UNSanctioned: The Dream Corrupted is an alternate world superhero role-playing game designed by Nightshift Games and released in 2000. The 164 page core rulebook was written by Paul Arden Lidberg. The counter-factual history includes standard history up until the end of World War II, except for a few unpowered masked heroes. The dropping of the Atom Bomb unleashed superpowers in certain people and led to an alternate world history than the one we know. Superhumans began to appear, but the power of the United Nations grew until the world was controlled by fascists governments led by the U.N.
President Kennedy was never assassinated. U.N. Peacekeepers appears a jack-booted paramilitary thugs with high tech weapons and devices. A sanctioned team of United Nations “superheroes” exists, led by Peacemaker. Only a few brave men and women of power have rebelled against the system and fight against the corrupt new world order.
UNSanctioned: The Dream Corrupted vs. A Brave New World
If all of this sounds a lot like the 1999 superhero RPG Brave New World, then you’re not the first one to have noticed the similarities. This book was being talked about for some time before its release, so I don’t think the designers of UNSanctioned ripped off the earlier RPG. It looks like both games’ creators simply had similar ideas. I’ll let someone else decide which game was better, because I don’t think I can make an unbiased assessment. Something about Brave New World brought out the grump in me. I came away from reading those books feeling like the writer should have spent his time writing a novel instead of a role-playing game, because that’s how the sourcebooks rea. I know it was the 90s and everyone was copying White Wolf products, but Brave New World struck me as beyond the pale. It was hard to find any crunch at all.
I’ll say one thing for UNSanctioned: The Dream Corrupted. The game does give a few more power options than Brave New World. All that background material and BNW hardly gave you any power for all that reading. UNSanctioned lets you play something more like the standard superhero package from most mainstream comic books, though the power choice is fairly bland.
UNSanctioned Player Characters – No Sanctioned Heroes
The protagonists in UNSanctioned can never be sanctioned by the U.N. or the individuals working for national governments. The PCs therefore are always rebels, outsiders, and outlaws. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, though most of the background text lets you peer into the lives of the PC’s antagonists–not sample player characters themselves. When you flip through the UNSanctioned: Peacekeepers Unlimited supplement, which acts as the anti-villains sourcebook of this setting, you get to see “American Star’s Herbed Meat Loaf” recipe or the transcript of George Plimpton’s interview with Peacemaker (George Plimpton–that made me laugh), I thought to myself, “I bet some players reading this would like to be able to have cool interviews with George Plimpton, too.” I suppose the idea is the players want to take these smug so-and-so’s down a peg or two.
The point being, you won’t be able to play the sanctioned heroes like you would in most games.
The UNSanctioned Rules System
The rules for UNSanctioned: The Dream Corrupted are a hybrid of d10 and d20. For combat, you roll 2d10. For skills resolution, you roll a d20. The game uses three stats, much like Tri-Stat: Body, Mind, and Agility. Or perhaps the game’s stats are more closely compared to the Brawn, Agility, and Mind stats of BASH!. In either case, the rules aren’t bad, but they do have a few seeming inconsistencies or even holes.
For instance, the Body stat not only serves as a damage modifier, but having a high Body also increases your bonus to hit. My best guess the designer chose this rule is that high-powered brawlers aren’t going to be parried by martial artists, no matter how deft the technique is. I suppose they assume Batman can’t parry the Hulk, even if they existed in the same comics universe. At the same time, the Agility stat acts to reduce damage, I suppose to simulate a quick character’s ability to roll with a punch or be squirrely enough to avoid a direct hit. I wouldn’t have designed it that way, but I don’t want to quibble too much.
UNSanctioned Rules Limitations
Certain rules appear to be left out, such as the rules for vehicles. You’ll find no chase rules, vehicular combat rules, or stats for any sort of motorcycle, attack helicopter, hydrofoil, or tank. That’s a pretty big omission in a game designed for action heroes of any sort.
Beyond that, you won’t find benchmarks to explain what a particular level Body does for you. I like a game to tell me how much a certain level super-strength lets me lift. This is the difference in the old Handbook of the Marvel Universe and Who’s Who in the DC Universe comic books that were published in the 1980s. I always had a soft spot for DC Comics, but their character biographies came up well-short of the Marvel counterparts because they wouldn’t put in benchmarks for how much Superman or Wonder Woman could lift. I knew exactly what Thor or The Hulk or The Thing could left and I could compare them.
I also like to know how much damage a certain level super-strength lets a character do. In Mutants & Masterminds, you can compare the damage a machine gun, laser pistol, tank, jet fighter, and starship do. I can compare these against the level of damage my superhero inflicts and have a pretty good idea what level of hero I have. You won’t find anything like that in UNSanctioned. Again, it’s minor, but I like precision and precise calculations in a game.
UNSanctioned: Peacekeepers Unlimited
Despite these complaints, you’ll find a lot to like in the UnSanctioned RPG. Both the Dream Corrupted core book and the Peacekeepers Unlimited supplement convey the cynicism and flavor of the world through their use of advertisements. “I wouldn’t drink anything less than Clan Ross. Why would you,” asks The Highlander, member of the Peacekeeper. Another magazine ad asks, “Isn’t it about time you got a Magic bra?” The advertisement goes on to mention that Magic is the official bra of the Peacekeepers, which brings me to another point. The artwork in the UNSanctioned books are effective and most of the pictures are drawn well. The female metahumans are quite well-endowed, so this from the age-old tradition of fantasy art in comics. I don’t mind that, but some might. It’s consistent throughout.
Some of the pictures are repeated, but UNSanctioned conveys its setting effectively. Some of the anti-government propaganda posters are also effective, so the villains don’t get all the face time. If nothing else, superhero roleplay GMs can raid the Peacekeepers Unlimited sourcebook for dozens of villain writeups, character ideas, or plot seeds.
For that reason, I’m glad I bought this game. While the Brave New World RPG came out before UNSanctioned, I prefer this one. Brave New World had some nice cover art and the designer put a lot of time, effort, and thought into the setting. UNSanctioned’s designer did the same, but he presents the setting in a more direct way. Most important to me, he had the talent for brevity. UNSanctioned isn’t perfect, but you’ll find a lot of good ideas inside you can use in one form or the other.