Rapture: The End of Days RPG
From: StoryWeaver Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung
Rapture: The End of Days RPG is a new RPG Core Rulebook from StoryWeaver Games.
The Rapture has been the subject of various books and movies and all have approached it from a similar fashion – portraying it as something in the near and foreseeable future. No one that I have seen before this game has ventured out and asked the question “What if it happens way far in the future after man has found ways off this world?” Rapture: The End of Days is a game about that very thing.
From page # 5:
“Welcome to the end of days … After centuries of war and strife, seven great nations arose to enter an uneasy peace. Humanity was once again rebuilding, with science blossoming and a new discoveries heralding a true renaissance.”
The book opens with a focus on the rules system but to me, it’s the setting that really sells it for me. So that is what I am going to cover first. The game itself has a strong focus on storytelling and plot, and less on rules, so it only made sense to start wherethe story begins – the setting.
Players are characters called Mortals – human beings that were living or otherwise located in one of the disparate colonies spread out over the known worlds – called Human Occupied Space. The year is 2645 and The Rapture happened. The Earth went through years of war, rebuilding and finally prosperity under a new order and after colonizing many extra-solar worlds, God decided to fulfill his Biblical promise. All the worthy souls on Earth (those that believed in God’s Word) were accepted into Heaven while the others were left behind, including all the souls on the extra-solar colonies. Meanwhile, the gates of Hell have opened on Earth and demons are pouring out, claiming domain on humanity’s once beloved home.
Why, do you ask? That was my first question going in and they have a very inventive and creative explanation that sits at the core of the game setting. Heaven, Hell and Creation all sit in parallel dimensions. For every location in Creation, there is an equal location in both Heaven and Hell. Unfortunately because of their nature, demons never bothered to create space travel to traverse their version of space, so for now, Mortals on other colonies were saved simply by distance. But demons can find ways around that and do so when they can – like entering Creation on Earth and finding a means to travel within Creation to the other colonies. Also, a less-than scrupulous human could summon a demon from beyond to any world in space; however, that is a rather arduous task.
The book describes the stellar-political topography of a post-Rapture Human Occupied Space, giving the history of and general political structure of each of the major Earth powers that have colonized the known worlds. These include the Sino Block (part of Asia primarily dominated by the Chinese), North American Alliance (a socialist alliance of the remnants of the US and part of the American continents after the collapse of the US Government), the Southern Union (parts of Southeast Asia and Australia), and the Democractic Russian Union (a Representative Republic Russia reborn out of the ashes of a chaotic Russia). Along with these faction are the Corporate entities that dominate certain regions of space. There are eleven corporations listed and all have very unique and interesting backgrounds.
There are several dozen colonized worlds, some Earth-like (Earth Analogues) and others terraformed. The Earth analogues are not perfect copies of Earth but at least have the basis to minimally sustain human life. Technology covers the rest of it in some way or another. The terraformed planets are expected to take multiple generations to complete, and the results are not guaranteed. There are also “orbitals” or space stations that maintain populations. There are also abandoned colony ships called space hulks that are still being used by fringe groups.
Below the national or corporate identity, some characters might have an affiliation with a known faction. Factions here are presented mostly as religious groups, like Xeno Retionalism (people that believe this “Rapture” is some kind of alien attack), Paganism (a blanket group that covers any non-Judeo Christian or Islamic based group), Biblical Inerrancy (groups that believe their version of the Bible is the true Word of God), and Humanist Emancipationism (a strange group that believe that God made a mistake starting the End of Days).
Technology in 2645 is not all that much different than what we are familiar with, to some degree, at least according to the writers. The “cyberpunk revolution” never happened and the tech just got bigger (or smaller), faster and better. Two major advancements help conquer the tyranny of stellar distances – Photonic Teleportation Arrays (PTAs – communication devices that allow for near instantaneous communication over stellar distances) and Gravity Drives (allowing for travel over stellar distances in relatively shorter periods of time while isolating the vessels from the effects of relativity and time dilation).
Man not only faces the danger of space and the alien worlds they live on, they face the new threats from the Rapture and from Hell. The creatures are presented in the same style as the rules (see below) – rules light and simple. They range from the generic Unclean Spirit, the fallen angels of Legion, and Zombies. There are also alien predators like the Dragons of Brilliance, Shark Gods, and Cannibahls. There are also more modern threats like Insane AIs.
Supernatural powers exist but are treated very Biblically. Anything that is not of God is evil and thus much of the powers are routed in evil, hubris or Satan. Man continues to latch on to the hubris of human science and rationalization, so not many humans have powers. Many creatures; however, have them and they are expanded up in this book The most a human can do is exorcism and that is not an easy task to do.
From the website:
“The legions of Satan are real… And they are coming for you.”
The designers of the system called it “rules light” and “a narrative system”, with a strong focus on story and character and less on combat, tactical and technical stuff. They also say upfront that this is not a good beginners RPG. I found that honest and to the point. I admire a writer with that level of honesty.
Character generation system is usually where you get the initial feel of the system and this game is no different. Creating a character in Rapture is very rules light and simple. There are 3 primary stats (Mens or Minds, Corpus or Body, and Potentia or Soul) and the rest is content that the player makes up. There is a real simple skill list where a player picks 3 to be good at and the rest are left alone. In total, there are 10 easy steps to creating a character and much of it is like “Choose a Profession… Any Profession is fine” or “Write down a Personal Goal” or “Write down your Redemption Task.”
The main way to gain experience and grow is to die. The experience stays with the player and affects the next character he brings in. If a character dies in some glorious, biblical, self-sacrificing way or in a way that really drives the story, the group of players can vote on it. If the death was voted to be suitably memorable, then the next character that is brought in gains an extra attribute point. This is a very unique concept and a real differentiator to the system.
The system is basically a d10 dice pool system. One of the three primary attributes is always rolled and if a Hero’s Skill applies, add more dice to the pool. The GM determines a Target Number between 2 and 10, and in most cases the Challenge will require between 1 to 3 dice to be equal or greater to succeed. Challenges and Combat are very abstract and sometimes, especially in the case of combat, can be decided in one role. Combat is very abstract and designed to be simple but deadly.
As the game has a horror component to it, there is a Fear system. True to the spirit of the entire system, it is simple but it also interesting unique and creative. Fear are points that build up during the course of an adventure, either through taking damage or experiencing something horrific. But there is a good side as well as a bad side to them, thus there is no choice or test when a character takes Fear points. As a character accumulates Fear, he gains extra dice in his physical stat. However, the down side to Fear is the that it effects the other two stats equally in a negative way. There are ways to overcome one’s Fear but it is difficult and has consequences.
Hand in hand with Fear is Madness. What horror game would this be without some kind of sanity. Madness in this game is caused by a specific type of Unclean Spirit called a Madness Spirit. For those previously effected by such spirits, gaming Fear can cause manifestations of this madness. There is a simple system and a table to consult and the players is asked to roleplay the madness in whatever manner moves the story along well.
Another aspect of this game that I find interesting is common to a lot of these rules light games. The players have nearly as much control over the story as the GM. In certain situations, the GM is encouraged to let the players describe situations after Challenge tests, etc. This is not overly unique but it does make the game interesting and more attractive to those that like these types of narrative games.
In conclusion, my first impression of the game is that it was a little too “hippy” for me and I wasn’t sure about it. Being a Christian, the subject matter did not put me off at all and in fact, drove my curiosity. As read, the setting was very attractive and I kept on thinking of it in terms of other systems like Savage Worlds or True20. But in truth, although those game systems would be interesting to try for this setting, it would be a totally different experience and certain aspects of the game would be lost. The system itself fits perfectly for what the writer wishes to accomplish. It’s elegantly designed for the setting and very simple. It has a certain nuance to it that makes it engaging and I am already thinking of ways to run this at my next con.
For more details on StoryWeaver Games and their new RPG Core Rulebook “Rapture: The End of Days RPG ” check them out at their website http://www.storyweaver.com.
Rapture: The End of Days RPG
From: StoryWeaver Games
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
Written by: Joe Sweeney
Contributing Authors: Ray Duell
Game Design by: : Joe Sweeney
Art by: Kascha Sweeney, Mark Person
Number of Pages: 133
Game Components Included: 1 core rulebook (PDF)
Retail Price: $14.95(US)
Reviewed by: Ron McClung