Posted on December 29, 2004 by Flames
Created by: William Spencer-Hale
Written by: Powell Crider, Andrew Greenberg, Christy Cechman and William Spencer-Hale
In recent years a host of post-apocalyptic games have flung themselves at the mercy of the gaming market. Rapture: The Second Coming is a setting created by William Spencer-Hale. Its post-apocalyptic echoes have strong religious overtones. While some games with a religious feel have lent themselves to popular Christian theology, Rapture flies in the face of such traditions through its conspiracy and depiction of the Vatican as the basis for all evil. The writers of Rapture are aware of its controversy, “Rapture does not attempt to embrace a religious ideal or promote one form of theology over another. On the contrary, in the context of the game, all religions have their truth, no matter what their view of God may be.” (Page 24) The game is no less controversial for having the explanation, however. Its character classes span the realm of modern-day religion and stereotypes.
As a result of the game’s content, this setting is not a campaign for an unbiased player. Much care and research was done to write a character’s devotion or belief system. Devotions include; Buddhism, Catholic and Orthodox, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Native American Shamanism, Paganism, Protestant, Taoism and the fictional Church of Universal Brotherhood. Surprisingly, no reference section is offered in the book to provide information on where the backgrounds for the religions were retrieved from. Although each Devotion summarizes how the religions relate to the fictional world, it is hard to make the distinction in this setting whether or not the definitions for the above religions are true to form.
One step beyond a character’s belief is his Class. Advanced Classes offer a variety of religious organizations, militant and civilian, for a player to fight within. The Advanced Classes are both recognizable and fictional. For example, a player may belong to the Hezballah (Party of God) or as a Jesuit. Once again, the line between reality and fiction is blurred as history becomes part of the setting and those well versed in politics may find themselves in a difficult position. With something as personal as politics and religion, is it possible to enjoy oneself in a fictitious setting?
In order to appreciate Rapture, a gamer must approach the setting with an open mind. This may prove to be difficult, because the setting is so possible it is more neo-futuristic fiction than post-apocalyptic. Truly, this game is a well defined view of the a world gone awry.
To enhance setting and characters, Rapture utilizes both line art as well as a unique style of photography. The line art added to the historical flavor of the text, the photography surpassed all my expectations. These pieces married models with religious symbols to give their portrayed characters a supernatural feel. And, like the outstanding picture on page 118, the attempt was successful. It would be interesting to see what John Bridges artistic adaptation of Todd Speser’s photographs originally looked like, as photographic art is challenging to reproduce in print media without the loss of some detail.
Once characters are addressed, the book turns to the structure of heaven and hell. Reminiscent of Dante’s Paradiso and Inferno, the composition mimics the multi-layered concept. However, as the game is played on Earth, it is jarring to see both heaven and hell’s mysteries reproduced in this work. The chapter dehumanizes the storyline, and adds a supernatural element only GM’s should be aware of when creating a game. No longer is this a human fighting against the ultimate evil, this now becomes a world where either side may interfere without warning.
Vocabulary is Rapture’s greatest downfall. Unfortunately, the side effect of using the terms “heaven” and “hell” cause the game to be grounded in Christianity. Truth be told, the book uses many Christian terms that would cause a player truly grounded to their religion, i.e. Paganism, to either not believe parts of the setting or to redefine it to their own terms. Defining heaven in hell in a game where so many religions are proffered seems unnecessary. As a result, the game is unable to successfully combine all religious aspects into one mode of play however ambitious it may be. Perhaps in later editions a cross-vocabulary would be offered to show a player how a Pagan or Buddhist might visualize and treat a heavenly messenger.
Throughout Rapture, first person fiction is offered as an attempt to show examples of its setting. Written in an archaic style, the fiction does well to add to the setting. It gives off a feel of yellowing pages rather than computer chips, however, and lends an air of history to the setting. To add a modern-day feel, Rapture offers a transcript of communication. The pages did not translate well to print and the overpowering background causes it to be challenging to read.
Included with the setting is a physical location to play, replete with a map. Atlanta is painstakingly outlined in Rapture and is well worth a close look. The book finishes with sample storylines and a reminder that this world is so very close to our own.
Overall, the book is laid out extremely well. The fonts and headings are clear, easy to read, and consistent. Not one chapter or piece of material in the book appears out of place. In fact, all is extremely useful.
Since the book reveals so much information, I would recommend this more for a GM than an average player. From the mind of the GM, the setting would take enough defined shape for different levels of play to be enjoyable. The strength of this setting is its ability to be multi-faceted. From politics to combat, Rapture: The Second Coming would be great for those looking for an intense game.
Also be sure to check out Fist of God, which expands on the apocalyptic setting of Rapture: The Second Coming.
Reviewer: Monica Valentinelli
Look for Rapture: the Second Coming books at Noble Knight Games.