Disclaimer: This RPG is set to be a psychological Lovecraft horror that I wouldn’t recommend for a young audience. I think this important to point out as a lot of parents or siblings involve young people to bring them into the glorious world of roleplaying, and although it isn’t as gory nor deemed as dark as the previous RPG I wrote about, SLA Industries , it is still a psychological horror and might give the younger audience nightmares and phobias.
The Laundry is based on the novels, The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross. These novels and short stories are a series of science fiction spy thrillers that follow one particular man, who has become a field agent for the British Government Agency ‘the Laundry’. Bob Howard is a network administrator by day and a computational demonologist by night. It is set in a world where mathematics and computing can be a useful way of calling unknown cosmic horrors. It is recommended that GMs become familiar with the books, however, it isn’t entirely necessary as the rulebook is well set out and informative enough so that you could manage without them. The RPG was published by Cubicle 7 in 2010 and got Silver Winner for Best New Game ENnie in 2010. ENnies are Gen Con EN World RPG Awards that celebrate the excellence of table top RPG. They’re very prestigious, indeed.
The PC is tasked with monitoring and containing entities and phenomena that the rest of the world would deem supernatural. It has been described as a modern day Cthulhu set in Britain and gives it that bit of extra dry wit. You know, the one the British are renowned for. The tone of the RPG is psychological horror, but the rulebook has a humorous tone throughout that allows it to be good fun to read and makes the task of creating a new game or starting a new RPG less daunting.
The game uses Basic RolePlaying (BRP), a percentile- based game system where D100 is used to determine the success. D100 is achieved by using 2D10’s (2 x 10 sided dice) where 1 represents the one unit and the other the tens unit however 5 dices are needed; 1D4, 1D6, 1D8, and 2D10. Characteristics are decided using the D6 dice, even the age is decided by 17 + 2D6. Personality types can be chosen by the individual though and these add skill points to various attributes. The personality types are; Bruiser, Master, Thinker, Leader, Slacker and Nutter. Your type doesn’t just have personality types but also has professions and has additional training on top of that. This creates a very detailed character that will allow you to be ready to take on the unknown.
So you could be a 21 year old parapsychologist that is assigned as a plumber, they fix problems but probably not the way you think, who is absolutely penniless. Or you could be similar to this old man…
The creatures your PC may face are divided into 2 categories – Exonomes (demons, and entities from other universes) and Autonomes (natives of this cosmology). The book goes into great detail for the different types available and with the Autonomes discusses the biology, culture, technology, and diplomatic relations. However, I’ve given a quick overview below.
Exonomes are generally deemed as demons by most but the official policy is to call them Non-native invokees or Other-Dimensional Entities. They are classed from levels 1 to 5 and the rulebook’s rule of thumb is; Level One: Mostly harmless, Level Two: Will eat your brain, Level Three: Will eat Everyone’s Brain, Level Four: Run, Level Five: Everyone Dies, no save. These entities range from poltergeists, gremlins, hell hounds, faeries, all the way up to the Lovecraftian big guns of Umr at’Tawil and Azathoth. Autonomes are native to this universe and can be things such as; ghouls, Cthonians, Gorgons and Elder things.
However, the GM may assign you to look into anything that may have a “supernatural” element. Great Aunt Mabel’s golden necklace has gone missing and you need to find out who stole it, as it turns out the necklace has value to The Laundry. However, you could be stopping some madman summoning the nastiest thing in the universe (or any other universe for that matter) that will result in the extinction of mankind. Every day could be a new problem to solve or paperwork to file. The supplement book Laundry Files: Agent’s Handbook has several important documentation in that every agent may need, including your Sorcery License Application.
Generally, the overview of those I asked was that the game was enjoyable and the dry wit made the dark RPG funny too. Although, some felt the humour made it less dark but I personally would disagree. I think in dark times humour is needed to make it noticeable just how dark a situation is. Personally, the BRP systems can make it easier to use for beginners as the characteristics are determined by the role of the dice yet it can leave some people feeling as though they would like more control over the characteristics. A friend of mine felt it helped him become his childhood hero Agent Mulder from the X-Files just for a few hours a week. Another said it could be much darker than gory RPs as some of the scenes unsettled him at what possibilities could be out there in the unknown, but that was mainly because he had to deal with cultists who were adamant on setting snakes on him while they summoned greater demons. My brother enjoys the game thoroughly.
Some would tut and disagree as I say this but I think this RP would suit more horror fans, especially Lovecraft horror fans, but also supernatural including fans of the TV Series such as Supernatural or The X-Files. In fact, I’m a fan of both Supernatural and X-Files and that is what made it appeal to me.
It could be a good RPG for those who are new to the scene as it takes advantage of the years put into developing the core system, and the rulebook is light-hearted, easy to follow, and there aren’t many limitations.