Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Barbarians of the Aftermath Review

For this review, I'll be covering Jabberwocky Media's Barbarians of the Aftermath.

Likes:
  • The book pretty much starts off with a way to randomly generate what type of apocalypse occurred, including how long ago it happened.
  • There was a good selection of races or "genotypes" in the game, including all the classics; standard humans, robots, mutant plants, mutant animals, and mutant humans.
  • There is a somewhat useful (if limited) section on PA names.
  • I like how the designers include various rules that can be taken and used piecemeal, allowing a GM to customize their post apocalypse further.
  • While I disliked several of the random table layouts intensely, I have to give notable mention to the Body Part table. It may take up two pages and have wasted space, but associating each table section with human body artwork helps in visualizations. (Sadly, some of the sub-tables here were a bit too limited.)
  • The inclusion of rules for vehicles, vehicle combat, and vehicle modifications.
  • A fair selection of equipment.
  • Riding Mounts, nice, but unfortunately too abstract in execution (needed examples of each type).
  • A decent random adventure generator (it suffers from the poor table layout problem, but is otherwise useful).

Dislikes:
  • While I have no likes or dislikes about the general mechanics (as I mentioned in my review of Mutant Future), and I generally don't comment on the layout of products, I found the layout of many of the tables in this book to be less than optimal, too much wasted space making the tables more difficult to navigate as a consequence.
  • While I like the apocalypse generation idea, I felt the execution was a little off in the time frame (i.e. how long ago the apocalypse occurred) portion, giving options that totally take away the post apocalyptic genre feel (mainly the last two options).
  • I also didn't particularly care for the "Sentient Species" table for the apocalypse generation section (determining how many species are present, not what types are present).
  • While there were many "Careers" present here, many of them didn't feel all that appropriate to giving the setting a post apocalyptic feel. Also, the "alternate titles" were often at odds with what the career was listed.
  • Sadly, the "awakened" mutant animal genotype suffers from extremely limited base animal data. Mutant plants suffer from the same problem, to a somewhat lesser degree.
  • I felt no real difference between the standard human and wastelander human genotypes (some mechanical differences, which moved the wastelanders more into mutant territory...making the genotype redundant).
  • Aside from my personal dislike of supernatural entities in post apocalyptic settings (I lean more toward sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, though I'll give a pass to psychic powers), they also felt short-changed, with several obvious options missing from the subtypes (demons/devils for one, and if you're going to have elves "elvar," you might as well throw in dwarves; lastly, if you've got vampires, why not werewolves (or werecreatures in general)).
  • While there are quite a few mutations, the layout and breakdown of the tables for them are so scattered and spread out (even the reference version in the back) as to make the tables almost useless. I feel this stems mainly from the D6 table types (1d6, 2d6, 3d6, etc.) limiting how the designers can form their table, though the physical layout compounds the problem.
  • The abstract usage of Equipment Points instead of a money or barter system. Sorry, I truly hate abstracted systems like this for equipment and treasure, it's not fun murderhoboing or scavenging the wastes for something that only has abstract value.
  • Lack of improvised, "junk" weapons and armor. There's sorta rules for it, but nothing concrete enough to satisfy me.
  • The limited selection of opponents (what is there is fair, a bit more generic than I prefer, but fits with the overall presentation, there just isn't enough).
  • While I generally prefer master reference tables for ease of GM use, the poor layout of tables used in this book doesn't really make them useful.

Overall, I'd have to say that there is some useful stuff here, but for the most part, poor layout decisions took out so much space that could have been better used for more examples and options. This book really only functions as a bare bones idea grab bag than a post apocalyptic RPG. Sadly, it also looks like too much work to really get a game going.