Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Review: After the End 1: Wastelanders

Title page with almost 1/6
of it bearing illustrations.
Post-apocalypse isn't my bag, baby. That doesn't mean these books are bad, and so on a whim, I bought volumes 1 and 2 a bit ago, especially because I heard there was some good reusability in volume 2 (I especially think the gadgeteering rules might make for a more fun artificer experience in Dungeon Fantasy style games.) and the first book in a new GURPS line is always the hardest to review on top of that because it is usually a big data dump, and this one doesn't let down in that regard; it has tons of options for building a character to survive the aftermath of some doomsday scenario. So with all these swirling biases, preferences, likes, dislikes, and a bit of lightheadedness coming from exercising for the first time in a week (thanks, strep!) let's try to congeal something that might be useful for you, the reader, who may or may not be interested in buying this book.


Boxy style table of contents
This is a 36 page book split into 4 chapters. Taking away the intro and the outro, we have 31 pages of content. We have a 14 page chapter on templates, a 6 page "Cheatsheet," but something more akin to a bible that gives guidelines on appropriate rules switches, and appropriate advantages, disadvantages, and skills for the setting. We have a 3 page chapter on the default exotic ability vessel of After The End: "Mutations," and we have a 7 page chapter on equipment.
Overall, organization makes sense, and it pretty closely aligns with what I'm familiar with from Dungeon Fantasy 1, so I'm guessing the writers found the formula that works and they stuck with it... never seen how it looks in Monster Hunters or Action though. The order of chapters makes sense, the illustrations are unusually well coordinated compared to other recent GURPS books, and the pull quotes are all interesting. The text of the book, is of course, overwhelmingly content and data in the shape of character templates, ability lists, and equipments catalogs, with a decent amount of guidance for applying the tools one is given, with a very abstract approach to flavor, and a handful of new rules.
For a post-apocalyptic game or campaign, this book is great, and there are no outstanding flaws. Most characters are mostly mundane, so their is some reusability in a very survival oriented contemporary game. I have no especially interesting general points to speak to, so let's get more specific now.

Wastelander Templates

This chapter, unsurprisingly, covers character templates. Each template is given a descriptive name that makes understanding their application pretty easy at a glance, which in turn, makes it easy for a GURPS newbie to flip through the titles for one that sounds interesting, and read the short paragraph that follows on the ones that they want to hone in on. All templates are 150 points, but a nice touch is that all of the templates come with a 50 point "experienced" lens if you just want that slightly higher power level. To me, that's great. Dunno why I like 200 points so much, but it just feels like the right number. Each template has very neophyte friendly guidance on honing a potentially overbroad template into a few different specializations, making it possible for two players to choose the same template, and even follow the guidance given, but come up with two completely different characters even before personalizing it. For example, a Scavenger might be customized to be either a Ghost, Looter, Thief or Urban Explorer, which are all similar but definitely each of them have some individuality.
At the end of the chapter is an additional section of more 50 point lenses to have a few more ways to bring a 150 point template to 200 point templates for those that like higher power levels, a nice extra indeed, and each adds something interesting to the table with enough flexibility and guidance that it doesn't feel like one is pigeonholed too hard.

Wastelanders' Cheat Sheet

This is a list of all the mechanics and setting switches to make an After The End game different from any other GURPS game, but keep it manageable. We start with a boring, but infinitely useful table of allowed advantages, disadvantages, and skills... which probably could have gone in an appendix maybe? Worse than that, some especially important content is hidden between a pair of tables, an interesting list of new limitations for Gadgeteer, and a list of especially appropriate perks, though they mostly seem to be recycled. Still, nice that one doesn't need to dig through a maze of page references to find what they do.
This chapter also introduces two new character metrics: Long Term Fatigue Points and Radiation Threshold Points. The first is a slightly updated system for dealing with some of the more unusual forms of fatigue damage that should be more difficult to shake off then just catching your breath a few minutes, like dehydration or missed sleep. The second is a simplification of the Basic Set radiation rules, which does make it a lot easier to wrap one's head around. I might be interested in trying out the LFP mechanics in another campaign, but as of now, radiation is something I don't deal with a lot, though I stress, it looks a lot nicer than the Basic Set version.


This chapter speaks to exotic abilities in a setting where people are somewhat cinematic, but otherwise mundane. The Mutations system introduced is something of a corruption system, where one accrues beneficial mutations, and in exchange, also increases in freakishness, potentially inflicting disadvantages on the subject and reducing reactions from others. The system makes sense, and is pretty simple to us, but as a minor point, a lot of them also seem kinda bland and look like advantages taken right from Basic Set with Freakishness stapled on them. Doesn't mean they aren't effective, just a bit bland.


This chapter speaks to gear, and one of the more distinguishing setting switches of After The End: there's no real standard of currency. There is an interesting section on equipment modifiers under Common Gear. I really like equipment modifiers by the way. I wish there were toolkits for designing and customizing equipment the same way that the Powers book kinda does for advantages, but that is totally off-topic, except for the fact that these are some really useful modifiers.
The unique newly created items, especially under consumables are amusing, and lend a bit of flavoring and color to the setting. I kinda wish we could have an illustrated shopping catalog though to bring it even more to life, but budgets is budgets is what they tell me, so I guess we'll never know what a can of SieverTasty looks like.
Finally, the chapter ends with some vehicle content, with some interesting rules on customizing engines to use less scarce resources, and maintaining things when parts can be hard to find. Overall, this chapter is enjoyable because of how reusable it is, especially for a GM like me, I can see how a lot of this information can be used outside of the context of an After The End game, but at the same time, there is also a lot of content here that only fits After The End and in doing so, gears it up to be a unique experience.

Other Thoughts

I dunno if and when I'll participate in an After The End game, but this book definitely makes the concept easy, and I can't see any reason why I wouldn't use it if that were the case. The second book in the series is definitely more useful to me outside of an After The End book, but I just thought to review them in order of release is all.


  1. So the templates aren't for 150-point characters, but instead cost 150 points? That's annoying. It'd be nice to see one of these series actually assume the 'standard' 150 points.

    You know, an equipment customization guide, compiling all the different types of modifiers used in places like ATE1 and LTC2, akin to some of the Power-Ups series could be interesting.

    1. I don't know if I miscommunicated something, but the idea is that it is definitely geared for 150 point characters, but I was so impressed by the thought of including a bunch of +50 point lenses to accommodate 200 point characters that I might have forgot to plainly state the fact that 150 is the default assumption.


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