And they bought me Aftermath! in the Summer of 1982.
I was already running 2 AD&D campaigns, a Champions campaign, and was pretty active socially so I never ran it, but I remember the first rules read-through was great fun.
A classmate of mine, Derek, ran an Aftermath! campaign called Broken Sky in '84-'85. I have described it elsewhere in this blog, but imagine if The Road Warrior was crossed with the Dark Crystal, then re-written by Monty Python and directed by Mel Brooks. Everything was lethal, everyone was insane, and it was hilarious. He was using Spell Law for the various magical/super-sciency stuff but everything else was Aftermath! mechanics, including the rolling to hit with Firebolts and the gaining of spell lists. I played 4-5 sessions as one of the 'Shinermen of the Apple-Atcha' Mountains.
Not too long ago I saw that the Fantasy Games Unlimited stuff was available for PDF purchase. I am as busy now as I have ever been, so I put of buying for a long time but when I recently had some credit on RPGNow I had to make that choice - Aftermath! or Bushido?
Sam (son #3) talked me into Aftermath! I think he was correct to do so.
I purchased everything about 2 weeks ago as Jen and I were going out to dinner. By the time we got home (about 150 minutes) Sam had created 2 complete characters, including gear. In the meantime Nick (#4) and Alex (#2) have also made characters and I have blocked out the apocalypse. Jack (#1) will be making a character this weekend and we will play a few sessions to get a feel for it.
I have been a busy man, but I am going to record my impressions as I look back at a classic game I haven't touched since 1986.
This time I will be talking about before and after my first quick review of the game.
My Memories and How I Think Others Think of It
I remember most people discussing Aftermath! as very complicated, but I don't remember it being complicated. I do remember that you better have the rules down or play is slow, but that described 90% of games in the 1970's/80's. Perhaps my positive memories of Derek's hilarious campaign are why? We will see.
Random Notes Taken As I Read Over It Quickly
Book One - basics
-I miss the classic 'multiple books in a box' paradigm. I like the idea of splitting the rules between different books so that the GM and the players aren't forced to wait on each other.
-Character generation is actually easier than I remember.
-Saving throws are pretty simple and I wonder if they influenced 3e saves in anyway? They also turn into a very simple way for the GM to both ratchet tension by using random save checks to distract others and as the 'fall back and punt' of when they need a fast, on-the-spot mechanic for the unusual.
-A robust skills system, can't wait to use it
-I love encumbrance [no, really] and the encumbrance rules are about the perfect level of crunchy for me
-OK, here is where a lot of people start freaking out based on what I have heard in the last 30+ years. Hit locations and armor. There is a lot of detail and crunch here, but as I re-read it 3 decades on, nothing approaching crazy. Indeed, there is a baked in option to use average armor values and a lot of alternatives given, so.... I look forward to this. Sam, Nick, and Alex all did the entirety of armor calculations in, oh, 3-4 minutes each.
-The section on time scales, especially Detailed Action Time, is great stuff. Talking isn't a free action; initiative is semi-fixed; actions take different people different amounts of time to finish; lots to take in and contemplate.
-Combat - skipping that! Doing a separate read just on that!
-Great skills improvement system. I do remember that Aftermath! was a great 'no levels, but you do improve' game. The system emphasizes camaraderie and teamwork among characters, too. I should see if I can graft the improvement system onto Classic Traveller....
-Healing, damage, poison, disease, etc. Nice! Considering how important these rules could be after the end, this is very nice.
The basic book is great.
Book Two - characters
-Holy Moley! A deep dive on everything from character generation to skills! It is like the basic versus Captain's Rules in SFB.
-Huge, fascinating detail on Skills, which are your character's "powers" in this game, so....
-Amazing detail on firearms and such, which is fun to read
-The system for barter is something I will use for other things! The barter point system makes conversion, etc. a snap.
-Great list of sample gear
-The vehicle section alone could be a mini-game!
-Survival gets down to how you live and eat, so critically important for the milieu.
-The appendices are very useful
The book includes some very good, very thoughtful advice on character creation, backstory, motivation, growth, and development - I wish I saw advice that good in contemporary gaming!
Book Two was very, very good.
I am saving Book Three for its own post.
Overall in impressions:
The rules aren't that complicated
The system is very flexible
There is a lot of excellent advice valuable for any system