Friday, June 23, 2017

Predation - Early Thoughts

Predation Wraparound Cover, copyright Monte Cook Games
So, how 'bout them dinos?

I've had the PDF of Predation for a couple weeks now, and the print for about a week. I've started the process of reading through it, and at this point, I feel like I can start speaking about my initial thoughts. A year ago, around this time, I did the same for Gods of the Fall, and if you are a regular reader of this blog you know what kind of rabbit hole I fell down with that setting. Some of you are no doubt hoping I'll tumble down a bambiraptor hole with this game. So let's get into it.

The first twelve pages are introductory. The author's intro, a setting intro, and a concept intro. We get an overview of the everything we need to know going forward. Nothing overtly revelatory, but as an appetizer it does it's job well.

Chapters three through seven are character focused. A handful of new descriptors (savage for the win!), the four Predation-customized Types (Karns, Osteons, Tecs, and Pteryxs (Pteryxes? Pterii??)), and some new Foci (or maybe Focuses, YMMV) including some reskins for existing Foci and entirely new Foci like Predates and Plays God (among others). Some new equipment and such as well. All of this is on par with what we saw in Gods of the Fall in terms of setting customization and expanded options. Chapter six is where Predation really roars...
...or maybe coos? Dino's as birds may not be a new concept but I'm old enough that it still takes a conscious paradigm adjustment at times. 
At any rate Chapter Six is all about dinosaur (and primitive mammal) companions. These aren't your usual brand of generic animal pals that add very little to the game, and even go well beyond the more capable companions we've seen in Foci like Controls Beasts and Builds Robots (or even Leads). These dino companions are essentially secondary PCs. They are in fact played by players other than their "owners" which adds a fun twist since companions are not forced to follow the instruction of their humans.
I got to playtest this at Gen Con 2016 and it was fun to ignore the companion's "poorly worded" request and do what felt natural for the creature. I think in a campaign with a good group of players this could be really great in a lot of ways.
Companions get their own stats and a mini descriptor called "Dispositions" that helps breathe life into the companions and ensure that not all companions of the same type are the same. A Clever stegosaurus and a Clumsy stegosaurus are sure to be VERY different at the table.

Chapters eight through eleven give us the setting of the game, the "world" of Grevakc, or North America in the late cretaceous after some heavy contamination of the time stream. I'm about halfway through this part of the book, having read the "Welcome to..." chapter, the organizations, and a good chunk of the setting's regional descriptions.

The organizations are all unique and interesting. Being a setting that is noticeably difficult to describe (it's a pre-apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, high tech, primitive world (frankly the time travel aspects are just enabling the rest of the setting's wackiness)) each of the groups has been given a very evolved feel (haha, puns). SATI, the setting's antagonistic source of order, has lost contact with the future and as a result they are falling apart in part and parcel for instance. Leadership tries to hold things together, but even they cannot manage their own employees. The group feels very realistically like the crumbling remains of a vast corporation.

The secretive Butterflies feel to me like the boy with his finger in the dam. The flood of temporal damage is probably too late to stop, but they will try their damndest all the same to prevent irreparable damage to the history of the future. Then there is the Genesix Fellowship who seek to prove the existence and location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. It's an interesting twist in a game that leans so heavily on science (and SCIENCE!!) to toss in a group that leans on both science and faith. The idea that "Eden's" location is somehow encoded into prehistoric DNA is one that dovetails into the rest of the setting nicely and ensures plenty of story space for groups that choose to use the Fellowship in their games.

Chapters twelve and thirteen are the bestiary, and present some truly terrifying predators, some awesome modified species, and a smattering of human NPCs. I've not fully read this section yet, but I just glancing through there's a ton to like in here, both in terms of the creature and the awesome artwork.

The remaining three chapters are GM advice, cyphers, and an adventure. I read the intro to the cyphers but otherwise I have not yet completed this section of the book. I'll be sure to give it a look before I attempt to run this setting, but until then it's not a priority. Plus I'm really hoping for a chance to play in this sandbox.

I've read more of this book at this point than I had of Gods of the Fall when I wrote my early thoughts for that setting. I'm not remotely disappointed with anything I've seen so far. If the quality of the remainder of the book only meets that of what I have read, and I have no reason to assume otherwise, then I am certain that this setting will capture the hearts and minds of many a gamer in the same way that Gods of the Fall did. It remains to be seen if I am beginning a long slide down that aforementioned bambiraptor hole or not, but I'd be surprised if I wasn't still discussing this game in six months at the least.