After the Bomb, henceforth referred to as AtB, is the newest game from Palladium Books. It was originally published as an alternative, post-holocaust world for the (now OOP) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG. This new version is a complete game with all the rules you need to play.
Players play sentient mutant animals living in a post-apocalyptic America destroyed by a great war some time in the past. The setting informations a little skimpy, but I personally dont mind that, as I like to make things up as I go. A map is also annoyingly absent making some of the setting information a bit confusing. Ive learned from the Palladium site that this is an error, and the map should be posted on Palladiums site some time in the near future.
Physically were talking about a 224 page B&W book with a color cover. If youre familiar with other Palladium games, its very similar.The appearance of the book is a mixed bag. The cover art could best be described as faitly unattractive. On the plus side, some of the interior arts very nice. And Wayne Breaux has produced what I think is the best work hes ever done inside this book. The orginization of the books confusing and it has no index so youll be flipping through pages a lot.
Characters are generated by rolling 3d6 for each of eight attributes. If you roll 16 or more for any attribute, its considered exceptional and you get to add the result of another d6. Bonuses for attributes only start at 16 and theres no penalties for having low attributes giving the system a fairly high resolution at high power levels and very little resolution at lower power levels.
After having generated attributes, you determine your animal species and yoir background. Both are done randomly. You then determine in which way your character is mutated. Every animal starts as a baseline member of the relevant species albeit curiously without the kind of common abilities associated with that animal. So if youre a bird, you cant automatically fly, for example. Each animal has a Size Level and a number of Biological Energy Points called BIO-E. BIO-E are used to buy human features such as hands, speech, the ability to walk upright and even human appearance and also to purchase animal abilities and natural weapons. You can also buy extra Size Levels for your BIO-E or sell Size Levels off (making yor character smaller than a normal member of his species) for extra BIO-E. This system also appeared in Palladiums TMNT RPG. However, old TMNT fans (such as yours truly) will find that its been streamlined considerably and a great new feature has also been added: Its possible to take vestigial disadvantages for extra BIO-E points. Vestigial Disadvantages are undesirable animal traits. These include having an exclusive insectivore diet or being color-blind or even domestication. (Domesticated characters must make will-saves not to instinctually obey orders given by human or human-looking characters). All in all, this process is a lot of fun although it has a few weird flaws/quirks:
A: The different animal species are not balanced at all. Some are clearly better than others. A marten, for example, is pretty much just a lower-powered weasel.
B: Besides the Physical Strength attribute, some special kinds of strength are available to mutants: Beastly Strength and Crushing Strength. However, as these are purchased using a characters BIO-E, a characters strength will be inversely proportional to his size, since the animals that can buy these abilities are typically very large animals with few or no BIO-E requiring them to sell off Size Levels in order to buy strength.
C: Point B above is also true for natural armor and natural weapons. Damage of natural weapons is likely to be inversely proportional to size and so is the toughness of natural armor.
D: A few of the available animal abilities arent terribly well thought out either. The leaping ability, for instance, bases the characters maximun leaping height on his size. So a frog-sized character would only be able to jump a few inches...
After having finished mutating your character, its time to pick skills. Your available skills are determined by your background. Many characters will have something called an apprenticeship package giving them a wide range of skills applicable to practicing a specific trade. These are fairly well though out and colorful and substantially help give characters a place in the world. I wish there were more of them included, though. In addition, you also get to pick some other skills a la carte. Ive found the backgrounds to be much better balanced than the animal species.
The players in my group ended up a tiny psionic bat, a huge kung-fu kicking frog and a four-feet tall elephant powerhouse.
The systems the same as in previous Palladium products. And thats so confusing and inconsistent that calling it a system is somewhat misleading. It has quirks galore. You roll d% for skill resolution. Skill levels start pretty low and progress slowly, so characters will fail a lot, unless you choose to ignore skill rolls. I did. In combat, you have to roll high on d20. Its based on opposed strike vs parry rolls. Its very easy to hit with guns, as all you have to beat is a target number of 4 and opponents are at -10 to dodge when they get to dodge at all. They sometimes dont as dodging uses up an attack, so if you dont have any left, you cant dodge. However, bullets dont inflict much damage compared to what many characters will be able to do with melee attacks. Oh yeah, and the typical AtB PC is capable of soaking up enough damage to make a Feng Shui character look like a wuss. The systems fairly simple to use, but the results dont usually make any sense at all. So leave any expectations of realism or be prepared to do a lot of tweaking. I ran it pretty straight but the players were also ready to accept the weirdnesses inherent in the system.
Theres also some GM advice. Some of its good although its nothing that veteran gamers havent seen in about a dozen other RPG books. Some of its questionable at best.
A lot of games these days dont bother supplying you with an introductory scenario to get you started. This isnt true of AtB. This book contains five scenarios all of which are pretty cool. Unfortunately, its just the same scenarios as in the 1st edition updated to the new edition, so if youve already played those you wont find anything new. Yay for including scenarios, boo for just recycling the exact same ones found in the old version.
After the Bomb is a great game if you fancy running a game with mutant badgers and chickens and whatnot in a bizarre post-apocalyptic world and dont mind some rules that tend to produce some pretty bizarre results.