Thursday is GURPSDay, and much like Christmas time, I was gifted with the transcript that someone did of the conversation between Hunter Shelburne and +Rev. Pee Kitty (PK Levine, Jason Levine) regarding the GURPS worked-example series After the End.

For an absolutely shameless set of plugs, if you want some comprehensive reviews of each volume, check out After the End 1: Wastelanders (review) and After the End 2: The New World (review) that I did previously.

But what was the interview, you ask? It was part of SJGamesLive.

(I should note that these transcripts, whether it be this one or those on The Firing Squad, are pretty intense piece of work. As an example, the AtE transcript is just shy of 10,000 words long. That’d be about a 12-page Pyramid article, which is on the longer side of things. So there’s a lot of content here.) Continue reading “Transcript: Hunter and PK talk After the End”

It’s been a while since I sat down to review the After the End (AtE) series by +Pk Levine  (the Rev Pee Kitty, Jason “PK” Levine, the assistant Line Editor for GURPS). I did a detail review of the first book, Wastelanders, which covered the characters book.

These worked-example series are not new for GURPS. The first and most spectacularly successful, with at least 20 volumes either published or in the works, was GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. Followed shortly by the less successful but in many ways more awesome GURPS Action, the over-the-top 400-point Monster Hunters (and for those who want to dial it down to a “mere” 200 points, you can get the Sidekicks volume), and now After the End.

To brush up on what’s come before, first go read Sunday Review: GURPS After the End 1 – Wastelanders. I’ll wait.

OK. Let’s get to it.

The Highlights

The second volume in worked-example series is the campaign book, and AtE2 is no exception. It’s concise one-page Table of Contents gives you 54 pages of content (including the index, which is two pages long). The book is divided into four chapters:

  1. The End. This walks you through defining how civilization ended, long ago. (5 pages)
  2. Wasteland Hazards. Depending on your choices for The End, this leads you through challenges that will have to be overcome in day to day adventuring. (21 pages)
  3. Boldly Going Forth. Each of the topics covered (my notation for what SJG calls C-HEADS) is a particular challenge to be met. Survival, terrain and ruins, combat, tech . . . even making friends in a dog-eat-people world. (19 pages)
  4. Post-Apocalyptic Game Mastering. A short section on styles of campaigns and how the feel of your game will reflect in the challenges and their resolution. (4 pages)
Introduction

The core of the introduction is perhaps a quarter-page of text. It lays out the mission of the book, which contains a very important note, made implicitly. 
The hazards that are to be faced are going to be laid out in detail, and those hazards are meant to be very well known to the players. The largest chapter in the book, Chapter 2 on hazards, is not supposed to be a surprise. The things required to survive, if not prosper or thrive, in the post-apocalyptic wasteland are things the players’ characters have been living with and doing all their lives. When they stop doing these things, they die. 
So don’t hide that – it’s player-facing info. In fact, here’s a player facing list of things that each skill, advantage, and ability can do provided by No School Grognard.
Chapter One: The End

To play a game set after the apocalypse, you have to know how it went down. Chapter 1 talks about different possible (not to say equally plausible) endings, and asks the classic SciFi question: what then?
Cause and Effects

The end will have different shapes and sizes. If a mysterious radiation surge or teleportation event simply removes 99.99% of the world’s population, leaving but a million random folks on the globe, that’s going to be very different than World War 5.
The key bit is in the lead-in paragraph to the topic. A single cause of the end of the world is unlikely. Ten at once is unbelievable. Also, while I’m glad the book didn’t go into it, a look at the difference between Proximate Cause and Ultimate Cause is useful here for prospective GMs. The ultimate cause is often the basic “what the heck happened?” question. The proximate cause or causes is what occurred as a result of that. Sure, the bombs fell, but it was the damage to food production, power, and loss of the transport network that killed civilization.
Each subtopic – a cause and it’s effects – is given three blocks of information. How the disaster might have been the primary cause of the fall of civilization, how this might have arisen as a secondary effect of some other cause, and what hazards are to be encountered as a result.
Listed Hazards include nuclear war, cosmological events, giant impact of a space object like a comet or asteroid, lethal pathogens, nature gone awry, SkyNet, societal breakdown, zombies, and aliens.
The primary cause information is pretty sparse, because mostly the intro text covers what the disaster is, and you don’t need to think too much about how a global nuclear war might be a bad thing. The secondary causes information is more subtle, because it talks about which items might likely spring from others (nuclear holocaust on a local scale to try and sterilize a run-away pathogen? Terrifyingly plausible). The key bit of secondary effects is when an event is unlikely as a secondary. A world-killing asteroid is not an also-ran . . . it’s the main event.
The most utility for the GM is in the Appropriate Hazards section, which is of course exactly what it says: which of the hazards detailed in Chapter Two are associated with this disaster.
Tech Level

A very, very, very short discussion of the implications of what the Tech Level (TL) of a world was at the time of its end introduces some key points . . . and then leaves them on the table for you to figure out. The warning can be summarized as “high TL stuff can change your campaign a lot,” with the caveat that low starting funds will limit how much gear can be had (that’s “nearly none,” since a fully functional Glock will run you more than 10x your starting funds in most cases).
How Long Ago

The final subtopic in this chapter discusses some interesting bits on when the world actually ended. The book is definitively not about living through it – thought that might make a fun one-shot mini-campaign – so the book talks about the implications of the space between the fall and the game. I’m going to rephrase the sections in terms of generations of about 30 years.
50 years ago. Plenty of people are still alive to remember the fall. In terms of 2015 (for easy math), the apocalypse happened in 1965. One can easily imagine someone who was in college or early adulthood being an elderly sage about the way life used to be. Or, if the world ended in 2015, the gae is set in 2065.
150 years ago. Everyone living at that time, even infants, is dead. The fall happened in 1865 – the US Civil War or the Crimean War ended the world. It will be difficult to imagine or know how people lived then, and even harder to imagine how they think. Dueling had gone out of fashion in the early to mid 1800s, and the dress sword was no longer the mark of a free man. And of course, formal US Slavery ended in this time period. If the world ended in 2015, the game is in 2165.
250 years ago. The world ended in 1765, before the American Colonies of England broke away. If the world ended in 2015, the game in 2265. Note that the TV show Babylon 5 is set in this time frame in the future – so uninterrupted, the world can be expected to be entirely different.

Chapter Two: Wasteland Hazards
The chapter on hazards is, by a narrow margin, the longest in the book. It details the kind of threats the players will face. It also makes explicit what was implied in the introduction: share this with your friends.

After making these decisions, it’s important for the GM to share them with the players, so they know how to build their characters. He doesn’t have to reveal any secrets or be overly specific: “In this world, rogue bots will be a huge issue. They’re everywhere. Because they scorched the sky, everything is freezing as well, so be prepared for ice and snow. Radiation, toxins, munitions, and nanotech will pop up occasionally. Other hazards will be relatively rare.”

Each type of hazard is given some thoughtful detail. While not precisely written up like a trap in Dungeons and Dragons, the game mechanical effects of encountering the hazard are always listed. Also listed are the skills required to detect, avoid, diagnose, and cure (or at least treat) the effects of the hazard. The traits that come in handy pop off the page thanks to judicious use of bold text for such.
Some of the treated hazards, and notes about them.
Chemicals and Munitions. This details the nasty byproducts of a modern society, stripped of the protections that usually arise around such things. Spills, dumps, and weapons are all covered, as are mutagens and other nasties.
Climate. When you can’t just go inside and shut the doors, trusting your air conditioning to protect you, weather and climate is a real threat. Even if you’re not basing the campaign around climate gone wrong, extreme heat or extreme cold can be lethal by themselves lacking appropriate gear and preparation. If that storm happens to be acid rain, or the sandstorm is blowing around a radioactive particulate too? Well, sucks. Also give a paragraph is the all-important topic of safe drinking water.
Disease. The hits keep on coming. Even if disease was the actual cause of the downfall, it’s not likely to just go away the way a nuke does. Sickness and disease are constant companions in the world, doubly so if it actually was the root cause of all the pain. The rules talk about diagnosis, discovery, interacting with diseases and their victims, immunity, and provides some sample diseases, such as cholera and mega-flu, and deals with weaponized versions of each.
Gangs. When law and order breaks down, people organize for good or ill. As this subsection is effectively one of the “nasty NPC” subsections, it’s three pages by itself. Encampments and raiding parties are details (and more), plus good advice on general attitude of a gang, from desperate (we do this ’cause we have to) to depraved (we do it for fun). Gangers are given mini-templates and some lenses as well, with three ganger subtypes (raider, O.G. (?), and Boss) and two lenses.
Mutants. A bit on detecting mutants, a bit on curing them. And then three more pages of a mutant bestiary. Human(ish) mutants, animals (with endearing names like killigator), and plants. 
Nanotechnology. Swarms of robots designed to destroy. As a hazard, you get the limited disassembler nano, the self-propagating grey goo, and two types of nanovirus – the nanoburn (delivers toxic damage after paralyzing you) and the proteus virus (rewrites your DNA; could even be beneficial . . . but probably isn’t).
Paramilitaries. Like gangs but better. And worse. More heavily armed and organized than gangs, these ex-mililtary, ex-law enforcement, ex-mercenary, or simply just a bunch of guys. The key is the organization and leadership tend to be more structured, and the gear tends to be more, well, militaristic. The section covers motivation, leadership, and resources, and then gives three sample soldiers. These groups are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they are very, very dangerous. On the other . . . so much loot.
Radiation. The rules for radiation and radiation points are in AtE1. The rest of this short section gives skills for dealing with radiation and the dosages emitted by different threats.
Rogue Bots. Combat robots for the win. Could be an omnipresent threat (Reign of Steel; Terminator), or a one-off. How to determine a ‘bots strengths and weaknesses, and how to reprogram it. Two sample combat robots to kill characters.
Zombies. If you really, really want to go this way, buy the book (GURPS Zombies). But for this book, you get a healthy three pages so you can play your own version of 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead. Discusses variations on how they were caused/created, how they spread their condition, and two sample zombies. Then a subsection on horde combat for when you’re beset by a vast quantity of shamblers. This includes a quick-and-dirty box on the effects of being grappled, and the zombie takedown. The rest is a flow diagram for quick, low-to-no detail fighting when the PCs are outnumbered 2:1 or more. 
Chapter Three: Boldly Going Forth

The game makes the important assumption that the campaign is not “After the End: Hiding in a Bunker.” The next 19 pages detail the kinds of things that living and traveling in the wasteland will make you deal with.
Survival. The basics – hunting, gathering, finding water, making camp/shelter, and travel. Each has concise rules that are light on mechanics and heavy on results. Gathering is low-yield but safe. Hunting (with rules for using animals included) is higher yield but risky in both result and danger. A nice rule of thumb for travel with and without scouting ahead is provided. A lot can be ported out of this section to other games, but use caution – the entire book is predicated on it being a hazardous, post-disaster wasteland, not a verdant but low-TL wilderness. Subtle difference, but worth checking out.
Ruins and Bunkers. Structures are one of the important trappings of a civilization gone bad, and the book gives about four full pages (about 10% of the book, for comparison) to the topic. How to get in is really a section on what’s keeping you out. Fences, walls, hungry dinosaurs, and anti-intrusion machineguns all fit the bill. Creaky floors, falling walls (and ceilings!), and bringing the house down accidentally and on purpose will keep the players on their toes (assuming they have toes Mutants, you know). A box provides a simple falling table for when the floor gives out. Finally, a brief section on purposeful traps – poisons, bombs, zappers.
Scavenging. Sorting out the good stuff from mountains of useless crap for fun and profit. And survival. A handy table gives modifiers to your Scrounging roll based on what kind of area it is, and how well it’s been picked-over before. Typical types of loot are listed, and the odds of a “stash,” an intentionally-hidden mound of awesome. The results will be stuff depending on the quality of the roll, and tables provide inspiration. 
Inventions, Upgrades, and Repair. This is the “how to be a Gadgeteer” section, which is important to the genre. How to take the various crap you pull out of the wasteland and turn it into all the things Roy Hinkley makes on Gilligan’s Island. This is another large section, with rules for inventions worth up to millions provided (that’s a lot of bullets and bottlecaps). Upgrading, repairing, and analyzing the function of gear is also covered. (I have glossed over the detailed rules for inventing and creating things; it can be a metagame in and of itself; I’d caution GMs to watch for that if the gadgeteer is being a fun vampire).
Computers. The need for clean power, good operating conditions, and actual software and hardware to run it on will make these limited. And therefore valuable. 
Combat. Likely to be rather a lot of this. The first section borrows and modifies the simplified gunplay section from Action 2. Range bands and simplified rapid fire. Some optional rules like shooting two guns (also known as wasting twice as much ammo, which is actually money in this world), predictive shooting (ranged deceptive attacks), and using guns as melee weapons. There are brief rules for determining enemy tactics, using mockery and taunts, and the element of surprise.
Persuasion. Finally, three pages are dedicated to winning the mutated hearts and minds of your fellow wastelanders in ways that don’t involve high-speed projectiles. Befriending folks, creating followers, bartering in town are all covered as a list of tasks that you can do (see No School Grognard’s skill summary, linked above, for a consolidated ability-centric list). All sorts of personal and crowd-based situations are covered with this method, from shopping to riling up a mob.
Chapter Four: Post-Apocalyptic Game Mastering
The book closes with advice to the prospective GM on running the game.
Campaign Styles and Morality. These two sections give a bit of a matrix for campaign feel. Cinematic campaigns are built around the characters doing awesome stuff; the world exists for them. Heroic Realism and Gritty campaigns has the characters existing in the world, which really couldn’t give a rip about them. Heroic Realism has more opportunity to shine and excel. The Morality axis varies from ‘heart of gold’ to ‘every man for himself,’ and flavors the kinds of characters that will be made, and available design choices. Cinematic/Heroic characters are rather less likely to have Sadism.
Downtime. This section provides a useful schmorgasbord of things to do when you’re not actively adventuring. Gathering, scavenging, attracting throngs of followers, or building gadgets all qualify.
Gear. Advice on how to deal with expensive but fragile gear, but also how to emphasize the transitory nature of such finds. Sure, you found a car. But then the gang blows it up. That sniper rifle you found? Got sand in the bolt and now the chamber doesn’t seal. The laser pistol you covet? It wasn’t in your holster in the morning, and that attractive townie wasn’t in your tent when you woke up. In fact, said townie isn’t in town anymore.
Making Everyone Useful. This section is almost, but not quite, misnamed. It does cover making characters useful, but is really about the kind of challenges that are particularly appealing to each character type from AtE1. It also talks about how to tailor rewards for each type, so that challege, participation, and reward all are aimed appropriately at the kind of party that has been created.
Boxed Text
As always, peripheral but useful information is isolated and highlighted using boxed text. It might be my imagination, but this book seems to have more boxes than usual, though they are almost always very short.
Supernatural Ends. Clarifies that while supernatural apocalypses are possible (“Suddenly I find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.” -Riley Finn, Buffy the Vampire Slayer S4), they’ve been kept out of the book to keep it focus. I smell sequel.

Seriously – After the End X – Wrath of God Type Stuff would be a fun addition.

The Prodigal Colony and Even Shorter.  A rare double-D Boxhead (yeah, yeah, boob jokes. I get it.) Each section talks about a variation of the theme. The Prodigal Colony talks about a fully-functioning high TL colony sending a mission back to the lost and fallen homeworld of earth. This likely indicated a genre switch for the game . . . unless of course that colony had their own fall. Even Shorter notes that “apocalypse now” is not the focus of the book.
Temperature Tolerance. A very brief simplification of the advantage in question.
Slavers. A quick note on the value of human merchandise, and the conditions in which slaves are kept and held.
Hostile Townies. Not all unwelcoming persons travel around in vehicle convoys with flaming guitars. Some towns are just unfriendly. This box lists useful skills for detecting such, when the obvious “they’re shooting at us as a sign of welcome, like Minbari!” fails.
One of Us. Uh oh. Hidden mutants.
Aliens. What to do when it’s time for the close encounters to come out of the background. Stats for a Grey alien are provided.
Paramilitary Rank. One of the only places with a Rank advantage that has actual value. Small value, but value nonetheless.
Smart Zombies. Oh, you’re in for it now.
So You’ve Been Grappled. Simplified grappling at the hands of a zombie horde.
Complimentary Skills. Explains the nature and use of related skills to help with tasks.
Pack it Up! Having gear and keeping gear and knowing where gear is is the job for Freight Handling! With notes, tasks, and details on dealing with stowed stuff.
Blowing Stuff Up. Simple rules of thumb for breaking or totally destroying stuff. 
Falls. Simplified human-centered table for falling damage, for when the floor gives way.
Ruins are Dangerous. Yeah, well, duh. You go right ahead and explore that building. That radioactive, pathogen-ridden building.
Tech-Level Modifier. A quick table for use with the invention, repair, and gadget rules.
Selling Inventions. A rule for pricing stuff the players (or NPCs) come up with. Spoiler: it’s not worth as much as you think it should be. Ever.
Patching up. This is a 1/3-page box on how to adjudicate the various healing rules in a genre that has no fixed Tech Level assumptions. This is presented as a task list, and in most cases replacing any other healing rules with the guidelines here in other games probably isn’t a bad call.
New Gear. Three items, mostly medically-oriented.
Keeping Heroes Alive. This short box gives fates other than death, but requires the players to cooperate, and the GM to be lenient when it comes to horrible fates. Or at least lethal ones.
Gruesome Color. A very brief note on how cultural diversions can make the game more viscerally real.
Ballistic’s Report

One thing that cannot be said about AtE2 is that it’s missing big chunks of things you need. It’s all in there.
The book will aid a GM in walking through how the world ended, some secondary effects, and then provide associated hazards that will be encountered, to be shared with the players. Combined with the campaign style and morality in play, the players can then make appropriate characters.
The mechanics-centric take on on game tasks (survival, combat, interpersonal interaction, gear) is  welcome approach to this sort of thing, with the stylistic “skills in bold” drawing needed attention to where such things are located in the text. 
The material is well written and presented in a concise fashion. Sometimes too concise, as there are a few things that could have been usefully given just a bit more play, such as the implications of higher TL items.
The campaign book presented here is a toolkit book, more so than Action 2 or even Monster Hunters 2. Those have the advantage of having the world be more or less as-is, but with spies/monsters respectively. That allows for more flavor to emerge in the writing, which was not always as evident in this manuscript as other works by the same author. I think that’s the nature of the beast – if this book assumed a particular, fixed apocalypse with particular, fixed secondary disasters, more flavor could be evident. The only real slight here is that it makes the book read a bit dry. Still evocative and effective in achieving the goal, however, which is to facilitate world-building.
I know of at least one campaign, if not two, being spun up as I write this that take advantage of this book. And for that, it’s highly usable, with clear answers to “how do I do X?” that all are pointed at a common set of genre assumptions. In short, it is very successful as a worked-example campaign book. The bits on hazards and ruins are particularly exportable, too.
It’s a good book, and along with its character-based sibling, will allow the creation of rich games in the genre. Walking Dead? Check. Terminator? Check. This Quiet Earth? Check. Waterworld? You betcha. Road Warrior? Of course.
Can’t really ask for much more.

+Mark Langsdorf did a lot of work, and it turned out really well. 

He made a player-facing skills list based on the worked-example publication GURPS After the End 2.

It takes all the uses of attributes, skills, and advantages from the book and consolidates them by skill. So you get something like 

Traps Trap a meal (30)
Complementary skill for trapping a meal with Survival (30)
Per-based: Detect traps while scouting (32)
Per-based: Spot a security system (33)
Per-based: Spot a pit trap (36)
Per-based: Spot simple switches (36)
Disarm traps (36)
Salvage a concealed gun (36)

Except you get it for every single mention of a use or skill. 
This is a fantastic cheat-sheet, and worth emulation for other genres.

We have a new series in town, and an old one. After being held up in release limbo for an awfully long time, the post-apocalyptic GURPS After the End 1 – Wastelanders has clawed its way through broken terrain, starvation, radiation, and mutant dinosaurs to snap at our heels.

This will be a very comprehensive review of AtE 1. I’ve read through it once already, and I can tell that SJG is learning from prior successes.

The overall format, right down to structure, is the same as Action 1. You get templates, the cheat sheet, then new rules for mutations, and finally, gear.

Introduction

The introduction is not quite as important for AtE1 as it was for Action, which has some very critical assumption-setting departures in it. It still sets the tone for the book, though, concisely and well.

  1. The book is not about the process of the apocalypse. That was generations ago. The stories told here are in the world in its aftermath.
  2. The point value of typical characters is lower than some of the other worked-example series at 150 points, which is one of the first real instances in this type of book that returns to the original recommended point value for starting characters from the Basic Set.
  3. There are some new, simple rules for mutation, blended tech level, and fatigue. These can be mined for other quick-play campaign styles as well.

The introduction sets the tone for what follows. This book will be about grit, luck, determination, and survival. And radioactive mutant dinosaurs. No, they’re not really in the book. But you can see them waiting in the background . . . clever girl.

We’ll cover each chapter in turn. 


Chapter 1 – Wastelander Templates

This chapter is the guts of the book, and covers two types of character building blocks:

  1. Templates – big blocks of points that represent complete playable characters
  2. Lenses (things you add to make a character distinct and usually a bit more powerful
Templates
The meat of the book, covering perhaps half of the total page count. Less is explained in section-level headings, and it gets right to the included templates, which are

  • Doc – medical expert and frequently social face.
  • Hulk – big freakin’ guy (like 7′ big) that will usually hit stuff
  • Hunter – recon, scout, food supply, silent killer.
  • Nomad – Always moving, one step ahead of danger, vehicle/animal transport expert.
  • Scavenger – If it can be found in the wilderness or the wasteland, you can find it.
  • Tech – There may not be much left out there, but what it is, you can fix and use.
  • Trader – Probably the zeroth oldest profession, before that other one. There’s always a deal to be done, and you’re the one doing them. Really does have the Brooklyn Bridge for sale.
  • Trooper – Expert fighting, and a little bit frightening. If it can be shot, you will shoot it with discipline and verve. 
The thing that really sets AtE1 apart from (say) Dungeon Fantasy and Action 1 are the copious and profoundly useful Customization Notes provided for each template. Each runs to nearly a full-page column in length, and discusses how the template fits into the overall AtE world, variants of each type that will be useful to PC and GM alike, and makes recommendations for skills and abilities required to serve the customized role. 

The templates are big enough, flexible enough, to cover the bases. They are “only” 150 points, so stepping on each others’ niche won’t be a problem. It’s a solid basis set for adventuring in the Wasteland, and the customization notes and mini-lenses for each template provide a lot of variety.


Obligatory Panning of Blocks of Text

I’ve noted this before – I like templates but do not like how they’re presented on the paper. The format is basically the aforementioned wall of text. This is space-efficient but hides the utility of the template, which is the rapid presentation and assimilation of hundreds of points worth of choices.
If you use GCA and someone makes a macro for you? Templates are the greatest thing since sliced bread. If not, I find them very hard to read, but they’re the SJG house style and aren’t going away.

Lenses

What lens is this?

A short section, giving 50-point blocks of power-ups and modifications that are designed to boost the capability and niche of the characters. They are Blessed (lucky), Fast, Hardy, Learned, and Mutated. Note that there’s another lens, Experienced, which is tucked into each template. It’s 50 points of “more better!” used to raise the overall point value of a campaign.

Each one can be added to any template. There’s no reason you can’t have a Fast Doc, or a Learned Trooper.

Again, combined with the existing templates and custom notes, there’s a lot of room to make unique characters here.

Boxed Text
There are three instances of boxed text throughout the chapter, weighted to the beginning.

  • How did it end? talks about different ways that the world ends, fire, ice, meteor, and disease. It will flavor the kind of threats and the literal lay of the land.
  • Inappropriate Skills is a terse discussion of where not to spend your points. Useful to prevent players from building in useless abilities by accident. On purpose is on you.
  • Hulking Equipment. Big guys require big stuff, and this very short box tells you how to get super-sized weapons, armor, and stuff without worrying about square-cube laws.

Chapter 2 – Wastelanders’ Cheat Sheet

Now on to Chapter 2, the Wastelanders’ Cheat Sheet.

This is a worked example of something that’s recommended for most campaigns. Recommended enough that SJG hosts a web application – the Trait Sorter – to allow GMs to create such custom lists. 

What’s the list? Or lists, rather? The appropriate Advantages, Disadvantages, Skills and other abilities or notes for the particular campaign. Or in this case, genre.

Advantages

The Advantages were sorted into the realistic and heroic, but mostly not powered. This is basically what it says on the tin.

Specialization


If your gadgeteers are too powerful in you campaigns, this box text gives a great way to limit that by offering up seven specializations for this power. It’s very worth stealing.

Perks


A half-dozen Perks, all of which are chosen from the larger work on Perks, Power-Ups 2.

Disadvantages

The supplement, like Action before it, takes a lot of the crippling physical disads and tosses them out the window, since while it might be in genre, it’s probably not terribly fun, to play a crippled sessile PC – the game is about getting out into the wastes and . . . well, doing something. That something will wait until AtE 2, invariably the campaign book.

A box sets up the disad limit for the campaign at about a third of the starting character points. Neither generous nor stingy.

Skills

Obviously, skills get the same treatment. A cut-down list of skills is provided, stripping out the supernatural/powered set, and those that are more suited to passive study or setting up shop and selling lemonade for a living. Unless it’s nuclear lemonade.

It ends with a box noting that some forbidden skills are out because they’re not interesting to PCs. Not in the book: saying that if a PC needs one of those, a simple IQ roll would fix that right up. So would the Dabbler perk.

Secondary Characteristics


The book adds two new secondary attributes, Long-Term Fatigue Points (LFP) and Radiation Points (RP) to better track the particular hazards of the Waste. 

RP basically function as another form of hit points or fatigue points. LFP has an interesting mechanic behind it. It’s not as nuanced as what appeared in The Last Gasp (Pyr #3/44), but it more than makes up for it by being dirt simple and effective at what it sets out to do. Rules are provided for missing food and sleep and water.

Chapter 3 – Mutations

The third chapter is three pages long. It presents Powers-based rules for mutations, for attack, defense, bodily transformation, movement, and sensory improvements. Each mutation is a power, and comes with a cost in “freakishness,” that measure how . . . odd . . . you look. This comes along with physical and reputation issues. All in all, fairly tight balancing mechanism. 

Chapter 4 – Gear

It’s a different flavor than most other gear-centric games, where the cool thing is to have the most advanced, most awesome, niftiest batmobile, rifle, or computer.

Here in the Wasteland, you’re lucky to have food. The book spends its first portion talking about wealth, money, and how they don’t exist. Welcome to Bartertown. Another thing that doesn’t really exist is Tech Level, and the only real delineation between objects of different technology strata is price, with each level being double the level of the previous one. Since the world is basically a TL4 environment – the highest TL you can sustain without getting into large power source requirements – that means a Glock 9mm will probably run you about $8,000.

You start with $500 – the equivalent of a box of fifty rounds of ammunition in the Waste.

The equipment list would be boring repetition of items mostly already present in other books except for two things. Firstly, you don’t have to look in other books – what isn’t in the Basic Set, which is required to play the game, is repeated here as “new,” which means “new to the Basic Set information,” rather than “new to GURPS.” That’s true of prior entries in many places as well, though there is plenty of honest-to-goodness new stuff here too.

Food – durable, preserved food – gets some special mentions, as one would expect. Anti-radiation medicines that might be worse for you than the good they do are covered with brevity and no small amount of humor.

The armor section does a shorter job of ensuring that you check out the right armor by cost, by pointing out that in many cases “cheap” high-tech armor may well be better than TL4 equivalent normal stuff. There’s also a large, fun section of improvised weaponry.

Firearms and ammunition get a generic, quick treatment, but if there’s one place you might want to bring out detail, it’s here! A 9mm diameter bullet might come out of a .380, .38 special, 9mm Makarov, .357 Magnum, 9mm Parabellum, or even a .357 SIG  . . . and of those, only the .38 Special and .357 magnum can be fired from the same gun (and a .357M fired from a .38S gun might be a poor decision). Finding both a gun and ammunition of a common type? Gold . . . which is why not only are these things consumables, they’re literally money. 

The book also gives a brief overview of ammunition reloading, assuming you can find a press, dies, powder, and primers. Reloading ammo suddenly becomes an adventure in and of itself.

The final two pages are dedicated to vehicles, which mainly means they’re dedicated to the vehicles fuel, since that’s what’s going to run out the fastest.

Parting Shots

This is an interesting project and a welcome addition to the three existing worked-example series of Dungeon Fantasy (winner and still champion), Action, and +Rev. Pee Kitty‘s other series, the excellent Monster Hunters.

This is just the characters book, which follows what looks like a pre-set format that nonetheless delivers the goods: templates to make characters quickly, a chopped-down subset of the gigantic list of GURPS character traits for free-form character building without templates, special character-facing rules, and equipment.

It will be fascinating to see what the second volume, which will have to deal with actual adventures or campaigns, will offer up. The various ways the world ends all provide different background for what works, what doesn’t, what’s a threat and what isn’t. So how the author threads that needle will be fun to see.

As it is, this particular book (fair warning: I received a comp for . . . something I must have done a long time ago, ’cause I have no idea what it was) allows for a very, very wide variety of characters to be created by the virtue of having three levels of choices (template, customization, lens) each of which has few enough branches to manage to not drown the new player

That the intro characters are towards the established 150-point starting PC recommended in the Basic Set is icing on the cake, really, as it’s relatively easy to power up characters with lenses or just buckets of points, but harder to strip characteristics away without robbing the PCs of utility or differentiation.

The most interesting part of this series will be that everything is a challenge. It’s like the scene in the beginning of Cast Away where Tom Hanks’ character is shown cutting his foot or leg, badly, on coral. That used to be no big deal. Now? Potentially fatal, a wasting sickness waiting to happen. And that was before the zombie plague or mutant dinosaurs. When you can trade eight bullets for four meals worth of food for an MRE pack, or perhaps get 50 lbs of venison with two bullets . . . if you don’t miss, and if you can recover the game, and if no one hears the gunshot and comes to take it  from you.

It’s a good entry, and I hope the upcoming additional book (books? Who knows!) provides some fertile and juicy fields to plant stories.