Two weeks ago we kicked off our first (perhaps annual?) month dedicated to games set in the world of The Purge films. This was set into motion in the fall when, after a long day of gaming, we began riffing on different scenarios for a Purge film. And one of us said, “What if the Bachelors were in The Purge?”
That kicked off a very wide ranging conversation about how to game in The Purge, and you get to listen to a fraction of our ideas this month (we had far more ideas than there are Fridays in March!). I love the variety of settings and games you’ll get to listen to, but I’m also very proud that I got to kick off the month with one of my favorite games, The End of the World.
Why do I love The End of the World? Let me count the ways…
The End of the World is a surprisingly flexible system, considering the premise baked into it is very simple and straightforward. You are a normal person. The apocalypse arrives. Can you survive? There’s a trend in games right now to provide lots of additional settings to help expand a base game, look at Bubblegumshoe, or the stretch goals for Hack the Planet. Fantasy Flight Games not only keeps the focus on one specific apocalyptic flavor per book, but they fully expect you to follow what the book says. There’s no guidance for creating your own apocalypse, or even your own NPCs! (The latter is perhaps an emerging trend over at FFG; Star Wars doesn’t have NPC creation rules either, except for high-level Inquisitor characters)
So how is a game this focused on a single concept so flexible? It’s all in the wiggle room of the idea of “the end of the world.” The base game intends it to be a worldwide apocalypse. But in the one-shot style games we play at Fandible, we’re never concerned with how the rest of the world is coping. It’s how this neighborhood or city is going to survive. Ironically by scaling down the world is how you get more flexible. In 12 Hours, the bachelors covered the least ground yet, basically making it around the corner and down a few blocks! But it still felt like an apocalyptic scenario, because the world as these four guys knew it was over. Even though (spoiler alert!) they all lived to see morning, it’s obvious their lives have been radically changed.
Elegant Dice Rolling
I got my start role playing with Vampire: the Masquerade, so I’ll always have an affinity for dice pool systems. There’s a simplicity to rolling a D20 and adding a stat, or rolling under a percentile, but I love that handful of dice feeling that World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and even End of the World can give you. End of the World adds a more random element than those other systems though, as your dice pool isn’t based on your stats, but rather the tools and environment at hand. And some of those dice are gunning to actively hurt your character. You’re both hoping to roll some doubles to mitigate the damage with the cancel-out mechanic, but also cognizant that cancelling out a good roll could mean you end up with 0 successes. This makes for an extremely gritty and potentially lethal system (it’s why I houseruled that players can take strain in order to add an additional positive die to their roll), but the negotiation of what does and doesn’t count towards the positive portion of the dice pool is always fun.
The Book Seems Designed for Me
I’ve mentioned this in episodes multiple times so I won’t belabor the point here, but all of the scenarios in the official books are laid out almost exactly how I create my own GMing notes. Set up an overarching problem, come up with a few interesting places, and then bullet point out who could be met or what might happen in those places. It made it incredibly easy for me to just pick up a book and start running this game for Fandible. All I had to do was personalize the settings laid out – “the mall” became the mall down the street, so I could fill in the details with what stores the zombies were lurching from. “The subway” is the local stop that the rest of the crew trudges through dutifully every Saturday.
Okay, let me be a little sappy here: I probably wouldn’t love this game nearly as much if the rest of the players hadn’t gotten so into it as well. I knew bringing this game to the table was an uphill sell, because of the “you play a normal person!” premise. That’s not what most of us are here to do! But they humored me, and not only got into it for the first session, but when I mentioned returning to the characters over and over again, everyone was incredibly gung-ho about it. Outside of Numenera or Unhallowed Metropolis, we’ve probably spent more time with the gentlemen living in the Bachelor Arms apartment building than anyone else on Fandible – even if those characters are completely unaware that they’re stuck in some hellacious time loop. I’ve been privileged to lead my players through some of our most emotional moments at the gaming table, as these unrepentant assholes occasionally find an ounce of empathy for their fellow apocalypse-survivors, or have to make terrible choices about how their own story is going to end.
The rest of our games for Purge Month are going to be new-to-us games with new-to-you characters. Likely they’ll all be one shots, burning bright for a week or two and then never to be seen again. But you never know: our very first game of The End of the World was intended to be a one shot, and look how far we’ve come…
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