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Tuesday 15 February 2011

Bug Eyed Dumb Arse Monsters!

InvaderZ is a pick up and play RPG from PostMortem Studios designed to be run as an occasional alternative to deeper, longer, more involved games. Describing itself as a “beer and crisps” RPG – we have to go to particular vendors if we want pretzels in this country to go with the beer – it plays quickly and easily, and with a single read through, the GM will have a grasp of just about everything involved in InvaderZ. It comes complete with background, fast character generation, rules, some twenty “Battle Plans” or rather, Mission Seeds, plus a sense humour.

In InvaderZ, the players take the roles of aliens who serve the planet-sized Jerkian Emperor. Primarily, these aliens are the Jerkians themselves, clones of his Imperial Immenseness who serve in his army as Troopers, Assault Troopers, Scientists, Engineers, Embedded Reporters, and so on. Alternatively, they might be one of the Jerkian Empire’s slave races, like the loathed, polyamorous Furrian diplomats, the annoying Hamstoid Minesweepers, or the pent up with rage, Squaloon labourers. Whatever their training, which includes extracurricular activities such as baking or brick laying (or whatever a player can devise), the Jerkians and their slaves are assigned to a squad along with an A.R.S.E. (Automated Robotic Servile Entity) and sent to latest planet targeted for admittance into the Jerkian Empire – Earth. There they will perform missions that hopefully lead to the defeat of the Earth Emperor, Heff-Nor. Performing these missions to the best of their abilities will gain the Jerkian Troopers merits and possible promotion, especially if their efforts entertain the Planetoidal Potentate who might be watching if they have an Embedded Reporter assigned to their squad. Of course, missions will often result in the death of one or more Trooper. Which not a problem, as replacements can easily be sent very quickly via the Empire’s teleporters.

Character generation is fast and simple. A player rolls for his character’s name and role, the latter providing one or more skills that he is Good at; selects a second skill to be Good at or increases a skill he is Good at to a skill he is Very Good at; and lastly, rolls for an extra piece of equipment. The result takes a minute or two, which is can only be a good thing as it makes it easy to replace a dead Trooper.

Assault Trooper
Meat: 5
Brain Meat: 2
Expertise: 3
Luck: 3
Skills: Good at Hitting Things, Good at Baking
Equipment: Power Mittens (+1 Hitting Things, -1 Expertise), nifty black leather pseudo-leather outfit, extra ration pack

To do anything, a player rolls a single six-sided die and adds the appropriate attribute and skill, if applicable, to the total. A Good skill adds +1 to the roll, a Very Good Skill adds +2. An average target is three, while an impossible one is eight. Combat in InvaderZ is just as fast as the simple mechanics suggest, with Troopers and most objects have three health levels – Fine, Disabled, or Splatted.

Much of InvaderZ is devoted to the possible equipment that the Troopers might have to deal with. Much of it is unreliable, but the GM will have to rule exactly how unreliable. My advice would be when it is funny. The rest is devoted to providing an “Earth Field Guide” that the Troopers might be able to consult and that which should be as much a source of mission ideas as the lengthy equipment list. This is in addition to the given twenty mission seeds.

InvaderZ comes as a one hundred and eighteen page, 6.95 Mb PDF in black and white. The artwork is odd mix of line art and sixteen bit sprites reminiscent of computer games of the eighties. The writing is clear and laced with humour that is reminiscent of the Classic RPG, Paranoia, though the humour in InvaderZ is broader, more tongue in cheek, and not quite as black, being perhaps reminiscent of the Warner Brothers cartoons with Marvin the Martian. Of course, this being a game about the alien invasion of the Earth, much of that humour revolves cows, posterior probings, and the aliens’ – or rather the Rotund Ruler of the Jerkian Empire’s – interest in Earthian women. In particular, he is interested in the women who serve the Earthian Emperor. The game’s elevation of Heff-Nor to the position of “perceived” Emperor could have been worse of course. It could have been Silvio Berlusconi instead…

As a game InvaderZ is anything other than demanding upon its players, but to the get the best out of it, the players need to relax and throw themselves into the silliness of their characters and the situation that they are in. They need to accept that their characters are as throwaway as InvaderZ itself almost is. In addition, they need to accept that the GM in InvaderZ is going to be anything other than impartial – the rules do say that it is perfectly reasonable to bribe the GM! If I were running this, it would be mandatory for every mission briefing to end with the singing of the Jerkian Anthem, which is included in the game.

InvaderZ is a game with low expectations, low demands, low humour, and a low price. There is nothing wrong in that because sometimes, gamers need a change of pace, and if they play down to InvaderZ’s standards, then they will still have fun.

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