- Gray Griffin
I don't hate the concept of the post-apocalyptic RPG, but I do find it kind of a cliche. After all, there's only so much you can do with a "destroyed" setting. However, Flatpack takes a surprisingly optimistic and rarely-seen view of said setting - if it's broken, then it's our job to fix it! Quite frankly, it's a great surprise to me that there aren't more RPGs in this vein, since being the heroes who save the day is another common cliche, yet it hardly overlaps with the post-apocalyptic one. And as Flatpack proves, you can make these two concepts overlap with hardly any effort.
The setting is also quite humorous despite the apocalyptic tone, playing up a lot of the difficulties of trying to rebuild a time you know almost nothing about. The world is similar to our own, but with one major difference - the existence of Flatpacks. These are simply buildings that can be reduced to a flat sheet, and which can be programmed to go to a certain place and set themselves up. The goal of the player characters is to find these Flatpacks and help rebuild their community.
The basic mechanics of Flatpack are simple - roll to get a certain target number in order to overcome a Problem. However, unlike most RPGs, where your skill level adds or subtracts from a flat dice roll, in here you only have your traits to rely on at the beginning, and whether the trait level is negative, positive, or neutral affects which kind of die you roll. However, you can choose which trait you use to face a task, as long as you can justify it. If the trait is negative, you roll a d4. If the trait is neutral, you roll a d6. If the trait is positive, you roll a d6, or you can spend a Spirit point to roll a d8 instead. You can also spend a Spirit point to call on a Specialist, if the current problem relates to their Specialty, and roll an extra d6.
The default target number is 7 - quite hard to hit even with a Positive trait, so you might want to try and call in Specialists when you can. However, for Obstacles, which are basically longer-running Problem with a chart indicating how a certain person, animal, group, robot, etc. feels towards you, they will generally have a Weakness and a Resistance to certain traits. By using traits that they have a Weakness to, you can reduce the target number by 1. The opposite is true, of course - if you use traits they have a Resistance to, the target number is increased by 1. Of course, the DM is encouraged not to tell players an Obstacle's Weakness or Resistance until they actually hit one or the other.
Spirit points are the currency of the game, and can be paid out for various things - using a negative trait to attack a Problem or Obstacle, performing a cool task or taking a big risk, or even helping out OOC. There are also Achievements that players can accomplish which will help to give them more Spirit points, extra dice to roll in certain circumstances, or bonuses in general.
Flatpacks, the goal of the game, give mechanical bonuses as well. Each Flatpack comes with the ability to automatically train a Specialist to take care of its associated functions. Some also have extra abilities that can either help the players in-game or help the community. The Flatpack book has packaged with it a collection of Flatpack buildings that can be cut out and placed on maps. Each player has their own map, and as a general rule whoever finds a Flatpack gets to place it on their map, wherever they want. If you want to call on a Specialist on someone else's map, you will need to pay the Spirit point to them instead of the DM. Each Flatpack also adds a certain amount to various aspects of your community, such as Well-Being, Learning, etc., and there are Achievements for getting each aspect to a certain level.
While all that sounds like a lot to take in, it's really quite easy to learn. The mechanic of actually getting to "build" your new city is one that I haven't seen before, and it's a wonderful mechanical choice, as it gives players a true sense of accomplishment.
The rules can easily be explained as you go along in a game, so this is a game that I feel could quickly be picked up by any group. However, it is geared towards campaign play, so it may not be suitable for groups that tend to shift a lot. Also, the fact that the Flatpacks can also be rearranged on their maps and the like means that either each player needs to be good at remembering the state of their map, or that the host needs to set up a spot where they won't be disturbed. I suppose that the maps and buildings could be uploaded as images to play by forum, but I feel that such a method cheapens the feel of the game.
Suggestions and Conclusions
There is nothing much I can suggest to improve the game, other than possibly adding free expansion packs of Flatpacks. However, my PDF file does seem to be missing a few lines of text. Although I can still understand it, this is kind of sloppy.
This is probably the best post-apocalyptic game ever. It emphasizes the importance of never giving up hope, and of being able to rebuild, unlike most of its genre. The mechanics are simple and geared towards telling a story, and the unique "building" mechanic only helps to reinforce the feeling of slowly fixing what is broken from the ground-up. As long as players are willing to throw away preconceived notions about what the post-apocalyptic genre should be, everyone will have a blast.
- [+] Dice rolls
AthensMy lucky number is four billion. That doesn't come in real handy when you're gambling. "Come on, four billion! Darn! Seven. Not even close. I need more dice." Mitch Hedberg
- How many players do you think is best?
- [+] Dice rolls