I want – desperately desire, a good post-apocalypse RPG. I liked Degenesis and the old Gamma World (I’m talking VERY old Gamma World – first edition). Mutant Year Zero was okay – but too rigid of a universe for me. So I picked up Dystopia Rising. It promised me a wasteland filled with zombies and zombie-offspring. There are times that is appealing.
Apparently this is the tabletop version of a live-action game – which doesn’t really matter but it does make Googling reference material a bit challenging and sometimes confusing. I picked this up for $24.99 off of Amazon.com and at first, I have to admit, I cringed.
It is done in Courier font – which is designed to look like you did it on a typewriter. Why? I have no idea. I will say that reading it after a while is a chore. Strike one. Strike two, some of the artwork is, well, very Napoleon Dynamite-ish in quality. That’s not a compliment. Look, if I am shelling out $25, I want some sizzle. I’m not saying I could do better, but I am also not an artist.
I have to admit – at first glance, it was looking grim. Then I got into the rules. I mentally erased the first two strikes. This is a solid RPG with a pretty slick system. When you generate a character, you pick a strain – which is kind of like a mix of character class, genetic makeup, and a clan. The key is that these strains really give you some solid role playing aspects to work with. Some don’t seem to make a lot of sense as a strain, but the advantages and disadvantages makes your strain selection critical to your characters survival.
Next comes your building blocks – or your attributes. Agility, Appearance, Brawn, Endurance, Knowledge, Luck, and Wiles. These work alone or in tandem to determine things like your health, defense, etc. You need to really be careful in character creation to get the right balance. Then comes skills – which is straight forward. Next are advancement and detriments which are both pluses and minuses for your character. Oddly, near the middle of the book are the Faiths or what your character believes in. Think of these as churches – but some are more political than religious.
The game has psionics too. Yeah, it’s a little bit like magic, but what the hell.
The rules are remarkably well written. I don’t mean that to be a shock, but once you get past the artwork and the font choices, I was surprised.
Combat is solid in this RPG, a mix of cards and dice which oddly works well for me. But what makes this game purr is the mass combat system. There are zombies here. Fat ones, skinny fast ones. Zombies in this game are hoard/pack creatures. You don’t have to manage hit points on 20+ zombies in the game. The mass combat system makes this happen smoothly and effectively, allowing GM’s and players to focus on role playing rather than complex hoard management.
I find myself liking this game system despite the poor presentation.
I give Dystopia Rising four out of five stars. If you want to mow down packs of zombies – this could be a good game for you to pick up.