Thirteen years ago the aliens landed, throwing humanity’s carefully-erected delusions of grandeur into disarray. The world is in freefall, its physical laws in doubt. Only the facts of the Visit remain – six zones containing alien artefacts of unknown provenance and application.
Now two Stalkers, two Fixers and two Scientists are tasked with entering Zone France to locate a stranded stalker called Professor and bring back the results of his research. The mission has three parts:-
- Enter the Zone via the Door provided by Little Awful Annie and locate Professor.
- Verify the results of Professor’s experiments.
- Return Professor and the results of his experiments to Elf Occitan without being observed by the Institute.
Two major NPCs are in the hands of the GM – Little Awful Annie and Professor. Six pre-generated characters form the larger part of the Black Dog Dérive:-
- Deptford Dave is a Fixer with expertise in vehicles and drones.
- Ex is the Fixer with money and resources.
- Latch Key Kid is a Stalker that claims to treat the Zone as home.
- Mistral is the Stalker with spy-craft and parkour.
- Queen Rat is a Scientist with a hands-on approach and portable laboratory.
- Žižek is the Scientist in possession of the game’s only artefact.
Fixers are suited to challenges based at the Zone’s barbed wire fence and to negotiating the human authorities protecting it, Stalkers to the routes and anomalies marked inside the Zone and Scientists to examining any artefacts or inorganisms encountered.
The game is GMed with player narration.
Most of the time the person facilitating the game will say something along the lines of “Yes, but…” in reply to something your character wants to do but sometimes they’ll ask you for a detailed narrative response to a challenge:-
- Idea is how applicable your solution is to the challenge.
- Roleplaying covers how well your course of action meshes with the scope of your character.
The two variables – Idea and Roleplaying – are given a numerical value between 1 and 5 and multiplied to produce a rising curve of possible results.
There are three ways to play:-
- As a character immersed in the action.
- As a storyteller framing scenes with your character.
- As a gamer expending points of your character’s attributes to achieve fictive effects.
This is a PDF of the area of Zone France covered by the scenario:-
This is a Prompt Sheet for how to play the game – it’s handy to have one or two of these printed out at the table or to dispense one per character:-
And this is the 32-page desktop PDF of the Scenario. It is designed to be convention-ready but requires some willingness to improvise from those taking part:-
Black Dog Dérive is a game about what it costs to enter an environment as numinous and dangerously unpredictable as the Zone. ‘Playing at zero’ is as essential to the spirit of Stalker as it is integral to the emergent narrative of Black Dog Dérive :-
- All matter and energy in the universe is constant: its form may change but never its essence.
- Matter and energy change in one direction, from available to unavailable or from an ordered state to one that is disordered.
STALKER: The SciFi Roleplaying Game is by Ville Vuorela, released under a license from Boris Strugatsky, one half of the writing team that produced the wonderful Piknik na obochine in 1972 (first translated by Antonina W Bouis as “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky in 1977). Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky adapted the book as the film Stalker in 1979. It is one of the greatest pieces of science fiction ever written.