Review: Agents of Oblivion

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“As far as I’m concerned, our characters should be running through burning alien fortresses, guns blazing, pausing only to say something heartbreaking and witty and true, and then more things blow up. This is why Savage Worlds tends to be my gaming system of choice.” – John Rogers, creator of Leverage

I got this because I am planning to start running the Dracula Dossier under Savage Worlds next year, and hoped it might save me some effort; it won’t. But since I have it now…

TL:DR


This is a 218 page PDF from Reality Blurs, a setting book for Savage Worlds which bills itself as “the perfect cocktail of horror and espionage”. The intent is that you should be able to play, as Rogers says in his foreword, “anything from Spellslinging Spy vs. Alien Brain Eater to Harry Palmer vs. That Unpleasant Fellow from Bulgaria.” Personally, I think it would work much better for the former than the latter – YMMV.

This is a game that I might cannibalise for parts, but am not likely to GM in its current form.

Could I Do This with Stuff I Already Have?


Well, depends what you have, obviously. But my answer was “Yes, I can, and I will.”

Tell Me More…


Slightly more than half the book is GM-only territory, with the first not-quite-half aimed at the players.

AoO is essentially urban fantasy; the modern world, but with some combination of elder gods, insane villains, and ancient aliens lurking in the shadows. The PCs are agents standing between these indescribable horrors and ordinary citizens.

Character creation follows Savage Worlds core for the most part; there are some new hindrances, edges and skills, and arcane backgrounds are slightly modified, but the general approach is the same. PCs start with four skills at d4 and a major hindrance tying them to their agency, which doesn’t count against their hindrance limit. They also pick a branch within the agency – assault, occult, or operations – which loans them a free edge so long as they work for it. In effect, they start somewhere between Novice and Seasoned. Ten archetypes are provided for those who just want to grab something and start playing right away, and a number of standard loadouts for those who feel the same way about gear.

Setting rules cover:

  • Extended trait checks – the core rules have moved on since AoO was written, and now offer dramatic tasks, which address the same problem (how to handle tasks over an extended period without risking everything on one die roll) in a different way.
  • Skill applications – things like how does my PC disguise herself as a customs officer? These will be useful to me, actually.

Gear is handled using “equipment picks” and “resource points” rather than actual currency, but the principle is the same; gear costs points or picks, and you have a limited number of them to spend. Picks can also be used to customise gear, points can also be used to have something on standby like a cover ID or an air strike, or to gain temporary use of an edge or power (justified in-game by special gear or focused training).

At this point we move into GM-only elements, starting with the secret history of the world, and moving on to describe Oblivion, the PCs’ patron organisation, and Pandora, their great foe, before speaking to how the GM should use the shared elements of the horror and espionage genres – action, violence, suspense – to merge them into a satisfying game. Before the campaign begins, the GM decides whether it will include aliens, conspiracies, the occult, horror, or technology, and if so, how much of each; the book provides half a dozen example campaign seeds – turn all the dials down and you get Spy vs Spy, the Cold War; turn them all up and you get the Company Line, in which everything is true and alien sorcerors in UFOs abound. The Company Line is the default option. There’s also a range of GM advice on how to run an AoO campaign.

Next is a region-by-region view of over 30 assorted secret organisations the PCs might bump into, each rated for its involvement with aliens, conspiracies, magic, horror, technology, and influence, with notes on its nature and agenda. A mission generator is provided, using dice for the mission’s structure, target, goal, plot, and what complications might arise, and in case you need more spy agencies and strange new creatures, there are a dice-based random generators to create your own.

Seven example adventures are given, each consisting of 2-5 barebones session descriptions, and a sampler of foes – mostly human(ish) opponents, these.

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