Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RPG Review Recess - Unhallowed Metropolis

One of the two books I picked up at Gen Con was Unhallowed Metropolis. I love Horror Games, I pick them up almost out of habit, but this one I was looking forward ever since I first heard about the game.

Now, something you need to know about me. The older I get, the less I enjoy fiddly bits. Fiddly bits, those little bits and pieces of games that so easily get lost. They're the million or so pieces that come with games, the ones that are all vitally important to how the game functions and heavens help you if you lose one or two pieces. The parts of RPGs that requires an encyclopedic knowledge on how every thing works. You know what I'm talking about, I'm talking about Pathfinder and the bajillion and two feats that you need to know in order to make sure that the players aren't powered to the point of being boring ... you get the picture. I'm not a big fan of 4e either, with all the card powers stuff. It's the same kind of thing, but now everything you do is one of those little card things.

Annoying. Massively so.

Unhallowed Metropolis is kind of filled with fiddly bits.

I don't care one whit.

The basic premise of the game is that the zombie apocalypse happened, it just started in 1905 rather than say today. Any major city was pretty much wiped out, as not only did the zombies just appear out of nowhere, but any bite led to infection which led to more zombies which led to further destruction. Humanity had to live on the outskirts until they co-ordinated themselves enough to fight back. The game itself takes place I think in 2150 which is some time after the British managed to reclaim London.

I love this game because it's got a huge social stratification, the upper classes don't mingle with the commoners if they want to avoid scandal. The poorer places in town, notably the East End, is full of poverty, desperation and spontaneous animate outbreaks. You've got a people who had their technological advance halted in the early 20th century and are figuring things out that we take for granted. There are body snatchers, mad scientists, broken war veterans and a blighted country-side that has pockets of survivability. It truly is an amazingly bleak setting.

That's one thing that I love about this game. The setting is both original, in depth, stark, dark and rather deadly. You have to worry all the time about the GM springing an animate outbreak on you, especially if you're playing a group of people who live in the East End. You can try to pretend that the outside threat doesn't exist, but it's always got the potential to just explode from the city itself. I love the disconnect that the upper classes feel the right to since it really only happens to those of the lower class.

The system itself is where you get all the fiddly bits. You have to pick a role, I don't have the book on hand so I can't check out what they're called officially, and every role has their own special features that you can pick. Now, they aren't all specific to one role. Some of them overlap, and all of them make sense. They're all special rules and abilities that just that one character gets.

*sigh* Fiddly bits.

Another amazing part of the game is that everyone is corrupt. There is no way to escape this. There is something eating at your body, your soul or your mind that causes you to be, a little darker than you should be. This leads to a few more fiddly bits, things you're going to have to keep track of in regards to negative effects on your character.

*sigh* Fiddly bits.

The mechanic is a 2d10 mechanic, and it is set up in such a way that you've got a pretty good chance at succeeding at most things. The problem that occurs, especially in combat, is that everything else also has a good chance at succeeding at what they do which is killing and/or eating you.

Despite all the fiddly bits, that normally would drive me up the wall, I can't wait to play this game, or run this game. Hell, I'd love to run this game as a LARP, because it would just be that awesome. It'd have all the societal maneuvers of Victorian London with the very real threat of zombies. You could have three of four different groups doing different things, I mean having the Deathwatch have to corral some annoyed Noblefolks would be a great scenario. You could make the LARP book just as beautiful as the main book which is filled with amazing photographs and really good illustrations. To be fair, I wanted more of the photography but I'm not going to complain. The book is very, very pretty.

Ultimately this is, for me, a game that shows that a phenomenal setting can overcome personal problems that you might have with a system. They even tackle trickier problems like mental illness in the game, and very explicitly tell you that if you're looking for an excuse to play 'the crazy person' then maybe you had best find a different game. Even if you don't agree with how they went about implementing things like mental illness in a game, or even if it should be in the game, the fact that they took the time to tell people who play "crazy" in games off is worth it for me. Get it, get it now and scare the hell out of each other while being incredibly snooty at the same time.

Unhallowed Metropolis is one of the best settings I have ever seen. It's the future after the zombie apocalypse hits in 1905. It's dark, deadly, scary and worth every penny you spend on this gorgeous book.

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