Thursday, 21 August 2014

RPG A Day - Day 21 – Favourite Licensed RPG – Judge Dredd RPG

That one...

Or that one...

The setting remains the same, and there’s only so much you can do when you’re playing the Law, I always felt that the original got the gritty feel of the Mega cities more, but that could simply be because of the larger amount of artwork in it.  The other book was cleanly laid out, all sharp artwork that was more in keeping with higher production values, but they forgot along the way that a lot of the older 2000ad stuff was just as popular because of the rough edges.   

So what about the game...

What’s to tell?

You’re a judge, you go around bringing the guilty to justice, it’s as simple as that, you can spend entire sessions just riding around looking for trouble to occur and putting it down.  This is a game where random encounter tables are not only a valid approach, they’re almost mandatory given the nature of the world that you’re working in.

It’s possible to play the big Dredd story arcs, such masterpieces as the Cry of the Werewolf, the Apocalypse War, the quest for the Judge Child and the City of the Damned that followed it, and herein lies the hidden bonus with this particular game.

You’ve already read all those adventures, you were there with Joe when he went seeking justice. You were there when he brought them down, when he prevailed, even when he failed, and here you are with a chance to do what he did.  It’s important to realise that Dredd wasn’t trying to make the world a better place, this wasn’t Robocop, you weren’t looking for the human story in amongst all this, you were looking to make sure that the law was obeyed.  It’s this that I liked most of all, to be true to the Dredd RPG, you’re not looking for what benefits you, you’re looking to make a difference every day, it’s not an adventure, it’s a calling, it’s something that you need to do because if you don’t, civilisation will fall down and it’ll all down in short order.  You have some of the tools you need to do the job, you have some backup but nowhere what you need to make it against things like block wars or major threats to the city. 

And that’s the only place where the game fell down, those times when you found yourself in a situation that couldn’t be dealt with by a bunch of street judges, you had to call for backup and the problem there was that when you take the ability to solve the problem out of the hands of the players, and left it in the hands of the NPC’s, it removed something from the game.

To be sure, in the first game, you could have judges that were street judges, tech judges, medical judges, psi judges and so forth, in the second you were limited to Street and PSI.  You could never play SJS (Special Judicial Squad, Those who judge the Judges...), and this was a good move from all sides, because at the point at which you’ve got players looking over their shoulder to see whether or not the other players are about to send them to Titan (the prison planet for the judges), and unfortunately with a split set of skills between different judges, you end up taking the jobs that you can do rather than just responding to every call that gets made.  There’s not many problems that can’t be solved with High Explosive, but making a game where you don’t spend every day cruising around can sometimes be challenging.


It remains my favourite licensed product to this day because of the clarity of its characters, of the universe that it stays in, that even now, some thirty seven years from its creation, it remains fresh.  There’s only so many stories you can tell about the Mega cities, but with new material coming out every week, and a back catalogue stretching back for nearly 1900 episodes together with film (we won’t mention the stallone thing...) annuals, specials and even serialisations in newspapers, it’s possible to get new ideas just by getting this weeks comic.  The other thing is that the base purpose of the characters remains the same, the preservation of the Law.  With games like the Doctor Who RPG, there was a greater range of purpose, but it becomes easier to be sidetracked as a result, whereas this requires that you set out every day with only one thing in mind and only one thing to do.

Dredd has a simplicity that can be appreciated by anyone, but the direct nature of the world isn’t for everyone, there’s not much space for diplomacy or development as characters, which makes it good for short games, but not so much for campaigns, but that’s alright.

No one plays with the Law...