SteamCraft - Wake the Dead is a set of steampunk role playing game supplements for the SteamCraft setting, published by Perilous Journeys Publishing. It isn't actually one supplement, but three, divided into Wake the Dead - Parts 1, 2 and 3. Philip A. Lee wrote the first two supplements in the series and the third was written by Angela Hardy and Jamie Hardy. Each part is a complete adventure which could stand by itself, and they are all set in the city of New Arcadia in the SteamCraft setting of the Commonwealth of New Arcadia.
Each of the supplements is available as a PDF and has a list price of $4.99 on RPGNow, but they were all purchased whilst they were on offer at the reduced price of $1 each. Part 1 and Part 2 each have 31 pages; Part 3 has 30. Each has a full colour cover with the remainder of the illustrations being in black and white. There are black and white steampunk borders to the majority of pages. In each, one page is taken up by the front cover and one by the front matter and Table of Contents.
Credit: Lorinda Tomko/Perilous Journeys Publishing/eGDC LtdThe layout is essentially identical for each part; they start with an introductory story, followed by How to Use This Product, which is identical for each supplement, then an Adventure Overview, a Dramatis Persona and a number of scenes - six for Part 1 and Part 2, five for Part 3 - and finally Aftermath.
The introductory story is a short, one page story about a character who will be encountered in the adventure. The How to Use This Product section gives an overview of the various sections of the supplement, a Scene Breakdown, as the scenes are divided into the same parts, and Gamemastering the Adventure, which gives tips on how to make the adventure run better.
Adventure Overview is exactly that - an overview of how the entire adventure should run. Dramatis Personae describes the major non-player characters that will be encountered and gives their stats.
Each scene is divided into the following sections. Full Steam Ahead gives an overview and directions for running it, This Just In... is a section to read to the players, Behind the Curtain gives GM-specific information, stats and rules, Spanners in the Works has suggestions on what to do when players don't do what you wanted them to do, or mess things up somehow and Further Exploration gives some suggestions for expanding the adventure.
The Aftermath section tidies everything up once the adventure is completed, with descriptions and lists of player rewards, monetary, potential new Contacts and experience points.
Credit: Lorinda Tomko/Perilous Journeys Publishing/eGDC LtdThere are three duplicated maps in Part 1, with maps from earlier in the supplement repeated on the last three pages. The latter three are identical, except that they are full page and lack the steampunk border; perhaps to make them more convenient to print out. Although there are maps in Parts 2 and 3, these are not duplicated on a blank page and at a larger scale at the end of the supplement.
SteamCraft - Wake the Dead in Review
As with SteamCraft and SteamCraft - Shadows Over Newport, the PDFs all originally lacked bookmarks, and all have clickable page numbers in the Table of Contents. The supplements were all later updated with the inclusion of bookmarks; prior to their addition, navigation was, like with the other two supplements mentioned, middling, but adding bookmarks greatly improved this. There are a number of black and white illustrations throughout the supplements; some of these are specific to the text, whilst others are just steampunk-related padding. The maps are also in black and white and are adequate, but not exceptional.
The overall theme of the adventure series is technomancy - a blend of magic and technology that is, as explained in the Core Rules, illegal in the Commonwealth of New Arcadia, and in Part 1 this starts out with a problem with zombies, and ones with a steampunk twist to them. Part 2 is the most loosely connected of the trio, as the suspected technomancy turns out to be false, but the company investigated did crop up in Part 1. The first and last parts share a common theme of technomancy and the primary antagonist from Part 1 also appears in Part 3, although in a reduced role.
Credit: Lorinda Tomko/Perilous Journeys Publishing/eGDC LtdIn each part, the vast majority of the supplement is comprised of the actual adventure, or relevant information; the other content is quite minimal and largely consists of the How to Use This Product section, the Table of Contents and the introductory story. Whilst the adventures do follow a linear path, the Spanners in the Works sections do provide useful material for getting them back on track if something goes wrong, and the Further Exploration does give some hooks and ideas for new adventures, although these will naturally require more work on the part of the GameMaster.
In the Core Rules it appeared that experience was just intended to be rewarded for playing; however, in these supplements, there are various bonus experience point rewards for accomplishing certain goals during the adventures - a far better way of handling things. There are also a number of new monsters introduced, at least some of which could be used in other adventures, and which expand the rather limited selection available in the SteamCraft Core Rules. Other than the new monsters, there aren't really any new additions to the rules and items that could be used in other adventures.
The adventures can, to a degree, stand alone, although they will work better together, and they could possibly be used in other steampunk settings. If they are used as standalone adventures or in other settings, some work will naturally need to be done to adapt them, with the biggest problem in the latter case being altering all the relevant game stats. The Wake the Dead series is an interesting set of adventures for the SteamCraft setting, but more details on New Arcadia would be appreciated, although that is something that would likely require its own supplement.