Thursday, September 3, 2015

12 Games September Apocalypse Prevention Incorporated

To stat I'm going to acknowledge that last month's Firefly review only had a single post.  To be honest as much as I love trying out new games these posts have the least readers and that includes Meme Mondays.  Because of that I just can't justify dedicating four articles a month on them.  Instead I'm going to go to a more standard review and just sum it all up in a single article each month.   Fora anything you were waiting to hear about Firefly that I didn't cover in my first week's review here it is: It plays basically the same as Marvel Heroic which I reviewed earlier in the year. The rules are cleaned up a bit and by having aspects tied to items and personality traits instead of nebulous descriptions of super powers helps a lot, but in the end it's pretty "Meh".

Now on to this month's game Apocalypse Prevention Incorporated or API.  I'll be honest I already had ran this as a Savage Worlds setting, but never with the system it was originally written for.  I have both the 1st and 2nd editions of the game as I was part of the Kickstarter, but since it is by far the better written version I'm going to talk about the 2nd edition.

The basic concept of the setting is more or less Men in Black except instead of alien you are dealing with "demons". I put demons in quotes because even though they sell the game as that in reality they are just alien from other dimensions instead of planets.  I'm not going to lie that irritated me a bit because while yes there is magic in the setting the game is sold as a supernatural MiB when in fact it's just a different form of Scifi.  It's an easy enough fix, but I do feel more like they just couldn't make it an actual MiB game so they changed a few things to avoid being sued (right down to neuralizers that use sound instead of a flash).

Mechanically it's a d20 based game that only uses a d20. This means static damage and no fumbling with other dice which I like.  It's a pretty streamlined system with some very unique ideas mechanically.  That is until D&D 5th Edition came out.  API was first so I'm giving them credit for the concepts, but this isn't the time when the book first came out and odds are many of you will have seen these ideas.  The two that really float to the surface for me are not having skills linked to attributes and how they handle actions.

Like I said these are ideas that the new D&D (and honstly I've seen as house rules for years), but API did come out first so I will give them credit. The basic idea is that you have training in a skill which  gives you a bonus and then the attribute you roll with is based on what you are doing.  Obviously one attribute will probably be used more than others, but it opens skills up to a lot more flexability.  The example they give is a great one if for some reason you don't know what I'm talking about.  In the example we have a palyer that has the Animal Handling skill, now if he is say riding and animal that could be Dexterity plus the skill, but if he is needing to know something specific about an animal the group comes across he instead uses Intelligence.  It's a simple idea but a valuable one.

The other stand out mechanic is how they handle actions.  In the D&D 5e GM's Guide there si an optional rule that uses "action speed" which basically says while you still roll initiative what you want to do with your turn still takes up time.  So casting a 5th level spell reduces your initiative by 5 while swinging a finesse sword only reduces it by 1 and a heavy sword by about 3.  API does take this a bit further in allowing multiple actions as long as you still have initiative left letting faster characters literally do more , but the basic math and concepts are almost identical.  Honestly it's a system I'm torn on because while I love it in concept it heavily slows down combat in a system taht for the most part is very fast and stream lined.

There is only last area that I do admit is unique to API (even though I was familiar with it as it is in the Savage Worlds version as well) and that is how they handle magic.  The basic idea is magic has tiers and schools.  However many tiers of magic you have unlocked (3 in total) determines how powerful of spells you can cast while a character is limited to a number of school they can cast from.  Now it isn't like older editions of D&D where if you pick one school you can't pick another instead you are jsut limited on how many school you can branch out into based on your intelligence.  Each spell is also its own skill which on one hand might seem odd to many players, but how they handle it I'm a huge fan of.  Mostly because once you gain a certain proficiency with a skill you get to start to customize it and make it your own.  Every spell has a list of modifiers they can add to it for each rank (above what is basically considered "average").  When you gain a rank you also gain one of these modifiers resulting in spells becoming much more personal and interesting.

At the end of the day I actually would suggest this game as it has a lot of interesting ideas at play. I didn't even get into being able to play as a ghost, werewolf, mermaid, swamp monster, mummy, rat person, or any of a ton of other non-human races.  The setting I will admit is "ok" it has great ideas, but feels like there are some serious holes (such as all these cool races but those races combined are only supposed to be like 10% of API combined).  Personally I would just tweak a few things and either have a full supernatural game where fighting off hell and evil wizards is the norm or put the scifi aspects and actually just run an MiB game.

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