Destination Danger is one of the last Kickstarters that I received. It is an extremely fast and simple role-playing game, suitable for lightning sessions. In short it is a set of pocket adventures for 2-5 players lasting approximately 20 minutes. But let’s go in order and start from the beginning.
The two Kickstarter campaigns
On 13 October 2018 Jeff Rosenbaugh had to cancel the Kickstarter project called Destination Danger, unable to reach the almost € 9,000 requested. But not giving up, he proposed it again this year with a goal that was more than halved and he got away, obtaining over € 12,000. This allowed the unlocking of several stretch goals which, however, as regards the physical ones, started from a pledge level higher than the basic one.
Strange choice: having to pay more to get stretch goals seems almost a deterrent and not an incentive. Because usually the beauty of Kickstarter is that with the base price you can unlock extra materials and content. The estimated delivery time was May 2020 and instead it is already here in my hands … Strange, but better this way! I spent € 20 on the physical copy, but I have yet to understand if it was worth it … And now I’m going to explain why.
The physical content
A small, colorful and almost pocket-sized cardboard box contains the entire game. Inside there are 22 cards of excellent quality. The graphic style is captivating and immediately strikes the eye. They are divided into the following categories:
- 5 player cards
- 6 non player cards
- 5 artifact cards
- 3 scenery cards
- 3 map cards
A well-made 21-page manual accompanies them, but written slightly too small for my taste. A few more pages or some more concise concepts would have slowed the loss of diopters. The feeling that you have reading it is closer to that of a manual of tips to manage a RPG than a real regulatory manual.
The “rules” of Destination Danger
Destination Danger is very simple. It’s a pulp role-playing game set in the 30s. The style is quite similar to the Hollow Earth Expedition. It actually reminds a bit of all Indiana Jones-style adventure games and the font of the title itself recalls it. But this is not a lack of imagination: the archetype of the adventurous pulp narrative is that.
There are three scenario cards with hints and objectives. You take the player character cards and give them to the players, prepare the npc character cards and artifact corresponding to the scenario and play. Rules? Technically none. No dice, the master decides. No mechanics, the master manages. The characters have some characteristics to help the omnipotent master decide everything and there is a map card to give a common place to play. The master describes the starting situation and manages the game, obviously having at heart the successful narrative of the adventure and the fun of its players. Finished? Finished.
There is a hint in the non-rules booklet for the use of dice, but it can be summed up with: “do you want a system to add some dice and a bit of randomness? Do it, as long as it works”.
So what are the instructions for? They are a kind of advice manual on how to manage a game without fate and without rules. From how to master to how to manage non-playing characters. Among all those small pages written so small I particularly appreciated the invitation to go further in characterizing things. Each element is briefly described and has hints to start from. The creator’s invitation is to read between the lines, to invent based on the details of the drawings, to move imaginatively between the cues given. Very beautiful.
How does it fit into the RPG world?
Is Destination Danger worth the € 20 price? Difficult to give a certain answer. A pocket RPG needs to be playable everywhere. An extemporaneous game has the advantage of being able to be used in sudden situations. Players who, like me, have their own fixed groups, times and places (and rarely travel) will obviously find fewer opportunities to exploit it. Let’s say that it could also be exploited during alternative parties or evenings. On these occasions there isn’t a high level of concentration and probably there are also newcomers to the RPGs; a product like this one would probably entertain well, in a light and pleasant way.
The clichés described among the cards of the game are nothing exceptional, except for some brilliant intuitions. These are elements that experienced players can pull out even without the aid of cards. Therefore I think that Destination Danger could be particularly appreciated by newbies. Yes, but it’s not so easy. Not all newbies manage to play a system without rules, you need experience or at least be naturally inclined for it. On the other hand, when you accumulate the necessary experience, you no longer need certain written ideas.
So where does my indecision on product quality come from? The possibilities for an expert master to bring newbies to the game table and lead them in a few minutes into a realistic and simple adventure to play. I find it perfect for those who would like to try to play. It happens to find a small group that would try to play something simple and fast. It is not easy to find the right hook for this type of request. For this circumstance Destination Danger is perfect.
Brief conclusions (as brief as Destination Danger)
Destination Danger is a well made and well presented product. However, it is not a must in the role-playing world and is not suitable for all game groups. But undoubtedly it has a utility. In my case the possibility of quickly introducing newbies to an adventure. For others it could be playing on the train, on the beach or having it in an association for demonstrations or impromptu evenings. In conclusion, a decidedly positive feature of this product is its versatility; without a good imagination, however, it could getting boring soon. The presence of a fairly limited number of cards is likely to make it repetitive.