Cut It Open And See If It Swallowed Any Gems Part 27 – Underground

The best produced, best written, bad roleplaying game ever made.

For starters, what other RPGs boast a GEOF DARROW cover? Were full colour throughout? And printed on high end glossy paper? Just as an inanimate object, Underground was better than pretty much anything else on the market.

Sorry, Ray Winninger’s Underground.

Not entirely sure why Winninger got to prefix his game. Sure, he’d written some good DC Heroes material, in particular a Watchmen adventure and the great Watchmen sourcebook. But beyond that his name didn’t mean much to me.

It came out in 1993, and it shows. I believe the original plan was for three books, each satrising a different concept of heroism, with this one taking on the American ideal, and specifically superheroes. It’s a big old allegory for the treatment of Vietnam veterans, but with super powers and big guns.

It’s Marshal Law the RPG, basically. Which is fine, as I love me some Marshal Law.

I think the other heroic ideals to be dealt with that never came to fruition were the ideal of the Teutonic Knight (there’s some sketched in background involving Germany and the Church of Scientology iirc) and some form of “Eastern Hero” (wuxia infuenced maybe?).

I can’t say for sure because I sold it a few years ago.

Despite the setting and idea of the game being right up my alley, not to mention incredibly well written, the game itself is a clunker of a rule system. I never managed to run a game, the character generation alone drove me up the wall. A friend, Barry, managed to get a few sessions out of it, before he had the PCs cross over into his D&D campaign and we forgot all about struggling with Underground.

It’s a shame, because on every other level, the writing, the art, the production, it’s a great game. Everything works together to create this game world. Except the game itself.

2 thoughts on “Cut It Open And See If It Swallowed Any Gems Part 27 – Underground”

  1. Ah ah, completely forgot about this one. Never came around to play it, either. Too bad the mechanics seems broken, but some more words about the setting would have been appreciated :)

    Do you plan to talk about SLA Industries some day ? The setting is a Gunnm’s fanboy wet dream, with some bits of Blame and Appleseed thrown into for good measure.

    1. Marshal Law the RPG is probably the best I can do since I sold the book 6 years ago.

      Never played SLA Industries so it won’t be showing up. I never really liked any “cyberpunk” games that weren’t RTG’s. And even that I have reservations about the default game world. Also SLA struck me as being full of post-Vampire decadence (Underground was probably also guilty of this).

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