“The Vietcong dug too deep.” This is the
premise of Into the Jungle, an interesting Into the ODD hack I reviewed here last
summer. Mixing Vietnam-era combat with fantasy monsters emerging from jungle
dungeons, and making even more of a mess out of Nam by taking both sides completely
off guard, it is a quick, deadly little game that holds together surprisingly
well. Over the holidays, we got the chance to play two sessions of the game
with Marvin (posting here as Volja, not his real name either) as the GM. What
follow are some quick notes on how the game works, and what kind of adventures
you can run with it. If you haven’t read the review first, much of this post
will leave you baffled; if you have, there will be some duplication. You can’t
win either way. Welcome to Vietnam!
|...but with beholders and orcs|
Character generation is one of Into the
Jungle’s strongest sides. It is very simple and mostly random, but in a way
which helps a lot to define your characters from the outset.
roll randomly for three ability scores (2d6+3 for Strength, Dexterity and
Wisdom), hit points (a brutal 1d6 per level, although 0 does not necessarily
mean death), a “class skill” and two “weapon skills”. These characters are
random losers drafted into the war, and while they would all be classified as
“Fighters” (duh), the class skill acts as their basic military profile (e.g.
medic, sapper, heavy weapon guy, tank crew, etc.), and their weapon training
rounds out their approach to combat (you can use weapons unskilled, but you
will have really crappy damage that way – you can lug around that M60,
but can’t aim it properly).
second layer of customisation comes from equipment, which contains some basics
(e.g. jungle fatigues, an M1 helmet, your rucksack, a canteen, etc.), but also
a handful of fun random items: 1d4 standard and 1 special.
there is a third, giving you miscellaneous details like a pre-war job, a basic
trait, a motivation (and, optionally using the NPC tables, a name and
- You can
also generate a few disposable secondary squad members. These guys have the
three stats, 1 Hp, and one weapon skill.
This takes about ten minutes, if you have
to have the process explained to you.
So the three of us sat down and rolled up
some basic PCs:
- I got Stanley
“Junior” Horowitz, a goldsmith from Brooklyn, with STR 6, DEX 11, and WIS
11, 5 Hp (sturdy!), demolitions, skills in pistols and infantry rifles, and a
weird old book he got somewhere in Saigon. Junior was lazy, but he had an Ideal
(The American Way), as well as a companion, Robert “Touchdown” Francisco,
who was much needed because he had to carry low-STR Stanley’s equipment.
got Henry “Doc” Cavinton, a combat medic and former cook, followed by Corky
“The Swede” Henriksson.
Orastes got Arthur “Hollywood” Turner, a sniper who has somehow gotten
his hand on his “own” jeep, and also controlled (?) Diego “Afterburner”
Hendrix, a flame thrower guy suffering from acute stress and paranoia.
These nobodies were brought together in
May 1968 in District 202, a military district nominally pacified after
“the battle of Hamburger Hill” (not the real event), but still beset by
Vietcong activity. Base 204, a small “keep on the borderland”, was a small
microcosm to itself, with an enigmatic and frankly shady commander, and a
burgeoning black market. In driving range along the river were three villages
(Bao Loc, Dalat and Ban Bai) and three fire support bases, located in a
jungle-covered mountain area. Summoned by Commander Ateman, deathly pale
and wearing sunglasses, we were allowed to pick between four codenamed
assignments, and chose…
Operation #1: PURPLE BEER
partially pacified settlement, Ban Bai has been found abandoned. We were tasked
to find out what happened during our patrol, and report back to Ateman. Using
Hollywod’s jeep (super useful), we drove along the river. Transportation is a
godsend in Into the Jungle: “Stress Points” are an important rating,
which accumulate by doing stressful stuff, including combat, witnessing
horrific things, or hunting/being hunted by hostiles, but also moving through
mosquito-infested jungles, heavy rain, or the sweltering heat (so basically
everything you actually do in Vietnam). R&R helps, but exposes the company
to random encounters. As a neat touch, drugs also knock off stress, but come
with a nasty addiction mechanic. Since this is still the “Reefer Madness” age,
weed cigarettes are exactly the addictive devil drug portrayed by television!
Along the way, we stopped to gather intel
in Bao Loc, a mostly friendly locale. Here we learned that the inhabitants of
Ban Bai were “Dead but not dead”, and Mao Duc, the local VC leader was
somehow involved. We also learned that Uncle Dung, a local elder, was
kidnapped by the “dog-faces”, who were living next to the northern missile
base. We continued to Ban Bai, which was indeed deserted, save for a hungry
tiger, which we ambushed and killed.
are no attack rolls in Into the Jungle unless you are using auto-fire
(which, granted, you generally do); the attackers immediately roll damage. This
makes setting ambushes and avoiding getting ambushed crucial to survival.
- On the
other hand, you need that auto-fire, because otherwise, multiple-HD monsters
are impossible to take down reliably. This is a flaw in the otherwise
A limestone pit hid no bodies, but seems
to have had a trail of perhaps 100-150 footprints leading off to the south.
Afterburner started getting really unhinged due to stress, and set the village on
The trail led to a tall, lone tree next to
abandoned rice paddies. Junior realised this is a tree he had seen on an illustration
in his strange old book, next to drawings of bizarre purple flowers, and a
picture of the flowers in a tree hole. To the south of the tree, we also
discovered an encampment of a dozen horrid, pig-like creatures grilling human
remains, equipped with discarded old firearms! We circled around them, and set
up an attack with claymores and ambush positions. However, when commencing the
attack, the pigmen called out not to shoot, and one of them came forward as an
emissary. Calling himself Nguo Chan (~Pig Leg), he let us know that the
purple flowers were in the lair of the dog-faces, and that their females were
abducted by the people of Bao Loc. He offered to lead us through the jungle to
the dog-face lair, which we accepted (although Stanley only reluctantly once it
occurred to him this guy was made of pork).
Halfway through the jungle, we discovered
a small village, and doing some reconnaissance, found that it was inhabited by
loathsome snake-human hybrids! We retreated a little, and called in a strike from
the nearby fire support base, watching the village get turned into flaming
wreckage. Continuing, Nguo Chan took us to a hill overlooking an bunker
entrance, the lair of the dog-faces. We parted from our companion, and decided
to make camp for the night. In the morning, we left the unstable Afterburner to
watch camp, while we called base and arranged a napalm strike set exactly 2
hours from now.
|Snake-men?! What the...|
Down at the entrance, we knocked on a
heavy, rusted gate. The dog-faces – tall, shaggy, dog-headed monsters with
firearms – emerged, and we somehow negotiated with them to fetch their boss, Alpha
Mane. The boss and his second arrived on a roaring Harley Davidson, cutting
a few circles in the field to impress us. We held up our offer: a jerry can of
gasoline for the vehicles. Alpha Mane started to become more interested, and we
asked him to release Uncle Dung. Alpha Mane barked about “Uncle Dung purple
death!”, but agreed to the deal. Stanley started getting big ideas. “Yeah,
this was just our first gift. There will be more gasoline, soon. Our guys will
deliver it by airdrop, you should just bring out the rest of your guys to carry
it.” Alpha Mane didn’t quite get this, but seemed positive, and we decided
to pack it and get out with Uncle Dung’s unconscious body while the going was
good – we were already back through the jungle when we heard the helicopters
sweeping in from above the clouds.
On the way back, we made
another detour to Bao Loc, where the wise Uncle Dung’s recovery was met with
cheers and impromptu celebration. Stanley and Doc started interrogating the
villagers about any “new pigs” they may have seen around. While initially resistant,
a pack of cigarettes changed hands, and a local informer showed us to a
disgusting pen filled with mud, and fat porcine shapes with a faint resemblance
to… No, Stanley was not interested to find out. We sternly warned the locals
that the “pigs” are to be released without further ado, no ifs and no buts. And
so we headed back to base. Operation #2: Roentgen #78 – a scenario where
we would have to escort a NYC newspaper reporter around the area, and show him
just what the Army wanted him to see, and not to mind the Viet Cong massing on
the borders, or a massive six-headed river monster emerging from the murky waters
– would commence in a week. But until then, we were free to spend time in Saigon, and not worry
about the future.
|Not depicted: river hydra|