Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The End

"The meek have inherited the earth. Poor bastards."

The End is a biblical post-apocalyptic game, set after the world has ended as per the book of Revelations. The evil have been dragged down to hell, the good have gone to heaven, and almost everyone else has died.

You play one of the Meek – those who were neither good nor bad, and had turned their back on faith. (Exact faith doesn’t matter – the God of The End accepted Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and good members of polytheistic religions.)

The game is focused on the ruins of North America, and details several small communities that have sprung up since the end of the world. These tend to be unpleasant, doomed or both.

Since The End, the world has started to revert back to nature – anything man-made that isn’t actively being used by people is decaying, animals, except for dogs, are getting larger and more aggressive.

I can’t decide if the End is depressing or hopeful. It has the potential to be played in either direction.

Character generation is quite simple and totally points based. I decide to play an ex-police officer, for the very munchkin reason that it allows me to justify having some combat skills at the start.

Attributes in this game are called potentials, which sounds a bit odd but makes sense in terms of the system.

We have 25 points to spend between the 8 Potentials, and an average human score is 3.

Dexterity 3
Endurance 3
Health 4
Strength 3
Charisma 2
Perception 4
Knowledge 3
Freewill 3

Next we have 40 points to spend on skills, with two restrictions: your character must have at least 15 skills, and no skill can start higher than 6.

Alertness 3
Area Knowledge (New York) 3
Cooking 1
Diplomacy 2
Disarm/subdue 4
Drive (manual) 3
Education 1
Firearms (hand gun) 3
First aid 2
Fishing 2
Hand-to-hand combat 3
Law 4
Scavenging 1
Search 3
Streetwise 4
Swim 1

Next I have 30 discretionary points to spend on skills. Extra levels of Potential cost 10 points, and extra skills cost 2 per level.

I can also gain an extra 10 points by taking a flaw.

I decide to up my characters Freewill and Charisma, bringing them up to 4 and 3 respectively. The remaining 10 discretionary points go towards improving skills, making the following changes:

Alertness 4
Diplomacy 4
First aid 3
Firearms (handgun) 4

Points all spent, it’s time to decide my character’s Sin – why he wasn’t allowed into Heaven or sent to hell. I decide Joe wasn’t very religious to start with, and his time as a cop made him unable to believe in the idea of a benevolent god. I decide that Atheist is the best fit.

Joe also starts with an Ennui rating of 50.

Ennui represents the effects of being alone on human beings. Characters gain Ennui when they’re not in a large community; the amount varies depending on how alone they are. When Ennui hits 100, the character dies or goes mad from loneliness.

And we’re done.

Before I go, a brief explanation of the system and a comment on the sample adventure.

The system is a bit odd, in that a skill check requires two dice rolls.

First, you roll your Potential vs. your skill rating. E.g. if Joe above was trying to fish he’d roll 3 dice (Knowledge – I’ve decided that success in fishing is down to knowing how to do it.) vs. a rating of 2.

I roll 8,4 and 1, giving 1 success die.

The success dice are then rolled against a difficulty number set by the GM. Any that roll equal to or below the difficulty are counted at their full value, any that roll above count as a one.

In our fishing example we’ll say that it’s a fairly good patch of water, so it’s not difficult to get a bite, and set the difficulty at 7.

Rolling our one successful trial die results in a 5. As this is below 7 it counts as a 5 point success. Good fishing for Joe.

It probably works but I think that two skill rolls for every check would bog things down a bit, especially during combat.

And now for the sample adventure. It’s no secret that sample adventures tend to be fairly dire, but this one takes the biscuit. If the PCs go even slightly off-plan, it falls apart totally, and there isn’t a player group in existence who isn’t going to think that there’s something terribly suspect about the entire set-up from day one, and plan to get out of Dodge as soon as their ennui has dropped to a safe level.

Next, we’ll be looking at Ars Magica, then more theological horror in the form of Kult 1st edition.

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