Go Play With Yourself
Have you ever wanted to be your favorite science fiction character? A dwarf gallivanting in the most mystical of fantasy worlds? Adventuring among the great unknown? Okay, so you may not be able to live out your wildest storybook quests to save the princess or conquer the Martians. But The End of the World roleplaying game series, by Fantasy Flight Games, allows you to transplant yourself into a post-apocalyptic earth. It’s a world where the ancient pagan Gods rule once again. A world of encounters of the first, second, third, and even fourth kind are a reality. This is a familiar setting with unfamiliar tribulations; Skynet is real, yes the robotic uprising is here, and Umbrella Corp is spreading the T-virus like it’s 1996.
So, You Think You Can Last
Forget all of your notions about what physical and mental capabilities you have because you don’t decide. A jury of your pals votes on how able you are as an adventurer. Throughout your crusade, you will suffer various traumas that will directly affect your capabilities to survive in these bleak times at Ridgemont High. But, you’ve prepared for this in your dream journal, right? You know how to wield that dull katana you bought at the flea market! You could handle having your flesh torn apart by ravenous zombies! There’s no way that watching Jeff Goldblum in Armageddon didn’t prepare you for the oncoming alien incursion.
Think again, Mulder. This isn’t the X-Files, and you are far from prepared. A basic campaign for The End of the World rpg can span anywhere from a single night of dice rolling to a few months of suffering and recovering from the various obstacles that have maimed you. The game master is given free reign over your personal post-apocalyptic misery, though if they so choose they have pre-constructed scenarios to help guide their god complexes into making your fictional life a living hell. So think twice before spitting in their breakfast cereal.
Build a Bobby
While constructing a fictitious version of yourself may seem a little uncomfortable, The End of the World streamlines the system. They do so by separating you into three traits: mental, physical, and social. Each attribute is given an offensive and defensive statistic. This allows you six characteristics total: dexterity, vitality, logic, willpower, charisma, and empathy. All players start with a base stat of one in each aspect. You are allotted ten additional points to distribute as you see fit. And now…let thing voting begin! It is at this juncture in character creation that your peers will place you under a judgmental microscope. This keeps you honest and humble you egocentric, pathological liar you.
Hold My Hand…No, That’s Not My Hand
“Hold on.” you might say, “Where do I get my equipment? There’s no traveling trader with brass swords or laser guns!” This is where The End of the World truly sets itself apart. Your adventuring gear is what you have physical access to at the start of the campaign. Do you have a replica Master Sword hanging on your wall? Better start taking a whetstone to it because it’s going to come in handy. It forces you to track the nuances of how many batteries you possess in your junk drawer, how much life remains on your phone, how many pieces of gum are left in your pack of Stride (okay so maybe not that intensive, but you get the point).
This, of course, means those “nutjobs” who have been preparing for the end of the world, you know the ones, that unnerving neighbor you’re convinced is a member of the secret militia. They’re the types with distinct advantages. They’re bound to have MREs on hand, a spare Barrett REC7 carefully hung in their gun cabinet. So don’t you dare poke fun at the grizzled old man who lives in a bomb shelter in the middle of the Canadian wilderness! He’s certainly more likely to survive the return of Quetzacoatl than some nerd rolling dice at a table and playing ‘Angry Birds: Star Wars’ on his iPad Pro. I’m looking at you, Danny! Now that being said, while you might be some geek with a pocket protector and high-water pants, your ingenuity will be a tremendous asset in altering seemingly useless devices into lethal weapons (parts 1 and 2).
I’ve always wanted a modified rubber band crossbow with pencils as bolts!
You’re All Going to Die Down Here
Everything can, and likely will kill you in The End of the World, it’s merely a matter of how and when. Perhaps it will be the ancient Mayan warriors tearing your heart from your chest (Kali Ma Shakti de). An alien flaying your flesh from your skull. The point is, you’re screwed. The encounter mechanics are nearly as simplistic as the character creation, utilizing a pool of both negative and positive six-sided dice. Positive dice are added for a character’s positive attributes, whereas negative dice are added for a character’s negative features. This ain’t rocket science. Whenever an action is called into question, whether it be bartering for the last of the canned peaches, or grappling with Robbie the Robot, the players build these dice pools to determine the outcomes.
Once the fistful of dice have been rolled, the player removes the matching positive and negative rolls. If the remaining positive dice are equal to or less than the characteristic in question the character succeeds. By that same process, if negative dice remain they influence the player’s stress bar, lowering their physical, mental, and social health.
This feature is particularly unique, as each action takes a personal toll. Unlike any other roleplaying game, ‘The End of the World’ character’s are not at their pinnacle physical condition until damage ensues. Even if you are overwhelmingly successful in all of your rolls, you’re almost guaranteed to suffer from a debilitating result. And combat encounters are even more intensive, and will always come paired with a consequence of stress, be it from an enemy’s assault or your own. So pay close attention or you’ll end up dead in a ditch by the side of the highway.
The End of the World, And I Feel Fine…
Although The End of the World hardly lends itself to a long-term campaign, why not rub a couple of sessions out over the span of three months? Those who have spent long nights dreaming of pitting themselves against hordes of undead, aliens, demi-gods, or cyborgs finally have a game specifically constructed for them. It is an incredibly easy concept to grasp, set in an open-sandbox world controlled by an egocentric game master. It’s a post-apocalyptic nerd’s wet dream. So go, play with yourself.
Images via Fantasy Flight Games.