Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Game Review for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.

I originally posted this review to RPG.net, but felt the need to re-post it over here due to quality of this game and the number of sourcebooks that are coming out, on schedule. Unfortunately, since this review was written, I have yet to have been able to play or run a game using this system and setting. I hope to rectify this in the near future. However, what I said in this review still stands.

The cover touts the game as "An Action, Horror RPG... with a twist of Humor", and it gives some humor already in just the Disclaimer, though it is slightly lacking in the rest of the book. Starting off, there is summary of the setting, the mood of the game, playable races, and of the system that is used. I rather like a page full of short and sweet summaries of what the book is planning on giving you.

Then of course there is the "What is Roleplaying" section (slight nitpick, on the cover page of the pdf it states "An Action, Horror RPG" but everywhere else its "An Action Horror RPG") which is only 2 paragraphs with 2 sentences digging on the lack of RPG in video games. I would have rather seen just 1 sentence since 2 seems to be a bit of an overkill.

A 2 column format is used throughout the book, which is better than the full page format in my opinion. The pdf is also very clean, and readability is excellent. There are some light gray splotches to give a blood stained feel to it, which helps to re-enforce the Horror aspect.

Some slight spelling and punctuation mistakes that lasts only in this first section of the book, but nothing thats too distracting. The rest of the book is either completely missing any mistakes or I was too involved with the book to even notice them.

Before the first Chapter there is a full page mock-up of an official letter from API, which I rather like since it helps to get you into the mood of being in character rather quickly. However, the rest of the book reads like a Core Book, so the feeling that this letter gives is lost. I think it would have been better placed at the end of the book, after the character sheets.

The example game play of the GM and 2 players was very un-inspiring. I would have left it off or write down dialog from an actual game.


Character Creation in API has 5 steps, of which Concepts, Passion, and Race are apart of Step 1.

Concepts is where you decide on what type of character you will want to play, their sex, history, disposition, ethnicity, family life, and occupation. Passion is API's version of Alignment and I rather like how this is done rather than having none or a specific set of what you can and cannot do due to your alignment. Passions are what your character feel strongly about, their purpose in other words. It's not stated how many passions one can have, but it's assumed that you can have 1 Passion at a time. Whenever you act within your Passion you receive bonus XP and possibly to checks relating to their Passion. A rather nice way to encourage roleplaying one's Passion and in staying in character.

Between Passions and Races there is a 2 page Character Creation Reference Guide and a 3 page sample character, which really should have been places at the end of the Chapter. It is confusing for a first time player, because it makes you worry you might have missed something.

Races given are Humans, Burners, Changelings, Locks (Fish People), Spectrals, Taylari (Vampires), and Wolf People. What is nice is that if your character dies, you can continue to play your character as a Spectral and still be apart of the game.

Step 2 is where you assign your Attributes with 30 points between 6 Attributes with 10 levels for each. 4 or 5 is given as the average but I would have preferred a set number for average, such as 4. You must have 1 point in each attribute and the costs are 1 point is spent of Attributes between 1-8 and 2 points for 9 and 10. The Attributes are Power, Agility, Vigor, Intellect, Insight, and Charm.

Then the sub-attributes are given and how to calculate them, which is easily done. However, they are supposed to be apart of Step 5 of the Character Creation process so I was expecting them to be further down. it makes sense for them to be where they are, I was just confused at first. The sub-attributes are Health, Initiative, Stamina, and Movement (running, jumping, climbing, swimming and walking).

The third Step is to assign Skills out of 30+IQ points and are purchased in the same manner Attributes are. The Skills are rather general and are set up as 10 levels, meaning to roll skill checks you roll a d20+Attribute level+Skill level with a max roll of 40 possible which would allow a nearly impossible feat to succeed. I wont go through the skills here, mainly due to the generalness of them, and how to handle skill checks isn't either. There are a few new aspects, for me anyways, such as a rule on how 2 or more people using the same skill to accomplish something is handled and that some skills and be used in conjunction with others as well as attributes. Also, Attributes are not linked to just one skill and thats it. For example, researching something on a computer would use IQ+Computers but typing speedily would use Agility+Computers. There are also specific skills for only Spectrals due to their unique nature.

Weapon Styles allow one to use a weapon without penalty and each level purchased gives bonuses of one manner or another that stack with previous levels. Fighting Styles can be mixed with all of their bonuses stacking, though to receive any of the special techniques in a specific style you must have purchased 4, 7 or 10 levels in it. These Styles are where one can see that the author of API must have played a Palladium Books game somewhere in their past and it's a rather good thing. You wont be disappointed.

Step 4 is where you can spend your Bonus Points (16 for Humans, 10 for the other races) on Gifts, take Drawbacks to increase your Bonus Points, purchase more levels of Attributes or Skills, purchase Equipment, and any Cybernetics one might desire. I like the Gifts and Drawbacks listed out, giving you many opportunities to spend your Bonus Points on ways to round out your character, as well as the Cybernetics which allows you to create a complete Cyborg if that is your wish.

Step 5 is where you are supposed to calculate your combat bonuses and sub-attributes, but that is done in Steps 2 and 3.

Chapter 2: COMBAT

Stamina should have been described with the other stats instead of in the combat (though i understand why it was) but besides that, I really like the Combat, including the Stamina system. It does add a bit more bookkeeping for both the player and GM as well as makes the game somewhat crunchy, it is nice to see that everything in combat is attributed for. I can definitely see the roots of this game as akin to the Palladium Books system, especially with the Fighting Styles and Weapon Styles, but the Combat System and Stamina System, or DGS (Dynamic Game System) of API not only improves what Palladium Books uses, but it completely blows them out of the water. It is such a good combat system that not only should you think about getting the book on this merit alone, I will describe how it works.

How DGS works is thus: You have Stamina (derived by [Vigor+Insight]x3) which you spend in combat. A punch may cost 1 point, and a dodge 1 point as well. The longer combat lasts, as well as the more actions you take, you WILL tire. At half your Stamina you will take penalties, at 1/4th your Stamina you will take more, and at 1/8th you will take even more. When you get to zero you are completely worn out and cannot do anything but rest. Luckily Stamina is replenished quickly, but not quickly enough to do so while engaged in combat. The second part to DGS is that every combat move takes time. A round is 10 seconds and there are 20 counts to a round.

So an example combat from your character's point of view might be thus: You and your opponent roll for Initiative, the winner gets to act on Count 1, the rest act on Count 2-9 depending on how low they rolled for their initiative. So if you roll a 21 and your opponent rolls a 22, they go on Count 1 and you go on Count 2. They use a full attack with a broadsword which lowers their Stamina by 1 for the attack and uses 5 Counts, meaning their next attack can be done on Count 6 if they dont dodge or do anything else. You decide to Dodge which reduces your Stamina by 1 and uses 3 Counts meaning you get to attack on Count 5. And so on.

The DGS has all situations explained out in the combat section, really showing off the fact that they did their homework and play-tested the crap out of these rules. There are rules for when someone jumps into the combat during the middle of the round, what happens when 2 or more combatants go on the same Count, Surprise Attacks, what happens if the round ends and you havent used up all of your Attacks yet, how to handle a situation where the entire group (or just 2 of them) decide to attack the Big Bad at the exact same time, everything. Knock-outs arent reliant on a Natural 20 as with many systems, which is very nice. There are rules for Improvised Weapons and Improvised Weapons that are similar to a Weapon they are already proficient with. Rules for Melee, Ranged, Armor, Armor Piercing.... like I said, this is one solid system and I cant say enough about it.

You owe it to yourself to read the combat section if you have EVER felt discouraged, dismayed, unsure of, or any other feeling but complete and abject joy from any other Combat System.

DGS is an Active Combat and Active Defense system, meaning you roll for your strikes on a d20 plus bonuses and try to get the highest number possible and you roll a d20 plus bonuses for your defensive action trying to match or do better than the strike being leveled at you. It is cinematic and realistic at the same time and it works beautifully. Yes, it means a bit longer combat, yes it means a bit more bookkeeping, but the way it is laid out, with rules for all contingencies, I dont know how I will be able to play any other game without utilizing this combat system in one way or another.

Chapter 3: MAGIC

The magic chapter starts off basically detailing how all things that are "supernatural", like psionics, demons' natural abilities, religious miracles, and good old wizardry all use the same energy, Mana. I really like how all magic is set up with one system and it's how you roleplay it that determines how it is perceived within the game world. There are three levels of magic spells/abilities which are called Circles and Mana is converted from Stamina depending on which Circle you are casting from. The first Circle holds the easiest magic and you convert 1 Stamina into 1 Mana. The second Circle is harder magic and you convert 2 Stamina into 1 Mana. The third Circle holds the hardest magic and the most reality altering magics. Converting for the third Circle is 3 Stamina for 1 Mana.

I really like how Stamina is used as the cost in Magic, Combat, and Natural Abilites, giving a very visual aspect of how such things tire you out the more you do stuff in a short amount of time. Too many games has a system for how you get tired, but the visual aspect is normally lost. In API, you easily can roleplay out how tired, how worn out, or how energetic your character is at any given point since Stamina is tied in with everything that you do.

Casting Magic also requires a vocal element, hand movement of some kind, and/or eye movement as well. Some have casting times that allow them to be used in combat, some do not. It is nice to see that in combat, small magical effects can be used, but the more damaging kinds are going to take a minute or longer to complete. It really helps to keeps the power level of the game in check and keeps it in the realm of modern fantasy.

Within each Circle are Paths, like a Path of Death of a Path of Time. To learn a 2nd Circle spell you need to have some 1st Circle spells already learned in the same Path. A nice feature of the magic system is that if you cast a written spell 5 times, you can choose to learn it without having to worry about what Path it is in. There are only 2-3 spells for each Path in the 1st Circle, and 1-2 in the 2nd and 3rd. API's magic spells are written out so you will have spell lists detailing what you can and cannot do with your magic, however you can upgrade your spell many different ways. Two characters might have the same spell, but with the ability to tailor each and every spell, the same spell can have vastly different effects. This is a wonderful feature for those who are used to spell lists in their games, as well as for those who are used to a more free-form magic system. The spell list is small, but with the customization for each and every spell, you have much more of a varied spell list than if there was a book full of only spells. Add in the fact that the spells themselves are unique to begin with, and you have a magic system that is just as varied and wonderful as the combat is.


This Chapter starts out with the history and roots of API and a few disasters that API stopped in the past. A list of Headquarters is also given for the major areas of the world, enabling the game to take place anywhere around the globe very easily. All in all, it is well written and a good historical basis that gives enough information to run a game set in the past, but not to much to be tiresome.

Then it goes into API Agents themselves and their training, as well as their severing ties to their old lives once they become agents. That, and that they wear black suits and ties, are very reminiscent of Men in Black, and not in a bad way. Players will be happy to know that their loved ones and families are safe from being used as hostages or elements of the story by the GM, even though they have no interaction with them.

Responsibilities are also laid out for Agents of API, which is not all combat and saving the world. Check-ups on aliens and demons living a semblance of normal life is important which can bring into play some interesting roleplay opportunities. Making sure that every alien and demon is properly accounted for and legal is just as important as watching fellow agents to be sure that they are not becoming delinquent in their jobs as well.

All in all, this chapter lays down the groundwork for developing the world as a GM and your characters and a Character and it does a good job at detailing how API works on all levels.


In API, Demons are any race that isn't human, and most are Dimensional travelers. Calling a Demon a monster or other adjective is for the worst of the worst. Many races of Demons have treaties and agreements with Earth so they can come and live, for vacation, or for other reasons. Those that come to Earth illegally or to make trouble are dealt with by API's Agents. Some of the humor comes through here in that there is a rule stating that as long as the majority of a Demon's face and body are covered then most people will think that the Demon is a human who is coming home from a costume party, or is horribly scarred, or something else rational.

Expanded descriptions of the Demons in Chapter 1 are listed here with additional information that is useful for not just one's background, but also some expanded rules specific to the Demon race. No other Demons are listed here, which is disappointing. I was expecting more Demons, but the information given on the playable races is very nice to have outside of the character creation.


This is the GM section of the book, giving information specific to the setting, Adventure Hooks, guidelines for handing out XP, and how to keep not only the drama but also the humor in a game session. Not that it's necessary, it's nice to see that there is a good page on how to to just have fun, as the GM and to keep it fun for the players as well.

Then the chapter delves into the antagonists, which is where the other Demons I would have liked to see in Chapter 5 are. Stat-ed out are basic animals, average humans, average and not so average API agents, thugs, police officers, and monster hunters. Stats for 14 Demons are given with more to be given in future sourcebooks, as well as there being a Random Monster Generator which gives many different combinations. No rules for assigning stats to monsters of popular stories, but the system is easy enough that doing so wouldn't take much time at all if you wanted a specific monster to bring into the game.

The Chapter ends with 3 races laid out like those in Chapter 1, but these are illegal races meaning that for the most part, they will not be members of API.

A Glossary of Terms and an Index finishes up the book, as well as a 1 page character sheet that is more generalized and 2 copies of a 3 page character sheet that has everything you might need, including a handy Combat Count tracker. There is also given a Combat Counter tracker sheet that holds counts for 7 combatants which will be very handy for GM's to keep things going smoothly during combat.


I give this book a 9 out of 10 and the only reason it wasnt given a 10 out of 10 is due to the Pre-Chapters section in the very beginning. It was obviously placed as an afterthought. This is also due to the arrangements of the Steps of the Character Creation which is not in sync with how Character Creation is lined out in the book. Again, I would have liked to see the Character Creation Guide at the end of the Character Creation Chapter.

Furthermore, I have to say that as someone who has played Palladium Books and despaired of it's system, I do believe I have found the perfect Palladium Books System 3.0. This system can easily be used for a multitude of settings that are meant to be realistic and yet cinematic because the DGS of API melds the two is perfect harmony.

184 pages for $12.95 as a pdf or $24.95 as a POD paperback from Lulu is a price that means everyone can afford. Third Eye Games is showing itself to be a company of Gamers for Gamers by setting the price thus for it's Core Book of what is sure to be an excellent game line.

To re-iterate, THIS is what we all have been trying to do since nearly the beginning of the 2nd edition of Palladium Fantasy... FIXING IT! Seriously, I am in love with the beauty of how this system fixes nearly every gripe of what people have said about PB's system but in a completely separate way than everyone else was going.

Thank you Third Eye games for giving us a system that fixes Palladium's system.

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