Monday, July 6, 2009

Paul Kidd's Revenge

So after recently posting about my wanting to play military scifi and reading Dyson's post about military RPGs he's sampled, I figured it was time to put my head down and finally take a look at Albedo 2nd Edition, which I picked up for $6 in the "used" section of my local game shop. Hrmmm...not quite what I was hoping for.

The Albedo Platinum Catalyst game (the newest version of Albedo) is quite slick in its game mechanics and the way it handles military role-playing; that's kind of what got me jazzed about the whole thing (other than the idea of totally hating on rabbits; my beagles can relate to the urge).  What I did NOT like about APC was that it's an incomplete leaves out vehicle rules to a degree I find unforgivable in a military game. You're required to purchase the supplement if you want air or armored combat rules.  Being a convert to the Old School and Indie game movements, I like my rules more self-contained.  And when my local game shop doesn't even carry the supplement...well, that sucks to a high degree.

So enter Albedo 2nd Edition, a more or less complete game INCLUDING the vehicle rules.  I had hoped it would be compatible with APC...unfortunately, at first read it seems remarkably dissimilar. 

Albedo 2E IS a complete game. In fact it fills in things that are left out of APC that I really wanted to know (like do these animals reproduce with each other? what are their lives like outside the military? etc., etc.).  It provides combat rules for handling air, space, and land combat.  It has more equipment lists and descriptions and a LOT of illustrations of the gear. Since most (all?) of the art comes from the comics, a lot of the illustrations are duplicated in both games, but I'm fine with that; all are indicative of the flavor of the game.

However, the rules of 2E are quite a bit more complex and cumbersome than the rules of APC. The systems are a bit over-worked, and not well organized, and I could feel my brain blurring over just reading the chargen process, let alone the combat system (a heavy mix of you-name-it skill based task resolution merged with plethora-random-tables including detailed multi-dice-roll  hit-location system).  Having to keep track of armor points on various areas is madness for any game more complex than BattleTech or Elf Quest, in my opinion.  What with penetration ratings, fatigue, pain/suffering, etc. you have a system as complex as DeadLands or (nearly) The Riddle of Steel...but not as succinctly written. Also missing are some of the niftier aspects of APC, like the 5-PC squad character creation and the "all critters are basically the same" mentality (there are now major differences between, say, a mouse character and a bear character).

Thankfully the vehicle combat rules seem much simpler than the rest of the fact they seem fairly similar to WH40K (no more complex than the 2nd edition rules).  They do have a bit more "scifi" feel than the rest of the game, but not overly much...there's still no powered battle armor or tactical laser weapons (eat your heart out Mongoose Traveller).  It shouldn't be too hard to 'port something similar into APC (should I decide to start up a game), but in re-writing the simple vehicle rules of a crunch-heavy game...well, it feels like it would be just as much work to hand-craft my own rules for the more elegant APC.


Anyway, the non-rules parts of Albedo 2nd Edition are written well and, as said, address a lot of the role-playing aspects of the "critters" (as the PCs and NPCs are called) rather nicely. I think the world creation stuff is excellent, dealing with the politics and social mores of individual planetary societies with a few simple rolls...and describing what those rolls mean. The disposition (Personality) mechanics are quite cool, and while I like the Drive and Clout rules of APC, I wish some of the "random role-playing personality" stuff had been included in APC, if only for NPCritters.

The writing was different enough, that I bothered to check out the author of Albedo 2nd Edition and was surprised to find the game was designed and co-written by Paul Kidd.  I can't say for sure that this is the same as the author of the White Plume Mountain novel, but if so it is an amazing string of coincidence to be reviewing two such works by the same author within a week's span.  I mean you wouldn't normally equate militaristic anthropomorphic animals with Blackrazor would you?  I sure as hell wouldn't!


  1. Having been in the same gaming/sf circles as Paul Kidd a few years back, I can assure you that anthropomorphic animals are pretty much his main thing.

  2. Well, I hope he's enjoying the latest rules from Sanguine which seem to be a lot smoother. I know that if I had kids that enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, I'd be looking at getting their Jade Claw game (it's Albedo in the Mystic Orient!).
    : )

  3. I'm still waiting on A:PC rules to ship. > rassafrakin' <

    I have Structural Integrity sitting right beside me, but no rules to go with it; and while I have 1st ed Albedo, I REALLY want A:PC to arrive.

    As far as Paul Kidd, he also wrote Lace and Steel, which, while it has centaurs, satyr/fawns, and harpies, isn' really a 'critter' game.
    --What it is a great setting with some very odd mish-mashed rules, and very evocative art by my pal, Donna Barr.

  4. And THAT is why I don't have Structural Integrity...I HATE mail order!


  5. I strongly dislike brick-and-mortars that don't try and order stuff from companies they aren't purchasing a big order from, just to skimp on s&h costs. :(

  6. JB,

    My A:PC arrived, and, surprise! --it contained an extra copy of Structural Integrity.
    --Contact me with a mailing address, and I'll ship it out to you. :D