Shadow of Mogg Review
Published by: Manic Productions
Designed by: Panayiotis Lines
Shadow of Mogg is a post-apocalyptic/event RPG set in a world following the Brexit vote, and the subsequent EVENT. No one can mention the EVENT. You work together as a literal party - a group of likeminded individuals working together towards a common goal and kept together by the party manifesto. All decisions must first be approved of by the party.
I’ve been playing this game for a few months now, running it primarily in a series of one-shot sessions for when my group isn’t playing either OSE or D&D. It works great in this format - rolling a character from its d66 classes is reminiscent of Troika, or even of Electric Bastionland’s failed careers - that is to say, easy. The game gives off Liberal Crime Squad vibes, assuming that the player is pretty intimately aware of what Brexit is and how it has been perceived by different facets of society in the UK. For example, the name Shadow of Mogg itself is a reference to a prominent British politician, infamous for his right wing views and disdain for anyone too poor to be able to afford a Range Rover. Additionally, Mogg is a term for goblins in some Magic: the Gathering sets, which could either be a very clever double meaning, or just a happy coincidence.
Notably, the game is set entirely in the London Underground, clearly echoing the Metro series. The entire system revolves around surviving in these tunnels, and interacting with their inhabitants.
Shadow of Mogg comes in the form of a relatively slender 88 page softcover book. The binding isn’t great, with the cover being made of pretty thin card. A limited edition hardback edition of the game is available, titles “Shadow of Bozza”, but this review concerns the more widely available and cheaper version.
The inside covers have a slightly alternate map of the London Underground printed on them, which I like - they are easy to flip to at any time and prove useful as a quick reference in the middle of the game for the DM. However, many of the stations are near the binding, making them hard to read - the map may have been more effective as a centre spread.
Most of the page count is taken up by the d66 classes (+1 if you roll a 66 twice in a row). On the whole, the book is well laid out and eye catching. Each class takes up one page, and each page in the book is very stylistically designed, giving off a punk-ish, thrown-together air. That said, on the first read through it reads more like an art project rather than an immediately useable game, not unlike MÖRK BORG. The intentional scuffs and small writing on some of the pages makes it at times hard to read, and the lack of a contents page makes referencing things on the fly awkward. However, following a close reading, the rules are really not that dense, and the amount of pages you’ll actually have to reference on the fly during the game can be counted on one hand.
The system is similar to the Year Zero engine, but with partial successes and group rolls. Essentially, you’re putting together a d6 dice pool of stats, skills, stuff and mates, and trying to get a success or a partial success in order to achieve your goals. This brings us to the second core facet of the system - the Vote. The Vote must be made for basically every decision, from whether the party should head east or west, to who should eat first when resting. I love this system. It marries mechanics and theme together perfectly, giving off a feeling of intentional tedium due to the bureaucracy of every decision, but at the same time feeling fun. People can spoil their vote, or abstain, but everyone can take part in the resolution.
Another great part of the system is the manifesto. This acts as a secondary party-wide character sheet, not unlike home base sheets in other systems such as the Crew in Blades in the Dark or the Fort in Forbidden Lands. This consists of the party laws, which can be changed at will - following a successful Vote, of course. For example, the party may vote to allow only characters who are over 6ft tall to vote, or deem that voting is in fact an archaic system of government, and that a Philosopher King, elected by the party, shall lead and make all of the decisions instead. This adds so much flavour to the game, essentially giving the players the ability to break the game at any time they want.
I’ve mentioned the d66 roll for character creation. After rolling for your class, you’re given a prompt to form a bond with another player. This may be related to something that happened before the EVENT, or it may be a current relationship you have with them presently. This is great - I like it when inter party bonds are codified like this, especially in one-shots, as it doesn’t put too much pressure on each player to form an entire party dynamic from nothing, instead giving each player a prompt to riff off of with ease.
There are plenty of events and encounters for the DM to roll on, in addition to a handful of tables to create plot hooks and custom scenes. This works great for the format of the game - essentially being a point crawl from scene to scene in the London Underground.
So who is this game actually for? Its target audience is understandably pretty small, being tailor made for a politically aware British audience. Whilst I wouldn’t outright say that this game is an “OSR” game per se, it certainly has several OSR traits, such as providing a setting for the players to explore rather than an epic story, alongside relatively weak characters. It feels old school. Its also for people who like survival mechanics in their games. With the light level being a constant concern, as well as where the party’s next meal is going to come from, Shadow of Mogg puts resource management at the forefront.
I also think that this system is great for people looking to explore innovative and new resolution mechanics, with the game’s implementation of the Vote. I could go on for days how much I love this mechanic, and how it reflects the theme so well.
The amount of classes is also good fun. When I first got the book I flicked back and forth through all of the classes multiple times, finding funny little references and jokes every time I read and reread one.
So how is this game not for? I don’t think its great for people looking to play a long-form, post apocalyptic game. It hasn’t worked for me at least. The novelty wears off after sustained play week after week if you’re following the same characters, and the joke gets a bit old. This game really shines in 1-5 session stretches, giving players the opportunity to flesh out their characters, as well as play around with the survival mechanics, before calling it a day and finishing a short form adventure.
Great theme, great system, great layout.