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Exosuit A-OK
Reviewed by Bob Portnell, © 2006

Format: Game
By:   Concept by Todd Downing and Revised by James Stubbs
Genre:   Science fiction/anime roleplaying game
Review Date:   January 06, 2006
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

Where were you in 2262? If Deep7 has its way, you were and will be playing Exosuit A-OK, the anime science fiction offering in their 1PG series of downloadable roleplaying rules.

The fundamental premise of all 1PG games is that all of the essential information will fit on a single standard page of print (and not at some microscopic type size, either). So in this 13-page document you will find: one page of full-color cover (with the requisite quantities of heavy armor, heavier guns, and mammalian curves); one page for contents, credits and disclaimers; one page for the rules (both for character creation and action checks); another page for just character creation, including a half-page character sheet; a page of advice for the referee; a page for constructing and statting up an exosuit; six scenarios, one page each including set pieces and stats for non player characters; and a last page with two character sheets on it, suitable for printing in volume. (That's a good thing, since the authors warn you to expect a high turnover rate in characters.)

Characters are defined around four stats and a handful of skills, all named and purposed to fit the genre. Each stat is rolled randomly; then a randomly determined number of extra points are distributed among the skills. Add stat and skill to get a target number; roll 1 six-sided die at that number or lower to succeed on a task. (What, you expected big numbers from a game that compresses everything into single-page bites?) Some minor stats rate how much damage you can take and how physically, mentally or socially tough you are.

The scenarios each in turn hit a familiar and popular theme from action movies, but with an armor-suited twist. For example, the first ("More Human Than Human") casts the players as active-duty or recalled/retired enforcers monitoring the behavior of androids in the city. Another ("Ramus and Julia") recasts a familiar Shakespearian tale, giving the rival families battlesuits instead of sabers. "The Dirty Half-Dozen" brings a ragtag group of shady and expendable characters on a secret mission into very hostile territory.

Exosuit A-OK uses all the 1PG traits to good effect, building a plausible if light game engine that happily handles the game's science-fiction action-adventure roleplaying given Japanese flavor. If there's a flaw, it's that the game must operate on the assumption that the players have experience with both roleplaying and anime. This could just as easily be a feature, since it lets the authors and readers get on with the game rather than trotting out the obligatory explanatory essays. To their credit, the authors are very up-front with this experience requirement -- it's the first paragraph of the game.

"Yes, yes, Bob, but is it any good?" Yes. Yes it is. For my money you can't go wrong by taking the "less is more" approach. The referee advice hits the right notes to help reflect the anime outlook and the scenarios all provide the essential building blocks to guide play in an over-the-top adventuresome style. If you're of the hardcore build-the-machine-down-to-the-last-rivet school of older battlesuit games, you'll be out of luck here.

Even Guardians of Order's relatively light anime RPG, Big Eyes, Small Mouth will seem overgrown and ponderous here. But that's what 1PG games do: give you the basic rules and the basic information you need to answer the question "What next?" and then GET ON WITH IT. And on that scale Exosuit A-OK succeeds in spades.

Deep7 has staked out a very attractive niche: the quick-play beer ‘n' pretzels roleplaying game. With 15 games handily priced at $3.95 each and 6 supplements at just $1.95 each, there's sure to be something to fit your tastes for movie-style roleplaying. If it's action-anime science fiction you're after, you'll find Exosuit A-OK a fun and rewarding investment.

Bob Portnell is a freelance writer/editor in Sparks, NV. He prefers his exosuits have rocket-propelled roller-skates and a nose on the faceplate.

 
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