AMP: Year One

Games to run for 2015

Given the changes in my life with the upcoming kid (very soon now!) I’m looking at how I’ll be working some gaming into my schedule. At the moment I don’t really see myself running long campaigns just yet, which makes me more than a little sad. However, it does open up the possibility of running all sorts of one-shot using game systems that I’ve not really had the opportunity to try.

Foremost among these would be Kuro and Numenera, two games that I’ve been very impressed with but have not had time to run. Also on this list is Fantasy Craft, and once I’ve read up on the novels again, the Mistborn Adventure Game. I’ve a few other games in mind as well, with an eye towards supers gaming (so AMP: Year One might see some time in my gaming table as well!)

That’s it for now, I can’t pin things down with specifics just yet, but I’m honestly a little glad to have been given a bit of a break from running games every weekend. I can almost feel my brain decompressing and soaking up new stuff to inspire games in the future. I really ought to take longer breaks more often.

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 5: GM Chapters and Review

Hey there, welcome to the final installment to the Let’s Study series for AMP: Year One. Today we’re looking at the Storytelling chapter of the book and see what advice we can get to running the game.

Themes / Moods

The chapter opens up with a discussion of the various Themes and Moods that can work with AMP: Year One. There’s a lot of ways to run AMP: Year One, and this is an intentional design feature. Eloy’s games have always been more open to different interpretations than most, and there’s little in the one-true-way of play in this book.

This section presents a few options that GMs can consider in planning their campaign, from the big mystery of the AMP’s origins, to having to survive in a world that doesn’t understand them.

Inspirations

The next section deals with various inspirational media to check out to get a feel for AMP. There’s a lot of stuff here, from TV series to movies and obviously, comic books. Lot’s of good stuff on this section, and the suggestions are solid for nailing the kind of mood for AMP: Year One.

Developing Stories

This section presents various story ideas, and I wanted to call out that I do like the approach of presenting the ideas from the perspective of the various factions. I’ve always been a fan of playing with morals based on where a person is standing so seeing different takes on the various factions and the stories you can tell with each is a major plus in my book.

GM Advice

The last section of the chapter revolves around solid GM advice. There aren’t any big surprises here, though the advice is keyed specifically for high powered games like AMP. This includes the very useful point of handling super-powered conflict in a much more permissive manner. Super-powered characters can and will run over any sort of pre-planned plot due to their abilities, but that can be used as a springboard to interesting situations.

Other Stuff

One of the things I’d like to call out specifically in the book is the fact that there’s a TON of sample characters in it. 33 different, fully-statted AMPs with their own unique backstories and artwork. That’s a lot of work done for you and you can just slap them into your campaign and run them as allies, or opponents depending on where your players stand.

Also included are stats for other threats you might run into from animals to normal people to specially trained soldiers which your AMP might encounter.

Review and Conclusions

To put it simply, AMP: Year One is a great game. It has all the usual hallmarks of Third Eye Games products: A broad-strokes background with interesting bits, a solid set of mechanics with a focus on high-octane action, and multiple factions to align with.

As his latest work, Eloy’s skill at crafting games shines best in AMP, and I feel that he’s really taken major steps forward in making a streamlined and yet inherently flexible ruleset. Wu Xing was funky fun, and Part-Time Gods was even better, but I’m afraid that AMP really spoils a GM and Players when it comes to playable fun.

That said, there are a few minor points that need to be repeated. Mechanics wise, the Skill + Skill setup isn’t quite as intuitive and takes a bit of getting used to. Also, the character sheet feels really crowded in my eyes, but overall, these are, as I said, minor issues that shouldn’t detract from enjoying the game.

Simply put, if you’re a fan of Supers games revolving around ordinary people getting powers and how they (and the world) react to it, get AMP: Year One. It’s flexible enough to go from Lighthearted, to Edgy to full on Grimdark, and won’t get in the way of your group having fun however they want.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 4b: Battles

Today kicks off with a bang as we take a look at the combat mechanics for AMP: Year One.

The Law of Attraction

There’s nothing attractive about this particular law as far as AMPs are concerned.

The Law of Attraction is described as a primal reaction that all AMPs possess that urge them to go into conflict with each other. Whenever an AMP runs into another they both make a Discipline + Empathy check to try and keep in control. Otherwise they immediately confront the other in a manner of their choosing, but never in a nice way.

It’s an interesting mechanic to simulate the usual superhero trope of people punching each other when they first meet each other, but it also makes sense in the context of the setting as they all share a single origin.

While this might appear to be tricky, I expect most GMs will only really use this on player characters in their first interaction or ignore it entirely when dealing with PC meets PC situations

Battle Rules

Combat is broken down into five main steps:

  • Roll Initiative
  • Acting player chooses their action
  • Defending player chooses their reaction
  • Both players choose applicable skills
  • Resolve damage, if any

Initiative

Initiative is checked in combat at the start of every round, which involves a 1d20 + Intuition + Speed check by all combatants. The highest rolling character moves first, followed by the next highest and so on. Ties are broken by comparing speed skills, and a roll off if further necessary.

An alternative Abstract system is presented as well, where the GM determines who goes next by what “feels” right. The suggestion is to let characters who plan to take noncombat actions to go first, followed by those with ranged actions, and finally close combat actions.

Choosing Actions

The Players whose turn it is in initiative then decides what actions they’d like to take. The actions listed in the game aren’t meant to be exhaustive, but do cover the most common options, and a few others that serve as maneuvers. These include:

Inflict Harm (Close Combat), Inflict Harm (Ranged), Inflict Pain (which is more of an non-lethal attack that is meant to inflict penalties), Prepare, Grab, Break Grab, Feint / Distract, Knock Back, Knock Down, Touch, Take Aim, Change Emotional State, Move, Sprint/Rush, Use Power, Non-Combat Action and Retreat.

As you can tell, it’s a LOT of actions that you can choose from. Each one has a short writeup and talks about any minor bonuses or penalties you’ll have to take to perform them, as well as the results of a successful action.

Choosing Reactions

Like Actions, Reactions are also listed in the book. A character gets one free Reaction per Round, but suffers a cumulative -1 penalty on each additional Reaction they use during a round. Reactions include:

Block, Dodge, Grab, Find Cover, Catch, Resist and Protect.

There might not be a lot of Reactions, but that’s because it’s easy enough to counter several action types with the same action.

Choose Skills

Given the flexibility of the DGS-Combo System, the players can pick their choice of skill combo for the action they’re taking as long as that makes sense. This allows for a lot of creativity on the part of the players and the GM and may end up putting a lot of non-traditional skills into combat. Kung Fu Movie junkies will probably get a kick out of this.

Deal Damage

This is where the actual resolution of the actions are taken. Both parties roll the respective actions, and if the attack is successful, damage is resolved by a simple calculation:

Close Combat Damage = 2 + Weapon Damage + Boost + Modifiers

Ranged Combat Damage = Weapon Damage + Boost + Modifiers

Modifiers and Special Cases

The rest of the chapter talks about the special cases of combat, everything from Automatic Fire, Armor, Pain, Bleeding, Fear, Dying and all sorts of other unpleasant things that happen in a fight.

Other things discussed in the chapter would be a fairly exhausted listing of weapons, drugs and poisons and other gear.

The chapter wraps up with an example of combat, which goes into a standard fight scene in AMP: Year One and will be of use to any GM who is starting to learn the system.

AMP: Year One certainly lives up to it’s promise. I’m particularly impressed by the simplicity of the basic mechanic, paired with the number of options in combat. Given the focus on combat in a title like AMP: Year One, you can’t really get away with just having a system that can’t handle it and it seems that Eloy managed to knock this one out of the park.

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up this series on AMP: Year One with a look at the Storytelling chapter, and calling out some of the other neat features of the book, including the rather extensive sample AMPs in the book.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 4a: Basic Mechanics

Today we’ll be taking a quick look at the mechanics that power AMP: Year One. We’ll be calling out what is of note and how everything comes together. Third Eye Games has always had interesting mechanics, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve come up this time for AMP: Year One.

Two Skills, No Attributes

The Basic skill check for the DGS-Combo System is done by rolling 1d20 and adding the Primary and Secondary Skill levels related to the task being performed.

Examples of skill combos are helpfully listed in the skill list of the character creation section. Here are a few to give you an idea of how it works:

  • Crafts + Technology: Assemble or Deconstruct Computers
  • Empathy + Intuition: Detect a lie
  • Marksmanship + Athletics: Thrown weapons

Sometimes though, the combinations can get a little harder to figure out:

  • Fortitude + Performance: Pretend not to be drunk
  • Intuition + Beast Handling: Thinking like how an animal would think
  • Fighting + Crafts: Use improvised weapons

I think that after a bit of time, and perhaps haggling between player and GM on what skill combo would work best for a situation, these confusing cases will melt away, but it wasn’t quite as intuitive to me when I was reading through this part.

In cases when a combination of skills do not apply, the player instead rolls 1d20 and adds the Primary Skill, and half the Primary Skill again.

I’m not too clear just yet on which cases a single-skill check would happen, and I think it would have been nice if the book included even one or two examples to help the GM along.

Difficulty

The Difficulty ratings for challenges in the DGS System start off with a difficulty of 10 to represent a simple challenge with minimal complications, and goes up in intervals of 10. 20 represents a moderate difficulty and is probably the standard difficulty that most checks will be. 30 represents very challenging tasks and 40 represents nearly impossible feats.

A roll is successful if it meets or exceeds this difficulty number.

Near Successes

That said, there’s a 5-point threshold of “failure” called a Near Success. If a roll doesn’t make it to the difficulty number, but is still within 5 points of meeting it, then the GM has the option to rule it as a Near Success. This is usually a success with complications.

Variants

Aside from the straight single check, other permutations of the basic system include the standard Opposed and Extended tasks.

Trying Again is also covered, as well as a short discussion of bonuses gained from Tools and Teamwork.

Boosting

For every 5 points by which a player rolls over the Difficulty, they gain an additional bonus effect to the result. This is called a Boost, and can take the form of Additional Targets, Bonus Damage, Bonus Info, Style, Streak Bonuses or Time Crunch.

Critical Successes and Failures

AMP’s system also features critical successes and failures, which occur on a Natural 1 or Natural 20. Critical successes automatically succeed regardless of the Difficulty and also receives 1 Juice for it. Critical failures on the other hand automatically fail, but also receive 1 Juice.

Overall it looks like the DGS-Combo system is a solid rules-medium implementation that makes for a good foundation for any RPG. The Skill-Combo mechanic is interesting, if a little obscure at times, but I think once I’ve got a few hours sunk into running or playing this, it will become a lot easier to figure out.

Tomorrow we continue our look into the mechanics by delving into the Combat mechanics for AMP: Year One.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 3: Powers

Welcome back to Let’s Study AMP: Year One from Third Eye Games! Today we’ll be taking a quick peek at the powers chapter for the game. Normally I don’t go into too much detail on the powers, equipment and spell lists in most games, but AMP deserves a quick look at the powers systems to give a better idea of how they work.

Strains

Each AMP comes from any of several strains, each of which grants access to 6 different main powers. The Blaster Strain for example, has access to Battery, Bolt, Constructs, Enhancer, Flux and Vampire powers. These powers are also further refined by the Enhancements and Tricks that are bought for them. A Bulk Strain AMP with the Behemoth power for example, could be different from other Bulks in that he knows the Boost Jump trick that enhances his leaping distance. It’s a neat way to further differentiate one AMP from another of the same Strain.

Anatomy of a Power

Each power writeup in the game is given an extensive writeup composed of several sections. Looking over it reminds me a little bit of Aberrant and Exalted’s power writeups, but in a good way.

I think it’s unavoidable to have a decent chunk of detail in a rules-medium supers game, and AMP is really no exception to this. I won’t go into full detail as that’s reserved for the book itself, but just to give an idea of the things that go into a power we’ve got:

  • Name
  • Skill Check, if any are applicable
  • Range – Which is sorted into Short, Medium or Long range bands, while also having options for Self, Touch and Line of Sight.
  • Duration – Options include Instant, Scene, Battle, Concentration, Support, Reaction and Permanent
  • Resistances – Which denote any applicable resistances to the powers. These are Dodge, Dodge/Block, Dodge/Find Cover, Strength and Mental Trauma.
  • Core Ability – The basic ability gained by having this power.
  • Augments – These are additional sub-abilities that further enhance the power and allow for enhancements to the core ability or tricks that are a slightly modified implementation of the ability.

As you can see its got a lot of detail into it, but thankfully each power writeup has pretty much everything you need to know about it in one place. I expect that repeated play of AMP will improve familiarity considering that starting characters only begin with 3 different powers.

Enhancements and Tricks

The Augments in a Power are also worth mentioning as they factor in just how an AMP decides to specialize in their use of their powers. Enhancements are modifiers that further improve the base ability, such as adding more damage to an attack from the base power. Tricks on the other hand are much flashier. These are essentially ways by which an AMP can utilize the power in an interesting fashion, from long-distance jumps to turning their skin into stone.

Thoughts

The Powers System of AMP: Year One is definitely a result of a lot of thought and planning. As a big Supers fan, I’m happy how AMP was able to balance having a wide range of interesting powers in a fashion that makes sense with the fiction of the setting. Given the pseudo-scientific nature of the setting, there’s nothing here regarding Magic as a superpower, but I can live with that. It’s a design choice that I agree with as it makes AMP step away from the usual “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to superpowers.

The use of trees to denote prerequisites was giving me Exalted PTSD flashbacks, but thankfully they weren’t bad at all, which is something I am incredibly relieved to learn. If a Supers Game is made or broken on the merits of its powers system alone, then AMP is certainly a winner in that category.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 2: Character Creation

Today we’ll be taking a look at the Character Creation system for AMP: Year One. Character creation involves 5 steps, which we’ll be going through in turn. Head’s up though, it’s pretty long.

Step 1: Concept, Loyalties and Affiliation

Concept is pretty self explanatory. I try not to be too ambitious when making sample characters to try out a system, so let’s go with an old concept I put together from before:

John Hudson was a man in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an ill-timed visit to his sister, Catherine, John caught her abusive and alcoholic husband with a knife and threatening Catherine. John tried to talk his brother-in-law down, but things fell apart, and John was assaulted. John’s powers manifested at this point, just as he threw a punch that sent his brother-in-law flying out the window of the eight story apartment, across the street and into the adjacent building, killing him instantly.

John surrendered to the police without a fight, but due to a legal technicality was convicted to spend his time in a prison made for supervillains. His family rallied to his support, trying to get lawyers to overturn his conviction and appeal his case. After five years in prison, John was finally declared to be innocent, and set free.

His time in prison was a spiritual gauntlet for John. But instead of hardening him, John found a different calling. He found a new perspective on life, seeing that for every crazy supervillain out there, far more of those who served time in prison were mostly people who felt that life gave them no other options but to turn to crime. He enrolled in a college to learn psychology and criminology, and went on to join the police force.

Loyalties are the next part of this step, and involves distributing 10 points across different Loyalties. Loyalties are an interesting mechanic as they help simulate the character’s personality, and affect how an AMP might act in situations that directly affect their Loyalties. In addition to influencing a character’s actions, a player gains Bonus XP whenever they use their Loyalties in a way that complicates events for themseves or in a cool or interesting fashion.

The list of Loyalties in the game are: Community, Comrades, Humanity, Justice, Love, Perfection, Self and Truth. Each point spent on any of these grant special bonuses to the character.

Given our concept, I figure we’ll spend his Loyalties on the following:

Community 2 (Inner City, Prison)
Comrades 2 (Police Chief, Prison Warden)
Humanity 2 (+2 to assist people in trouble)
Justice 2 (+2 to bring wrongdoers to justice)
Love 1 (sister, +2BP)
Self 1 (+1 vs checks against death)

Affiliations are the next part. There are 4 major groups to be affiliated to in AMP, each with their own agenda. Interestingly, there only seems to be just one “good guy” affiliation, with the other three ranging from “brotherhood of evil mutants” to “Paranoid authority”

Given my concept, the only one that seems to fit would be the Seekers of Enlightenment, the group dedicated to trying to study and help AMPS contain their lust for conflict.

Step 2: Skills

The starting AMP also begins with 35 points to spend on 22 different skills. There’s an optional skill cap rule that limits skill purchases to 5 points for starting characters, but that can be ignored if the GM says so.

The basic system involves rolling a d20 and adding a bonus equal to a combination of two skills. For example, a roll made to sprint would call for a d20+(Athletics+Speed)

The Skill list is pretty extensive, and covers most things that make sense. Though there are a few entries under skills that don’t seem to be a skill as much as they are an aptitude. Fortitude, Intuition and Speed stand out as examples of these. These aren’t exacly something you go to school to learn. That said, it’s a minor nitpick and you can easily overlook that.

For Officer John Hudson, we’ll spend on the following:

Athletics 2
Discipline 2
Empathy 3
Fighting 4
Fortitude 4
Intimidation 2
Intuition 2
Knowledge 2
Marksmanship 2
Might 4
Perception 2
Persuasion 3
Speed 1
Travel 2

Step 3: Strain, Powers and Augments

With the skills out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun part. AMP assumes that all individuals with Accelerated Mutant Potential hail from a limited number of strains from Project Black.

These strains are: Blasters, Bulks, Elementals, Ferals, Mindbenders, Psychs, Shapers, Shifters and Travelers.

Given his concept, John Hudson makes the most sense as a Bulk. I then get to choose 3 powers in order of priority. The Primary Power has to come from his Strain, so I’ll go for Behemoth (super-strength) as his primary. Secondary and Tertiary can come from anywhere, but I’ll stick with the strain and grab Invulnerability (damage resistance) as my secondary and Regeneration (super healing) as my tertiary.

This sort of allows me to avoid Experience Point surcharges when buying powers outside my strain, but it does make me rather stereotypical as far as Bulks go.

At this point, I have 6 points to spend on them. The limit is that a Secondary power cannot exceed the Primary power’s rating, and the Tertiary Power cannot exceed the Secondary Power’s rating.

In choosing to distribute powers, they also get access to Augments. Augments appear at even levels of a power (2,4,6, etc)

So with that, I figure I can go for an even spread for now with Behemoth 2, Invulnerability 2 and Regeneration 2. This also means I get to buy an Augment for each of these powers.

After a bit of reading up on powers, here’s what John Hudson has:

Behemoth 2: Add Behemoth rating x2 to Might checks and +50 lbs. to their Carry value per Behemoth level. Add (Behemoth/2) to all close combat damage.

Augments:
Crush 1: After a successful attack, the AMP adds +1 damage. This Enhancement is reflexive

Invulnerability 2: Invulnerability is automatically added to calculate the AMP’s Integrity. Spend 1 Juice to negate damage from an attack directly, up to (Invulnerability/2)

Augments:
Tougher: The AMP’s skin becomes as hard as steel, making them tougher and grants AR 2/2.

Regeneration 2: When healing, regain an additional (Regeneration/2) Integrity at normal intervals. Add (Regeneration level) to any checks against Death and bounce back to Integrity 1 and ignore any Consequences with a success. Aging slows down to a rate of 1 year for every (Regeneration level) years that pass.

Augments:
Rush of Health: Instantly heal 2 Damage or 1B damage for each Juice spent.

Step 4: Spend Bonus Points

At this point I also have 12 Bonus Points to spend on further customizing my character as John has an Affilitation. These can be spent on anything from Skill Levels to Specialties, Power Levels, Augments and Loyalties. But the most interesting use of these would be through Gifts and Drawbacks.

Going to town with the Gifts, here’s what I’ve picked up:

Law Enforcement (3)
Stable Psyche (3)
Tough (3)
Control (3)

Step 5: Record Integrity, Juice and Movement

Here we get to the derived stats portion of character creation. Integrity is essentially hit points, and is calculated at 10+fortitude. This gives John a base Integrity of 14 with a +2 from Invulnerability.

Juice represents the power that fuels AMP powers. Dependent on Adrenalline, Juice is gained by getting into danger and surprise… which leads to a more interesting game as the more an AMP is threatened, the more Juice they have access to.

All AMPs start with 3 Juice at the start of each day.

Movement stats for basic running, jumping and climbing are also covered here. And is appreciated given the necessity of knowing these in the context of combat.

Thoughts

Character Creation in AMP’: Year One falls in the middle of the complexity scale of character generation systems that I know. It’s mostly point-buy, which is good, and the options given are enough to satisfy all but the most exacting players. I do like that the Strains don’t necessarily limit all your powers, but they do dictate where your Primary comes from. This means that if you really want to have characters with wildly disparate powers that don’t seem to thematically link together, you can still do so. I’m not sure if many players will like the experience surcharge though, and if that will dissuade them from playing cross-strain types as they might be afraid of falling behind other players who decided to stick to a given strain.

I’m okay with the Skill+Skill combination, though I can’t help but feel that some of the skills really aren’t skills at all. That said, math-wise it all works out, and I can’t think of a name that would suit the category better, so Skills they are.

I’m definitely liking the Loyalties as an influence on character actions, though I do feel that the Affiliations are a little bit too skewed towards villainous factions with only one clear good guy. That said there’s little stopping you from dropping Affiliations altogether if you don’t like them in your game.

Overall, it’s not bad. AMP: Year One has a good character creation system, flexible enough to allow for all sorts of characters, with in-setting mechanics that tie it into the physics of the world rather than coming off as too generic.

Tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the powers and systems of AMP: Year One, and see just how robust it is to be able to handle high powered superhero action.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

[Let’s Study AMP: Year One] Part 1: Introduction & The Setting

AMP: Year One is the latest game from the incredibly productive Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games. Many of you will likely have heard of him through his previous work, which include Part-Time Gods, and Wu Xing: the Ninja Crusade, both of which have been covered in this blog before.

In the interest of disclosure, I was given a PDF review copy by Eloy, and this Let’s Study series will be conducted with the use of that product.

AMP: Year One is a supers RPG that takes place in the first year of the appearance of super powered individuals known as AMPs (those with Accelerated Mutant Potential).

AMPs are the unintended product of a top secret series of experiments to create supersoldiers. While the original project was scrapped, the descendants of the test subjects have just recently begun exhibiting superhuman powers in a world that isn’t ready for it.

The premise of the supers game is intriguing as it follows the events of normal people who have developed powers and what they would do with it. With so many people getting powers, it’s inevitable that you’ll have the selfish and the cruel among the altruistic and the benevolent.

Year One

The first chapter of the book talks about the events that led to the creation of the AMPs, starting with the ominously named Project Black. Presented in broad strokes, the book goes on to talk about the objectives of Project Black and the resulting fallout of their experimentation.

What follows after is a timeline of 2015, the year which marks the appearances of the AMPs. This serves as both a reference and a metaplot. Various characters relevant to the overall story of AMP:Year One. While a lot of relevant things happen to the characters in the Metaplot, nothing really stops a creative GM from replacing the characters with those of the players.

There’s certainly advantages to being able to run within an established timeline of events. If anything you have a narrative structure that serves as a spine for your stories, and you never lose the option of breaking it in one way or another to deviate from established canon. I do this a lot with my Legend of the Five Rings campaigns, so having this sort of metaplot is a good thing for me as it also helps preserve the identity of AMP: Year One from becoming just another supers game.

It’s a compelling setting, and one that reminds me of one of my favorite comics: J. Michael Straczynski’s “Rising Stars.” If AMP can help me run a game that is even a fraction of that, then that would definitely be a success in my book.

Tomorrow we’ll try our hand at creating a character for AMP: Year One, hopefully a painless process as many supers games can be an exercise in patience when it comes to character creation.

For those who’d like to check it out, AMP: Year One is available on PDF in DriveThruRPG for $14.99 or roughly Php 645.00

%d bloggers like this: