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Item - The Adventure of the Jade Jaguar

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Series: Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes
Platform: Adobe Acrobat
Author: Stackpole, Michael A.
Illustrators: Danforth, Elizabeth (Liz) T. (cover)
Adams, Michael (interior)
Date: April, 1983
Publisher: Flying Buffalo -- United States
Product Code: 3101
Length: 25 pages
castiglione's Thoughts:

The Adventure of the Jade Jaguar was the first (and as far as I have been able to find out) the ONLY full-sized solitaire adventure published by Flying Buffalo for the Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (MSPE) role-playing game. MSPE was an attempt to "port" the Tunnels & Trolls game system from its hack-n-slash dungeoncrawl roots to the era of the Tommy gun and super spies. In doing this, the game's designer (Michael Stackpole), built on the earlier game's foundations, adding a system by which characters could accumulate and develop skills and "fixed" how character's could increase their attributes as they increased in levels so that the almost exponential growth of character attributes as he/she increased in levels was eliminated.

The system was very clean (except for the martial arts rules, which IMHO, were too complicated given the game's roots in T & T) but it didn't seem to really take off despite favorable reviews. This is a shame - and this also made the NEED for solitaire adventures for this system more pressing.

However, after The Adventure of the Jade Jaguar, more adventures did not follow... I have some ideas as to why this happened, but I'll go on to describe the adventure.

Jade Jaguar is a sort of Indiana Jones-ish adventure in which one's character goes down to South America to investigate the disappearance of his/her friends in the jungles. Along the way, the character runs into South American Gods (!) and Demons (!), rebels, and corrupt government officials. As can be expected of an adventure in which South American Gods and Demons show up, the story that unfolds can take on some rather strange turns and some of the possibilities are pretty dreamlike.

All in all, I was pretty disappointed by this adventure. The story-lines that unfold are very interesting but I couldn't help feeling that it really didn't matter what sorts of skills my character had... in many ways, the adventure seemed to be more a Choose Your Own Adventure rather than an adventure for a full-blown role-playing game system. Also, despite the fact that Jade Jaguar was about as long as a standard Tunnels & Trolls solitaire adventure, the adventures seemed too short and seemed to end abruptly at times.

I have some ideas as to why Jade Jaguar seemed to "fail" as a solitaire adventure and I feel this is tied into why no further adventures followed... adventures of this genre couldn't really follow the "go into the dungeon and get stuff" format that had been typical of the Tunnels & Trolls solitaires. This genre depended on a more "narrative-based" progression rather than one that was "location-based" and were, thus, much more difficult to write. It's one thing to account for what happens when a character goes North from point A to point B. It's quite another to keep track of the ramifications of a character walking in on an NPC in the act of furtively running several files through a shredder or events of that ilk. This is also why the adventures in Jade Jaguar seemed so short even though it contained as many paragraphs as a standard T & T adventure - the more possibilities in the narrative one accounts for, the shorter a story is going to be for a given number of paragraphs as the story branches off in different directions. Whereas in a dungeoncrawl, paragraphs could be "re-used" (a player could walk into a room, wander around, and then go back into the same room), EVENTS in a narrative-based adventure could not... things had to move in a one-way progression toward a finale.

Jade Jaguar attempted to "re-use" certain paragraphs but in doing so, it had to "force" the narrative to follow a certain direction and the end result were adventures where one didn't quite feel in control of one's destiny, which is not a good thing in an interactive medium.

Added to this was the fact combat was something to be AVOIDED in MSPE due to the deadliness of the weapons so, more than ever, a player's enjoyment of the solitaire was based more on the quality of the narrative rather than hacking a bunch of orcs to death; this narrative had to be written by the author rather than provided by the player's imagination (in the case of hacking a bunch of orcs to death) which, in turn, increased the work load of the author trying to write an adventure for this genre.

This increase in the writer's workload is probably why there wasn't a long line of MSPE solitaires (like one has with the Tunnels & Trolls solitaires).

This is a shame because this was a very good set of generic pulp role-playing rules and its relative obscurity meant that, much more than T & T, solitaire adventures were a necessity to fan interest in the game.

More reviews by castiglione

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