Unknown Armies Statosphere Roundup

Like WotC's Dungeon Masters Guild and White Wolf's Storytellers Vault, Atlas Games has entered the field of fan-contributed content with the (appropriately) enigmatically-named Statosphere program for their Unknown Armies RPG.

Like WotC's Dungeon Masters Guild and White Wolf's Storytellers Vault, Atlas Games has entered the field of fan-contributed content with the (appropriately) enigmatically-named Statosphere program for their Unknown Armies RPG.

Why is an enigmatic name appropriate? Because, as discussed in our review of Unknown Armies, this is an RPG of high weirdness, arcane secrets, and surreal dislocation. With Statosphere, fans of UA now have a chance to add their own fractured takes on the game's bizarre cosmology.

The Statosphere guidelines are quite generous, allowing creators to use material from any UA publication (including from past editions, as long as the mechanics are updated) as well as any other Stratosphere publication. Canon characters and organizations are fair game, as is most subject matter. (The guidelines do ask that creators draw a clear line between their own authorial voice and the in-game fiction in the case of depictions of subjects like racism, homophobia, and discrimination, and that they steer clear of graphic depictions of rape, violence against children, and other obscene material without the express written consent of Atlas Games.)

Templates for Word and InDesign are provided, but no stock art at the time of writing. Instead, creators are directed to browse stock photo sites or provide photos of their own, in keeping with the art direction of the core rulebooks.

Being something of a more niche game than Dungeons & Dragons or Vampire: The Masquerade, the selection of Statosphere products does not exactly spill off the screen. At the time of writing, there are only 14 products on the Stratosphere page. Content ranges from new schools of magick to expanded character creation options to ready-made campaign packs.

For our inaugural spotlight, we'll be taking a look at one of the latter types: Paris, TX vs. The 333rd Reich.

With a title like that, you know you are in for some high UA weirdness and Paris delivers in spades. Credited to Nimrod Tzarking, the supplement presents a complete setting for players to explore—the titular Paris, Texas—with a world-shattering secret underlying everything. Factions in Paris's Occult Underground, both canon and original, are presented: their history, goals, resources, along with a handful of plot hooks for each. Also described are 14 non-player characters, chief among them the mysterious Cliomancer who is responsible for the presence of the setting's main antagonists, the crypto-fascist 333rd Reich.

There's plenty of other weirdness to be found in town, and this is detailed as well. (My personal favorite would be the strange mime-like creatures that may be seen riding around on silent penny farthing bicycles.) Indeed, the weirdness inherent to the town will be instantly recognizable to players, though not their characters: something has obviously twisted reality sufficiently to make Paris, Texas a major metropolis with many world-famous landmarks: the "original" Eiffel Tower (the one in Paris, France just being a cheap imitation), the catacombs under the town, the cultural institutions of the Louvre and Sarbonne (pronounced "Loo-vray" and "Sar-bon-nay," respectively)—something strange is going on here!

Of course, the characters won't know that; presumably, a campaign set in Paris could simply revolve around the players trying to square their own real-world knowledge with that of their characters (and suffering the ensuing psychic fallout). Some guidelines on this may have been welcome, along with a map of the town with its unusual landmarks.

On the whole, however, Paris, TX vs. The 333rd Reich does a good job of presenting a complete campaign setting with enough factional conflicts and scheming NPCs to fuel any number of different campaigns. Typographical errors are minimal, the layout is clean and effective with plenty of textual references (it doesn't get much more Unknown Armies than the sidebar referring readers to sections on Urbanomancy and Penis Thieves) and an excellent use of photographic art. We even get two new magickal traditions (Rheamancy and Oiseuphagy) and a handful of new artifacts. For the price, there is plenty of content here for use in any Unknown Armies game to make it worth a look.

​contributed by David Larkins

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