Well, this is interesting

End of the World

Announced last night from Fantasy Flight Games, a series of RPG books is coming, The End of the World. Taking in the classic tropes of apocalyptic fiction such as Zombie Apocalypse, Alien Invasions and Skynet-like AI Revolutions, the system’s most innovative aspect is that you don’t have to spend hours creating a character – because you role-play yourself! When I read this, half-asleep last night, my initial thought was “hm, sounds like a gimmick”, but on further, wakeful thought, it actually sounds like a really great idea.

Four books make up The End of the World roleplaying game series. Each of these four books offers a different apocalyptic genre and experience. The first book in the series, Zombie Apocalypse, challenges you to face hordes of undead that rise and stalk the earth, hungry for the flesh of the living. The series continues with Wrath of the Gods, pitting players against a pantheon of supernatural foes intent of destroying humanity. Ranging from the Mayan apocalypse to Cthulhu, the gods return to exact terrible vengeance in this book. The third installment in the series is Alien Invasion, giving you the opportunity to battle unknown life forms from beyond our galaxy. You may face a species of conquering warriors, or aliens too small to see with the naked eye. Finally, Revolt of the Machines invites you to match wits against artificial intelligence. When our technology develops consciousness, even normal people will need to battle technology in every form. Each of these books offers a complete self-contained experience, although they share the same rules system. No matter which apocalypse you want to explore, you’ll find unending horror and adventure in this roleplaying series.

Now, I’ve not really had a chance to explore this on my blog thus far, but I have a real soft-spot for dystopia and post-apocalyptic narrative, and this whole idea really sits well with me. I’m not a huge fan of the Zombie genre, mostly because I play a lot of board games, and the Zombie subgenre therein has really been done unto death, but in this specific setting, I’m actually really quite excited by it all. Given my love of all things Cthulhu, I’m obviously very keen on seeing that book. Alien Invasion is something that I don’t normally think about, but after reading War of the Worlds last year I feel it could be something that I’d be very keen to get behind, provided it were done well. Perhaps having a sort of 1950s gloss to it could make this book shine. And finally, I’ve developed a big love for ‘rise of the machines’-types of stories after reconnecting with The Terminator in February of this year, so this is another genre that I’m looking forward to. All in all, then, looks like this could be really good!

Of course, having four books that share the same system and broadly the same genre but with a different theme is strongly reminiscent of how FFG have approached both their Warhammer 40k RPGs and their Star Wars line, and I do not relish the prospect of seeing multiple expansions for each of the four lines. I suppose it depends on how well the line sells, but it strikes me that, if the core rulebook is strong enough, this is the sort of game line that necessarily precludes any type of expansion, particularly seeing as how you’re role-playing yourself.

Since you’re playing yourself in every game of The End of the World, your starting gear is also limited to what you can find close at hand when you sit down to play the game. You could start with a cell phone, but how long will it stay charged? Who knows how long the cash in your wallet will be accepted as viable currency in light of the world’s ending? You might want a good shotgun to defend yourself, but that could mean venturing out of your friend’s apartment. Kitchen knives might be your only available weapons for defending yourself against hordes of ravenous zombies or conquering aliens.
 Each scenario features a post-apocalypse, illustrating how some semblance of order returns in the shattered aftermath of the apocalypse. No matter how humanity has adapted in order to survive, life in the post-apocalypse is completely different from life before. The post-apocalypse is just as dangerous as the apocalypse itself, presenting entirely different challenges and threats to whatever remains of you and your haggard band of survivors.

This is what has got me really intrigued. If it’s executed well enough, it could see the whole thing escalate into a truly awesome gaming experience.

From looking around the nascent forums on the official website, it looks like the community is currently really excited about this whole concept, which is a good thing to see. So we’ll see how it goes!