Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Revisiting: Aftermath! Part I

  My oldest sister and her husband are cool, like jazz musicians and rock stars. They got me the Buck Rogers collections when they were first printed; they introduced me to King Crimson, Jethro Tull, and Dave Brubeck; they got me a subscription to Dungeon magazine for Christmas. 
  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

More soon!

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