|Interstellar war destroyed the navigation beams, leaving thousands
of planets isolated and billions of wayfarers stranded in their last ports
of call. Out here on the Medieval Rim of the galaxy, the locals don't even
know what a spaceship is. For more than eleven years, the navbeam
recievers have remained silent ... just tiny blue lights, blinking in the
darkness: NO SIGNAL.
They call this planet Vanth, and they call the starport "God City." In the old days, space merchants played the "visitors from the godly realms" routine and the locals - accustomed to sorcery, like most medievals - ate it whole. That lie is a luxury no one can afford anymore, and God City is going native, becoming as much a fantasy metropolis as anything else.
The wizards and warriors of Vanth have accepted that the "sky gods" are here to stay. The star-soldiers and space-merchants wonder if there's anything left of the galaxy they remember. In a situation like this, there's only one reasonable course of action left: make friends, form a party, and go adventuring!
Encounter Critical is an unusual free RPG from Cumberland Games & Diversions. It's by S. John Ross (Risus and Pokéthulhu and whatnot), with added illustrations (of a sort) by Dave Insel and Cody Reichenau (friends from his gaming group). But at the same time, it isn't ... This is gaming from another past, a garage-made RPG designed circa 1979 by two mythical gamer-buddies who went to the same school and listened to the same rock bands: Hank "the wordsmith" Riley and James "idea man" Ireland. It's illustrated by friends from their gaming group, the Saturday Night Dragon Slayers.
Confused? Intrigued? Vaguely horrified? The best way to explore the world of Encounter Critical is to download the game itself. You can snag the PDF from the free downloads page. You'll need Acrobat Reader (or a PDF reader of your choice) to read and print it. Go grab it; it's free and fun and Not of This Timeline!
Hoax For All of Us!
Just by finding this page, you've made your way inside an inside-joke I'm very fond of. Now that you're one of the cabal who know the secret, join us in exploring EC - and in exploring the alternate gaming history it comes from! If you're feeling really naughty, have fun passing EC off as a genuine "lost classic" to gamers who haven't heard of it yet. You'll probably go to hell for that, but hey - there'll be gamers. If that sounds like an enjoyable path to eternal damnation, you'll enjoy The Encounter Critical Mailing List! Join and download yet more free stuff (including the mysterious Encounter Critical FAQ, character sheets, the computer game, and some very awesome fan material) and meet strange gamers. And it's moderated (by the able Jeff Rients), so it won't fill your inbox with unexpected 90-post threads about how phasic Thrazar's lapels are. Which is not to say we'd never discuss it.
|Cool Encounter Critical
If you've gorged on the games and still hunger for more, you can support EC's future (and revel in its imaginary past) by indulging yourself with these shards of elemental fun available from groovy internet swag-merchants Lulu and CafePress.
Encounter Critical, the True Scientific Edition: The ultimate EC swag, a physical copy of the game that includes the entire original text and layout (printed from the clean digital masters), printed on cream stock and available in both softcover and hardcover. The cover is a full-color wraparound of the original obnoxious-orange "hero prop" scanned to create the PDF version (the hardcover has the same thing on a dust jacket, instead, with added map-flaps for a touch of cartographic class). The True Scientific Edition also features several pages of extras, including the armor table, character sheet, a design essay by S. John Ross, a guide to the anagrams hidden in the game, and even some (gasp) poetry. Perhaps best of all, there's a beautiful gallery of more cool Encounter Critical artwork by the original illustrators (Cody Reichenau, Dave Insel, and S. John) - outtakes that were drawn for the original game but that didn't squeeze in! Since you can't pry any staples from these books, each also includes single-page versions of the monster chart and map for easier reference.
The Thrazar Bumpersticker: Because CafePress sucked me in and turned me evil. Use this sticker to guide your life (and the lives of those behind you in traffic) according to Thrazar's simple but effective philosophies. Click here.
|The Saturday Night Dragon Slayers
You are not alone. I mean that in the comforting way and the scary way. Vanth has lost touch with the galaxy, but Encounter Critical keeps the lines open, meaning more EC madness for you to enjoy thanks to the game's ever-growing (and ever-shrinking, and ever-mutating, and ever-growing-again) community. Visiting these sites may expand your universe in ways you aren't medically prepared for. If it does: join the fun, and let me know so I can include your site here.
With extra thanks to Jeff Rients for assembling the original list, and to Chris Creel for creating graphics for EC bloggers to show their colors (you can snag 'em from the files section of the Mailing List). Visit all these fellow gamers, and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts.