Monday, 9 May 2016

AMP: Year One - First Impressions

Despite what the past *counts* 32, blimey 32? My oh My....
Despite what the past 32 posts concerning Malifaux may lead you to believe (and rightfully so) I did originally mean this blog to encompass all my tabletop gaming; due to absolutely foreseen circumstances however, I found Malifaux a lot more fun to talk about than my latest Magic the Gathering modern deck (3-colour Clues), what new card rotations have happened in my Commander Blink deck (Less tax, more actual Blink) or games of Cards Against Humanity ("Bees?..." being the most useful white card in the whole box).

I've been interested in running or playing tabletop RPGs for the last couple of years but finding a group was always the problem in actually playing a darn game.
I'd pick up a system that seemed interesting, read the book cover-to-cover learning the mechanics, create a character or two, write a campaign and think to myself "Yeah, it looks like I got the start of a good game here".I would then run into the once, future and assumed-always brick wall and continue the thought with "Shame I 'aint got anyone who wants to play it".

 is a thing, D&D is what everybody on and off planet earth thinks about when a lone soul utters the phrase "Wanna play an RPG?" Newborn babies have an instinctual 'I know that name' when it comes to D&D. Aliens planning on visiting earth know about Dungeons & Dragons, it's a force to be reckoned with. I myself have played one intro game and a one-shot encounter where I had a bunch of fun playing Might Guy from Naruto disguised as a 1st level Monk and I enjoyed it.

Trouble is, I'm one of those hipsters who wants to play just about anything else.

Trouble Trouble is, to strangers or friends-of-friends-of-mates who want to play an RPG, what they really mean is: They want to play D&D 3.5/Pathfinder; so when I roll up with "Anima: Beyond Fantasy", "OVA: The Anime Roleplaying Game" or "Legend of the Wulin" to try out, I get the stink eye and then told elaborate stories of their previous combos or misadventures in Path-D&D-Finder 3.5.
Shadowrun also gets love at my local but that's beside the point...

Not learning my lesson obviously, I still pick up RPG systems based purely on art and how good the synopsis is at one of my kinda-local gaming retailers. The latest RPG that I assumed would get the backhand because it's not Dee-undee was AMP: Year One, a supers RPG with a fancy "duel-skill combo" D20 system and a greater emphasis on the human side of supers rather than being the Hero/super Villian. What makes AMP different from my other books is that I've found players who have a lot of fun playing it. Playing a system rather than talking about it in theory sounds better for me for a First Impression. 

My love of X-men back in my youth never really went away, my loathing of graphic novel prices was just stronger. AMP re-lit that love being that it's setting is very much about normal people gaining powers and how they and the world around them react to it.
The book goes into great detail about the hows and whys of these newly discovered powers that random people are getting and for the first time, I got really involved in the story and setting AMP was putting forward. Too often with other RPGs, I really enjoy the mechanics of the game but rarely the setting or story told alongside it; With Year One (and my love of Marvel's Merry Mutants) however, it's story gripped me and really got the creative juices going in how I could run a RPG in this world. Very impressed.

The character creation is just the right balance for point buy games for me, not so simple as to throw a handful of numbers on the page and add dice to them, not so crunchy as to require a member of MENSA in mathematics in order to make a character a well-rounded one.
The super powers are vast but not an all-you-can-imagine range. Super-Sense, Speed, Strength are the typical ones and there are also Teleportation (Either willed or via Portals) and even a degree of Time control powers (You can stop it but can't travel through time for instance). You have control animal powers, absorption abilities, bolts of energy and enhancing powers alongside some nice non-combat ones such as memory manipulation, dream walking, future sight etc etc. It's vast enough that with the ability to choose up to 3 to combo off of each other it always makes for a fun, well-rounded character but not always the character you want or envisioned. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when lined up with the setting in my mind.
Odds are, if the everyday Joe were to gain random powers one day, they wouldn't become Dr. Strange, odds are they'll have the ability to talk to plants (Also a power in AMP). Remember, it's not a super hero game in the strictest sense, it's about what would happen if a normal person were able to use portals or read minds, what they would do with such power and how regular non-powered people would react to them. So a campaign featuring a nutcase who asks plants for details of a crime scene can exist and not feel out of place when they are standing next to the 8ft tall Speedster Hulk and the
other nutcase who talks to bees and who can fly...

 The day-to-day skills are generalized without being rather ridiculous, It's what you would expect with some common sense vague-ness but this is where the duel-skill combo check comes into play. For example: "Crafts" is a skill that allows one to build/take apart objects, something mundane on it's on but when paired with "Stealth" one can create hidden traps, with "Performance" one can build theatrical props, with "Beast Handling" one can design a muzzle or a cage fit for the chosen animal.
hen a character is jumping between rooftops during a chase scene, it's not a simple Athletics check, it's an Athletics + Speed check simulating maintaining a fast pace and using that momentum to jump.
Want to intimidate someone? How are you intimidating them? With your strength? Intimidate + Might for example.
With your knowledge of Cheese? Intimidate + Knowledge (Specialty: Dairy Products).
In a world full of RPGs trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to adding dice to a number, it's a system that allows greater ease when describing an event to a GM and so long as that same GM puts a rein on it, some interesting ways of dealing with situations occurs. One of my players has a doctor who uses acupuncture needles, she has no fighting stat because, well she's a doctor so when forced into combat she asked if instead of using a fighting skill combo, she would be allowed to use "Marksmanship" + "Medicine" combo instead to simulate accurately hitting pressure points to take down her opponent. It made sense in my mind so I allowed it. 

It does have it's flaws mind you, a player and myself discussed that if allowed, Knowledge + Speed can check for everything in the game, for instance:

"Mad Mike takes aim and fires his rifle at you"
"I'll use my Knowledge + Speed to calculate the trajectory of the bullets path, rush him and with Knowledge + Speed again, attack using pressure point systems to stop his heart"
"Right *
sigh* With Mad Mike taken care of, you can now attempt to calm down the hostage"
"Using my know-how of human psychology and wanting to calm them down quickly I use Knowle..."
"Big rocks fall..."

As far as game breaking goes, it falls on the GM's shoulders as it does in many games. "Time Freeze", a power that allows a character to stop time for 10 in-game seconds can become ridiculous with other power combos (Such as "Teleporting" to, without a defense reaction allow a character to insta-gib a single opponent).
This is balanced somewhat by the Juice system, the chemical balance of adrenaline in one's own bodies that in essence 'pays' for the use of powers, stopping players from doing bonkers maneuvers more than once in most instances, although with powers that can lead to gaining Juice from energy absorption, two players can without much effort work as a team to shut down every threat you put against them outside of 
"Big rocks fall".

Give players a supers system though and they will break that system over their knee if they desire, players gonna play, so don't take this and the above check as a game breaker, just something to nip in the bud
very early. The two-skill check is great for flavoring what your checks are actually doing but sometimes, no two skills makes sense or you can't think of a combo right away, you can substitute the two-check for "Skillx1.5" which is a good fix for times it comes up.

AMP also has the standard advantages/drawbacks alongside bonus points to further customize your character, nothing out of the ordinary but I do enjoy how some combined can make for interesting archetypes. One player has a drawback that everyone recognizes him for being in jail, but with the advantage that he has a large amount of respect among the criminal underworld. So whilst he might be screwed trying to get past a security guard, he can always call in help in other ways to hack into a system or drive him somewhere.

All-in-all the power system and the way the skills are created make for fun games and something I'm really enjoying running, even if it is showing me the darker sides of my player's personality. How does one make the power "Accelerate Sickness" out to be anything else but absolutely evil, especially when the same character has been a chain smoker for all their life and have a power which can transfer disease from themselves to others?...

May your adventures be full of ass-kicking and good times, have fun out there.

No comments:

Post a Comment