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Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. RPG Review

Posted By Flames On March 30, 2009 @ 5:23 am In RPGs | 9 Comments

Available at RPGNow.com

What It Is
Apocalypse Prevention, Inc (or API,) is an action-horror RPG set in a future plagued by monsters, magic, destruction, all the average faire of a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting. The namesake is the corporation who holds back all the above-mentioned things. Characters are agents, working to fight back the destruction of the planet. Pretty simple?

The game advertises itself as “action horror, with a twist of humor.”

What I Think
The first thing that really jumped out at me was the character creation section. This quote stands example to what my biggest problem with API is, “Even while physically male, a character may be gay (sexually attracted to other men) or enjoy wearing women’s clothing, but still be heterosexual. The same is true of women.” If you’re going to talk about something in your book, it’s clearly important to the game. Gender/Sexuality is the first topic discussed under character concepts, leading me to believe that it’s integral to the game setting. Also, to explain to us what gay means is completely unnecessary, it reeks of condescending writing. Either we already know what it means, as 99% of people do, or if we’re that 1% who doesn’t, we probably shouldn’t be getting our definitions of real world terms from gaming books. This isn’t isolated; the next few lines briefly and matter-of-factly explain what it means to be transgendered.

Next is a discussion of the prevalent racism in the setting, in a fashion that suggests incorrect or naïve behavior from a non-racist. Family life comes next, where examples suggest abusive or otherwise dysfunctional backgrounds are the norm. I don’t feel that this is conducive to the “twist of humor” previously suggested. This is not written to suggest light-hearted play. Reading on, it seems as if “twist of humor” actually means, “laughingly dismissive of violence and dark subject matter.”

Passions are an interesting addition to the game, similar to some other systems’ alignment, nature/demeanor style mechanics. Essentially, they’re driving forces in your character’s nature, where if you properly play them, you get more experience. This adds a bit of a dramatic element that balances out some of the bulkier mechanics-emphasis later. A number of archetypes are listed, and are very comprehensive and open for character types. I think this setup has promise, but I’m not sure it takes that promise where it could go.

The Setting
The setting is piecemeal, it requires more than a little assumption on behalf of the players. I feel that some of the organizations, particularly the magic orders, are simplified and stereotyped to a fault. Once you’ve read a basic description of a group, you can essentially guess everything to come in the rest of the material. The writing is very casual, and often leads me to an impression that I’m reading less about a group of agents in a post-apocalyptic future, and more a group of gamers sitting around a table joking about a group of agents in a post-apocalyptic future.

The System
The system, for what it is, is simple. The mechanics use a single die, which makes the system very fluid in execution. Kudos. This actually counterbalances the complicated lists of combat skills, which make up a rather sizeable portion of the skill section. It’s well-written for an action-oriented game. My only issue comes from the information being spread out, sometimes a bit too much to easily access.

Character creation is relatively quick and painless. Far from the simplest I’ve seen, but further from the most complicated. There’s some minor algebra that might turn off some casual players, but I would put it right around the level of complexity of creating a d20/3.5 style character.

Story Telling
The chapter six, “Telling Stories for API,” has the potential to be very good. However, about 2/3rds of the text just reiterates what’s previously been said, and putting it into, “you can run games about this,” terms. The GM advice is all very simple, almost form information from previous games. I don’t really see anything worth reading there. However, the Adventure Hooks section shows promise. I could see cutting almost everything else out of that chapter, to make more room for creative and exciting adventure hooks.

Who Would Like It
The game lends itself to casual gamers, looking to sit around a table with some snacks, blowing imaginary things up. It has the same, unapologetic monster-slaying vibe as an old-school dungeon crawl. The statistics lead to quick referencing, combats should be rather epic and dynamic.

Who Wouldn’t
Non-gamers. The writing is very assumptive, and not particularly friendly to someone who hasn’t digested dozens of rpg supplements in their life. I wouldn’t suggest this book for a first rpg, however I doubt that’s the intended market. A drama intensive group isn’t going to have a lot brought to their table that they aren’t bringing. The book is very short and concise, dramatic elements are often glossed over.

It also wouldn’t work well for the easily offended. While not directly vulgar, it addresses some offensive subject matter with a dismissive attitude.

Final Assessment
Frankly, I’d give this book a 2 out of 5. There are a couple of neat elements hidden inside, but not enough to raise it above mediocrity.

Review by David A Hill Jr

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