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21 Plots (2nd Edition)

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue.

21 Plots. John Watts, Wendy Watts, Larry Guffy, Tony Hicks.
Independence Games https://independencerpgs.com/
26pp., PDF or Softcover

So I’d just finished the review of 21 Plots Go Forth, and I was uninspired, as I’m sure you could tell, but I was asking myself “are all the rest of the 21 Plot books really like this?”, “Am I being overly harsh?” So I thought I’d look at their first one and see if they were getting better or worse though the series.

Editor’s Note: the URL in the footnote in the PDF is incorrect, and leads to my own review of the first edition of this product. The link here leads to the intended review. The cover shown here is from prior to the renaming of the company.

Now … who knew? One of the things I pointed out in the review of 21 Plots Go Forth about Patron Encounters in general was that doing less than six options I thought was lazy and I quote “If you only give me 3 and the first one is “all is as it seems, and nothing happens” on someone turning up and paying 10% more for their passage because they want to get off world quickly. That’s not a Patron encounter that’s just a passenger” Well. Turns out the first Patron Encounter in 21 Plots is just this!! Father turns up for passage for his boy willing to pay 10% extra, first option is nothing happens …

However; having said that the other 5 options actually give me ideas on how I might use this encounter. I’m not giving anything away because the first Paton Encounter is in the full size preview, so you can read this yourself. I’d probably use a couple or even three of the options together, e.g., the boy is a delinquent, he witnessed a crime and has thugs looking for him and his Uncle doesn’t want anything to do with him when he gets to the next system. Now I’m not thinking of running with just this as the adventure, but adding this in as a side encounter as a complication along the way of the real adventure. The kid being a delinquent during Jump to annoy the crew and other passengers, the thugs looking for him are a complication to whatever should really be happening at the starting system and the Uncle in the next system causing complications for the PCs wanting to do something else.

So this is what I want from a Patron Encounter. Something I can get my teeth into, and spark ideas from that can take me and my players into different directions. I’ve already written a paragraph about it without even trying. I know how I can use it and it’s going to bring variety to the table, with only a little additional preparation. No wall of text, no setting specificity, straight in with options that I can use. Champion! Way better that the stuff in 21 Plots Go Forth and I’m only on the first one!

Moving on the next few are like the first. The first option is “nothing happens” which is a shame because there should be an unwritten rule in Patron encounters that there is an option 0 which is “nothing happens” … that aside, they continue along the lines of the first. There are options that I can use, and there are ways that I can think of using them. Some of them are side encounters to add complications to what the PCs are really doing, while one or two could actually be adventures.

Continuing through them, the odd one has some setting specificity which can be ignored, and there are a couple which are standard stuff such as “distress signal in the outer system that turns out to be pirates” … There are one or two that are just nonentities, but in general they’re pretty good. Through reading them if one option was a nonentity, the next combined with the last encounter being put together could create an adventure. Through most of them I was thinking how they could be used, how I could integrate them to make something even more interesting. Once or twice I started to run with them thinking about how the adventure would progress and working through what came after.

I know I’m going to have to do some work on them. They are Patron Encounters so that’s par for the course. They aren’t evocative, but they do the job. They provide ideas. They inspire and they may take you somewhere you and your players may not have been before. A few of them are duds but out of the 21 I thought I could probably use 12 to 15 or so in ways the authors hadn’t imagined, but then that’s all right because that’s doing their job.

21 Plots is about $6 (PDF) from DriveThruRPG. The preview gives you the first Patron Encounter as mentioned previously and this shows you the flavour of the others, which is what you want in a preview. You want a flavour of what you are buying. Value for your hard earned gaming cash? Well, compared with 21 Plots Go Forth just hugely better. No fluff, no (little) specificity, more interesting. Hands down better. In fact I’ve already made notes to use some of these. More of this is what I’m after in Patron Encounters. Unfortunately it suggests that they get worse though the 21 Plots… series. I’ll have to look at a couple more to find out.