Action Movie Physics Review

Well, its the Christmas holidays at last and it feels good to be able to start to catch up with writing about RPGs and reviewing the latest releases. Its been getting on for about seven weeks (with only one post in between) and in that time I’ve had my kitchen refurbished / redecorated and done a substantial amount of work around the house. However, now is the time to catch up with some writing and reviewing (is that already an RPG?) so I’m going to start with Gypsy Knights Games ‘Action Movie Physics’.

The game is available from DTRPG for $14.99 and contains 145 pages. This represents a different direction for GKG who are looking to expand their published portfolio beyond their core releases, located in the Cepheus Engine-based Clement Sector. The rules set is proprietary, sourced in part from Cepheus Engine and a mixture of D100.

The overall basis for the book is this; if you have ever seen those Hollywood action movies, especially those produced during the eighties and nineties (such as ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Terminator’ or ‘True Lies’ and wanted to recreate them in an RPG, now is your chance. Action Movie Physics (to which I’ll refer to as ‘AMP’ from now on) provides the structure for you to act out those style adventures. All those unlikely manoeuvres driving a car off a cliff and landing with nothing more than ruffled hair and some loose car side panels, leaping between buildings, then AMP is pitched at this precisely.

The book is broken down into six main headings:

1. The Basics and Skills (pages 11 to 34)

2. Character Creation and Experience (pages 35 to 51)

3. Combat and Chases (pages 52 to 74)

4. Reputation, Hero Points and NPCs (pages 75 to 86)

5. Equipment (pages 87 to 120)

6. Hazards, Animal Encounters, Adventures, Character Sheet (pages 121 to 141)

1. The Basics and Skills

The rules dive straight in by describing the characteristics that make up an AMP character; Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, Perception, Intelligence, Education and Charisma. You also have a range of skills, Reputation Points (how well the character is known in the setting) and Hero / Villain Points (used to directly modify dice rolls).

Skill rolls are made up of a combination of characteristics divided by two plus the skill level. You then consult the Difficulty Factor and Success Chance charts to work out if your roll was successful and how well you did it. This type of system forms the basis of many of the AMP checks on how well you pass or fail an action. The skill descriptions describe what encompasses what can be achieved using that skill and where appropriate, some skills have die modifiers or charts to apply. There are 36 skills available in the AMP core rules. A nice touch is you have three card games described with ‘Success Quality’ charts so you can see how well in game terms you can win your hand.

2. Character Creation and Experience

The AMP way of creating characters uses a mixture of life path results (similar to Clement Sector or Mongoose Traveller) and points to purchase further aspects of the characters abilities. There are a total of six tables provided to help build the characters background; they are assumed to be at least in their twenties before they start their adventures, so you have three sections to help build your characters history. You start with ‘Youth’ (covering ages 9-12) with a D66 table with a variety of events such as ‘You are taught to ride a mount. Gain a level in Riding’, or a significant event affects you personally. In addition depending on the roll, you then roll a D6 on the Life Events table where you potentially gain an ally / enemy / injury.

You then repeat the process for teenage years and then for when they are in college. Each character then has 200 points with which to choose skills. The base cost for these is 10 points plus 5 points per additional level but there are certain limits that you can buy skills. Following this you are presented with some additional attributes such as carrying capacity and various types of aspects of endurance. To round off, you have a clearly-presented 14-step character generation sequence and rules for amassing experience points and spending them. As a rough guide, as long as the player has participated in the adventure they should get around 500 experience points which can be spent on adding / increasing skills or attribute increases.

3. Combat and Chases

Combat is split into two parts, a Declaration Phase and Action Phase. Who gets to go first (in the declaration phase) is determined in a comparison of speed so that the fastest knows what the slowest is going to do. In the action phase, the speed comparison is reversed so that the fastest can act first (I think this is a very neat way of determining action priority). The various action types are fully described and the types of results. In reading through the combat section, I couldn’t help wondering if there should have been some sort of combat sequence table (like the character generation process). However after reading through a couple of times, I think my initial reaction was misconstrued as combat is quite simple; its the large number of actions available to both sides that make it look complicated. There is one thing that is missing from the combat section, which is a combat example. It would have been helpful to see how AMP combat works and using some of the actions available ‘in practice’.

In all action movies, there is usually some sort of chase, be it running, vehicular, water or in the air. This is where I think AMP starts to show its unique selling point; you are presented with rules for turns in chases, following, escaping, ramming, stunt manoeuvres, dealing with obstacles, accidents, character and vehicle damage and tailing. Along with an eight-step process for a chase, I think this can make for more exciting chase actions rather than simply rolling against relevant skills or making saving rolls.

4. Reputation, Hero Points and NPCs

Reputation, as the word suggests is a measure of how recognisable the characters is. There are advantages and disadvantages to how recognisable a character is and the score result is measured against a success quality table.

Hero points allow characters to change the results of actions or things happening in the environment around them. It allows them to perform stunts or improbable feats. All characters start with 3 hero points and can gain more by being particularly good at roleplaying or something that the Gamemaster likes. There is no particular thing that hero points can only be expended on, they can be used from modifying the result of a simple action die roll all the way to whether a character survives a fatal car crash (…just like in the movies!)

NPCs and how to make best use of them in games is given a decent amount of thought, for example how to create your average ‘goon’ (or red shirt / cannon fodder enemy) through to main villain.

5. Equipment

The AMP system is based in a ‘conventional’ world / background ie. late twentieth / early twenty-first century and doesn’t offer equipment or background descriptions outside this time period. A huge amount of equipment is presented including weapons (major makes of handgun, rifles, SMGs, support weapons (including sidewinder missiles!), cars, trucks, boats and aircraft. There are also descriptions and stats for grenades, personal armour, ammo, accessories (is that the right word for a silencer?) and vehicle modifications.

6. Hazards, Animal Encounters, Adventure and the Character Sheet

The final section fills in all those parts of the game system not already covered that you are likely to need. ‘Adventures’ develops the AMP background more and includes a D66 chart of adventure plots. The book rounds off with a list of films for inspiration (this is quite extensive covering two pages) and two pages of a character sheet which can be photocopied (note this is also available as part of the AMP download package from DTRPG).

There is a lot to like about AMP; its a pretty straightforward system to get to grips with that doesn’t feel as though it gets bogged down with too many tables that you have to constantly refer to. Much of the rules set is based on many familiar attributes from other 2D6 RPGs and the way that the skill base chance values are calculated make sense, which are related to the attributes they are based on. I think if you can get your head around the two core scores (Difficulty Factor and Success Quality) then that will put you in good stead for understanding many parts of the AMP system.

There a reasonable number of examples linked to each section, which I always like to see. I find having plenty of examples helps you to get up to speed with the system much faster. However the lack of a combat example feels like a noticeable omission and it would have been nice to see how combat works around a descriptive example.

The only other part of the book that I thought could do with bolstering up a bit is the ‘About this Book’ section (page 2). I felt that a bit more background at the start of the book (instead of the back of the book) that AMP would allow you to do would help to set up AMP games quite nicely. Artwork is provided by Stephanie McAlea, Jennifer Leonard, Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead and Nicolas Raymond and all pieces are to the usual high GKG standard depicting typical action scenes.

Conclusion

I thought this was a pretty good start for GKG into their first non-Cepheus Engine based RPG. Its well structured, there is plenty to read and get your teeth into. The book is clearly laid out and well edited. I think with a bit more background to ‘set the scene’ and examples to bolster the aforementioned sections up, this will make this into a really nicely-rounded system that should set up AMP as the basis for alternative backgrounds and environments. Definitely worth looking at if you want to try something a bit different or fancy recreating those unlikely movie moments! I would like to thank John Watts of Gypsy Knights Games for kindly sending me a copy of AMP to review.

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About AlegisDownport

Musings on the Traveller RPG world, technology, astronomy and digital art.
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