|API 2nd Edition|
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Apocalypse Prevention Inc. 2nd Edition is an interesting RPG. The product blurb puts this as an RPG which offers action, horror and a twist of humor. The setting is modern day. The player characters will be asserting the role of earth saving, hero agents. The primary duty of each player character is keeping humanity safe from all demonic and supernatural threats. Each character will be a member of a secret organization called (you guessed it!) Apocalypse Prevention Inc. The game borrows its scope from a number popular media franchises, but in my mind given its action heavy combat system, this RPG is custom made to follow either a Hell Boy or Men in Black sort of game experience. I prefer Hell Boy. The wealth of options and detail makes Apocalypse Prevention Inc., 2E a game that you would, and likely should make your own.
Despite itself and this is my first criticism, horror is mentioned as a theme, but beyond character choices I didn’t see enough execution in the writing for horror to fit. Whenever I think of horror I’m looking for mechanics and game themes similar to Call of Cthulhu or to a lesser degree Vampire the Masquerade, or RPGs which feature negative consequences, in some way as a mechanic. What can I say? The horror elements just weren’t dastardly enough. If you’re in the market for a horror RPG API 2E is a tough fit in my mind. What this RPG does feature is an interesting mix of races/demons many of which players have the option of utilizing as characters and in turn the GM may also utilize as foes. You could theme your game towards horror, as many these optional races borrow from classic horror tropes but the manner in which their written really fits the action and humor themes a lot better.
What Apocalypse Prevention Inc., 2E has is a lot of character options, as well as a robust combat system. Since I already started, let’s get into it by talking about some of the fiddly bits otherwise known as game mechanics.
Apocalypse Prevention Inc., 2nd Edition utilizes its own system coined the Dynamic Gaming System 2.0 (DGS). DGS is a medium leaning toward the heavy side of crunch. I’ll let the game speak for itself:
“The DGS 2.0 system uses a combination of bonuses from Attributes, Skills or even Race abilities to accomplish tasks. Most tasks are performed by rolling 1d20 (one twenty-sided die) and applying modifiers (bonuses or penalties) relevant to the situation. For every 5 they roll over their Difficulty, the player receives a Boost (pg. 171) for additional positive effect.” (PG 169)
In most cases, players are hoping to meet or beat the Difficulty set by the GM. However, in cases where the player may have a result within 5 of the Difficulty, this is considered a Near Success. The character accomplishes the task, but also suffers a negative consequence.
Near Successes & Boosts offer an interesting amount of variation to any given check. Though mechanically different, I’m reminded of how HackMaster creates variation with the use of penetration dice (noted as d4p etc.). Near Successes and Boosts also entails that when gauging combat encounters the number of combatants involved (vs. characters) is as equally important from a balance standpoint as the foe(s) being faced. If the characters are outnumbered this is never a good thing. There are also some well laid out suggestions to balance boosts through variation, whether to increase or decrease the number at which boosts are achieved by foes. This in turn could be used to lower the variation overall for both the characters and foes, as well as stretching it further, used to modify Near Successes.
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A bit of an aside but something essential, is that the game offers a lot of functional advice (and advanced options) for using the ruleset in a way more supple than most RPGs. This approach is very effective in allowing players & GMs to tweak the technical/mechanical aspects in a game into a game they want to play. I liked the approach and more importantly the execution of these sections and it is certainly something to consider before letting API 2E find its way to your table.
Since I’m already there, combat is robust and unique. Players roll a D20 and receive an initiative bonus from their agility (AGY) and Intellect (IQ). These scores are added together with the highest number going first. And this number is used as a Staggered Initiative. Each action, which characters and foes perform, has a specific speed rating and whatever this number, that number is subtracted from the characters Staggered Initiative total. Actions are capped at two per round for beginning characters, the amount of actions increase as the character gain experience. Each Reaction has a speed rating, but does not qualify as an action. Actions/Reactions are well defined similar to how spells or psionic abilities are defined in other games. I liked this feature and it provides players and GMs a good definition or theater for combat encounters to happen. The detail of this combat system should make it less daunting to new players. Here are your actions, they take up x speed rating; here are the reactions, the take up y speed rating. It’s involving, but laid out in a straight forward manner.
Character creation in API2 provides a lot of options. Players select a concept then have a choice of either a human character or choosing from among 20 character (species/race) types. All races not human are considered Demons (for their innate and often unnatural aptitudes) many of which hail from distant dimensions. The other types of demons presented are borrowed from classic horror tropes. While it’s aptly presented combining aliens and classic horror will likely make this RPG a bit of a mash for some.
Character creation utilizes a point buy system for players to make the character they prefer without utilizing a character classes. Characters start with twenty-five (25) points to distribute among the six core attributes. How points are distributed is balanced with a soft cap of 8, which is when spending points beyond 8, the cost is doubled. Skills are selected in a similar and utilize a point buy. Next are Gifts and Drawbacks. Each character race starts with a specific listing of Gifts and Drawbacks and is awarded a certain number of Bonus Points (BPs) to spend on Gifts. Drawbacks can be chosen and each has a certain amount of BPs which is awarded to the player character and can be spent with character creation. More likely than not Drawbacks will be chosen based upon the character concept that was put forth in step one. The last steps are choosing gear and calculating Derived Stats of which there are thirteen (13).
Not that it’s a good calculation, because hopefully you will have some peers to help you along, I created three different characters as a test for this system. The very first time it took me just short of two hours (lol), the second and third time each too a little less than an hour. The amount of features and my inherent need to min/max the detail of this system makes character creation probably more fun, than it should be. At least concerning this nerd it did. If you’re looking for a quick game, there is a nice section which features 12 pre-gen agent characters for players to use.
(Disclosure: This review is property of Kenzer and Company and republished here with permission.)
Beyond character creation there are systems in place which feature Magic Disciplines, Fighting Styles and Cybernetics. For a game without character classes players certainly have a lot of way to mix options in the sort of character they can create.
In total Apocalypse Prevention 2E measures in at 231 pages and is laid out in two column style featuring black & white illustrations on the interior. The cover art is by Daniel Wong and the interior art features illustrations by Mike Mumah, Daniel Wong, and Herbert Kwan. Originally, I thought that all the illustrations were by Mumah, but that’s a credit to the production as the art plentiful and consistent throughout.
Overall, I have a favorable impression of Apocalypse Prevention Inc., 2E. Certainly, if I can get some more regular games going this game has a slot-especially if I can convince my group for a few one offs. From there who knows? The only criticisms I have are in regards to horror as a theme which was mentioned previously and that a few sections of the writing (some sentences were a bit long and/or too many commas) could use an edit. Still, the enthusiastic style of the writing is hard to miss and the overall layout is well organized. I defiantly recommend giving it some play.