Monday, March 20, 2017
EARTH AD 2: It's Post-Apocalyptic Ass Kicking Time!
I knew of Earth AD 2 from some time back but haven't actually had an opportunity to explore this game until I acquired a copy from Precis Intermedia recently. If you have been, like me, wondering: site is active and ordering from PIG for both digital and print is quick and easy! Customer service is stellar and Matt is very accommodating.
Earth AD 2 is one of the many post-apocalyptic RPGs out there on the market right now. It's current definitive edition is a 137 page rulebook which includes all the rules you need to run the game as well as a ten part story arc and thirty ready-to-go character templates. It's a small package by contemporary RPG standards, but the rulebook really is complete, with a robust game system and a focus on going from "read rules" to "play game" as quickly as possible. It's not OSR, but the design aesthetics will make you feel like it is....and honestly, it's design is reminiscent of the many cool "all in one book" RPGs we got used to in the early eighties, so keep that in mind.
The setting is a robust "kitchen sink apocalypse" in which you have a world of mutants, pure strain humans, cybernetic survivors, robots with human brains, humans adapted to undersea life, radio controlled cyberpunks, mutant animals and even an option for visitors from outer space. The actual rules for character generation are only 23 pages in length but within those 23 pages you get 9 character "stocks" (humanoids of various mutation/change states/origins), 43 skills and about 166 various gimmicks, which cover everything from mutations to defects to cybernetic implants and more. You can make a lot of weird characters within these 23 pages, and the rules allow for campaigns that run the gammut from 1st edition Gamma World in style all the way up to Fallout style games, or with a limit on the character types and choices a more realistic "The Road" or "Morrow Project" style setting is completely feasible (albeit not really the point of the game).
The core mechanic of the "Genre Diversion i" system that Earth AD 2 is powered by is 2D6-based. You add a relevant attribute to a skill, calculate any bonuses or penalties to the difficulty, roll 2D6, and roll equal to or under the target margin of difficulty which is the result of the modified skill+attribute (so yes, in this system a snake eyes is a crit and box cars is a fumble). There are five attributes, and interestingly only one physical trait: fitness. You modify your agility, strength and so forth through a combination of boosting specific skills (such as finesse or athletics) to distinguish character from being strong and clumsy vs. weak and agile, or grab toughness to reflect a hardy constitution.
Stats can go up to 5 and skills can go up to 8. This means a supremely skilled and gifted character could roll against a skill at a potential 12 value, meaning a very tough hombre only fails on the box cars.
Combat is broken down in to turns that are five second increments long, and involve an initiative check (a reaction roll) followed by a fitness + skill roll based on attack type. Various modifiers will bring the target number up or down, and each round a character can engage in one contested defense action (but no more). Contested checks in the game involve a skill roll off, and the target with the widest margin of success wins.
Damage in Earth AD 2 is tracked by five levels of one of three types of damage: fatigue, injury and disease. Armor reduces damage by letting you roll dice equal to the armor value. If each die rolls equal to or under the armor value, then you reduce the incoming damage by that amount. Some weapons only deal fatigue damage (initially) and armor may only protect against one of the three damage types, as well.
Combat Example: Speculos the Ripper is a robot with a human brain. He has a blaster pistol embedded in his right arm and has a charging giant roach coming at him. Speculos rolled for his reaction modifier and got a 4 plus his modifiers of 4 (fitness 3 and awareness 1) vs. the roach's roll of 1 plus fitness 3 and awareness 2). Speculos has an 8 reaction to the roach's 6. The roach declares it's actions first but Speculos gets to decide what he does afterward: the roach is charging at him; it's hungry for that tasty brain. Speculos is shooting it, and will try to dodge if necessary. All actions are then resolved simultaneously.
Speculos has firearms of 4, so he has a target of 7. The roach is at short range (modifier 0), but it's running at him. Speculos has a built-in weapon so no quick draw penalty. He rolls a 9...a miss! It's over the target.
Simultaneously the roach closes and leaps. The roach has a fitness 3, brawling of 4, and it's jaws are exceptionally tough so the GM declares it's a "1inj" (one injury) attack (more on this in a moment). Target is 7....but Speculos wants to defend with a dodge if the attack hits, so it's potentially a contested attack....target 6 (brawling 2, fitness 4). The roach rolls 9...a miss! Speculos doesn't even need to dodge.
Next turn Speculos gets a reaction of 10 vs. the roach with a reaction of 11! Speculos is trying to side strep and get a point-blank shot and dodging if needed. The roach goes for the head! A head shot is a +4 difficulty margin.
This time Speculos rolls 3! He also has a -2 difficulty due to being at point blank range....so success by a wide margin. The roach can dodge (rolls 11 and fails). But it still gets it's bite: it rolls 9, failing again.
Speculos did hit. His blaster pistol deals 4 injury points. The roach has the extra tough gimmick (2 points the GM decides) and so it gets two armor rolls: rolling 2 and 2 means it actually absorbs 2 damage! The shot only drops the roach to a -2 injury (sprained) which means it has a base +1 difficulty to all actions now.
Next round Speculos gets a reaction 8 and the roach gets a 6. The roach continues to try and bit Speculos, and he will fire and maneuver around. This time Speculos gets a 7 on his attack, which succeeds because a -2 difficulty at point blank range means his margin is 2 better than the target (so his target 7 turns to 9, or at least that's how I interpret it). Roach tries to dodge and fails with an 8, but the roach attacks with a 7, with a margin of 0, but a difficulty of +1 so it needed at least a margin of 1 to hit and misses.
For damage, Speculos deals 4 injury points and the roach rolls 2 armor dice, getting a 6 and 1. It absorbs 1 but takes 3....it's at -5 on the injury track (incapacitates). It is unconscious and will die if it takes 1 more damage. Speculos steps on it.
Some combat notes so far: there are a fair number of modifiers but all of the combat charts total about 4 pages; I think the first couple combats will have a modest learning curve, after which it gets progressively easier and more intuitive. Also, the game's use of a more old school method for reaction rolls as determining the sequence in which actions are declared (to let faster opponents react to the declared actions of the slower characters) while still making all actions simultaneous is an interesting design choice. My expectation is combat will go faster but my modern gaming group might have to adjust to the idea that because they are faster does not necessarily mean they can stop an opponent's action pre-emptively (without creatively describing their action, anyway).
For the rest of the book there are over seventy monsters and a wealth of detail on the hostile environments your PCs can adventure through. The monster stat blocks include stats and suggested gimmicks, some with more details than others (giant roaches, for example, will have some toughness and jaws, but the GM gets to figure out just how much). This is a slight deterrent....the game would help a bit if fully functioning stat blocks were provided up front for monsters (and the scenarios do exactly this). That said, it's still easy to modify on the fly.
The rest of the book includes rules for full vehicle combat, scavenging, wasteland encounters, expanded rules (noting that character advancement is under the expanded content), and ten scenarios that comprise a ready to go campaign, totaling a 32 page mini campaign that will probably get you through ten sessions of gaming, easily. The scenarios do include the functional stat blocks I had mentioned earlier.
About the worst I can say so far about the book is it's a bit sparse on art (not a lot, but what art is here is nice line drawings, and setting appropriate). The rules show a bit of brevity at odd moments...I did a double take on what to do with the monster stat blocks that provided gimmicks but no specifics until I determined it was up to me to "flesh it out," for example. Another spot that was a bit vague is the action economy.....I interpreted the rules to suggest you can move and attack, but it's all very Old School in that the extent to which you allow actions is the GM's view on whether what you are doing takes 5 seconds or not, basically.
So: overall, this book is an absolute steal for fans of simple but robust game systems with lots of options, and those who love wasteland post-apocalyptic adventuring in the tradition of Gamma World and Fallout. I'll be posting some material soon, including sample characters and scenarios.