The Haunting of Ypsilon 14

What is it?

A one-shot written by DG Chapman, with layout by Sean McCoy, published by Tuesday Knight Games

What’s the deal?

For $1.99 (PDF) or $4.99 (print & PDF), you get a trifold module for the killer OSR sci-fi horror game Mothership. I bought both.

What’s cool about it?

I wasn’t sure how much I’d get with such a tiny module, the first of its size for me. But this is a LOT of story for a $2 one-page trifold pamphlet—A lot of story, and a lot of scary story! It’s utterly stripped down yet eminently playable. There’s just 1/6 of a page on NPCs, for example, but that’s plenty for expendable miners in what feels like a 90-minute horror movie, or maybe a particularly grim classic Dr Who serial.

Sean McCoy’s design is A+ level, with the entire inner 3 folds of the pamphlet being the flowchart abstraction of the colony layout that includes all the descriptions that go with it. I absolutely LOVE the convenience of this. You never have to go from map to key, because it’s all one thing. The other side is, 1/3 for cover, art, intro, and warden (i.e., GM) notes; the aforementioned mentioned 1/6 page for NPCS; 1/6 page stats for the mysterious enemy; 2/9 page for clues; and 1/9 for something truly creepy I’m not going to reveal.

The story itself is super scary with just the right level of evocative, creepy detail. The challenge on this remote asteroid mining colony is tough, and the opponent extremely nasty in ways that should easily be as terrifying as *Alien*’s xenomorphs or the predator with a large amount of body horror thrown in. It’s tough, but beatable, though missteps or bad luck could easily lead to a TPK.

And that’s what makes Mothership so great. While your game may (YGMV, as the Gloranthaphiles say), everything is at stake, and no one is guaranteed a happy ending. Mothership authors (and yes, designer and publisher of this game) Sean McCoy wrote about this on his Failure Tolerated blog in Why Setting High Stakes Matters.

This high-stakes approach; the innovative, evocative and stripped-down design; and an eerie surfeit of body horror are what make Mothership in general—and The Haunting of Ypsilon 14 in particular—so great. I highly recommend this module, as long as your group is ok with some rather frightening play.

For more on Mothership, I recommend Failure Tolerated (at the link above) and the blog Traaash, Flotsam and Jetsam for the Mothership RPG.

Note, the first version of this review appeared on DriveThruRPG.

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