Out of the Dungeon V...:|
Sandman: Map of Halaal
by Bob Buethe
You wake up on a train chugging through the desert. Your traveling companion wishes you a good morning, and asks you what time the train will arrive at its destination. You realize that you don't know the time. You don't remember your destination. You don't recognize your companion. And worst of all, you don't remember who you are!
Before you can do much to try to resolve the situation, you are drawn into a web of murder, mystery, and magic in pre-World War II French Morocco. As your adventure continues, scenes and times change, to Shakespearean England, to 1920's Chicago, to a pirate ship on the Atlantic, to a starship hurtling through space. The only constant through it all, the only thing you can be sure of, is that someone named the Sandman is trying to kill you.
This is the premise of Sandman: Map of Halaal, the 'Instant Adventure' game published by Pacesetter Games shortly before the company went belly-up some years ago. It's worth picking up, if you can find a copy at a hobby shop or convention.
You can start playing Sandman within a half hour of opening the box. The rules are that simple. Actions are either automatic, average (40% chance of success), or difficult (20%). Higher skill levels can improve the odds. Since you're playing an amnesiac, however, you don't have to waste time generating a character at the start of the game. You just 'remember' the skills you have as the game progresses. You don't have to worry about hit points, either. You just check off boxes on a Wound Chart until it indicates unconsciousness or death. (And you almost always get one final saving throw.)
The boxed set comes with four adventures, two 10-sided dice, a prop book, a set of skill cards (with some major misprints, the biggest flaw in the game), a rule booklet, and a beautifully airbrushed GM screen. The adventures do a fantastic job of setting a mood of disorientation and discomfort. Fans of Dreamscape and Quantum Leap will be immensely pleased. The player options are set out clearly enough so that the GM need only give the text one quick read-through before beginning. I think that this is one of the best games available for training new GMs, since the amount of improvisation needed is minimal, but can be adjusted to personal tastes.
Now, the down side. Sandman: Map of Halaal was intended as the first of a series of adventure packs to be released over two years. Each was to drop more clues as to the true identities of the PCs and the Sandman. The first person to solve these mysteries before the publication of the final pack was to receive a $10,000 reward. Unfortunately, Pacesetter closed up shop before the second pack went to press. I've done a lot of digging since then to find the solution, to no avail. I've discovered that the only person who knows the secret of the Sandman is Mark Acres, who recently wrote some DC Heroes modules. But I've sent four letters (with SASE) to him, in care of Mayfair Games, and have not received a response. Does anyone out there know Mark Acres? I want to bring my Sandman campaign to a satisfying conclusion!
(Originally appeared in Re:Quests!, issue #25, December 1991, p. 20-21; Mary H Kelly, editor.)
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