparation. There’s a lot to play with here, including vehicles, psychic powers, and a host of monster templates for the GM to embellish upon. The classes (Military Operational Specializations) all have a couple of unique advantages, but everything is kept simple. I’ve found myself preferring this little game to Mothership for faster, more pulpy shoot-em-up games.
Now, Slipgate Chokepoint takes Stay Frosty and adds a few things to make it feel more DOOM-y or Quake-y if you prefer. Most of the game is intact, but the MOS choices are reduced down to one (Ranger) and some things are video game-ized -for example, armor comes in Green, Yellow, and Red types and there are four varieties of ammo (shells, nails, explosives, and shells). There is a new Stunt Die mechanism, which is basically exactly the same as the beloved Feat die from Dungeon Crawl Classics – if a player wants to pull of some kind of crazy action, they can roll a d3 along with their check and if it’s a 3, they get to do whatever it is – maybe a player wants to try to castrate a demon with a chainsaw by sliding along a gore-slicked floor between its legs. On the 3, go for it!
Gibbing is a thing, which can create some gory consequences if someone or something takes more damage than their Gib Value. There’s Telefragging. And bona fide Power Ups! If you get a Rune or other Power Up, you roll a d4 to see if it ends on your go- hope that Quad Damage lasts a few rounds while you are squaring off against the Deathlord!
Other new elements include a list of Traits that are appropriate to the setting, a small armory of classic FPS weapons (super shotgun FTW), and a custom bestiary supplemented by some awesome monster generation tables. A campaign is included, The Flayed Domain – it’s a really nicely done pointcrawl with some great locations and full-color maps that look straight out of a 1995 PC game. There’s a location called the Corpse Grinding Facility if that gives you any idea of what to expect. But if you are looking for a quick one shot, there’s a great section with some random mission generation tables.
All of this is packed into a great-looking 79 page paperback book – this is not a zine. The artwork is just blowing my mind every time I flip through it- it’s crude, rangy, and lurid. None of that slick corporate RPG illustration junk here, it all looks enthusiastically grim and seedy as it should. It reminds me quite a lot of vintage Warhammer illustrations circa 1986, which is indeed high praise. With that said, this is all executed with a more punk rock, DIY style – apart from those computer graphic maps, which are just an awesome touch.
It’s such a fun book to read- I can’t imagine anyone that enjoys DOOM or vintage FPS games not smiling ear to ear flipping through. And with the great Stay Frosty as its backbone, a bloody good time is all but ensured for groups that embrace the deadly nature of this kind of game. Make no mistake- this is not really an RPG for the kind of player that likes to write a novella about their character’s backstory or GMs that want to run through sweeping, overly scripted storylines with intricately detailed world-building. This is rip-and-tear action role playing, over-the-top and gleefully outrageous. Bring it on.