D&D 5E [Let's Read] Rambo Cinematic Adventures


log in or register to remove this ad


sigfried

Adventurer
I've been consistently impressed with Everyday Heroes' approach to design...

I am curious how this work will overlap with Everyday Heroes' announced military sourcebook, since it seems they cover broadly similar topics.
Thanks Sparky!

There is defiantly some overlap between the book. Rich (the producer for Military Heroes) is using some of the rules and ideas from Rambo for that book, but Military Heroes is much more exhaustive than Rambo, covering other time periods and diving into much more detail about military life in multiple branches of service and in armed forces across the globe.
 


Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Thanks Sparky!

There is defiantly some overlap between the book. Rich (the producer for Military Heroes) is using some of the rules and ideas from Rambo for that book, but Military Heroes is much more exhaustive than Rambo, covering other time periods and diving into much more detail about military life in multiple branches of service and in armed forces across the globe.
Does it tell me how to build my own war zone? Spoiler warning: this will determine whether I buy the book or not...

@Libertad - this is a fantastic review, man. I reread it tonight and found like three things I missed on the first run through. Excellent attention to detail, as always!
 
Last edited:

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Thanks Sparky!

There is defiantly some overlap between the book. Rich (the producer for Military Heroes) is using some of the rules and ideas from Rambo for that book, but Military Heroes is much more exhaustive than Rambo, covering other time periods and diving into much more detail about military life in multiple branches of service and in armed forces across the globe.
so just how broad will the Military Heroes book go? - could I for instance follow Lapulapu into the Battle of Mactan?
 

Libertad

Hero
BPbOv3V.png

A funny aside, monkeys stealing military equipment in Panama was apparently a real thing, if going by anecdotal stories of veterans on Reddit.

For anyone who can't see Reddit:

MearihCoepa said:
Not my story, but a cool SGM had story time and told about his time as a young PFC in the canal zone in the 90s.

Monkeys are attracted to the green NVG glow and since they didn't auto shutoff when they were flipped up back in those days, it was like asking to have them snatched. A troop of monkeys descended and attacked his patrol and stole a few sets of NVGs off the helmets and the panicked SAW gunner tossed his MG and in the fray thought the monkeys stole the MG and when he screamed the monkeys stole the MG, the Panamanians went apeshit and opened fire in a jungle death blossom of panic to keep from being mowed down by a rogue simian.

Probably the funniest animal story I've ever heard so figured I'd share.

Wb5uXmo.png

Act III: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama! begins when a group of a dozen Special Forces soldiers show up in several Humvees. Colonel Samuel Trautman, Rambo’s former commanding officer, is leading them and introduces himself to the PCs, noting that they must be part of Colonel Barrigan’s task force. He lays down some hard-hitting news: the first is that Col. Barrigan lied, that Larry is not a CIA agent and that the two brothers were part of a criminal conspiracy. Col. Barrigan has been arrested stateside. But Larry can still be of use: US intelligence discovered that a Panamanian politician and associate of Larry’s known as Simón Villalobos has been cutting deals with the Soviets before going into hiding. Larry was supposed to meet a Soviet spy on the CS Lugus, a ship in the Panama Canal, where he’d learn where to find Villalobos. The rest of the US military has orders to kill Larry on sight, and if the Soviets suspect that Larry is being tailed the trail to Villalobos will go cold.

Thus, the PCs have a new mission: if they have Larry Barrigan with them, he will supposedly be taken into custody (what happened to “kill on sight?”), and the PCs will spring him out of jail and take him to the CS Lugus to discover Villalobos’ whereabouts. But if the Panamanian Defense Forces have already taken Larry, then one of the PCs will have to pretend to be him. Trautman will give them an emergency radio complete with codenames for communication, and Larry, real or fake, will be handcuffed in a Humvee transport and taken to a temporary camp of soldiers somewhere in the jungle. Although the soldiers are technically “relaxing” they do have armed patrols and shifts, and Larry will be held in a concrete building. Luring the guards in front of the building away will be difficult, as the front doors are never unattended; they will signal to others to take their place should they need to leave. Even in the event of using explosives, roughly half the soldiers in camp will check it out while the other half maintain the perimeter. But there is a temporary blind spot by a window on the building’s side where PCs have 30 seconds (or 5 rounds) to get in, break Larry out, and head on down to a nearby motorboat in which to escape. If the PCs are spotted at any point fleeing with Larry, soldiers will fire at them for 3 rounds, with an increasing number of soldiers taking shots on the second and third rounds which can end up being a lot of attacks: the book estimates up to 19 total by the third round. The subsequent encounter is a chase scene where a group of Navy SEALs in an inflatable motorboat rush after the party, where each chase round has a unique potential complication or hazard.

If the PCs rescued the real Larry, he will thank them for their help and suggest going off on his own, explaining that the Russians at the ship will be suspicious of anyone they don’t recognize to be “Yankee soldiers.” He has a conveniently-placed motorcycle nearby while the PCs follow him in their boat. At this point Trautman will contact them via the special radio, saying that they have new intel that the Soviets are now hostile to Larry (all in code) and that they must prevent him from meeting or get him out safely. They’ll still receive the same message before they reach the ship if a PC is posing as Larry, but with the additional order that the Soviet contact should be detained so that they can learn Villalobos’ location.

The encounter on the CS Lugus can go several ways. Sophia Laskin is a Soviet spy in charge of the ship, and a total of six Soviets posing as private security for the ship are arranged at various watch points. Should the real Larry have made contact, he will still be alive in the ship’s common room. Laskin was willing to tell Larry where to find Villalobos, but in exchange he was to provide her with US military secrets. Larry doesn’t actually have such knowledge, and was instead lying about it as insurance in staying the Soviets’ hand from killing him. For this reason Laskin doesn’t intend to kill him immediately, and if the PCs are spotted she will threaten to kill him by holding a hand grenade to Larry’s face. An Insight check can tell that she’s bluffing.

In terms of stats Sophia* is a hybrid melee and ranged fighter. She can make up to three attacks with a bonus action and a multiattack regular action, which can include from options such as thrown frag grenades, pistol shots, and special unarmed attacks which allow her to either stun or disarm a struck opponent should they fail an appropriate saving throw. Not only that, she can make a counterattack if someone fails to hit her in melee. The ship guards fight with a mixture of pistols and submachine guns and aren’t very good in melee, being equipped only with knives. They also get advantage on attacks if any of their allies are adjacent to an intended target, but suffer a major penalty on attacks, checks, and saves if they cannot make line of sight to an ally.

*The stat block’s title calls her Sofia with an “f” once, but otherwise uses “ph” everywhere else.

There are two ways for the PCs to discover Villalobos’ location. The first is role-playing with Sophia, convincing her to tell them via a skill check besides Intimidation,* or they can find it out on maps and notes stored on the ship. Both avenues also reveal that the USSR plans to exfiltrate Villalobos to Cuba, where he’ll be returned to Panama once the invasion dies down and the US withdraws. Once he’s back home, he’ll exploit post-war tensions to gain popularity and prominence in order to make the Panamanian government more sympathetic to the Soviet Union.

*She is a Soviet patriot and views it as an honor to die in the line of fire.

TAHYj7s.png

Act IV: It Comes to a Head at the Hacienda is the final section of the adventure, where Villalobos is located in a hacienda guarded by Soviet soldiers. It is a hike of several hours from the boat to the building, and along the way the PCs risk running into a group of American soldiers hunting for the party who have been branded traitors for their jailbreak. Like other encounters it is possible for the PCs to outwit or outmaneuver them.

The hacienda is the final encounter, and it comes complete with a full-page map. Besides Simón Villalobos who is a noncombatant Civilian, the hacienda is occupied by 4 Soviet mercenaries, a female Uzbek officer by the name of Shahlo Eshonov, and Bogdan the Bulgar who is actually a Georgian descended from Mongols and is enamored of Genghis Khan. Due to a misunderstanding of history he believes that Bulgars are Mongols and adopted his title due to its alliteration.

Outside the hacienda’s walls is Gregor, a soldier asleep on the job tasked with guarding a T-62 tank. It isn’t very hard for the PCs to sneak up and take the tank, although it is both booby-trapped and the fuel for it is hidden. But should the PCs manage to get it operational, they can use it to blow a hole in the surrounding wall and possibly the hacienda itself. The tank cannot cross into the hacienda grounds due to the combination of ditch and retaining wall. Simón Villalobos is hiding in his bedroom, and the Soviet soldiers will fall back into the courtyard and then the building itself. The hacienda has several booby-trapped doorways which the enemies know about and will try to lure the PCs into going through, dealing 1d6 explosive damage if triggered.

In terms of stats Gregor and the Soviet mercenaries are pretty much identical but with different armaments ranging from assault rifles to flamethrowers. They are pretty typical soldiers with Multiattack and get advantage on all attacks against any damaged target. Bogdan is a high-HP guy who views guns as unmanly and thus fights with his fists, and in addition to damage can push foes back one square if they fail an Athletics or Acrobatics check. Shahlo Eshonov is a lightly-equipped leader type, who can attack three times per round with any combination of knives or pistols. If she hits in melee, the target must make a Wisdom save or be moved into an adjacent square of her choosing, and she can “interrupt” an attack made against her. For the latter ability, the would-be attacker must make a Dexterity save or else she will use a reaction to move and attack. If the target cannot make the attack, they may declare another target to attack if possible.

Shahlo Eshonov will retreat into Villalobos’ bedroom, and the Panamanian politician is all too happy to surrender to the PCs if it means saving his own skin. Eshonov is having none of that and is ready to press a big red button which will trigger a countdown timer of 30 seconds to blow the entire hacienda sky-high, dealing 10d6 damage to anyone remaining within.

The adventure’s epilogue comes around when the PCs radio in to Trautman, who smoothed out everything with the US military and they’re no longer viewed as traitors. If the PCs manage to keep Larry Barrigan and Villalobos alive, he will be very impressed. If one or both are dead his praise will be less enthusiastic but will still recognize their efforts.

“You’ve done well,” he says. “I asked a lot of you, America asked a lot of you. I thought maybe too much. But you’ve delivered. I wish I could say your war is over now. But in truth, the war is never over. It never ends. No matter how much we ask of you, how much you deliver, we will always need to ask more.”

sQjEF0h.png

The final part of Rambo covers a variety of NPCs both named and generic. They are derived from the characters encountered in this module along with ones from the first three movies. The movie-specific NPCs include Art Gault (cop who tried to kill Rambo in the first movie and fell out of a helicopter, mostly a “tank” who can absorb a lot of punishment and fights with a hunting rifle and nightstick and can handcuff grappled targets), Marshall Murdock (crooked CIA officer in the second movie who attempted to sabotage Rambo’s rescue mission, fights with a pistol and knows a variety of Mastermind Smart Hero plans as per the class), and Sheriff Will Teasle (primary antagonist of the first movie who becomes obsessed with capturing or killing Rambo after a failed attempt to drive him out of town; is very much a ranged fighter/leader type who fights with either a heavy revolver, tactical rifle, and can grant bonuses on attacks and saves and bonus attacks to allied NPCs).

Key Characters are detailed stats and some backstory on John Rambo and Colonel Samuel Trautman. Both of them are built as PCs in line with the Everyday Heroes rules rather than being NPC stat blocks. But even then Rambo obeys his own rules, where the book notes that they gave him higher starting ability scores and his stat block represents his abilities after the end of Rambo III.

Kx8BX9g.png

Rambo is a 10th level Tough Hero with the Commando class. His ability scores are through the roof in everything but Wisdom and Charisma which are a 10 and 8 respectively. Everything else is at least 16, with Dexterity at 18 and Constitution the highest at 20. He never bothered to take any feats increasing his ability scores, meaning that this would be impossible to replicate barring extremely lucky rolls. Besides the bonus feats for the Special Forces Career Path, all of his feats are Multiclass ones for Agile Hero Training, Combat Scout, and Survivalist. He primarily fights with a survival knife, compound bow with both regular and explosive arrows, and an M-16A1 rifle. Rambo is extremely resilient, with a Defense (Armor Class) of 21 and 125 hit points, which along with his 4 Damage Reduction lets him take an awful lot of punishment. He also has a lot of proficiencies, having your Basic/Advanced/Military Equipment plus 10 skills and 3 of which (Survival, Stealth, Vehicles) he has Expertise.

I couldn’t help but notice some errors in his stat block. For one, the one bonus damage die you get as a 9th-level Commando isn’t applied to his explosive arrows but they are to the rest of his weapons. Additionally, the number of skill proficiencies is off: his Rural Family background and Commando class should give him 2 skills each, and the Special Forces Career Path (which I presume to be Army Enlisted) should give him another 2. For his bonus feats (Reconnaissance and Vehicle/Flight Training) he should have 3 more, for a total of 9. The Agile Hero class should give him a 10th, Combat Scout Training an 11th, and both normal and Advanced Survivalist Training a 12th and 13th. In many cases Rambo would already be gaining skills in which he’s proficient, but as you can replace those “doubled up” skills with other choices as per the rules, Rambo is short a few proficiencies.

As for Colonel Samuel Trautman, he is a 6th level Charming Hero with the Leader class. He isn’t as much of a combat powerhouse, primarily fighting with a 9mm pistol or his bare fists, but he is much better when it comes to social skills and aiding his allies. In terms of skills he has all of the Charisma ones plus the “social” Intelligence/Wisdom ones of Insight, Social Sciences, and Streetwise. The other skills are of more practical use for soldiers such as Athletics and Perception. For his feats he has quite the interesting mixture, such as Tough Hero Training, Advanced Skill Training for Insight (grants Expertise), Jumpmaster Training (Special Forces feat, advantage on checks to control parachutes/hanggliders/wingsuits and don’t suffer disadvantage when making ranged attacks while using them), and Lead by Example (grant advantage to allies making checks for a group check if you roll first and succeed).

Pregenerated Heroes provides us with five 2nd level characters for this adventure. All of them use the Special Forces Career Path for their Profession, and all but one use one of the new classes from this book. The exception is a Charming Hero who has the Manipulator class. There’s quite a bit of emphasis placed on increasing ability scores for feats, and 3 out of 5 pregens have an 18 in 1 ability score with the remaining 2 have a 16 in one or two abilities. One criticism I have for both Key Characters and Pregens is that their stat blocks don’t specify what Army Branch they took for the Career Path and whether they’re Enlisted or Officer. While in some cases this can be easily derived (Rambo’s a Green Beret and thus Army) and the pregens have backstories explaining what branch they joined, having it clearly spelled out at a glance would be useful to make sure everything’s on the up and up.

Thoughts So Far: The final two Acts of the adventure know how to finish things off with a bang. The booby-trapped hacienda is a cool touch and I like how the commander has abilities which work well in taking advantage of the terrain. I do think that the inclusion of the tank is a bit of a let-down given that it is unable to do much more than blow holes in walls. You shouldn’t include a tank in an action-movie style adventure without giving the PCs an opportunity to mow down foes with it! I don’t get why the PCs have to bring Larry or “fake Larry” into an army camp prison rather than just have the PCs escape with him into the jungle to find the CS Lugue. If I ran this I’d replace the army camp jail and getaway with Panamanian soldiers if Larry was captured. And the claim that the US soldiers have orders to “kill Larry on sight” is also contradicted when they take him in alive.

I also feel that the radio warning from Trautman as Larry leaves for the boat to be a bit forced. Combined with the traffic jam from the broken down car, these two encounters feel more at home in a comedy where the forces of fate seem to conspire against the characters in dramatic fashion.

While I haven’t run the adventure so I may not be able to truly judge its difficulty or lack thereof, I do have a bit of a concern about an exhaustion death spiral triggered from regular Endurance checks. While there are means to recover from this, particularly in regards to obtaining sources of food and water if brought on by starvation or thirst or with a Combat Medic’s It’s Not So Bad plan, it is the kind of thing that just makes characters perform worse and I wouldn’t regularly spring it on characters.

In short, I do like the overall concept of the adventure and it has a lot of good stuff to work with, but these various issues need to be dealt with by the prospective GM.

Overall Thoughts: The Rambo Cinematic Adventures sourcebook is very cool and provides a good template for action-movie military campaigns for Everyday Heroes. Its bonus content, from various equipment types to optional rules, are suitable for inclusion in a variety of campaigns beyond just this genre. I definitely consider it money well spent, and it makes for a nice last hurrah for the Cinematic Adventures line. At least for the near future, given that the Urban Arcana reboot looks to be the publisher’s next big project.
 
Last edited:

Libertad

Hero
Does it tell me how to build my own war zone? Spoiler warning: this will determine whether I buy the book or not...

@Libertad - this is a fantastic review, man. I reread it tonight and found like three things I missed on the first run through. Excellent attention to detail, as always!

I'm glad to hear that I've been able to showcase missable content. I did find some errors with Rambo's stat block, although I haven't looked at Trautman's or the Pregens as closely.
 

sigfried

Adventurer
so just how broad will the Military Heroes book go? - could I for instance follow Lapulapu into the Battle of Mactan?
Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. While I'm helping as a rules developer on the project, I've not yet seen the compiled contents of it so I'm not sure the full scope. I've only looked at bits and pieces so far, mostly getting the writers up to speed on our rules and standards.
 

Sparky McDibben

Adventurer
Honestly, I'm not 100% sure. While I'm helping as a rules developer on the project, I've not yet seen the compiled contents of it so I'm not sure the full scope. I've only looked at bits and pieces so far, mostly getting the writers up to speed on our rules and standards.
That works - you know we'll take a look when it drops! :)
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top