Infestation: An RPG of Bugs and Heroes
From: Third Eye Games
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck
The concept of an RPG where you play as an animal dates all the way back to the early ampersand-crazy days, when Dennis Sustare and Scott Robinson adapted Richard Adams’ Watership Down into Bunnies & Burrows. Infestation: An RPG of Bugs and Heroes explores a different area of this niche genre by focusing on insects.
From page 8:
“Even with this fight over territory overtaking much of their headspace, a bug’s life is not much different now than before. They exist to serve their colony or tribe, making sure their people have enough food and security to continue growing and taking more of This House for themselves. However, each one now also has a sense of adventure boiling inside its thorax, pushing them to venture further than their instincts tell them they should or attempting to take on predators they would have previously run from.”
Chapter One starts off by giving an overview of the setting. The premise is that the insects of a particular house were granted sentience. The how and why are left to the discretion of the Hive Master (i.e. GM). This is followed with an overview of the different types of bugs which have gained sentience (as not all bugs have been so gifted) and their typical personality traits. The overall impression is like a cross between A Bug’s Life and Redwall.
Chapter Two goes over the process of character creation. Selecting a bug type determines the starting values of your attributes (Body, Mind, Charm, and Instinct) as well as what Qualities are automatically received. Additional points are then spent on increasing the attributes. The bug is then rounded out with the selection of Qualities. A bug starts with three Attribute Qualities (which mostly provide bonus dice in certain situations) and two Item Qualities (essentially your gear). Alternatively, Quality points may be spent to take Bug Magic, which comes in two varieties. Concoctions produce a one-off effect that require some basic items to employ. Rituals (which may not be taken during character creation) produce more permanent effects that can only be performed once and require unusual materials, the gathering of which can be its own adventure.
Chapter Three focuses on the house in which these bugs live, referred to in the game text as This House. A general overview is provided for each room type. These are given whimsical names like the Carpet Desert (living room) and the Deep Dark (basement), providing a vibe reminiscent of Low Life. A series of charts for generating random room Qualities and determining which bug types dominate a particular room help out in further customizing This House.
Chapter Four covers the game mechanics, which employ Third Eye’s Pip System. This involves rolling six-siders of two different colors (white and black are used in the text, but any two distinct colors work). When a task is attempted, the player rolls white dice equal to the attribute being used and black dice equal to the difficulty assigned by the Hive Master. Each die with a result of four or better counts as a success. The task succeeds if more white dice have successes and fails if more black dice have successes. If there’s a net of three or more successes (or three or more fails), a great success (or critical failure) is achieved (as appropriate), while a tie counts as a success with complications. A multitude of examples are provided on how each of the attributes can be employed. Opposed rolls work in a similar fashion, but with the attribute the target chooses to resist with being the task’s difficulty. Combat is similarly straightforward. Initiative totals are determined by rolling a die and adding it to your Instinct. Attacks use opposed rolls, inflicting Hits to the resisting attribute. Once sufficient Hits are taken to an attribute (based on the number of linked Qualities possessed), it cannot be used until some healing is applied. This can be accomplished through eating, resting or using Bug Magic.
From page 17:
“Why do Giants squish bugs, though? No one truly knows, but many believe it is because bugs now hold the secret to life itself. If bugs are allowed to prosper in This House, they could theoretically move on to populate the world and eradicate Giants forever. It could also be because some bugs keep them around to feed on their blood.”
Chapter Five provides advice for a Hive Master on running a game. Much of what gets covered is fairly typical of GM advice chapters seen in other RPGs, which more experienced GMs can probably skim over. Suggestions of the sort of adventures which can occur in Infestation warrant more attention due to the highly unconventional nature of the setting. Following this is a bestiary listing the sort of hazards a bug is likely to encounter in an adventure. The chapter concludes with two scenario outlines. The first involves dealing with a rival bug tribe from outside moving in on This House. The second concerns a toothpick jousting tournament which the various tribes of This House are competing in.
In conclusion, the niche nature of the setting means it won’t have an especially broad appeal. But if you’re the sort who thinks that A Bug’s Life is unfairly maligned, the simple mechanics of the Pip System make playing out similarly themed adventures a breeze.
Infestation: AN RPG of Bugs and Heroes
From: Third Eye Games
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Eloy Lasanta, Jacob Wood, and Amanda Milner
Cover Art by: Melissa Gay
Interior Art by: Melissa Gay
Number of Pages: 103
Retail Price (PDF): $8.99
Retail Price (black and white print): $13.49
Retail Price (color print): $22.49
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck