Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Game Review: Apocalypse Prevention Inc.

Eloy Lasanta presented me with a copy of Apocalypse Prevention Inc. over a year ago at GenCon 2012. Actually we traded works, but I can't remember what I traded for it. I placed it on stack of books that I would read, and then life happened accompanied by the Kindle reader. The specific pile of books was moved during a cleaning sessions, so for the last six weeks, neither Peryton nor I could find it. Then while looking for a pad of paper that had some blank pages to draw a map for something else, I stumbled across it. So some nine years after the book was written and going on two years having known the author, I am probably writing the least timely review in the history of written language, that is unless you count most Cleveland newspapers.

API, as the title is abbreviated on the cover, is a modern fantasy RPG setting that has three things that urban action role-players love: conspiracy, guns, and supernatural things to shoot. Always a plus since about the early 80s when Tri-Tac games predated the X-Files on TV with Stalking the Night Fantastic by around a decade. Lasanta decides to put his take onto this sub-genre of "horror RPG" with a very personalized take on things that avoids the often dry and overly-broad works, even the ones that are supposed to be funny, approach most often utilized.

Players get to assume the roles of company agents of API involved with curtailing harmful supernatural activity and maintaining immigration policies of our world regarding extra-dimensional beings that like to come here for whatever reason. And having a license to kill never hurts in these sorts of games in the eyes of the players themselves. The author really wants the player to get into the concept behind the character, bringing up in a conversational tone dysfunctional families, sexual norm deviations, and motivations. While he does a good job avoiding the "plus" and "minus" of the Boon/Flaw system of say GURPS and other games, he doesn't exactly tie together his comments into the game work, which leaves the reader wondering "Why'd you bring that up?" I was hoping for a "dysfunction Bonus" or something at dealing with sanity checks or something.

The rules uses a single d20 and various things add to to the rolls. The result in my mind would be fluidity over more static systems with multiple dice and resolution systems. His magical system is pretty masterfully done. He sorts out differing schools of magic and develops unique disciplines from there without turning the system into a textbook.

Lasanta keeps the setting information informative while also keeping it brief. the milieu is scattered a bit from character "races" (I just hate that word in this sort of context) and then towards the end of the work. Differing species and his game's "demonology" are outlined fully and succinctly. The world around the API is fleshed a bit. Once the reader finishes the book, he'll indeed be able to run a game, and go on to do a whole series of games (you know like a campaign).

In this work the author does the allegorical take on fantasy, which many role-players do already but don't like to admit it. I can see where some readers not very secure in their own political beliefs may have problems reading this. Lasanta doesn't passive-aggressively describe what he doesn't like about the world around him like many modern horror RPG writers, instead he writes very provocative points into the setting saying "This is how it is in this world." He does omit how he feels about these things, which for me means that the reader should incorporate his take on the subject matter into his sessions. I still have to ask him sometime, where did he want to go with it.

This is definitely a Big Foot in my estimation (Smurf to Godzilla). I am definitely going to make a Wobble session out of it. It's kind of like if the TV series Angel ever got coherent or something.

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