Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tommy's Take on Agents of Oblivion

Agents of Oblivion, the latest offering by Sean Preston and Reality Blurs, is a Savage Worlds Spy-Horror game written by Preston and Ed "Pinebox, Texas" Wetterman.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, layout wise, don't expect anything quite on the level of Reams of Cthulhu. The layout is a bit more spartan, nothing ugly, just more "functional" than "eye catching", which isn't a bad thing.

The premise is a conspiracy-filled monster-mashing modern world, in which the PCs are, um, Agents of an organization called Oblivion. Oblivion characters gain a few perks, including some free skills and a choice between a free Edge OR a free Attribute increase!

Additionally, they can belong to one of three branches (Assault, Occult and Operations), which can grant them temporary Edges as well! The "Defining Interests" mechanic from Realms of Cthulhu makes a return appearance as well.

The Skills List is expanded, adding notable additions such as Demolitions and Forgery, valuable assets for any spy.

Reality Blurs apparently does not like Power Points (which is fine, neither do I) as all of their uses of the Powers system in this book ditch Power Points completely. Speaking of, in addition to some fairly standard powers options (Magic, Psychic and Sacred), you can essentially be a "mutant", starting off with a power that you were born with.

Of course, there are new Edges to play with, like Gun Fu (which allows guns to be fired even in close combat), Hindsight (which actually means you are immune to gang up bonuses) and Silent Kill (pretty much a must for assassin types). Powers Edges can let you tweak your powers and Professional Edges like Hacker and Cleaner help the agents specialize.

I always love to see Legendary Edges, and there are some great ones here, like Last Man Standing (allowing the Agent to ignore all wound penalties), Empty the Clip (for when you absolutely MUST unload the entire gun) and Up Close and Personal (allowing an in-close gunman to force their target to default to the generally much easier to hit Target Number 4).

The Setting Rules include some tweaks to the Powers as well as new uses for existing skills, like applying your skills to a manhunt, for instance. This section also includes the Requisiton point system, as agents rarely have to deal with money hands on.

The equipment section covers most of the bases you would expect, as well as Perks, which are awesome bits like Emergency Evacs, a Cover Identity and, yes, an Air Strike. You can even, with GM discretion, "buy" Edges in the form of enhancements that mimic the mechanics of Edges (and there are enhancements available for a good chunk of the Edges, like the Flip Chip, which makes you ambidextrous). There are even Single Use devices that mimic powers: Like an Anti-Grav device that lets you Fly.

The GM section provides background in the form of Oblivion and the Pandora Institute, essentially rival organizations, one hoping to surprise the Bad Stuff in the world and the other hoping to use it.

That said, the book does more to provide a framework for you to work off of, with a number of factors on a sliding scale of None, Low, Moderate and High: Alien Factor, Conspiracy Factor, Occult Factor, Horror Factor and Technology Factor, along with example campaign types and how to combine them (like the "settings" for an X-Files ish campaign, for instance).

A ton of agencies are detailed, divided by their regions of origin, including Pandora, the Thule Society, the Bilderbergs, Al-Qaeda, the Illuminati, and more. Each is "ranked" by their involvement with various factors, and each is purely optional, but are rather inspirational.

More importantly, we not only get a random mission generator (somewhat based off of the Realms of Cthulhu one, but definitely tweaked for the setting), but an Agency generator and a monster generator.

Seven campaign arcs are provided, one for each of the campaign types given earlier in the book, each with the major "plot points" broken down. While none of them are fully fleshed out adventures, a GM with some experience should be able to run with what's given. The X-Files style arc, for example, involves a world domination plot partially orchestrated by parasitic aliens and another shadowy agency.

While we don't get a bestiary per se, we do get a list of generic stat blocks, as well as the major players in each of the Savage Story Arcs fully detailed.

WHAT WORKS: A great alternative for people who may have liked BLACK OPS or CONSPIRACY X but decided they weren't fans of GURPS of Classic Unisystem anymore (like me!). The book is all about options, options, options, not about shoe-horning in a single way to play...(sometimes, that shoe-horning is fine, and sometimes, you just want options, options, options). And I do so love me some random tables, even more than I do Legendary Edges.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I always prefer a character sheet IN the book, and the PDF is also sans index. Now, while that's not a HUGE issue in a searchable, bookmarked PDF, it can be noticeable in a printed book. Also, I likes me a good bestiary, and this does look a true bestiary (though there is a sample alien or two to play with, to say nothing of the generator).

CONCLUSION: At only $10, I'm not shocked at all that this book shot to the top of the sales charts upon release. You can do straight up spies, you can do X-Files, you can do mutant super agents if you like, and it's at least 95% compatible with other Savage Worlds stuff to boot, so how can you go wrong? (Bonus points if you combine it with the Gritty options from Realms of Cthulhu for some real bone breaking action).