Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tommy's Take on API Worldwide: Canada

I had no idea that Canada meant “Big Village”.  Seriously.  That's the first little tidbit I learned about Canada from the API Worldwide Canada region sourcebook for Apocalypse Prevention Inc.  The Great White North gets a full treatment, complete with plot seeds, some new rules and a few new races.

The 85 page PDF is fully searchable and bookmarked, again featuring a great index but only a mediocre table of contents.  The book is in black and white, but the cover motif is similar to the corebook's, with the fiery backdrop to a skyline, and this time featuring a blood-splatter in the shape of the Canadian Mapleleaf.

We learn right up front that the API branch of Canada is spread awfully thin because Bad Stuff happens all over the country, but they just don't have the manpower be everywhere they need to be...so its less about “stopping bad stuff from happening” and more “hope too many people don't die before we get there”...which is kinda bleak, really.

Like the US in the corebook, Canada has further tightened their gun laws, leaving guns largely in the hands of hunters alone.  Can't say as the gun stuff thrills me much.  I'm not a gun nut, but I am a pretty hardcore Libertarian type, and I tend to think that taking guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens tends to just leave them vulnerable to bad guys, but that's neither here nor there.

After the general overview of Canada, the book gets into deeper detail, starting with Montreal, hope of API's main Canadian HQ.  Montreal sounds like a lovely place, where life moves at its own pace, from the laid back record store guy to the hyperactive would be executive.  One of the first plot seeds are dropped here, a Spectral that haunts Montreal's wi-fi network and (apparently randomly) inserts and encrypts files on people's computers through the network.  Another nice tidbit is about a gentleman who owns a carpet cleaning company, and encountered the ghost of a suicide victim while on a job...after peacefully convincing the Spectral to move on, he would up seeking out ghosts, and is now a sub-contractor for API.

Underneath Old Montreal lies the API HQ, protected with an anti-violence ward, not unlike Lorne's club Caritas from the TV show Angel.

Other useful tidbits include the sudden spike in crime in the region due to gang conflicts as well as mafia push, the higher than average Wolf Person population in the area, the Montreal Undercity (featuring a large population of Taylari, who became much more compliant after UV strobes were installed in the area), and more.

Though Montreal gets the prime focus, the book does cover Canada as a whole, and so it moves to the West Coast and Interior.  The Rocky Mountains that run through British Columbia are a hotbed of supernatural activity, for instance, and Tarks have a heavy presence in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Once you get in the Northern Territories, you can have all kinds of fun with tiny, tiny towns being stalked by a single demon or two.  We also learn that the US branch “lets” the Canadian Branch of API protect Alaska, rather than keeping up their “two teams” approach up there.  Hmmm...I wonder if they also think Hawaii is too much hassle, or if they're cool sending isolated teams out there?

The Aurora Borealis gets special treatment here, as it is a pile of discarded Mana and, some believe, where many demonic souls go.  It has in-game effects if a character is brought near death in the proximity of them, warping and transforming the weakened and often screwing with magic cast around them as well.

Chapter two begins to get into the nitty gritty of the API in Canada.  The current leader of API Canada, Gerard Robert, is descended from Guillot Robert, an exceedingly brilliant tactician who apparently planned the breeding of his descendants for maximum effect.  Being an API Agent in Canada means working with fewer resources and less back-up than other places, especially places like America.  Canada Agents are also taught to subdue and not kill unless necessary, a bit of a contrast with US Agents.

We get our first real game mechanics in a sidebar in this book, with four new Elite Training Techniques, including two fairly wicked ones in which the Agent controls their internal body temperature in order to inflict extra damage to creatures sensitive to heat or cold.

Due to the shortage in manpower, Agents in Canada are able to get away with breaking more rules without close scrutiny due to the unspoken reality that the Agency can't afford to crack down on rogue behavior.  There is a bit of sibling rivalry on the Board of Directors, as Gerard Robert and his older brother Serge struggle...with Serge undercutting Gerard often, but Gerard seemingly not moving against him in retaliation.

We also get a bigger look at The Thing Under The Ice, an entity that threatens Canada and feasts on still-beating human hearts, but that they just don't know that much about.  The TUTI has a number of minions, including Possessors that kinda do what their name implies, and cults that have risen up to worship this thing...(as happen when Things Man Was Not Meant To Know make their presence felt).

The Canadian HQ itself is well protected, in that they have eliminated almost all normal entrances, and use portals to achieve access instead.  A sidebar details three of the inmates imprisoned in the HQ, one of whom was a sadistic, blood-drinking rapist who kept up his evil ways as a ghost as well as Patient Zero, who was the Canadian Branch's first attempt at harnessing the power of the Aurora Borealis.  It didn't quite work.

A section is included on Demon Agents...as expected, Burners aren't terribly prevalent in the Canadian Branch.  Two new races included in the book, Husks and Wendigos, are often used as agents...and while they will turn a blind eye to the Illegal status of some Carriers and Oracles, Gerard Robert tends to only use Spectrals for experimentation and not as Agents.  There is also what amounts to a special ops squad known as The Radicals, which is currently five Demons (the numbers may change, but The Radicals are always Demons).

An overview is provided of major NPCs in the Canadian branch and their uses in the game, including leader Gerard Robert, leader of the Canadian Elites Cassie Fredericks, Francois Chevalier – Wolf Person and illegitimate son of Gerard Robert, and Trask, a Changeling and leader of the Radicals.

Chapter three touches on the other major power groups in Canada.

The Alpha Pack is loosely knit network of Wolf People that has a pretty good working relationship with API.  The Wolf People in Canada tend not to organize into large groups, but instead operating solo or in pairs, then surrounded by “normal” wolves.  The Alpha Pack doesn't do harm to humans directly, though they will take the fight to those that would harm the environment or their wolf brethren.  In addition, they wage war with The Thing Under The Ice, the Wendigo and more.

The Thing Under The Ice is just creepy, as it is apparently located under the thickest ice in Canada, but its reach can wind up global in scope.  It apparently sleeps for thousands of years until hunger stirs it...the begins to awaken, sending its minions out and feasting on the world at large.  Did I mention that its reach has been global in the past?  A whole cult is devoted to it, and they think it is part of the Earth's life cycle...the planet gets overpopulated, The Thing Under The Ice trims the population.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Makes a certain kind of crazy sense.  Stats are given for the TUTI's tentacles, pseudopods and maws, for it can be fought back...but bashing a tentacle tends to have little actual effect on the beast overall.

The Ordo Cryos are a group of Adepts studying the Path of Ice for the purpose of combatting Global Warming.  They have ran afoul of the TUTI's cult, as a deep freeze of Earth makes it harder for TUTI to feed, you see, and the cult can't have that.  The Ordo Cryos come across mostly as flavor in the book, since they keep an incredibly low profile while studying magical cooling on a global level.

LeyLines.Org is an organization devoted magically zipping around the wilderness, finding those who are lost and returning them to civilization.  Gerard Robert, however, has begun to suspect that they use their powers for other purposes, such as trafficking of controlled substances...he just doesn't have proof...yet.

The Two Thousand Sleepers are a Taylari group who are all about any region that is shrouded in night for months at a time.  That, in and of itself, isn't a huge issue for API...but the Two Thousand Sleepers also tend to think that the feral, Taylari Mortus state is a holy state that needs to be revered.

Chapter four is heavy on the rules content.  Weather related stuff, like snowblindness, avalanches and frostbite are covered here, as are a couple of new combat rules.  Tons of new equipment is present, including a laundry list of snow gear.  For the heat sensitive, the Heat Wave is presented: A rifle designed to fire concentrated heat.  Mirror Keys are emergency transport for API Agents, and Neural Gauntlets transmit electric feedback to anything that's hit with them.  A couple of new cybernetics are listed here, such a crampons that extend from bionic feet for climbing.

New monsters are present as well, including Abominable Snowmen, the TUTI's Harvesters, Fenris Wolves and, my personal favorite, Freed Reflections.  Mirror Magic can release a person's reflection, which is then obsessed with killing them...after that, it acts out the original's darkest desires.

Four new Paths are presented, the Paths of Ice, Mirrors, Shadows and Fractures (the latter of which is only performed by Husks).

The three new races are detailed: Husks, Wendigos and Infected.  The Husks are creepy, statuesque creatures that don't eat or breath as normal and have one of the least human outlooks presented so far.  In order to effectively move in combat, they must “crack their shell” and they can't heal until they “set the shell”.

Wendigos are ravenous meat eaters that make Wolf People look cultured and civilized.  They look pale and frostbitten normally, and upon consuming at least five pounds of fresh meat, they transform into giant, ravenous beats.  API has tried to “neuter” a few Wendigos and turn them into Agents, but they are always treated with suspicion and mistrust.

The Infected look utterly normal, except that you can see the Northern Lights in their eyes.  They are created when the TUTI's Slugs “impregnate” human females.  From birth they manipulate those around them, forcing their parent(s) to feed them a diet of human hearts and extending their control from there as they get older.  At the age of 30, they begin making their way to the TUTI...though to what end,  exactly, is unclear.

Two adventures are provided in this book: Danger at the Mine and Splinter.

Danger at the Mine serves as a nice introduction to Canada.  Two Agents and their guide have gone missing, and the PCs are called in to retrieve them.  Along the way, they get introduced to Wendigo, The Infected, the Devotees of the Cull and a Possessor, plus exposure to the weather rules and cool gear from earlier in the book.  The adventure is prevented fairly broadly...it's “rail-roady” in the sense that you are Agents with orders, but other than that, there is very little “You Must Do This” in the adventure.  Different situations have different potential outcomes that will, in turn, have different consequences depending on what you do.  I think it could be a swell campaign launching point, or you could use it with American Agents “on loan” due to manpower shortages as a change of pace.

Splinter is...kinda trippy.  It involved a Husk serial killer who has found a superthin crack in reality.  Without giving too much away here...don't run it with less than four people...UNLESS you want to run it with two players and add some NPCs...as the adventure requires splitting the party (I know, right?  But it all kinda works out, really).

Danger at the Mine, as written, is the stronger adventure...but Splinter, if pulled off well, is rather cool.

I tend to dismiss game fiction, but there is a prologue with a Canadian Agent suffering a broken leg, as well as an epilogue featuring Gerard Robert pressing him back into action with a replacement leg for his own, unknowable purposes.

Finally, a cute little API “Field Report” form is given, that can be filled out as a record for missions if one likes.

I gotta say...Third Eye Games makes the frozen North seem awfully cool.  You have Wendigos running around, The TUTI and God only knows what its up to, Adepts trying to freeze the world to save it...all cool stuff, none of which is directly tied into the core book, thus making the API World seem even bigger and more active.  Hopefully this is only setting the stage for more awesome Region books.