29 June 2012

Apocalypse Prevention Inc

My drivethrurpg library has gotten immense. There has to be at least two hundred different pdfs in the thing. I don't know how it got this big. I might have a problem. Scratch that, I know I have a problem. Recently my drivethrurpg habit has been replaced with a Kickstarter habit, but that is neither here nor there.

The reason I bring up my pdf library is not to boast about the size of my digital bookshelf. I mention it because out of all two hundred of those products I have not left a single review. Not one, despite my efforts to keep an RPG blog going for almost three years now. The time has come to remedy this oversight. I'm going to make an effort to review some of these products, even if it's just a few words and this effort starts today!

Apocalypse Prevention Inc

What is it?

Apocalypse Prevention Inc, or API, bills itself as an action-horror RPG with a dash of humour. It's a small press affair from Third Eye Games and looks pretty slick. The PDF is in black and white and a little sparse in the art department, but the overall layout is nice.

Players take on the roles of agents working for the titular organization, a kind of privatized version of the Men in Black. These agents spend their days policing the supernatural world. They greet travelers from other dimensions, solve supernatural crimes and deal with dangerous entities. Apocalypse Prevention Inc has access to technology above the modern level, as do demons and other outsiders. This means that future-tech like cybernetics are relatively common place in the game, which at time doesn't mesh well with the intended horror elements. (It comes across a little campy.) That said, cybernetics and future tech are fun, so you won't hear any further complaint from me.

How does it work?

The game begins with players creating their characters. API use a point-buy style system that has players selecting a race and then buying attributes, skills and gifts. There are a good number of races to choose from, everything from fire demons to changelings, but the game makes it clear in the lore that most of the time players should be creating human characters. This feels like a mixed message to me; you don't say that the majority of the organization is filled with humans and then dangle a half dozen alternative choices in front of the players. It doesn't help that there are rules for creating a random demonic race for players to use (Not that I'm complaining, I love random tables.) This all ties back into my feeling that the game doesn't quite match the tone that the author was going for.

Attributes and Skills are exactly what they sound like and there isn't much to say other than there are enough of them to make characters feel diverse, but not so many that they lose their importance. Gifts are where things get interesting. These cover everything from magical ability to cybernetic implants and they are where most players are going to spend the most time agonizing over choices.

One place where the character creation in API veers off from the traditional path is with something called Passions. These passions are an aspect of the character's personality and life that drives them and they are used as an experience mechanic throughout the game. If a player plays their character according to their listed Passion then they earn experience. It's a good mechanic for encouraging players to take on a more active role and it's one that has become relatively common, in one for or another, since API was published four years ago.

The actual game mechanics are really straightforward: roll 1d20 and add relevant attribute and skill. There is an separate combat section which covers things like teamwork and special maneuvers and this is important in a game where players primarily spend their time hunting down demonic creatures. The system reads and plays very much like a lighter version of d20, something closer to Savage Worlds in crunch, maybe a little crunchier. It's a good, simple system and those familiar with d20 and similar systems will catch on very quickly. The game isn't trying to do anything special with the system and, frankly, it doesn't need to.

Final Thoughts

Apocalypse Prevention Inc does what it sets out to do. It provides a great framework for players interested in playing enhanced agents that hunt monsters and any GM that picks up this book is provided with everything they need to start that campaign with minimal effort and planning. The system that runs the game will be familiar to anyone that has played a traditional tabletop rpg and should be easy to pick up for those that haven't, but it doesn't do much that is new or interesting.

The strength of API really lies in the engaging setting that frames the rules. It's fun and should instantly appeal to anyone that loves a good old fashioned monster hunt. It is Men in Black meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer and if that idea grabs you then you will like API. If it doesn't then you aren't going to find much that will hold your attention in this game.

You can pick up Apocalypse Prevention Inc at drivethrurpg.

27 June 2012

Online Conventions

It seems that with the success of G+ role playing and the Roll20 Kickstarter that online tabletop role playing is more popular than even. They have become so popular that web-based game conventions are being planned to bring us all together, regardless of physical location. Sounds like a great idea to me, I rarely make it out to conventions because they are expensive, usually require taking time off work and Lady Boulder isn't exactly interested in the experience.

July 9th – July 15th

It started with ConstantCon, which was more a way to organize G+ role playing games than it was a convention in the traditional sense. It didn't take long for other people to realize that there might be a way to host a more traditional convention through these same digital means. Inspired by the ConstantCon idea, Indie+ moved onto the scene and may be the first online-only RPG convention. Indie+ is coming up soon and takes place from July 9th to 15th of this year. It's already looking to be a fun experience with a few confirmed panels and a growing number of scheduled games to join.  I am a little worried that they didn't schedule far enough in advance and will come up short for panels and games. Hopefully they will keep growing right up until the date of.

Indie+ may be the first such convention, but AetherCon was actually advertised earlier. AetherCon has partnered with Roll20 and is shaping up to be a pretty traditional affair with panels, tables, tournaments and everything else you would expect to find at a meatspace convention. Despite the confusing nomenclature of halls and tables, the convention is taking place entirely online and will be free for any gamer to enjoy. The list of confirmed games and panels just keeps growing for AetherCon and I believe that by the time November rolls around it will be at least as big as my local gaming convention, if not bigger.

25 June 2012

Santzi's Verbal Duplicity

I whipped up this quick spell for this contest. I think I could probably have gotten away with making it a level 1 spell, but I feel that it could be surprisingly useful.

Santzi's Verbal Duplicity

Level: 2
Duration: 30 minutes per level
Range: Earshot

This spell is cast on at least one pair of earrings. While wearing these earrings whatever the wearer speaks is magically altered to sound like something else (that makes sense) to anyone that isn't also wearing an earring that has been enchanted in this manner. Wearing these earrings really does let someone say one thing and mean another. The wearer may also communicate normally while wearing the earrings if they wish.

22 June 2012

Post Free RPG Day 2012 PDF Roundup

That's right, that time of the year has come and passed once again. There were a lot of goodies available at game stores around the world and I hope that you were able to get out to one of them to try your luck.

For those of you that were not able to make it to your FLGS this year (or just didn't get as much loot as you would have liked) I have compiled this handy list of links so that you can go download what you missed.

BattleTech: A Time of War

What's this? A BattleTech RPG? Yes, that's exactly what this is. I'll be honest, I didn't even know this game existed until I saw this on Free RPG Day. A lookup on RPG Geek revealed that this game has been around since 2009! For Free RPG day we got a Quickstart edition of the rules that includes short mission (read: adventure) and some characters to throw at it.

If you like what you see in the Quick Start then you should know that the full rulebook is on sale right now for $15.

Brass & Steel

Brass & Steel is a brand new steampunk RPG from Pamean Games that bills itself as a hybrid of tabletop and live action role playing. If that sounds like something you might enjoy then you're going to love this free Quickstart edition.

The Quickstart rules come with an adventure, but it isn't your typical tabletop fare. No, The Case of the Croquet Mallet is a one-night LARP adventure for 12 players and 2 storytellers. Dust off your monocle and glue some extraneous cogs onto everything in site to prepare for this one.

If you like the cut of Brass & Steel's jib then you can pick it up for the very reasonable price of $10.

Conspiracy X

If memory servers, and it rarely does, then Conspiracy X used to be a GURPS setting. Nowadays they are using Unisystem. I'm not a fan of the system, but I am a fan of conspiracies and secret wars. Conspiracy X takes inspiration from all of your favourite alien and supernatural conspiracy stories.

If you like the idea of playing a man in black then you should definitely check out the free introductory game kit they handed our for Free RPG Day. It has all the rules you need to play through a two session adventure.  The full product is also half price right now.

Cosmic Patrol

Cosmic Patrol is a new game from Catalyst that I don't know a lot about. From the looks of the free quickstart rules they gave out for Free RPG Day it looks to be a game set a pulpy retro-future of which the likes of Buck Rogers would be at home in.

Looking through those same rules also reveals that Catalyst is trying their hand at a more new-school style of RPG. You know, the kind that has been all the rage since Fate RPG went mainstream.


There were three adventures for Pathfinder RPG this year. Paizo published an adventure called Dawn of the Scarlet Sun, which you can download here. Next up is Shadowsfall: A Temple of Orcus from Jon Brazer Enterprises. Finally, we have Undying Legacy of the First Ones. That last one was actually Kickstarted so that it could be given away on Free RPG Day, a worthy Kickstart if I have ever seen one. Also, if you like what you see of NeoExodus then you should be aware that there is also a free setting primer.


Can you believe that Catalyst Games Lab had not one, but three different products for Free RPG Day 2012? This is a company that deserves your support, people. They're genuinely trying to get more people involved in gaming.

The final item they had was the Shadowrun 4 Quickstart Rules. This has actually be available for quite some time now, but that's no reason to keep you away from ruining some poor decker's day. Just like with the other Catalyst games, the full version of Shadowrun 4 is on sale right now for just $15.

Warhammer 40k: Only War

Not content with just Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, and Black Crusade, Fantasy Flight Games is releasing yet another Warhammer 40k RPG. Am I the only one that wishes they would just release a universal 40k RPG?

In any case, Only War is the latest and it seems to be focused on the Imperial Guardsman. If that sounds interesting to you then head on over to FFG and download Eleventh Hour, an introductory adventure that will give you a taste of what is to come with the forthcoming Only War. If that isn't enough to tide you over then you can always put down $20 to get a copy of the beta rules. You will get a credit towards the final product, but paying for a beta still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Not yet available digitally:

  • Dead in the Eye (D&D 4e Adventure) - Unlikely to see this since WotC did not publish last year's adventure digitally either.
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics Adventure - We probably won't see this one either seeing as how Goodman didn't publish last year's adventure for download.
  • Harn setting material with world map

9 June 2012

Characters as Dice

Today I was thinking about dice. Specifically, I was thinking about ways to use dice in an RPG that I haven't seen before. One of the most credible of these ideas was to use the dice as the character sheet, at least to an extent.

The Idea

I envision a character being made up of a handful of dice, probably six-sided. Each face on a die could represent a different aspect of the character, such as a skill or ability. 

Imagine a die flattened out:

2 3 4

Each side could be assigned a different icon which translates to a character skill or element of the character. If you can't get stickers to do this with then you could always write out on a piece of paper what each side means.

For example:

1 Stealth
2 Knife
3 Knife
4 Acrobatics
5 Acrobatics
6 Persuasion

A character has one of these dice for each level that they are. They roll 1 or more of these dice and the corresponding face determine their action/outcome

The GM can set difficulty in the number of faces that need to come up across all dice rolled with the desired effect. For example, if a player is trying to defeat a monster the GM can state it is a difficulty 2 monster, meaning there needs to be two matching faces. The player rolls 2d6 and gets Knife twice. They narrate that they stabbed the monster, defeating it. If they rolled persuasion twice they might have narrated that they were able to talk their way out of the situation or distract the monster for a turn.

Players choosing which of their dice to roll in any given situation is part of the strategy of the game. When building their character/leveling up they need to assign skills/abilities to their dice as well. So if one player were to place acrobatics on all the faces of one die they are guaranteed to always be at least somewhat successful if they role that die for acrobatics. Another player might spread acrobatics across 3 dice, two on each die. This character would be less likely to roll acrobatics in any given situation, but they have the potential of rolling up a larger set and thus beating more difficult challenges.


Further extending this system could be special abilities for characters that require a certain set or sequence to appear on rolled dice. For example if a character rolled 3d6 and got Stealth, Knife, and Acrobatics this might activate their Backstab power.


If a player doesn’t roll exactly what they want they could narrate their success, but incorporate a complication. The GM might also add in the complication depending on the group play style.


With a dice system like this it is easy to implement things like Races or Classes. All you need to do is add another die to the character. An archetypal die might have predefined faces rather than player selected faces. After all, an elf is always an elf.

Using something like a racial die could be a good idea as it would give players an extra die to roll at the beginning of the game, assuming that 1 level = 1d6. Mind you, a starting character could always just have a number of bonus dice depending on the desired power level of the game.

Final Thoughts

You know, I really like this idea. I don't think I would like to play a regular game this way, but as a quick sit down and play kind of game I think it is a cool idea. It might be fun long term for groups that are more interested in narrative-based play, but for any group that likes numbers and mechanics I fear it would be a little too light to keep them engaged for long.


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