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Before I start, I’ll just go in to my history with this game – I’ve only played it three times – once as a player and twice as GM – I was a player in the 1980s and a GM in the mid-1990s, so I can’t remember much at all about it. Terry Oakes provides the cover for both the box art and collected hardback. Speaking of which, Games Workshop originally released Judge Dredd The Role-Playing Game as a boxed set in 1985 (incidentally the box was the same size and shape as their previous release Judge Dredd: The Game of Crime-Fighting in Mega-City One – useful when sitting on the shelf, along with Block Mania and Mega Mania to come), though four years later the company reprinted it in a hardback book collecting the Judge’s Manual and the Game Master’s Book (for some reason I’d remembered this as being the Judge Master’s Book). The latter edition also had a few pages at the end, reprinted from a Companion that had been published in the interim, which itself had a few features reprinted from White Dwarf but the majority of which was original content. Confused yet? Just concentrate on the original boxed set and I’ll get around to covering all that other stuff in the fullness of time. Before I ‘open the box’ I’d better mention that I can’t work out when this was actually released. It was definitely some time in 1985 and I believe it was close to the end of the year (maybe in time for christmas?) as there was a review of it in White Dwarf in January 1986. Though I don’t know whether the January 1986 issue of White Dwarf would have been released in January or whether it would have been released in December 1985 and replaced on the shelves in January (in the style of 2000AD). Anyway, something I can be reasonably sure of is when production was wrapped on this book so that it could be sent to the printers. Both Supersurf 7 and Smart Sweets (Prog 436) are mentioned and I gather that Games Workshop were given access to the very latest episodes of Judge Dredd, possibly before they were published, with additions and amendments being made to the manuscript right up to the last moment. Until I noticed the mention of Smart Sweets I thought it was immediately after The Midnight Surfer, as Nosferatu (write his name in blood!) doesn’t appear in the book at all.
What did you get in the box? The two books already mentioned, a double-sided map (battlemap in modern parlance), a sheet of cardboard cut-outs of characters and vehicles plus a set of dice. My copy of the boxed set does not contain the dice. As I won’t be covering the reprint book on its own, I’ll just mention that a purchaser in 1989 would also get this map and sheet of character cut-outs. I’ll probably bung a paragraph at the end of this post about the differences in format in the hardback reprint.
The Judge’s Manual has the badge from the usual Judge Dredd logo and the words “read this book first!” helpfully printed at the bottom of the cover. There’s no credits, so I’ll leave those until later.
1. Introduction – after a couple of paragraphs of blurb this section plunges in to the “Role-Playing Games” section – for those unfamiliar, just about every RPG will have a section at the beginning explaining ot the novice what a roleplaying game is. This one explains that each player takes the role of a character, except for one who takes the role of Game Master (for some reason I’d remembered this as being Judge Master – bit disappointed that it uses the more conventional GM name). It emphasises that players are not competing against each other, but working cooperatively. This goes on to explain how to use the books (i.e. all the players should be familiar with the Judge’s Manual but only the Game Master should have access to the Game Master’s Book). Then on to equipment needed and an explanation for how the dice work. As well as explaining dice notation (a four-sided die is a D4, a six-sided die is a D6 – rolling two six-sided dice would be 2D6 and doing the same, then adding one would be 2D6+1). The dice included were apparently a D4, D6, D12 and D20 and there are instructions on how to use these dice to get other rolls. D10 seems to be quite a common role, so I’m pretty glad I have a full set of dice (including a ten-sided for 10s and single digits). Next up and a Games Workshop product would be remiss if it didn’t point out that Citadel Miniatures have a range of miniatures, though also gives instructions on how to cut out and fold the cardboard minis on the enclosed character sheet. The book also pushes the range of Dungeon Floor Plans from GW. Other things needed – pencils, erasers and scrap paper (and preferably photocopies of the character record sheets). Speaking of character record sheets – I’ve just put together a spreadsheet version of such. They’re not pretty but they have all the information on them.
After the standard intro to RPG concepts the book takes a page out for more fluff, this time printing a page from The Mega-Times from November 2017 giving a glimpse at life in the Academy of Law for 7, 12 and 20 year old cadets.
2. The Making of a Judge – opening with a reprint of the Child Prodigy Daily Dredd, the book gets in to actually creating a character. Back in explanation mode it tells how characters are defined by characteristics generated by dice rolls. Almost all of which are 2D20+20 except for Strength, which is a D3 (roll a D4, if you get a four then it counts as a two). And if you end up with Strength of 1 then you get to roll an additional D6 for Psi. Though I’d better list what the characteristics are – don’t let Strength mislead you, the next abilities are not Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma – instead judges get Strength (S), Initiative (I), Combat Skill (CS), Drive Skill (DS), Technical Skill (TS), Medical Skill (MS), Street Skill (SS) and Psi Skill (PS). They’re pretty self-explanatory, though Street Skill appears to be similar to Charisma in other RPGs though with a little local area knowledge thrown in. There’s also a separate roll for psychic immunity (10 or less on a D100). If the freshly-rolled judge has any scores of 40 or above on I, PS, TS, or MS then they either get bonuses, special abilities or can specialise as a Psi-judge, Tek-judge or Med-judge. Back to the fluff – which is pretty important on licenced properties. It’s easy for me to skim through them as I’m a few years in to a prog slog so don’t really need many reminders of the background to the setting, but for those more casual, or even those who haven’t read the comics at all, this stuff is essential. It also helps to have it written down exactly what the Games Workshop version of a judge carries around with them. Namely: a helmet (with comms, respirator, anti-glare visor, radio mike in contact with the lawmaster); padding (elbow, knee and shoulder pads); gloves (and the contents of the pouches – heat seeker shots and hypo-knock-out ammo); boots (and boot-knife); utility belt (10 pouches – lie detector, bleepers, hand cuffs, hand radio, infra-red lawgiver sight, lawgiver magazines, silencer, medi-pack, pollution meter and stumm grenades); the lawgiver itself (this version has General Purpose, High Explosive, Armour Piercing, Incendiary, Grenade and Rubber Ricochet shells plus additional equipment including heat seekers and the self-destruct charge); stumm grenade and the lawmaster. Annoyingly (to me) the lawrod is only referred to by its alternate name, the scatter gun. Now that everybody’s up to speed on typical judge equipment the book introduces the character sheets on the following page – one for the judges and the other for the lawmasters.
3. Making an Arrest – now for the nitty gritty – how to actually play the game! The common combat rounds and game turns are used, but then something new gets introduced – phases. This seems a bit complicated to me and involves dividing the initiative score of a character by ten and rounding up, which produces the number of actions that can be taken in a round. Though each round is then split in to ten phases and, after looking up the number of actions on a table, the actual phases a character can act in are found. I’ll have to try that out to see if it’s as cumbersome as it seems. There’s quite a range possible, from a character with only one action per round to one with ten – and seeing as things like moving are tied in to how many actions somebody has it could lead to one character moving ten times as fast as another (though starting judges will all have either three or four actions per round). In the same chapter is a bit more background on how to play a judge – to whit, you’re acting within the law so you can’t just start shooting at perps – you have to issue a challenge first. There’s a nice selection of typical challenges to set the mood (“The fun’s over – you’re all under arrest!”). We get a special actions that characters with CS of 30 or more can use (Target Point – aiming at a specific target without a reduction in chance to hit). As I go through the combat options I’m beginning to realise I might need to take notes – after somebody successfully hits their target (assuming no weapon malfunction) there’s the question of armour. Depending on where they’re hit, armour can provide a different percentage of protection. If it succeeds in protecting then the efficacy of that armour is reduced by 5%. If I’m reading it correctly then if a judge succeeds on their saving throw then they can survive five hits in the same limb before any damage gets through to them.
4. Other Actions – What else can your judge do, other than combat? Different types of movement, starting with pursuing perps. I’m a dit doubtful about how workable this is – it involves producing a difficulty by averaging your initiative and SS (if on foot) or initiative and DS (if using a vehicle) with this difficulty being increased or decreased by 1% per point of initiative greater or lower of the quarry. This is repeated at the beginning of each combat round… I’m used to systems with a more straight-forward single roll against a skill, but I’d have to actually put this in to practice to see how easy it is to get used to. Tracking looks to be a bit simpler, though still has an average of iniative and steet skill and only has to be rolled every sixth combat round. Other types of movement follow, including climbing, swinging, jumping, rolling and swimming. After movement are (to borrow from other games) more rogue-ish actions – sneaking, disguise, spotting hidden items, traps. After that comes driving, riding and flying (or vehicular movement, in other words). This sections seems pretty straight-forward, though it looks like the Game Master’s Book will have more complexity. Remember that recent stat about Mega-City One having over 1000 million miles of roadway? This book casually drops the idea that there are 13½ billion miles of roads – thirty miles of road for each megacitizen! Anyway, the whole movement section finishes with a few rules on losing control of a vehicle and what happens when the vehicle collides. There were also a few paragraphs about vehicles which hover or which run on auto (self-driving vehicles, anybody?) using visual and radar guidance and accessing Traffic Control – so your average 21st century GPS featuring traffic updates. Next up are lifting, throwing, falling. It’s beginning to look like initiative does the same job as dexterity in certain other games while the job of hit points is generally taken by losing actions. Just to explain that one – where you might lose hit points after falling a distance in other RPGs, in this game you instead lose the next 6 actions, say, as if stunned. Next up is a doors section (opening locked doors, breaking down doors, holding doors shut, listening at doors, shooting at doors and shooting through doors). I found some parts of this amusing, as the futuristic locks use keypads and voice or hand-prints. Seeing as my mobile phone can be opened using a keypad code, voice or fingerprint recognition, the idea that Mega-City buildings will only start to use that kind of technology after 2070 is pretty funny – once more the future caught up with the 1980s vision of sci-fi! After all that, the chapter is ended with a few notes on repairing all the things that have been damaged in the preceding two chapters.
5. On Patrol – more background to provide the context for adventuring in Mega-City One (and probably The Cursed Earth, Undercity, etc). This is our first glimpse of what actually playing the game will consist of – most adventures will start while your judges are patrolling. Speaking of patrolling – some are on a route, others are in a patch and Watching Bay duties are also available. A patch covers about 2,500 km2 – this leads me to wonder what the total area of Mega-City One is… This could get involved, so I’m going to see if I can highlight it in some way so that you can skip it if you’re not interested. On second thoughts, this is a tangent from this RPG book and could get so involved I’m going to publish it as a separate post. While on patrol the judge is in almost constant contact with the Sector House, MAC and other judges – apparently the helmet radio is a short-range radio keeping the patrol judges in contact with each other while the focus of the lawmaster communications includes the vid-screen and Sector House contact. I’m probably going to use the terms Sector House and Control interchangeably. Using the lawmaster radio has some rules which seem a bit dodgy, to be honest – the judge has to roll below their tech skill to make contact with control (in the example given a fail put them in contact with a robo-taxi firm). Bear in mind the starting tech skill is 2D20+20 – I rolled up a character to get used to it and got a total of 26. So if I want to contact control I have a one in four chance of getting through. That’s not how it’s depicted in the comics! Hopefully the Game Master’s Book will balance things out a bit. p.s. the helmet radio can daisy-chain to the lawmaster computer to patch a judge through to the Sector House. The book goes on to transport and does a good job at conveying the multi-levelled spaghetti mess of wide roadways snaking between citiblocks. Some definitions of the different types of roads are detailed: mega-ways are major roads, similar to motorways and freeways; skedways are between one and five lanes wide and are also known as speedways; slipzooms are side roads, usually connectiong larger roads and finally pipeways and zipstrips are minor roads leading to blocks (pipeways are enclosed, zipstrips are open to the air). Pedestrian movement is also covered – though as it includes block buggies it has quite a loose definition of ‘pedestrian’. Plazas, parks, pedwalks, slidewalks and eeziglides all get a few words. Lastly the narrative moves to public transport, namely autobuses (train carriage-like road vehicles), hoverbuses, robo-taxis and the zoomtube or skyrail. Next up – data available to the judges – MAC provides access to crime files and surveillance cameras. This book predicts that there are about a million spy-in-the-sky cameras. In the UK at present there are around six million CCTV cameras for a population of around a fifth or sixth of that of Mega-City One – underestimating a bit on that one, Games Workshop. An example has a judge asking a tech-judge to locate Stevie ‘The Puffin’ Jackson – this is a reference to Games Workshop co-founder and Fighting Fantasy co-author Steve Jackson (the UK one) – and the nickname refers to the publishers of the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. I got the in-joke! Barney, the City Hall computer, also gets a look in. With much of the Mega-City infrastructure out of the way it’s time to go on to the fun stuff – what sentences do the judges give to the perps once they’ve caught them (assuming they were caught alive – mention is made of the clean-up crews if they didn’t survive)? Y’all know about iso-blocks, holding tanks, The Vaults, psycho-cubes, Devil’s Island and holding posts, so I won’t dwell on this section. Back up units are covered – according to this book the med-squads comprise two drivers, three med-judges and a robodoc. Meat wagons, clean-up squads, fire squads, tek squads, holocaust squad, riot squad and heavy weapons teams also get a mention. The latter provide laser weapons, sonic cannons, etc. In case the judges aren’t aware, Psi Division and the Special Judicial Squad are mentioned next. The home life of a judge is covered next (well, daily life in a Sector House) starting with the sleep machine (10 minutes), plugging in to the briefer (15 minutes to download the last 24 hours of crimes and forthcoming events), visits to the Quartermaster’s Store, perp holding facilities, interrogation rooms (includes lie detectors, sleep machines, skin searching) and Forensics Lab. But who else works in a Sector House? Not something I’d considered, but here’s a brief list: Sector Chief; SJS officers; Forensic Scientists; Chief Forensic Scientist; Chief Medical Officer; Chief Technician; Med-Judges; tek-Judges. On to the the organisation of Justice Department itself, which has been the subject of features in annuals and specials as well as the four different RPGs over the years. This one points out Chief Judge McGruder’s bionic hand which somehow completely escaped me for nearly four decades until the last episode of The Apocalypse War on this prog slog. We’re taken through a lightning tour of the Council of Five, Grand Hall of Justice, Academy of Law, West 17 Test Lab, Justice Department armouries before finishing this chapter with the Statues of Judgement.
6. Experienced Judges – Rackle and I have rolled up judges to help me get to grips with this rule-set. Neither of us got anywhere near 40 points in med, tech or psi skills, which means that a lot of this section is not immediately useful to us. For the record, the highest skill score we got between the pair of us was 34. I’ll have to remember to check when I get to them, but I think the other Dredd RPGs, like this one, start you off as a freshly graduated judge – so Mega-City equivalent of a level one character. This section briefly touches on Experience points, and points out that judges don’t get XP for killing perps – they get XP for being good, brave judges (so very unlike the Dungeons & Dragons model of earning XP). But we’re promised that the Game Master’s Book will have more details about earning XP – this book is more concerned with what they can be traded in for. Just noticed this book is calling Experience Points EP instead of XP. All characteristics other than Strength and Psi Skills can be increased by trading in 100 EP, which allows the player to add 2D3 (2D6 divided by two) to the chosen characteristic. Specialist judges have different progressions – med and tek judges get to increase their specialist skill by 3d3. Specialist judges pay the price though – if they want to increase any other skill then they’re limited to 1d6. Psi-judges can increase their psi-skill by 2d3 (the only type of judge who can increase their psi-skill) and take a heavier hit on other skills – they can only increase them by 1d3. As the special abilities won’t come in to play until a skill reaches 40 or more, I think it would be some time before our test judges got to choose an ability. The judge gets one ability per 10 points in a skill up to the maximum of 100 points (so you’d have seven abilities relating to each skill though some abilities can be taken twice to double the advantage). The abilities look to (generally) act as bonus actions – they don’t affect the amount of actions that a judge can take in their phase, up to a maximum of five special abilities per combat round. Each characteristic (not strength) gets eight or nine abilities in the basic game, except for Psi Skill, which gets 13. My very first exposure to this game was an article in an issue White Dwarf the following year which contained further abilities. As with my coverage of White Dwarf issue 36 I’ll cover that issue in due course (and I suspect that there will be one or two names familiar to readers of the current – 2021 – progs in the same issue). I notice that one of the example perps has the same surname as a White Dwarf comic artist – Kind-Hearted Critchlow. Yes, that’s a reference to the same Carl Critchlow who will eventually work on 2000AD. The Initiative-based abilities are concerned with improving reactions and the like. Out of the eight one can be taken twice – so any two judges reaching the end of a long campaign with maximum advancements would have a no more than two initiative abilities differentiating them. Combat abilities next and out of the eight, two can be stacked while one is only available once the judge reaches 60 in the skill (hand-to-hand self-defence). Next up is Drive Skill and none of these skills can be doubled but there are nine skills to choose from (to the hypothetical maxed-out judge will essentially be choosing two skills to not take). The skills themselves are what you’d expect in a game based on a comic featuring lots of lawmaster action. The technical section has eight abilities, three of which can be doubled up. Using computers, analysing chemicals, fixing or disabling mechanisms. You get the idea. Street skills get eight abilities, two of which can be doubled – they concern life on the streets, the impression made on the local populace, local area knowledge, use of narks. A couple of the skills involve detection of things the player would not otherwise be aware of – introducing the concept of the GM making secret rolls to this game. Finally we get to psi skill based abilities. Seeing as progression is so difficult for psi-judges it’s only fitting that they get thirteen skills to choose from. None can be doubled up and only one psi-skill can be used each round. Unusually the first one up is ‘animate corpse’ – we’ve not seen any zombie makers in the pages of 2000AD yet (well, other than some of the creatures the Mutant came up with). Some of the rest of the skills are similar to what has been shown in 2000AD, but overall I’m not sure it’s an accurate reflection of what we’ve seen judges doing. Still, I know for a fact that there’s a White Dwarf article expanding what Psi-judges can do coming in 1986, so I’ll reappraise the situation then. I think I’ll have to artificially create a psi-judge to test some of these mechanics out… I wouldn’t expect player judges to be able to make precognitions like Judge Feyy made, but notable by its absence is the very first ability that we saw a psi-judge use – Anderson picking up latents from the recently deceased (though that wasn’t a typical use of the ability).
7. A Judge’s Guide to MC-1 – after a rules-heavy chapter, this one is wholly fluff, giving the kind of details you’d pick up when carrying out a prog slog (but the more casual reader might have missed, including those who don’t have complete collections or access to the current 2021 range of Case Files). Anything interesting jump out? A few distances are given – Mega-City One is a thousand miles wide, east to west (at its widest point). Brit-Cit is called Brit-Cit One. The History of Mega-City One is presented. Without comparing I wouldn’t say for sure, but I suspect it would take as its basis the Unofficial History of Mega-City One from the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special 1983. About halfway through and I’m more sure that it took that history as a basis, though has added a few bits. With the timeline out of the way it’s time to delve in to the governance of the Mega-City – and curiously it starts with the Triumvirate of the Chief Judge, Deputy Chief Judge and Chief Accountant, who rule in conjunction with the (civil) Mayor. Blocks have representatives, sectors have delegates and somewhere along the way a council is formed (but not the Council of Five, which isn’t mentioned anywhere). Games Workshop takes us on a lightning tour of the fourth estate – newspapers and tri-d TV, before moving on to infrastructure, including post and banking before returning to transport. Apparently the mopad population of Mega-City One has reduced from 18 million two pages earlier to 11 million on this page…
Power Tower gets a mention, along with solar power (from the sounds of it the top parts of city-blocks are most likely to be powered by the sun’s rays). Weather Congress and Atmosphere Control stations also get look-ins before the narrative finally devotes a few sections to those who live in the Mega-City – the citizens. Or rather, the citiblocks as over half a page of fairly densely packed text concerns citiblocks including the recently introduced orbital space condominiums. This even includes a note on the follow-up story where slummies are taken to space (as seen in High Society). The continuity geek in me can finally relax as we’re definitively told that the current game year is 2108 at the end of this section! The life of the average mega-citizen actually gets a look-in in the next section, A Life of Leisure, which extrapolates from the glimpses we’ve had of everyday life in the mega-city from such stories as Cityblock and Unamerican Graffiti. Sports, Crazes and Wars takes the reader through a lightning quick tour of PinBoing®, Shuggy, Jetball and Inferno as well as Bite Fights and Robot Baiting. Crazes will be familiar to avid readers, culling them from the pages of the prog and Daily Dredds except for a couple which I think have been invented just for the RPG – bio-transfers (moving vid-pictures on the skin) and painting vehicles fluorescent green at traffic lights. Mention is made of futsies, leapers, sponts and muties, before moving on to paragraphs on Talking Apes, Aliens and Troggies.
This may be a Judge’s Guide to Mega-City One, but that doesn’t mean it can’t travel out to The Cursed Earth which apparently contains sentient mutant plants (don’t think we’ve seen those) and steaming radioactive swamps. There’s also a flying visit (pun not intended, but I’ll leave it there anyway) to Luna-1 Moonbase rounding out this section.
8. A Glossary of MC-1 Slang – you probably don’t need too much description to work out what this section is about – it’s a dictionary of some of the words which have arisen from the previous eight or nine years worth of Dredd stories, including judicial terms (A&A = aiding and abetting; S&S = stop and search), places (Andean Conglom – pretty sure this is Conurb in the comics; Undercity), products (Umpty Candy; polypropylop). I looked it up – I was wrong, it is the Andean Conglom in the comics. Skimming through the glossary, can I find anything that is made up for this game? I’m not sure if AGC / Anti-Gravity Chutes have been given a specific name before. A few terms seem like variants on what I’d consider more familiar words – batgliding gets called batting, cits are called civos. Meat-wagons are described as Justice Department ambulance(s) – I’d always taken them as being specifically for carting away the dead – surely med-wagons are the ambulances (though maybe this term hasn’t been used in the prog yet)? Someone in Games Workshop really likes the song Love Like Blood by Killing Joke, as the band name, song title and a line from the song (“cut the rose in full bloom”) appear in the background of a picture illustrating the entry for psycho-cube. Can’t remember seeing Skankerie (fashionable night-club) or Slug Rock (music played by Uglies) before.
And that’s the Judge’s Manual. I’m not sure how useful it would be for a complete novice to the world of Judge Dredd, as even in the late eighties (when I first got my hands on a copy of this publication) I’d have been very familiar with almost all of the source material – those bits I was missing out on would have to wait until I completed my collection of progs in the mid-nineties. I don’t think there’s quite enough in here to run the game – unlike modern copies of Dungeons & Dragons, for instance, where the Player’s Handbook provides enough to play, with the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual released months later and providing more background. Which I realise is a bit of a pointless comparison as the Judge’s Manual came in the same box as the Game Master’s Book (which I think should have been called the Judge Master’s Book).
Speaking of which…
After the colour Terry Oakes cover and a splash page featuring a Mike McMahon King of the Streets giant Dredd, we get some credits! The game was designed by Rick Priestley and was developed by Marc Gascoigne with additional material by Albe Fiore, Ian Marsh and Tony Watkins. I have no idea what any of that really means, so I’m going to assume it was designed by Rick and Marc and that the other three were responsible for writing a lot of the text that we end up actually reading. Amongst the thanks and playtesters is a reference to Jason Kingsley (presumably a playtester? It doesn’t go in to detail) – making this the first published connection between one of the Kingsley brothers and the publication that their company Rebellion now own. Rick Priestley also had a hand in designing the snappily-titled Warhammer The Mass Combat Fantasy Role-Playing Game (which split in to Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer Roleplay) and is currently co-owner of Warlord Games (who are current holders of the 2000AD miniatures / miniature games licence). I don’t have a copy of the original edition of Warhammer, which tried to combine wargaming and roleplaying in one system, though I do have a 1989 copy roleplay system of the 1992 edition of the battle system so can discern where some of the mechanics have similarities. As there have currently been four different Judge Dredd roleplaying games, two of which were from the same publisher, I tend to differentiate them by the rulesystem they were based on – so we have Judge Dredd The Roleplaying Game (Warhammer or WFRP, from Games Workshop), Judge Dredd (D20, from Mongoose), Judge Dredd (Traveller, also from Mongoose) and finally Judge Dredd & the World of 2000AD (WOiN from EN Publishing). As an aside, when Warhammer 40,000 was being designed, part of the brief was that the other sci-fi miniatures that Citadel was producing at the time could be used in the game (even if not entirely officially). So if you think Warhammer 40K arbiters are a bit like judges, there’s a reason for that (and daleks appear as exterminators).
1: Introduction – I just said that I didn’t think the Judge’s Handbook had quite enough to play the game, however, this intro seems to think it does, though maybe it just doesn’t consider the Game Master as playing, rather running the game. As pretty much every core roleplaying book for the past four and a half decades has done, this one introduces the reader to the concept of roleplaying games, because any rulebook will be somebody’s first RPG. Using These Books It encourages the GM to restrict access to the Judge’s Manual in certain circumstances, as in real life the judge wouldn’t have access to a reference manual. Which I feel is a little unfair, as the players haven’t spent fifteen years at the Academy, like the characters have… There are admonishments about meta-gaming (players using information that the characters wouldn’t have). The writer of this section suggests that players not read this book, but if they do then really don’t read the two adventures. My original intention when planning on covering the RPG in this blog was to actually run the adventures, maybe at a comic convention, but circumstances in 2020 and 2021 have put a bit of a damper on that plan. I might still do this some day, so I’ll try to be vague when I get to those sections, in case my potential players are reading this blog. The Game Master contains the concepts of scenarios (in a single session) which tie together to form a campaign (over multiple sessions) and is joined by the other standard of core rulebooks – an example of play (though I’m a little surprised this wasn’t in the Judge’s Handbook). Because I like spotting the references, I had to try to work out who the example judges were named after – Judges Barrie, Edmondsen, Mayall and Psi-Judge Ullman. Edmondsen and Mayall were pretty obviously named after Ade Edmondsen and Rik Mayall, who would have been well-known from the Young Ones, while Tracey Ullman was known (to me at least) for being one third of Three of a Kind. Barrie confused me, as I knew Chris Barrie was part of the voice talent behind Spitting Image (you can recognise his voice if you listen carefully) but as far as I’m concerned wasn’t famous in his own right until Red Dwarf a few years after this was published. Turns out that Chris, Ade, Rik and Tracey all appeared on Saturday Live (and related shows Friday Night Live and Saturday Night Almost Live which is when I started watching). Anyway, enough of that tangent. The example showcases typical dialogue between GM and players and even manages to sneak in a reference to visual representation at the end – I wonder where players could get maps, floor plans and model figures? Perhaps we should ask Games Workshop, circa 1985? (Warlord are the go-to company for 2000AD figures in 2021). Tools of the Trade starts with Dice – using the term polymorphic (we tend to say polyhedral in the 21st century) and mentioning a few GM tricks (unexplained dice rolls to build tension, secret rolls to keep success or failure a mystery and use of dice to randomise direction and targets) before getting to Other Equipment and slipping in an out-and-out plug for Citadel Miniatures. Game Mastering reminds the GM that they’re a referee, rather than playing against the players and Starting Play and Preparations give a few tips such as preparing for the first sessions by rolling up characters and playing through a few mock fights. Running A Game is a collection of the kind of GM tips that you still get in articles, podcasts and videos to this day (how to guide players to the interesting parts of adventures, the mix of game mechanics, storytelling and atmosphere, not neglecting any players and, in Getting Tough that bedrock of dungeon-crawling – resource management – i.e. not allowing the player characters to call in support at the drop of an umpty wrapper! There’s also a little guidance on what to do in the case of character death – if they’re dead through their own stupidity, let them die, but if they played well then give hints to their comrades that there might be a chance to save their lives before they bleed out. Designing Scenarios is another stalwart of RPG books (though it should be noted is noticeably absent from some) and apart from some general advice gives a run-down of some of the usual types of scenario – character-driven or tactic-led before getting in to Judge Dredd territory by taking inspiration from characters and situations that can only be gleaned from the pages of 2000AD. Settings is very brief, though promises more detail later in the book (Chapter 5, to be exact) but basically highlights that Mega-City One is like a modern city but larger and weirder. Oh, and it’s fine to make up some details as you go along, but make sure you make a note of what you’ve made up! Encounters mainly concentrates on nonplayer characters, though it’s only one paragraph long so again advises more detail later in the book (this time Chapters 4 and 7). The Plot outlines two types of plotting – the first everything revolves around the PCs (things only happen once the player-judges are present) while the second is timeline-led – if the PCs get to a location late , or don’t turn up at all, the events still occur. The book doesn’t prescribe that a scenario should use one or the other technique, in fact suggesting scenarios could include a mixture of the two. The Climax is pretty self-explanatory, though also encourages erstwhile GMs to not worry about making mistakes.
2: Getting Started starts with a chunk of a page from Judge Minty and heads in to the job of a Game Master, beginning with how to guide players through Character Creation. A few methods of dealing with players who rolled low scores are detailed (adding points or re-rolling three scores) before discussing limits on Characteristics and skills. Humans have a strength limit of 3, while a Tyrannosaurus Rex has a limit of 7. You might think the section titled Equipment goes over how to use equipment in the game, but in actuality much of it gives ideas on how to stop the judges using some of the most powerful items in their arsenals (scatter innocent mega-citizens to confuse the heatseeker and either get the judges away from their heavily-armed lawmasters, or be prepared to lose a lot of henchmen to the cyclops laser). Playing Characters suggests that “playing in character, and within the restrictions of The Law, will not come easy to first-time rolegamers”. If the role-playing groups I’ve been in are anything to go by then playing within the restrictions of The Law will be quite the challenge for experienced roleplayers as well! The writer also thinks that “some will play the game exactly as they would a game of chess, moving figures around the tabletop and incessantly rolling dice” – I don’t know where the writer learnt to play chess, but it didn’t involve rolling dice when I learnt! Back on track, the writer points out some of the ways that a game of Judge Dredd is different to hack’n’slash games – the PCs are policemen, not executioners – using forensics, clues, informers and the like. Supervising Combat elaborates on a few of the rules detailed in the Judge’s Manuals, starting with Timing. I’m still not convinced about how wieldy phases are in actual use, particularly as they can change during combat (as characters are injured). As I said earlier, I’d have to actually put it in to practice to see how practical it is in use. Challenge & Surrender re-iterates that the PCs are judges and should be trying to apprehend perps, not murder them (like the average RPG party). To help with this some rules are given for perps surrendering. There are quite a few sections here, as follows: Weapons Combat; Injuries & Healing; Damage to Equipment; Damage to Robots; Throwing Missiles; Hand-To-Hand Combat; Special Cases; Handling Other Actions. I won’t go in to detail, though have used some of the info to put together a flow-chart, which I’m pretty sure I’ll need if I ever get to run this game. The narrative assures me that “it really is easier than it sounds here”. That’s good! One sub-section that jumped out to me was Lawmaster Kick – this just seems to reflect an action that you often see in the strip, showing that the creators of this game are familiar with the source material. Handling Other Actions includes Movement, Sneaking, Searching, Hidden Items, Traps, Driving, Riding & Flying, Lifting & Throwing and Locks & Doors. One part of this particularly stands out – the protagonist in the example of a car chase (well, lawmaster/hover car chase) is one Judge Kingsley. Who would have guessed that fifteen years later the inspiration for this judge would own 2000AD? There’s also a nice line where “a well-aimed pistol shot, however, is usually reserved for Judges and other thugs!” – and this is before some of the out-and-out thuggery stories have appeared in the prog! But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Firefight – On a hot summer’s night In the Introduction to the manual, this was described as a very basic shoot-out, designed to ease players (and the GM) into the rules. Slight spoiler in case you’re a player and might play this adventure some time – though not much of a spoiler as it’s really just to put the rules in to practice. Speaking of which, you’ve (hopefully) learnt enough of the rules to exercise them and the extensive use of Steve Dillon’s artwork from The Wreckers story make it clear where the inspiration for this try-out lies. Honestly, the artwork takes up about a third of the four pages, and half of one of those pages is a reproduction of the roadway side of the map. It’s designed for a team of judges fresh out of the Academy, preferably without any Special Abilities. The game master is advised to provide three perps for every judge. I’m sure I remember reading somewhere a judge (other than Dredd) is considered to equal the firepower of ten perps, so I guess there’s a steep learning curve once the rookies have graduated. There’s quite a bit of box-text which “you should read out to your players”. I don’t like this about published RPG scenarios. Even if you’re a trained voice actor those present tend to drift off when you’re reading something out. Remember that tunnel in the original story? This one uses that to make sure that the fresh graduates can’t radio control for help. And it’s a high-speed highway leading in to the tunnel so they can’t slow down to try to get back-up first either. Anyway, here’s the mild spoiler bit – the judges have been told in the preamble that Weather Congress have booked in some fog for the sector and when they chase a speedster through the tunnel they’ll come out against that bank of fog. They’ll also come up against the wreckers, who are taking advantage of the fog. The end of this four-page scenario contains some advice on handing out XP (experience points). Which leads in to the next chapter…
3: Expanding the Adventure launches in to a description of how Campaigns can expand a single adventure into a series of adventures, tied together by the same characters. Starting a campaign has the usual advice about starting small before growing the campaign (because intricate, galaxy-spanning campaigns planned to run over months or years never end up actually getting started). Fleshing Out advises to start a campaign in one sector and teases a later part of the book (Chapter 5 – Sectors & City Blocks) as well as approaching characters in the same way as campaigns – don’t spend ages outlining intricate characters, just start simple and (if they survive) they’ll grow in to more rounded characters. All the kind of advice that most GM tips articles, podcasts and videos will give you nowadays. Of course, most GM advice is aimed at GMs of fantasy role playing games, but the advice to flesh out recurring characters such as a tavern keeper or city guard have their equivalent here in the local Sector Chief or Pat-Wagon crews. Interestingly the text suggests that the judges (freshly graduated, remember?) should have their own apartments, like the increasingly anachronistic Dredd home situation, rather than sleeping in dormitories as we saw in the Anderson Psi Division debut story. As somebody fairly well-read (and watched or listened in the case of podcasts, etc) on running games, it’s interesting to see this advice presented thirty five years ago though without using the terms I’m used to – including balancing adventures to avoid Total Party Kill and how some “more juvenile players” just want to fight everything. On Patrol provides the perfect way to start a scenario, i.e. going about a normal patrol where anything could happen, either because the judges are passing an incident, or because they’re ordered to by Sector Control. This section also contains the age-old advice to deal with unexpected decisions from players by making it up on the spot (but noting any decisions so you can keep it consistent in future). The Wandering Monsters or Random Encounters table gets an equivalent in the Random Incidents section though the suggestion is to drop in planned encounters “if the team have not suffered any damage or injury yet”. Next up: Moving in the Mega-City starts with a suggestion in The Roads of MC-1 to actually map out the various roads and walkways in a sector (not all of them – necessarily!) though then reigns it back a bit in the next section suggesting that Travelling Times can be used instead of actually plotting routes through the “explosion in a synthetti factory”. After Incidentals (similar to Random Incidents, above – in fact so similar I’m not sure why it’s here) we get on to Walking the Beat where a more detailed attitude towards the environment is encouraged, as the judicial player characters will be covering less distance and spending longer examining their whereabouts (if only to look for evidence of wrong-doing by mega-citizens). As ever, it’s always fun to see how computer use is represented from the age before everybody interacted with multiple computers every day (whether on a mobile phone, laptop, desktop, kitchen appliance, etc) and Data Use covers how to give player-judges the information they need while obfuscating non-essential info. Interestingly Accessing Data (by searching through the files) requires going to the Sector House – you specifically cannot do it from the bike computer. I’m guessing this section would be written an entirely different way now. When the Shooting Stops… is the equivalent of the ‘returning to town’ in a fantasy RPG – the bits outside of the adventuring and fighting, starting with Sentencing (don’t sentence a futsie to time in the iso-cubes!) and continuing with descriptions of a number of Justice Department facilities, including Iso-Blocks, Holding Tanks, The Vaults, Psycho Blocks and the like. In amongst all this we get statblocks for tech-judges, judge-warders, more tech-judges (slightly higher stats for the interrogation staff and different special abilities) and med-judges. Oh, and even more tech-judges, this time the ones working in Forensics. Reflecting the development of the game, this features some elements taken from recent stories, such as the snuffler from the previous year’s annual (the nose-shaped hovering detection drone). Experience Points – the general idea here is that judges can increase their skills or choose a special ability every time they earn 100 experience points (the book uses the term EP for experience points, but I tend to use the shorthand XP instead, so I’ll use that from now on). As judges aren’t intended to be able to level up at the end of every adventure, the suggested award is between 40 and 75 XP per adventure. The book suggests designing XP into the adventure from the beginning (examples: sending a dropped gum wrapper to Forensics… 7 pts; arresting Slasher McGee alive… 80 pts between all the Judges). Additional XP is also suggested for good play from the Judges, including using Mega-City slang and the best of the smart comments (recalling the punchlines that finish many Dredd tales). Setting this game apart from RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons (for instance) is that the players are Judges, not murderous dungeoneers, and XP is awarded for taking in perps alive, rather than judge defeating them at all costs (i.e. killing ’em all). XP can also be withheld when accidentally killing mega-citizens or calling in reinforcements when not necessary. On to Using Experience Points and ‘levelling up’ (there aren’t really levels in this game, but the concept is sufficiently well-known that I’m going to use the term) can only be done between adventures, i.e. not in the middle of a fire-fight! There’s a reminder that starting characters only get a special ability if they rolled a 40 or more for a characteristic in character creation – which highlights to me one of the potential weaknesses of the game. Most RPGs have a balanced party – taking D&D there might be a fighter, rogue, magic user and another class (cleric, bard, ranger, etc). The Judge Dredd equivalent would surely to be a street judge (higher on the standard fighting and street skills), a tech judge, psi judge and med judge (though perhaps the med judge wouldn’t get so much to do in a standard adventure, at least not until the fighting finishes). Abilities gives tips to the Judge Master on how to run said abilities – pointing out which ones the JM has to remember to check for, while all other abilities are the Judge’s responsibility (Sense Crime, Spot Hidden Weapon, etc). Specialist Judges is pretty self-explanatory, revealing the four divisions of Justice Department: medicine; technology; psi and accounts – wonder where the street judges and Academy of Law would fit in to that structure? Not to mention the SJS. I don’t think we’d seen much of the specialists by this point – the description of med-judges runs thus: “there will be a Red Cross flash on their sleeve bu tto all intents and purposes they will be typical Judges” (there’s something similar for med-judges). Just wait until you see some of the stuff Brendan McCarthy will come out with in the next year or two, readers from 1985! Player-Judges are encouraged to be the less specialised examples of these Judges, as the more advanced ones will a) have access to skills not available to the players and b) spend most of their time buried in their work in divisional buildings – i.e. not going out and about having adventures. The RPG gives a simple org-chart of Justice Department, though while showing the progression from Cadet to Rookie to Judge, skips Senior Judge (which I’m sure has been used in the strip by this point), straight to Judge-Tutor, SJS, Sector Chief and Divisional Chief. Seeing as I’ve mentioned all the others, might as well complete the set with Chief Judge. Missing from this is the Council of Five and Deputy Chiefs. The JM is encouraged to move advanced characters (who have all the special abilities you could shake a daystick at) to desk jobs – something Dredd continues to resist! If you don’t want to start the players off with rookies then the other alternative given is a special mission. Contrary to my expectations, this isn’t a Cursed Earth or Judge Child-style quest, but a six month tour of duty to Atlantic Division (Customs and Immigration rather than Atlantis City, which is due to appear in the strip in about a year), Circuit Judge (of the New Territories), Lunar Judge or the Wally Squad. I spoke too soon – after those secondments, the book mentions the very quests I was expecting! The Sector House – the base of ‘all Judges’ (not mentioned, but this won’t include all those specialist judges based in Psi-Div, etc). Justice Central is declared to be the Sector House for Sector 44. Assuming this means the Grand Hall of Justice then I object. If you look on the judges as a political or a policing entity then this doesn’t correlate with the real world – I work just down the road from the Palace of Westminster, itself just around the corner from No 10 Downing Street and New Scotland Yard (the Ministry of Justice is also nearby). These are all governing bodies, but they don’t administer the local area of Westminster. For that you’d go to Belgravia Police Station (for policing) or Westminster City Hall (for political and social stuff). Rant over, on with the book! Quick instructions are given on creating a Sector House, though despite it being the base of operations for player-Judges, they’re not likely to actually spend much time there. There follows a lightning round-up of characters to create for the Sector House, from Sector Chief to Chief Medical Officer, Chief Forensic Scientist, Chief Technician to Rookies and four levels of Judges (not quite equivalent to levels in other RPGs, though starting Player-Judges are Judge-1s. Other Judges We’re then taken on a run-down of back-up units, detailing vehicles, crew and equipment (though I have a feeling we’ll get more detailed descriptions of some of vehicles and equipment later on in the book).
4: Perps & Crimes Have I mentioned that – in role-playing circles – the initialism NPC stand for non-player characters? Thinking about it I should probably throw together a glossary as there’s going to be quite a gap between the Games Workshop RPG and the next offering – something like fifteen years if memory serves. Anyway, this section follows the lead of The Sector House and Other Judges from the previous chapter by covering some basic info on the mega-citizens, various types of perp and other characters that the PCs will encounter. Before it gets in to that the narrative reiterates that the GM isn’t the PCs enemy, they just present the situations that the judges find themselves in. The statblocks for the types of NPC feature a new stat – the surrender modifier (given as a percentage, either positive, negative or ‘None’). Poorly thought out statistics arise in the section on Taps (muggers) as apparently there’s 7 incidents every second – that would mean that in a city of 400 million people, there are 220 million tapping incidents every year. Not sure those figures quite add up… After a bit about weapons (including a time- and effort-saving idea to roll for when a weapon runs out of ammo, rather than track each individual weapon) there’s a reminder to have your perps use the equipment that they’re carrying. But then we’re in to the fun section – the contents of which crop up on social media every now and then, and will be revisited in later attempts at a Judge Dredd role-playing game. It’s the section on Mega-Crime – i.e. the Mega-City One penal code It’s got sections (i.e. Section 1 – Homicide, Section 2 – Assault) and grades (Grade 1 – murder of Justice Department official, 2 – murder of mega-citizen, 3 – murder while under influence of Future Shock Syndrome, 4 – manslaughter while committing another crime), as well as a bit on sentencing guidelines if the perp is only guilty of attempting, conspiracy or accessory to commit an offence (i..e. what percentage of the full sentence to hand out). Other than giving a rudimentary shape to the infamous Mega-City One statute books in the 20 sections contained in this section, each entry also has some flavour giving ideas on how to handle the depiction of crime as well as the standard sentencing. I’ve gone through all 20 Sections of the penal code and nothing stands out as worthy of comment (great work done on it though – just not much I can say about it). As a matter of interest, most of the crazes that feature in Dredd stories would probably fit in to Section 11 – Public Nuisance. Section 15 – Security Offences is mainly concerned with espionage, though does have an interesting line that “the Judges keep few important secrets from the citizens”. There are a few upcoming stories which will put paid to that statement, including The Man Who Knew Too Much and John Cassavetes Is Dead. Guess censorship isn’t in full swing in the Mega-City yet… Now that existing crimes have been dealt with, time to go on to new crimes with a few tips on how to introduce crazes and crimes (because it doesn’t usually take long for Justice Department to criminalise or restrict a craze if it goes on for long enough). Sponts, narks, victims and bystanders also get a few paragraphs.
5: Sectors & City Blocks In common with many roleplaying games, this section suggests starting adventures from a base, in this case a Sector House, with all early adventures taking place in the single sector, allowing the players to get used to the locations. Sectors are around 100 by 150km on average (though they have no set size) with a few inter-Sector 20-lane throughways but the majority of roads being internal highways. Some ideas are presented about rad zones and dust zones (the latter being uninhabited by humans and largely filled with automated factories). The main attraction of this chapter is the advice on designing and using City-Blocks in a campaign. While it’s often said (in the comic) that many mega-citizens never leave the block in which they were born, it’s pointed out here that not every block will be so fully-equipped to make this possible. Typical blocks are stated s between 100 to 1000 storeys high and possible three-quarters of a kilometre wide. Most of the space will be taken up with apartments though some will be given to libraries, gyms, promenade parks and schools. For those who can afford it, Con-Apts (or Conurbs) are lower-level, less crowded blocks with better quality construction. In contrast, old and ramshackle pre-Atomic War blocks and shanty towns are also covered (there’s a line about inhabitants of shanty towns saving up for rad-wagons to trek off across the Cursed earth radiation desert, but I can’t see how shanty town denizen would be able to do this). In Planning A Block we’re told the easiest way to describe what a block is like is to draw a Block Profile, including details of major features and the levels on which they appear (in the examples given, the 248 level Boris Becker Block has 15 landmarks highlighted, including penthouses, cooling units, access zipstrips, plazas, and libraries while the 70 level Wilf Grimshaw Con-Apt has 7 similar landmarks). There follows the excellent Creating A Block section, including a table on randomly creating four types of citi-block: Pre-Atomic War, Pre-Apocalypse War, Post-Apocalypse War and Con-Apt. From the tables, the smallest type would be a 10 level Con-Apt with 50 inhabitants up to a 1,000 level Post-Apocalypse War citi-block holding 150,000 mega-citizens (those are the extremes based on dice rolls, the frequency curve would tend towards the middle). One oddity seems to be that (using the tables) if a minus number is produced for the level that a feature appears on then that means it’s below the ground. I was expecting there might be service areas, sewage works, basements and the like below ground but none of the features detailed in the tables are capable of giving a negative number except for the block park in a Pre-Apocalypse War Block, which could potentially end up on level -50 in a 50 level block (the highest it could get would be 400 in a 500 level block). There’s also a section on Block Names (if lacking in inspiration, open a newspaper) before heading to Block facilities. In quick succession we get descriptions of entrance plazas, vehicle parks, promenade parks, block parks, block libraries, block schools, med-centres, shopping malls and other facilities. It might sound dry, but there are plenty of ideas for encounters (and battle spaces) suggested in these words. I hadn’t mentioned it, but the term AGC had been used quite a bit in this chapter. If it was explained in The Judge’s Manual then I’ve forgotten. Anyway, all is explained in Internal Transport as we’re guided through (in decreasing order of technical sophistication): Anti-Grave Chutes (AGCs, also known as Tubes); Moving Pavements & Ramps (also called Slidewalks and Eezilglides); Elevators; Escalators and Stairways. Access To Blocks is fairly self-explanatory (but remember this is Mega-City one, so as well as walking in to the block from the tweenblock plaza, you can also access via walkways, crosspeds, slidewalks, ramps, pipeways, zipstrips, sky-rails (zoom stations) and hoverports hundreds of levels above the ground. Non-Residential Blocks covers Commercial Blocks (Shoplexes), Crockblocks (which is a residential block, so not sure why it’s in this section), Industrial Blocks, Rehabs (again, this is residential), Segregation Blocks (another residential block). Once the outside has been decided it’s time to go Inside A City-Block. Nothing in this section is prescriptive, merely presented as things which the Judge-Master could try. Returning to the example of Boris Becker Block from earlier, a simple floorplan of floor 187 is shown and a close-up of Apartment 58 on said floor.
6: People, Places & Products I said earlier that the focus of some attention on social media is the penal code (more specifically what sentences you get for what crimes) but when a roleplaying game based on a licensed property comes out, surely the first section many will flip to is that which stats up famous characters, and that’s what appears in this section. It’s not just about the people though, also covering locations and items which have featured in the comics. With the caveat that depictions of material should be true to the source (in the example Judge Death doesn’t tend to help Old Age Citizens across Meg-Ways – though six years after this was published we’d meet Mrs Gunderson!) though ultimately the Judge-Master should add or reject at will if it makes the game more fun (standard stuff for RPG advice). The Famous & the Infamous kicks of the famous characters, beginning with the Judges, and starting right at the top with Chief Judge McGruder. I won’t list everybody featured in this blog post, largely because I’ve already put all of ’em in to a spreadsheet (along with characters featured in current licenced 2000AD roleplaying Game, Judge Dredd & the Worlds of 2000AD. You can find those characters who got their own statblock here, along with ‘classes’ (statblocks for un-named character and creature types). There’s also a tab on demographics, based on some of the figures that get thrown at us (seemingly without too much regard for if they make a whole lot of sense). The description gives a physical description of McGruder, including her bionic hand – funny how many of us long-term readers never picked up on that at the time, only noticing that she had one hand in that panel at the end of The Apocalypse War within the last couple of years! As an aside, rogue judges, malfunctioning lawmasters and the Dark Judges all appear in the Judges section. First up in the Perps section is The Angel Gang which places the captured Mean Machine Angel in a Texas City Iso-Block. Surely Mean would be in a Mega-City Iso-Block, even if Dredd and Mean were picked up by Texas City Judges after the events of Dredd Angel. Off the top of my head I’m not sure when Mean’s next appearance will be – probably in a Daily Star strip, but for higher-profile appearances? No idea – it can’t be Judgement on Gotham, can it? I seem to remember there are two or three stories at the minimum where psychologists, doctors or scientists ‘cure’ Mean, only to find their efforts were wasted. Some of the details in the descriptions aren’t entirely accurate, for instance saying that Bizmo Klux was a mass of bionic body parts due to injuries sustained during the Apocalypse War – as memory serves it was all in place before the Big A began. The perps done with we go to Other Characters, starting with Max Normal. Otto Sump’s entry features the events of Sob Story and Gunge though ends with “rumours are flying of his new business venture, due to hit the streets very soon”. As I’ve said at the top of this blog post, I’m not entirely sure when Judge Dredd The Roleplaying Game originally hit the shelves, but in my prog slog Otto is going to be returning very soon – the entry after the next one, in fact! Walter finishes the characters and we move on to Groups, from the Apocalypse War Clubs to Sponts Anonymous. Probably the most notable thing to say is that this goes in to more detail about the Freeplumbers (a parody of the Freemasons) than the comic ever did. Similarly Sponts Anonymous was apparently founded in 2105. Then on to Places of Interest beginning with the Academy of Law and ending with Weather Congress. According to this section the Alien Zoo was opened in the middle of the 21st century which suggests two things to me – firstly that alien life had been discovered in large enough numbers to support a zoo by around 2050 and secondly that the Alien Zoo will be coming up to its centenary in the present continuity in the comic (as of writing we’re currently in the year 2143 – though if it did open in 2050 then those Atomic Wars from Strontium Dog will be coming in the same year). A few things don’t ring true to me – it’s claimed that Sector 500 was nicknamed the Fleapit because of the Rad-Flea which originated from there, though I’m pretty sure it had that nickname before that. I take the Jungle (home to the apes) and the Jungle (nickname of the Sector where Rumble in the Jungle took place) to be different places, which just happened to have the same name. The complete lack of any apes in the latter story would suggest it wasn’t the same sector (and I’d imagine the apes would have some response if a bunch of juve gangs converged on their homes). Products starts with Food & Drink (primarily Munce) and Proscribed Products, the entry on Adifax featuring some panels from the next entry on this prog slog, so right up to date! The bottom of the products section features a map of The World in 2107, featuring: Mega-City Two – the Western Seaboard of the USA from Seattle down to the Gulf of California in Mexico; Texas City; Andean Conglom – centred around Lima; Mega-City One; Rio City; Black Atlantic; Brit-Cit; Ruhr Conurb – Dortumnd, Köln, Frankfurt and surrounding regions; Italian City States; East Meg 1 (Ruins) – as you might expect, this is Moscow and a lot of the surrounding area; Indo Cit – along the coast of India from Hyderabad to Kolkata and inland to Kanpur or Lucknow; East Meg 2 – Vladivostok and seemingly a chunk of modern China; Fuji Territories – Kitakyushu to Hiroshima; Nip-Cit – Tokyo, the less-said about the ‘mega-city name’ the better; Oz – technically the city labelled is the Melbourne-Sydney Conurb as the continent itself is called Oz. Appliances (Tri-D, vidphones, servo-droids), Fashions (kneepads, ugly – which mixes up the timelines as it thinks blobs came before the ugly craze – it didn’t, fashion flowers), Crock Culture and Publications (citywide newspapers, block papers and illegal hate zines) take us to Miscellaneous rounding out the chapter by focussing on all the things which didn’t fit in previous sections – such as sports, crazes and other pastimes. Smart Sweets make an appearance here, so either this game was published before the corresponding story in the prog, or I’ve messed up my timing (as I’ve said, I couldn’t work out what date it was originally published, so after the annuals and before a jumping-on prog seemed as good a place as any).
7: Other Data – This section promises to a series of lists, so I’m just going to pick out anything of particular interest. A very brief piece of advice tells Judge-Masters not to create any un-killable monsters of incurable diseases – challenge your players, but don’t make success impossible! Aliens – with a few entries culled from the Alien Zoo story this contains most aliens we’ve seen in Mega-City One, though curiously the illustration for Grall is not by ‘Emberton’ from the Nightmare Gun story but from a Games Workshop employee. We’ve not seen many in the progs (just Urk), but the game says that there are a number of renegade Kleggs still hiding out in ruined blocks and the Cursed Earth. I still like to think that the Netherworld Megapede comes from the same Nether Worlds that the warlocks hail from. By the way, the entry on the Megapede is based on a single panel in The Graveyard Shift, so the writers had to do a lot of heavy lifting here! Creatures The entry for Apes deals solely with uplift apes – I’d prefer the Planet of the Apes approach, splitting them in to gorillas, chimps and other, because gorillas are not going to have the same strength as the humble chimp. I’ll probably revisit this in the next three versions of a Judge Dredd roleplaying game! Dinosaurs make it in, with two sets of stats – one for biped carnivores and one for quadruped herbivores. That’s got me wondering whether dinosaurs can be so neatly categorised by diet though I can’t think of any quadruped carnivores… A possibly more reliable rule-of-thumb is that carnivores often have pronounced teeth and claws (with which to attack, kill and rend their prey) while herbivores have horns, ridges, tusks and spikes (to defend themselves). This applies to modern animals as well as prehistoric. Immediately proceeding from the dinosaurs are my favourite Cursed Earth critters – the dog vulture – I always check each edition of a Judge Dredd roleplaying game to see if they include stats for the animals – there’s not much to say about them as it’s pretty much all there in the name (though the wings resemble those of a bat rather than a vulture, but behaviourally they’re vultures crossed with feral canines). Disease – this section takes a departure by effectively creating a new rules system in how diseases affect their victims/hosts and how they can spread. I may have to bear this section in mind in the event that I use diseases in any roleplaying game, not just Judge Dredd, because I think most rules to randomly create a disease could probably be transplanted to other games. After roughly a page of rules, the book moves on to Sample Diseases which is what you might have been expecting earlier, the diseases are three we’re familiar with from the comics (Grubb’s, 2T(FRU)T and Lycanthropy). Equipment has a mix of equipment as used by judges, perps, mega-citizens or any combination of the above. There’s no massive surprises – one thing I thought was interesting was that the results of a pollution meter should be rolled in secret, so that the player doesn’t know how (for instance) radioactive the surrounding area is. Some bits seem dated now – the section on Tri-D holovision says there are 312 TV stations in the Big Meg. In the UK in the present day there are over 450 TV stations. In the USA there are upward of 1,750. 312 seems a very low number these days! Being a video version of 1980s telephone technology, the vid-phone section is also a bit dated in the world of mobile technology and real video chat. Mutants – as with Diseases, this starts with a general creation section. This involves a random generation table, picking a body feature (head, one ear, elbow, etc) and the mutation which affects it – absent, located on another body feature, replaced by animal equivalent, etc. Sample Mutants – unlike the three sample diseases, these are generic mutants rather than mutants which have featured in the strip. There’s a bonus section on Mutant Animals (though it basically amounts to a paragraph saying to follow the same process as for human mutants, but to use the animal Hit Location tables instead. Plants – these appear to be three original types of plant created for the game (at least I don’t recognise them from the strip). Or do I? The Bloodplant seems to match the hypnotic plant from the end of Father Earth, though I didn’t make a note of the name of said plant when I covered that prog. Second up are Puff Balls which functionally is pretty similar to Grubb’s Disease, but in plant form. Snappers are like big Venus Flytraps because you can’t have a section in a roleplaying game book on plants which don’t have Venus Flytrap-style carnivorous plants. Poison – are not to be used by judges, as this is unjudicial, but the rules are included for perps and animals. Contact poison, ingested poisons and poison gas all get a few words. As you may expect, the illustration chosen for this section is of Fink Angel, tainting a water hole with a “general purposes pizen”. As the effects are the same, contaminated food bought on the black market also appears here. A third of a page on radiation rounds out the section. It’s pretty ruthless and being caught out in a radstorm in the Cursed Earth would be a very bad idea. Robots & Droids – starting with the generic it isn’t quite as extensive as the mutant section, but includes some sample stats for general purpose robots, servo-droids (Walter), industrial robots, demolition robots (it doesn’t say so, but they feel like Heavy Metal Kids), a robodoc (description matching the classic Ron Smith robodoc), robodogs (illustration of one of Ron Smith’s rabid robodogs) and wrestling robots (Carlos’ Precious Leglock). Cyborgs – takes a similar approach as the mutant generation section, though this time the body parts are replaced by cybernetic equivalents (and depending on which body part is replaced, they may grant additional bonuses such as infra-red vision, enhanced hearing or increased speed. Vehicles starts with an expanded description of the Lawmaster including a Hit Location profile (not present in the Judge’s Manual) and more detail on how it can be used. From there the various types of hover vehicles common in Mega-City One get covered. On the Justice Department front we get H-Wagons (Hover Wagons) as a catch-all term for a number of different hovering vehicles, Pat Wagons (Patrol) the street-based standard vehicle. Weapons – the last section of the rulebook (though there is something that comes after the rules). After covering the (Lawmaster) bike cannon and Cyclops laser (as featured not just on Lawmasters, but also H-Wagons), this section moves on to the various types of weapon we’ve seen crop up in the comics, including disintegrators, fire bombs, sonic cannons and more though it’s a bit skimpy on hand-to-hand weapons.
The Ultimate Crime of Tony Thermo After Firefight, this adventure is designed to be much more involved, and to involve more than just firepower to complete. A few introductory non-combat encounter show the different ways in which Judges can deal with situations (and depending on how badly they handle it, the repurcussions from hasty actions. One of those encounters should lead to the next stage of the scenarior (and has hints on how to push the Judges to that point, if they miss out on the leads).
Too many roleplaying game rulebooks end up presenting the entire ruleset without actually giving an idea on what you actually do with them. One way to deal with this is giving an example of play near the beginning (which most games manage to do) and another is to present a scenario, usually at the end of the book. As well as the introductory Firefight, this book also has a more involved adventure. Many published adventures across a wide range of game systems and even up to the present day make a mistake – they present the adventure as if it’s a story, leaving any explanations or motives up to the end. There’s a problem with this – the only person who should be reading the adventure is the Dungeon Master, Referee, Storyteller or other variation on the term ‘Game Master’. It’s pretty important that they know what’s going on and where the adventure is going to be heading, as they’re going to have to present the plot to the other players. This 8-page adventure does a fairly good job at this as it says from the beginning where it’s going to end up, though as I’m reading it I’m unclear what the motive is going to be. On the assumption that at some point I may actually run this in the real world, and that those I run it for could conceivably read this blog post, I won’t go in to any details and shall try to keep things vague. The +item+ format, as seen most prominently in The Graveyard Shift and Sunday Night Fever opens up the adventure in the form of a briefing, which will see a lot of use from Games Workshop – it’s pretty perfect at introducing all the necessary elements in an adventure, the Judge Dredd equivalent of the village notice board or rumours table in a fantasy roleplaying game but much less forced. After a couple of the +items+ there’s some commentary from the officer in charge (hosting the briefing). As it’s right at the beginning it won’t be too much of a spoiler to say that there are twelve items, of which one concerns an explosion which destroyed a citiblock, another is about an escaped prisoner, a part of a bridge was stolen (causing traffic disruption), a hijacked jugger (juggernaut) containing a young tyrannosaur, tensions between two blocks which could erupt in to block war and more standard weather and traffic notices. It remains to be seen just how many of these are going to be relevant in this adventure, but the citiblock destroyed by a bomb looks like it’ll be the main focus by the end. Advice to the Judge-Master immediately following all this predicts what I just wrote by saying “it is quite likely that they will be trying to determine which of the Briefing reports they have just heard are red herrings”. About half way through the fifth page of this eight-page scenario the actual driving force the main events are explained. As I say, I think good scenario design should place this right at the beginning so that the Game Master knows the context of everything that takes place right from the start. At the end of the adventure the Game Master is encouraged to allot experience points according to how successful the judges were, and something I appreciate is that it specifically calls out “situation resolved” – in certain other games the focus in the rules as written is entirely on killing opponents, not resolving situations, so if you come to a non-violent resolution of an encounter you wouldn’t technically get any reward for it… Anyway, as I say, I believe that any scenario should contain a short summary of what the plot is at the beginning, including who the antagonist, what is driving them and how they intend to reach their aims. I’ll be judging (sorry Judging) any future scenarios on the same criteria.
Index It’s an index, I’m not going to say any more than that.
Regarding the 1989 reprint – a few concessions were made when squashing two books in to one. The first was for the Judge’s Manual to be printed on yellow/orange paper while the Game Master’s Book was on white (they didn’t quite match up, two pages of the former spilled over on to the white pages. A note at the beginning tells us that the numbering has been preserved “for ease of use” so that the index from the back of the GM’s book and internal references could still be used to find the correct pages. Not because it’s easier just to reprint what’s already been printed, rather than pick through it, re-numbering all the pages then? The end papers of the hardback book are taken from the Judge Dredd Floorplans: Citi-Block, but in a blue tint.
System Upgrades were “reprinted verbatim from the Judge Dredd Companion” – a welcome addition to the original text of the RPG, but still the least costly additon. Contained herein are modifications to Strength, Strength for Non-Player Characters and Revised Hand-to-Hand Combat.
Speed Kills!! by Richard Halliwell – advanced driving rules. I’ll have to check whether this is also reprinted – it touts itself as “all-new” but that might just be because it was reprinted verbatim.
Rounding off the collected edition are adverts for some of the other Games Workshop products which have popped up over time – I’ll have to remember to link them once I’ve covered them – the first full page ad is for Slaughter Margin – a supplement (read: scenario) – this uses Brian Bolland’s cover. The second is for the Judge Dredd Companion, depicted using the Christos Achilleos pic of Judge Anderson. The last of the three adverts is for Judge Dredd Floorplans: Citi-block, which I think is where I picked up my preferred spelling for cityblock / citiblock. This was a joint supplement for the JD: RPG and Warhammer 40k and as such has a Ron Smith Dredd and a space marine flanking the ad.
Tucked in to end papers of the book was (identical to the boxed set, and I know as I have both) that A2 double-sided map and an A3 sheet of characters.
Well done if you’ve read all of this – when I started my blog I was wondering how this one would go, though the world was very different five years ago and I was expecting to have a chance to run the game in real life before writing this. Hopefully one day soon this will happen.
All in all it seems a good adaptation of the source material, distinct from other games of the period in trying to stay true to the characters being played (judges, not adventures going out to ransack dungeons).
Grailpage: I tend not to go for reprint art for grailpages, so will go with Terry Oake’s painted cover. It’s a good painting and I’m glad I can safely pick it without having to choose between the numerous examples of artwork plundered by Games Workshop for the rest of the books. GW had access to the entire back catalogue of Dredd pages to choose from, including at least one image I recognise from a Titan collected edition. A quick perusal through the Judge’s Handbook alone and I spotted a few images I’ve previously picked as grailpages.
Grailquote: Judge’s Handbook: “Hands up, creep – and make sure they’re your own!”