An Adventure Per Year: Ice Fleet (2021)

In my A Game Per Year project, my goal has been to read one roleplaying game corebook for every year they’ve been published. However, I soon started to feel that it was hard to decipher how the games were really meant to be played. For this reason, I decided to start a parallel project, An Adventure Per Year, to read one roleplaying adventure for each year they’ve been published.

The cover of Ice Fleet

Ice Fleet is a scenario published by the Canadian record company Artoffact Records to accompany a record of the same name released by the Russian band Kauan, formed in Chelyabinsk in 2005 and now living mostly in Estonia. The band sings in Finnish. The idea is that the scenario and the album complement each other, forming a cohesive experience.

The scenario has an interesting format. It’s a self-contained adventure, accompanied by a condensed version of the game mechanics from Into The Odd so the booklet contains everything you need to play.

The Soviet setting of the scenario is unusual and personable, with the characters exploring a ship frozen in ice in the Laptev Sea. What happened, why did everyone die and is it possible to recover something from the wreckage?

The design builds on an OSR aesthetic, with mysterious items featuring strange effects and a dangerous physical environment to explore. After the midpoint of the scenario, there’s a radical shift in style as what almost felt like a dungeon crawl suddenly becomes a social scenario, featuring a large selection of supporting characters seeking to escape the Soviet Union in its early years.

As an aesthetic whole, Ice Fleet represents an interesting cultural juxtaposition. It’s steeped in Soviet history and culture but the songs on the album accompanying the scenario have titles such as “Maanpako”, “Raivo” and “Hauta”. It’s greatest strength is that it feels like it emanates from a different cultural sphere than usual in roleplaying games.

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