No Security: Horror Scenarios in the Great Depression
Publisher: Hebanon Games
Page Count: 148
Release Date: 11/30/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com
MAGICAL REVIEW UPDATE TIME GO!
So, in the hours since this went live a few things have happened. First, you’ll notice the link under the header no longer works. That’s because the link has been taken down by Hebanon Games. It turns out that there were a few communication errors between Hebanon Games and DriveThruRPG.com. First, the reviewed piece was not meant to be a digital/PDF only release and certainly not for twenty dollars. It was in fact meant to be a Print of Demand physical release – something I speculated in the original body of text below. Somehow though (We don’t know if Hebanon Games or DriveThruRPG made the mistake, but there’s no point in assigning blame) the link to purchase the collection went live as a PDF only release on 11/30 and a review copy was sent to me. The review below is a result of that review copy. Nowhere on the purchase/information page on DriveThruRPG was it mentioned that the piece was meant to be a PoD release and as mentioned in the review, it was being sold on the site ONLY with the option of a PDF purchase. I’ve talked to Caleb Stokes (Head of Hebanon games and author of No Security) since then, and he assures me this was just one big comedy of errors that neither he nor the staff at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow caught until after my review went live.
Regardless, the error has been caught, the offending page has been removed, as has the option to purchase this product. Instead it will be made live once the Print on Demand version is fully approved and ready for sale. Note that everything in my review is still accurate about what I was sent to review, but that my feeling about paying twenty dollars for a physical copy of No Security would be completely different and extremely enthusiastic. I’ll happily purchase a physical copy of the product for myself and Mark B. (A fellow DHGF staffer that has come to love No Security from my reviews) for the twenty dollar price tag. Hell, I gave Hebanon twenty-five dollars for the free versions on Kickstarter, so I’m obviously a fan. Now if the page goes live again WITHOUT the PoD option – FOR THE LOVE OF NYOGTHA, DO NOT BUY IT. It means the error is back. By all means, give your hard earned cash to Hebanon Games, but either do through the actual PDF links or wait until the Print on Demand version is actually available. Trust me, the wait will be worth it.
I originally backed the No Security Kickstarter in June of 2012. 250 backers raised a little over $6,800 in order to let author Caleb Stokes make a series of systemless horror based tabletop adventures set in the 1930s. While many of these adventures were originally written for some Cthulhu based system (Call, Dark, etc), by going systemless, the adventures could be adapted to just about anything, from d20 to… Earthdawn I guess, if someone really wanted to. The end result was six adventures that were made free to the general public, which was a wonderful idea. I reviewed all six and found three of the six to be exceptional, one to be a fine but flawed release and two to be niche and/or underwhelming. Still, four out of six is a pretty good record, and the worst thing I had to say about the weakest two is that they simply required a very specific GM and troupe tandem to make them work. Instead of trying to rehash all six of my earlier reviews and combine them into a babbling mess, I’ll instead provide links to them all here in order of release. As well, this review will focus on the collection itself rather than the individual parts that make it up. We’ve already been down that road together after all.
Bryson Springs (Originally released June, 2012)
The Red Tower (Originally released July, 2012)
Lover in the Ice (Originally released November, 2012)
The Fall Without End (Originally released January, 2013)
Revelations(Originally released August, 2013)
The Wives of March (Originally released October, 2013
This No Security Collection contains five of the six adventures and bundles them together into one PDF with a twenty dollar price tag. This is NOT a set of five pdfs, but rather one larger merged one. Please keep that in mind. There are fourteen new pages in this release, none of which are actual content. You get two cover pages (One with the author and company’s name – one without. Odd), a new piece of art, a page of copyright information, a table of contents, a foreword by someone I’ve never heard of before, a two page note from Caleb, two pages of Kickstarter backer names, an ad for the sixth adventure (Lover in the Ice) not found in this collection, two pages of ads for products by the guy who did the foreword, and a page of ads/links for Role Playing Public Radio, which is the site that gave birth to No Security. So the extra pages are pretty frivolous and unimportant. They add nothing new to the collected pieces, so if you already have the previous releases, you’re not gaining anything by picking this up. I should also point out that the adventures are not grouped in the order of release, nor by alphabetical order. I’m not really sure how or why the adventures were grouped in the order they are, but there is no rhyme or reason to the placement.
Which brings me to the big elephant in the room. While three of the five are well done, and all five are ones I’ve recommended in the past to read and download, I can’t really recommend this collected edition for a multitude of factors. First up, it’s much easier and saner to have these five adventures in separate PDFs. You can find what you are looking for easier, and as you’ll never need all five at once, collecting these five in one package doesn’t make sense for an electronic edition, but it would for a physical copy. Alas, DriveThruRPG is not currently offering a Print on Demand version of No Security, which would be the only reason to pick this collected edition up. Secondly, this collection only contains five of the six adventures. Lover in the Ice is left out, and although I can’t say for certain why, I think it’s due to the extreme mature content of that adventure which may offend or disturb some readers. I’ve also been told it may be because of a bone Hebanon games had to throw to DriveThruRPG.com to get listed over there. Although Lover in the Ice does contain multiple triggers and some material that is more sleazy or creepy than disturbing or scary, it does seem odd to leave out one adventure from the collection. Still, Lover in the Ice is well written, even if it’s not for everyone (I certainly wouldn’t play it with a rape victim or anyone of the female gender for that matter), it’s a big piece of the No Security collection and if something had to be left out, I’d have put that in instead of The Wives of March.
Since I bring up The Wives of March I should add that it is the weakest, most convoluted and easiest to break adventure in the collection, and as such, I definitely wouldn’t have started the collection with it. It’ll leave newcomers with a bad first impression. If anything, I’d have grouped the adventures in order of ease to run or easiest for gamers to experience. The Wives of March would be sixth of six in either of those cases. The Red Tower or Bryson Springs would have been far better choices to start the collection off with, as they are extremely well done adventures even new gamers can play through without frustration while still having a very memorable time.
Finally, the big reason I can’t recommend this collection is that these adventures were meant to be free to the public. That was the original spirit of the Kickstarter after all, and it was how all six were originally released. Of course, the No Security website was constantly hacked by some pricks and so Caleb had to take it down and move the pieces to DriveThruRPG.com, which is a shame and shows that even the best and most noble of ideas can be shattered by losers with a keyboard and too much time on their hands. Anyway, five of the six adventures are now available as “Pay What You Want” releases, meaning you can still get them for free, or you can kick some money towards Hebanon Games as a thank you for making these. Meanwhile, this collection is a set twenty dollars, and even though it is 99.99 percent the same content as the individual pieces, it’s not free. In fact, it’s a whoppingly overpriced twenty dollars. I hate saying that, as I love Hebanon Games and No Security, but twenty bucks is way too high an asking price for a collection of systemless adventures.
Case in point: Lover in the Ice, the only No Security adventure with a set price tag, is $1.99. So as all adventures are roughly the same length and feature the same quality content, that would mean all six adventures could feasibly be set at $1.99 as the suggested “Pay What You Want” price and no one would raise an eyebrow. Simple multiplication tells us six adventures times $1.99 would mean you would pay about $11.94 for all six adventures if you picked them up separately and wanted to give Hebanon Games some cash. Now, the price tag for only five of those adventures in this collection is twenty dollars. That’s more than twice what the assumed price for five of the six adventures would be if you picked them up separately. That’s insane. Worse yet, bundled collections are supposed to be cheaper than if you picked up the individual pieces on their own, yet the reverse is true here. That’s a big no-no. Of course, the twenty dollar price tag also flies in the face of the idea that these adventures were mean to be free to the general public – hence the Kickstarter. So why pay twenty dollars for something that was meant to be free, that you can still get for free and that has a price tag that is twice what the estimated value of all the collected pieces are worth? The obvious answer is – you wouldn’t. No one would – unless you really really liked Caleb and just wanted to throw money at him, and you could just do that by sending him a check or paypay’ing him. As such, this entire No Security collection ends up looking overpriced, strangely thought out and completely nonsensical in form and follow through.
The problem is the No Security collection is just too overpriced for what you get, even if you ignore (or were ignorant of the fact) that these adventures were meant to be free to the public. Most big name companies release electronic versions of their games for less (except Paizo because their fans are insane enough to pay the exorbitant amounts they ask). For example, Chaosium just released Secrets of Tibet for Call of Cthulhu. It’s 178 pages long and it costs only $11.53 for the electronic version, or you can preorder the physical copy for $20.96 – the same as what you would pay for the digital version of the No Security collection. Most third party or indie game releases are priced even cheaper because they don’t have the built in audience that will pay higher amounts. Hell, even Numenera, which is arguably the biggest release of 2013, only asks $1.99 for their core rulebook PDF, and it’s more than twice the length of this. I hate to harp on the crazy price tag attached to this collection so much, but when you can get all five adventures for less (technically for free), then there has to be SOMETHING to make the consumer want to pay twenty dollars for the bundle – something that isn’t in the free versions. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case with this collection, so in spite of the overwhelming quality (I can’t overstate how much I like the individual releases) and fine art each individual piece contains, this No Security collection is the first real abject failure for Hebanon Games as a company. My advice would be to pull this collection down and rethink everything. Why are they doing a bundled piece? Who is the target market? Why would someone pay twenty dollars for something they can already get for free? How do you justify charging money for something that WAS meant to be free in the first place? So on and so forth. As the product currently stands though, the No Security collection has no target audience and no real reason to exist. Just download the individual pieces, as they are well done. If you like what you see, throw some money at Hebanon Games for their hard work. Now, would I pay twenty dollars for a physical collection of all six adventures? You’re damn right. Would I pay twenty for a digital copy of something already available for free in the same format? Ha ha ha. No.