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.


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