To the Editors: Dear Escapist,
Excellent issue. The apocalypse never fails to fire the imagination, whether in fiction, games or seemingly, religion.
I was especially glad to see an article on the fabled RPG Aftermath. I sometimes regret the passing of such projects, because even though they offer none of the ease of video games, I sometimes think that switching over my playtime to more electronic pursuits has dulled a certain sense of imagination that we all want games to capture. Unfortunately, they are at present finite in their possibilities compared to the mind, and something remains missing.
Aftermath was too tough for us to play "correctly" back in the mid 80's, but it had a special poignancy as the idea that Reagan and the Soviets would create such a scenario was so real. Future Problem Solvers discussed the possible environmental effects of nuclear winter in school, and we rolled up our Aftermath characters when we got home. There was adventure in such anxiety!
Bravo for bringing back the bomb.
In response to "Ninety Percent of You Die" from The Escapist Forum:
We're touching on gamism, narrativism, and simulationism here (or, more recently, here). From what you guys have said about it, Aftermath is clearly a system designed by simulationists, for simulationists. That doesn't mean it necessarily excludes narrativists and gamists, of course, but the focus of the ruleset is on modeling events realistically.
In contrast, my personal favorite PnP RPG system is Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu. It's similar to Aftermath in that it lends itself readily to an extremely bleak yet engrossing brand of storytelling, but it's very different in that the mechanics are extremely simple. Skills are a straight percentage with only minimal modifiers; the most complex mechanic is a check against opposed stats (e.g. strength vs. strength to break down a door).
The mechanics impart a crushing sense of inevitability to the gameplay, precisely in keeping with H. P. Lovecraft's vision of the Cthulhu Mythos. Combat is to be avoided at all costs, but even so, a character - investigator - who plays too many sessions will inevitably either die or go insane. In Cthulhu, the apocalypse hasn't happened (yet).
In response to "The End is Definitely Nigh" from The Escapist Forum:
The key to a truly enjoyable Urban Dead experience is to join a good group, like The RRF for example - if you're a zombie. Better yet, join one of the RRF's strike teams and play a key part in the effort to stamp out those filthy harmans!
I used to be a member of The GMT Breakfast Club - one of the oldest RRF strike groups in the game - and they're an absolute scream to play with. The group congregates on IRC every morning and, for about 20 blood-soaked mintues, shreds those souless breathers limb from limb. Then they all fall down again and go back to sleep for another 24 hours.