Sunday, March 15, 2015

[Review] Toypocalypse RPG: Abandoned Toys In An Abandoned World

It's been 10 years since "The Great Dawning." For reasons unexplained, all of humanity has vanished, leaving behind a slowly decaying civilization. Also as-of-yet unexplained: the toys of the world -- mere children's playthings -- have become sentient and are now the masters of the planet. But playtime is over in this post-apocalyptic nightmare as the larger, stronger toys now rule with an oppressive iron fist. They force others to work in the stuffing mines, or to scavenge for batteries and needles and thread for power and upkeep. Those toys who escape subjugation must find his place in this lonely abandoned world -- the world of Toypocalypse.

Toypocalypse by Top Rope Games was written by Trevor Christensen as part of the 2011 24 Hour RPG contest. The game is super-tight, coming in at just 16 pages. But within those pages is a fascinating setting and an interesting dice mechanic. Let's take each in turn...

The Setting: As explained above, humanity is gone and sentient toys are now picking up the pieces of the world. The stronger powerful toys have stepped in as despicable tyrants whose word is law. The weaker playthings are enslaved and/or exploited. Those who escape are left to wander the wastelands, subjected to feral animal attacks or marauding bandits. It's an interesting juxtaposism of childhood joy and soul-crushing tyranny -- Toy Story meets Lord of the Flies meets The Road Warrior. (Visually, I see a world much like the movie 9.)

Players can choose any toy they want to play. Want to play a stuffed teddy bear? How about a battery-operated robot? Or a little green army man? Or a muscled action figure? Or even a Magic 8-Ball? Any toy can be fleshed out as a playable PC in this game, and the rules encourage this. The characters must also choose the toy's starting Condition (new-in-box, threadbare, corroded, etc.); Facets (broken, loved, discarded, assembly required, etc.); Movement (walks, rolls, hops, etc.); and Cognizance (sight, hearing, temperature sense). The player will also need to determine how the toy "fits" into this new world by deciding upon their social role (leader, schemer, mentor, zealot, etc.) as well as their public and private goals. Finally, there is a pool of pneuma (soul strength) and morale (conscious strength). When either of these is depleted, the toy is forever broken -- either physically or emotionally/mentally.

The Mechanics: Each toy has four attributes: Will (toughness/determination); Cognition (perception/aptitude); Versatility (dexterity/cunning); and Intensity (heart/soul). Rather than scores, each attribute is assigned a dice type. And each dice type represents how good a PC is in that attribute. Normal attributes are assigned 1d12 with no bonuses (so they can generate a random scale of 1-12 on a "Normal" roll); followed by Good (1d10 + 2 = a scale of 3-12); Great (1d8 + 4 = a scale of 5-12); and Superior (1d6 + 6 = a scale of 7-12). As you can see, the better your attribute, the higher your typical roll will be with that attribute. During play, an action attempt will be assigned a Target Number of 7 (average); 9 (Difficult); or 11 (Very Difficult). The player rolls the appropriate dice and must hit/exceed the target number to succeed.

Example: Mighty Man the action figure is trying to lift a car battery off of his pinned comrade. His Intensity is Superior, so he gets to roll a d6, adding 6 to the roll. The ref assigns a target number of 11 to succeed, so Mighty Man will roll between a 7 and 12 for the attempt -- a roughly 33% chance at succeeding in lifting the battery. (Better than My Little Unicorn who has a Normal Intensity who just gets to roll 1d12 for the attempt, so he'll roll a 1 to 12 -- only a 16% chance of success.) There are also rules for contested rolls and bonuses/penalties, but this is the gist of the roll mechanic.

And recall the toy's Facets, Condition, Movement, and Cognizance from earlier? A player can "invoke" these once during a play session. If they can roleplay how this comes into play, the ref can give them a +2 to a roll.

Example: Mighty Man is also "Cracked". The player explains that, as he tries to lift the battery, he curses the cracked hinge in his shoulder joint -- a permanent reminder of the rough playtimes he used to enjoy with his previous owner prior to The Great Dawning. The ref gives the player a +2 for the roleplaying and has him mark that facet as being "invoked" for this session. The player now will roll a 9 to 12 -- a 50-50 shot.

Toypocalypse has a campaign setting supplement titled Toypocalypse Falls that was born of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The supplement describes a town where the hydroelectric dam still provides electrical power -- an abundance of riches! Rival factions vie for control over the resource, with Centaur Alpha trying to retain his position as de facto leader. The wise and secluded Librarians make plans in the shadows, while The Cult of Lilly Ann worship at the feet of the last surviving human. Add in several plot hooks and a full adventure (Tomb of the Purple Crayon), and you have enough inspiration for many evenings of Rise Of The Toys adventure!

The core rules for Toypocalypse are available at Drive Through RPG on a Pay What You Want basis. Toypocalypse Falls is $4.95 at Drive Through RPG. Sniderman says "Check them out!"

1 comment:

  1. Sounds really fun! If you ever run a campaign, you'll definitely want to check out "Joe the Barbarian," about a kid with diabetic hallucinations that he's on a (miniaturized) quest with his action figures to reach glucose (a soda) on the other side of the world (his house). The stakes are high-- if he fails, he goes into a coma and dies!