Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tommy's Take on Invaderz Pocket Edition

Invaderz is a "beer and pretzels" RPG by Postmortem Studios about a bunch of little green men invading Earth (or, in theory, other planets). The Pocket Edition is the second edition of the game, shrunk down to inflate the page count and make you think you're getting more for your buck (that's what the Pathetic Human that wrote the introduction says!).

Fair warning: Most of the book is written "in character", from a Jerkian (those would be the Invaderz in question) perspective, though we do get little sidebars by Biblios of planet Tee'Em'Eye, which helps you "pull back the veil" a little bit.

We also get a Piracy Notice which is pretty standard in Postmortem Games books, as I understand, appealing to you to seek out and purchase other works if you enjoy the game.

ORIENTATION

This is, not surprisingly, the beginning chapter. Jerkians are all cloned from the tissue of the Jerkian Emperor, on the planet Clonius (it's the cloning planet, you see). We get the basics of the Jerkians here: They are made up of brain meat and body meat, have one eye, they are all male (although there is a whole moon rumored to be made up entirely of lesbians), and every Jerkian has a "spine worm" that keeps them standing upright.

We even get a helpful diagram of Jerkians and their "parts".

Naming is completely random: You roll 4d6 twice to get your three letter name, then roll 3d6 and that's your three digit code, such as Sop-443.

The Jerkian Empire is described, alternately in Jerkian propaganda and lampshaded by Biblios, as a bunch of insensitive jerkwads who are impossible to like, and basically do whatever the Emperor (who has gorged himself up to the size of a planet) tells them to.

As part of their invasion of Earth, they are focusing heavily on America (specifically the Bible Belt), because the people there (of which I am one, actually) are prone to "believe lies"...with Biblios pointing out huge flaws in their logic, I'm not sure if I should be offended or amused here, the implication being that my redneck kin and I are liable to give the Jerkians more violence and hostility than they are prepared for.

The Jerkian training regiment is laid out, culminating in determining what job your Jerkian performs, which is randomly determined via die roll.

CAREERS

Jerkians only really begin to show any individuality once they get their career, of which there are 13 (including the possibility of being one of the slave races instead - some of whom are actually independent contractors who just put up with Jerkian crap for the work).

There are also the Automated Robotic Servile Entities, which can be used as last minute back-up, especially if someone's Jerkian bites it with half the session left to play. All of the careers have accompanying pictures, and some have some downright hilarious mechanics, like the Assault Trooper's giant metal hands, which means they are liable to break anything - ANYTHING they try to manipulate with their hands. Hamstoid Minesweepers are the last ones who will ever be targeted in combat...great, right? Except their sole purposes are to provide sadistic amusement for Jerkians and, well, they don't get any special equipment when looking for thoose mines.

RANK

Yes, there is advancement in the game. Someone is determined to be the Commander and they get Merits that they can dole out. Whoever has the highest number of Merits at the end of the mission is promoted...whoever has the lowest number is demoted. There are 13 Jerkian ranks from 1 (Slave) to 13 (Emperor - which you can't be promoted to because, well, there's already an Emperor).

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

This actually even begins with the "What is an RPG" stuff, with the disclaimer that it is INCREDIBLY unlikely that this is going to be anyone's first RPG.

For those who haven't caught on by now, you are not meant to take the game too seriously, with the GM encouraged to accept bribes and players encouraged to not overthink things.

Character creation involves taking the info from your Job, adding something else that you are Good at, and then (if you choose) raising an Statistic (Meat, Brain Meat, Expertise or Luck), but this requires lowering another in response.

At the beginning of every mission, the highest Ranked Jerkians determine who is the Commander, and then everyone randomly rolls for assigned equipment.

The mechanic is simple: Roll a die, add a stat, add +1 or +2 if you are Good or Very Good at it. In an opposed situation, whoever rolls higher wins, otherwise the GM has set the difficulty for you (usually 1 to 8).

Health is measured on three levels: Fine, Disabled and Splattered. In most cases, a successful hit means the target is Disabled, a second one means they are Splattered.

35 pieces of Standard Equipment are available, like Armored Vests (extra level of Fine), Decoys (remember those little capsules that you can throw in water and they turn into spongy dinosaurs and stuff? Yeah, them), laser knives (the smaller version of laser swords), monoculars (it makes sense when you remember Jerkians only have one eye), plank with a nail through it (call-out to Kang and Kodos!) and Stealth Suits (which can be Space pirates, ninja, monkey, cardboard robot, tuxedo or a spare uniform). And that's just a sampling of the STANDARD stuff.

There are 34 pieces of Experimental Equipment, which are very cool and very likely to kill you or have some other side effect. Black Hole Grenades will sometimes open up TOO wide, with nasty consequences for the thrower. You can have a Dehydrated Reserve Clone, though it may wind up being a freakish mutant (I know, right?) instead. A Heat Ray is pretty useful, with a surprisingly tame backlash, and the Orbital Death Ray Controller doesn't SEEM to put its user in any immediate danger. The Time Watch can pause time...or accidentally pitch its user through time...and the Universal Remote basically lets you control ANYTHING...if it doesn't cause it to go completely haywire instead.

EARTH FIELD GUIDE

This is a pretty amusing take on the primary specimens on Earth (according to the Jerkians): Cows, sheep, dogs and humans. Jerkians have figured out that humans a) like sex and b) don't like metal objects shoved in their butts...so they're on the right track, at least!

ENEMIES

Once you get through the Jerkian take on human society, you get stock stats for most earthling adversaries like Soldiers, Cops, Rednecks, Scientists, Earth Females and Men in Black.

BATTLE PLANS

These amount to 20 mission seeds for the Jerkian Emperor to toss at the unit, from destroying a city to get back at Men in Black, to hijacking Santa Claus to rounding up babies for the Emperor to feast on.

PLANET GUIDE

These are the planet of the Jerkian Empire, all humorous parodies of the Star Wars trope of a single purpose planet: Clonius is the clone planet, Fac-Tor is a gigantic storage shed (essentially), Lesbia would be where all the (alleged) female Jerkians (allegedly) live, Jerkia is what the Emperor has become, Threed...is a giant planet of yarn (it's a tourist attraction).

CONCLUSION

While some other humor RPGs are more joke than game, Invaderz is perfectly playable (just don't take it too seriously). The author tossed some biting commentary in there without ever being heavy handed, and did it in such a way (through the Jerkians, who were already called out as being full of it by Biblios) that I wasn't sure if I should have been offended or not...and then I decided that I was thinking about it too much, laughed, and went on.

There were even some references that I didn't get until I said the Jerkian words out loud phonetically, face-palmed for not getting them, and laughed...and I'm sure I still missed some references on top of that.

If you like humor RPGs AT ALL, pick up the PDF of Invaderz, which is "app-priced" at $1.99. It's the best humor RPG I've read because of the wittiness of the writing combined with an actual (albeit simple) game being there. (I thought Gnomemurdered was great, but it essentially broke down into a coin toss...I think my players would feel cheated there. Here, they would be in on the joke.)

If there had been a "random mission generator", this thing would have been gold.