Friday, March 13, 2015

Tommy's Take on AMP: Year One

As you may or may not have heard, I'm running a giveaway over here for AMP: Year One while AMP: Year Two is on Kickstarter. You should enter that giveaway, unless you already own AMP. If, for some reason, you are on the fence about an RPG I am giving away, I am here to let you know what's inside and my impression of those contents.

ETHICS IN GAME JOURNALISM DISCLAIMER: I did not receive a comp copy of this book, I backed it on Kickstarter. I did assist with the Savage Worlds rules for that version of Apocalypse Prevention Inc, though I was not paid for it (I was just helping a friend out). I otherwise have no professional affiliation with Third Eye Games. And yes, I am running a big giveaway for this game on the blog, but everything I'm doing on the blog is entirely my own undertaking and I am receiving no compensation for it, other than the pure joy of putting games in people's hands.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First, you should know that you can win this thing for free right now on my blog. Second, the print book is black and white and $30, while the PDF can be had for $14.99. The general vibe is a modern world with the sudden emergence of supers, ala Heroes, with a vibe very much akin to the X-Men.

Supers, known as AMPs (normal humans are SAPs), are just emerging in the year 2015, and it is flipping the world on its ear. AMPs are powered by Juice, which is expended to fuel powers, and which rises in conjunction with adrenalin and stimulation. Additionally, AMPs are connected: Two AMPs meeting are hit with the Law of Attraction, which can force them to fight as the opposing force within each reacts to the other (a convenient in-game excuse for two heroes fighting). Good thing is, people who are around each other a lot can become resistant to it over time, or else AMPs could never join forces.

AMPs are a little more limited in AMP Year One than in your "average" superhero game, each one only having 1-3 powers, though they can gain Tricks and Enhancements for their powers. The way it works is that each AMP has a Strain they come from. This sets their general wheelhouse for powers, though your second or tertiary power(s) can come from other Strains, it just makes them harder to advance. The Strains are Blaster, Bulks, Elementals, Ferals, Mindbenders, Psychs, Shapers, Shifters and Travelers. One Blaster may have the Constructs power and the Wall and Construct Cage augments, allowing him to create energy prisons...but another one may be an energy Vampire who can actually temporarily steal powers or skills. While there are definitely limits to the power system, there's still a lot of room for customization. A Feral with the Killer Instinct Power, the First Blood Enhancement and Piercing Claws will strike early and brutally, while a Mindbender with Mnemonics and Read and Fabricate Memories as well as Heartstrings and Opposite Reaction can royally screw with people. With 54 powers (unless I miscounted) and numerous Tricks and Enhancements, there are definitely options.

AMP does not have Attributes, instead providing a list of Skills to choose from. They can be further modified with Specialties, but you generally roll two Skills together, or a Skill plus a Power. Skills include Might, Athletics, Stealth, Technology, Travel, Intimidation, Fighting, Fortitude and so on. You can kind of define what some of these mean. For instance, what does Travel 5 entail? You a rockin' skateboarder? How about a Parkour specialist? Like with Powers, Skills are on a 10 point scale, each representing a higher level of expertise.

AMPs are further defined by Loyalties. These are Community, Comrades, Humanity, Justice, Love, Perfection, Self and Truth, and can give you benefits just for taking ranks in them, or occasionally modifying die rolls. Self can help you make rolls to prevent dying, while each level in Comrades gives you someone you can call on for help.

AMPs also get Gifts and Drawbacks. You get a certain amount of Bonus Points to spend at the end of character creation for Gifts, Powers, Skills and Loyalties, and taking Drawbacks can get you more. Real common stuff like Ugly, Phobias, Attractive and Wealth are present, but you also get some very AMP specific stuff like Hideout, Destiny, Power Focus or No Control (my son's character creates electrical shockwaves...he just can't control that particular power, when or how it manifests).

The timeline of the setting actually starts in the 1920s before lunging up to 2015 and the emergence of AMPs. Now, you can set you campaign at any point in 2015, from before the emergence of AMPs (and with your characters beginning as normal humans about to manifest abilities) through the assassination of The President of the United States by an AMP attempting to stop a horrible future and perhaps inadvertently causing it. A few threads are dropped in the timeline that are picked up on in official adventures by Third Eye Games, and several sidebars offering up conspiracies that you can use to flesh out elements of the setting if you so choose.

The last major element in the book that needs mentioning are the factions. Your character can be Unaffiliated (and if they are, they get extra Bonus Points to spend), or you can be part of a faction. Factions include The Seekers of Enlightenment (kind of like this setting's X-Men), Typhoon (a nefarious organization ran by the mysterious Matriarch), The Changelings (a lot like The Morlocks from X-Men) and The United Human Front (and yes, some AMPs willingly join forces with them). If you are part of a Faction, you get fewer Bonus Points to spend, but a perk or two unique to a faction.

SIX POINTS:

- Divorced from the setting, I would grumble at the limitations of the power system...and for a generic superhero game, I would not recommend it. For a very particular type of game (a Heroes or X-Men-style game), it fits the tone very well.

- The official character sheet is very cool in that it has boxes to fill in when making your character (like four boxes for a Marksmanship of four), which gives you a completed sheet that reminds me of the Power Grids Marvel has used over the years on the website, trading cards and Handbooks.

- The metaplot mildly concerns me. Obviously, you are not bound to anything in the book, but the more you deviate, the less useful later books are (or, depending on your players, the more they resist you game because of what the next book brings). Previous Third Eye Games entries such as Wu Xing and Apocalypse Prevention Inc. have had a lot of setting material, not so much metaplot. With the right touch, metaplot can enhance a game. With the wrong touch, it can bring back nightmarish memories of NPCs with Plot Armor and stories that are bigger than your PCs.

- A very healthy and diverse selection of premade characters, complete with art, can be used as quick PCs, as NPCs or just as inspiration for what can be done with the powers system. There's even a "magician" named Citizen Arcane.

- The Juice mechanic is basically a Power Points system but it reads very well, with the ebb and flow of power being influenced by more factors than just "I spend power points. Dang, I'm out of power points". It is recommended that you use some kind of physical markers (poker chips, glass beads, whatever) to keep track of the flow.

- The setting reminds me a bit of White Wolf's Aberrant or Green Ronin's Paragons, which sure seemed heavily inspired by X-Men and Heroes respectively, but with a certain vibe (and system) that suits my personal tastes much more. As much as I love Wu Xing, it has never actually hit my game table. We're through character generation with this one, and it will now certainly see play, which I am very much looking forward to.

Right now, at least, I have nothing else to add. If this sounds remotely appealing to you and you don't own it (and you are reading this before March 24), just enter the giveaway and try to win a free copy and see for yourself. You literally have nothing to lose.