Having personally played games with Tim Rodriguez, the mastermind behind Brooklyn Indie Games, I can say first hand that he is a master of freeform games that are more than a little silly and are completely entertaining. Chances are, you’re not going to delve into the depths of human emotion and you’re not going to have to make tough decisions in one of his games very often. You are going to have a ridiculously good time and probably laugh until you cry.
His latest work, OmegaZone reflects this game design perfectly. Instead of a bleak, depressing view of the post apocalypse that is common in many novels and movies, it takes a comedic, light hearted look at the illogical wackiness that can be inherent in the genre. After all, futuristic cybernetics, superpowers granted by radiation or other pseudoscience, mutated plants, animals or even objects, and rogue AIs almost beg to be mocked when used alone. Tossed them all together and it’s harder to avoid being ridiculous.
Add in a failed alien invasion as a wonky cherry on top, the collapse of human society and some time, and you have OmegaZone in a nutshell.
In fact, the environment itself in OmegaZone is an excellent metaphor for the difference between this game and more somber approaches to the genre. Instead of the bleak, desolate, radiation ravaged wasteland that is common in many post apocalyptic settings, the one in OmegaZone is lush and verdant. In fact, it is dangerously lush and verdant. The plants of this world are as often out to eat animals as animals are out to eat them. Even the more mundane ones have begun to aggressively, mercilessly reclaim the world in a way now that there are not enough humans around to tame them and drive them back, a result that is all too predictable for anyone who has tried to keep grass from growing up in their patio.
The setting is also, fairly obviously, post apocalyptic Los Angeles. This is an excellent choice as it is one of the most recognizable cities for any American and probably most people in the world. Most of the locations mentioned are familiar to people whose only experience with Los Angeles is pop culture. While New York might seem like a more obvious choice for a publisher named Brooklyn Indie Games, it also seems out of place for the game. A cramped heavily urbanized metropolis is far less suited to the high action adventure of OmegaZone than the sprawling urban space of LA.
The base system for the game is Fate Accelerated though it brings in its own rules specific for the setting. In keeping with the fast paced tone of the game, character creation takes little time and involves few details. This requires only drawing two cards from one deck, one from another and then coming up with a high concept and an ongoing goal the character is pursuing or problem the character faces and finishing with a name and fate points.
These decks are brilliant in their simplicity and adaptability. The first is a character definition deck and includes things like Gelly Blobs and Sentient Flora while the second is a mutation deck that includes powers like Eyes in the Back of your Head and Lycanthritis. Even with only 13 cards in each deck, the number of potential combinations numbers in the hundreds and all those potential combinations have the potential to be awesome. The mere fact that you can have a Jelly Blob Sentient Flora is awesome enough.
The setting is just as brilliantly simple and adaptable. About a dozen locations of note around the corpse of a metropolis that is all that is left of Los Angeles are provided to flesh out the setting. A handful of these are defined more thoroughly and include short descriptions of the factions and the leader that occupy it. These are included on cards, as well; giving GM’s another tool to create adventures on the fly. To further assist with this, there are adventure hook cards. These cards are simple, one or two sentence plots with fill in the blanks sections for the players to fill out. This takes some of the burden off the Game Master, but, more importantly, allows the players to help shape the adventure to their liking.
The end of the book includes a short section of rules for playing with different game systems and for hacks to the system as it is. Additionally, there is a reading/viewing list of media for people to review to get the appropriate feeling the game is going for. Given that two of these references are Thundarr the Barbarian and Gamma World, little else is needed to know the game is awesome.
Perhaps the most telling comment about OmegaZone and most of Tim’s games in general is encompassed in OmegaZone’s Rule Zero: Laugh and be Awesome. OmegaZone is awesome and it is sure to make you laugh. If you want to have fun with the apocalypse, check out dicefoodlodging.com for updates on OmegaZone and when it will hit the shelves.