Tuesday, May 09, 2006

CJ Carella's Armageddon RPG

Mix equal parts eschatology, “The Prophecy” series of films, add a dash of Lovecraftian horror and top with Tom Clancy style military tech-thriller and you’ve got the most original contemporary fantasy settings that I’ve ever seen, CJ Carella’s Armageddon:  The End Times.  Carella, who wrote the Buffy RPG (easily the best cover-to-cover read of any RPG in existence and one of the most streamlines systems to boot) displays divine creative inspiration with this world of magic and war where angels, demons and gods of myth join forces to fight the big one against a Cthulhuesque foe.  

It’s not my roleplaying cup of tea, necessarily, as the front-line aspects seem better suited to hack-n-slashers, but “underground resistance” storylines could lead to some excellent character-driven stories, and even if that weren’t the case it’s a setting that makes for engrossing reading, one I’d love to see novelized.   I admire the fact that there’s a clear bad guy, yet more than enough murky alliances to make for good drama.  Most of the Fallen seraphim would love to see humanity in the dirt, but if the war is lost they’re as good as dead too.  Others find our capacity for vice endearing while a minority secretly seek redemption.  The majority of the lofty angels resent us for our resemblance to the Creator, and the fact that we sin makes us less than appealing, plus many of the angels entered self-imposed exile after a second schism in heaven.  

System-wise, I’m a bigger fan of the Cinematic Unisystem rules, but there’re enough sidebars with info on running under those to make it easy.  Overall the book is a winner, with special props for it’s form factor, a 7.25" x 9.25" hardcover that’s very portable and contains mostly good art.  My biggest complaint involves the lack of any scenarios, which is a serious omission.  First off, it’s bad form to not include at least one token adventure to help provide flavor.  Also, considering the range of styles the setting allows — hand-to-hand and tank-to-tank on the front lines, cold-sweat suspense in a resistance cell in an occupied territory, hard-nosed detective work flushing out terrorists before they can strike, back room intrigue to gain allies with wartime diplomacy — several adventures would have been better.

Overall, a grippingly creative piece of work that I hope to see more of in the way of supplements.

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