I have a soft spot for randomly generated characters and mutant futures in the Gamma World vein. When I saw Omegazone billing itself as an instant apocalyptic setting for Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE) using cards for random generation, I couldn’t resist the kickstarter’s lure. With a list of inspirations ranging from Mad Max, Escape From L.A., Thundarr The Barbarian, and Gamma World itself, I was sold.
And I have to say, this was probably the fastest Kickstarter I backed; the turn-around time was impressive. Omegazone was funded at the end of November; I got the cards in mid-January. Kudos to Brooklyn Indie Games.
Omegazone is a 56-card deck, which you can use to generate an instant setting and session of FAE. Players draw two “character definition” cards, which are different mutant archetypes, things like Atomic Construct, Brain-In-A-Jar, Felinid, Gelly Blob, or Sentient Flora. (You can probably smell the Gamma World inspiration from here.) They also draw one Mutation card, like Chitinous Exoskeleton or Delicate Wings. Each card comes with a few points worth of stats (FAE Approaches), four per definition and one per mutation; each card also has one stunt, so that the three cards add up to a full character.
For example, getting the Felinid and Hole Dweller character definitions with Bioluminescent Camouflage gives you this spread of Approaches: Forceful 0, Careful 1, Quick 1, Clever 1, Flashy 1, Sneaky 5. For stunts, the character may spend a fate point to invoke a boost without removing it from the table (from being a Felinid), gets +2 to Carefully Defend on natural soil (from being a Hole Dweller), and a +2 to Flashily Defend in a natural environment (from the mutation). Add High Concept and Trouble Aspects, and you’re ready to throw some dice.
Much like the mutations in Gamma World 7th Ed, it’s up to the player to figure out how they work together to form a functioning mutant. I’m seeing some kind of shimmery bobcat with badger-like claws that’s used to digging underground. With that sneaking and defending, it sounds like they’re a reclusive race that likes to scout around (preferably underground), though they’re capable of clever or flashy insight at times.
As you can see from my draw, the method is swingy—normal FAE characters assign their 9 points of Approaches in a fixed set of variables (+3, +2, +2, +1, +1, +0), making my draw more min/max’d than normal. (With the right cards you could start with Careful 6: Unique Animal Hybrid gives it +3, several others give it +2, and multiple mutations give it +1). That’s going to happen with random generation. For an instant pickup game, I don’t see it being too unbalanced—that min-max’d Unique Animal Hybrid is going to have several Approaches at 0. Though due to the swingy character generation, I’d be tempted to use a swingier dice mechanic like d6-d6 rather than 4dF.
The card breakdowns are as follows: 13 character definitions, 13 mutations, 13 gear cards, 7 adventure hook cards, and 6 adversary/opposition cards. The gear cards give you a free boost related to the item, and there’s no specific details on the cards themselves, just a name, image, and fluff text. The adventure hooks are nice generic idea generators for the GM, allowing you to play FAE-style mad-libs to form the adventure. Adversary cards are another GM idea-generation tool, giving an evocative group, location, and the enemy leader. A few quick draws and rolls of the dice, and the GM has the story seeds for a quick session.
The cards have evocative art that fit the campy/wacky post-apocalyptic game, and the adversaries are particularly four-color. (The top of the box has a “Warning: Contains Post-Apocalyptic Shenanigans” logo, so if you’re looking for a grimdark apocalypse you’ll need to look elsewhere.) They’re high-gloss and full color printed on standard cardstock, so they’re the same size and have the same durability as Magic: The Gathering. That’s good; they’re at least somewhat waterproof, and look like they’d hold up to repeated use. The cards were really jammed into the box so it’s a trick to get them in and out, which is picking the tiniest of nits overall.
The Bottom Line
My only real complaint is one born of greed; I love the idea, but kind of want more of everything. There’s a good supply of character definitions, mutations, and gear, but even then I could see expanding each one out to have their own deck… which, of course, is getting more into cost-prohibitive territory, and we wouldn’t have had such a rapid turn-around time on delivery. That could also make the idea topheavy; Omegazone is a game without a sense of mission creep, and it does exactly what it set out to do. And with free blank card .pdfs, you can expand the game however you want.
Omegazone makes me want to highjack all the Gamma World 7th Ed mutation types and apply them in the same random generation vein, which works exceedingly well with FAE’s streamlined stats. I’d like to do something similar for Fate Core, but the way Omegazone divvies up Approaches on each card is a beautiful mechanic that’s harder to replicate using straight Core.
I really dig the idea of a deck-based instant FAE setting, and hope we get some similar products as it’s such a unique but elegant idea. A single deck of cards that’s a self-contained setting and game all in one. Twelve bucks, five minutes, and one quick shuffle gives you all the character ideas and a brief plot to get started with. (You can also buy it as a .pdf for $7, then print, spindle, and masticate to your heart’s content. Plus the aforementioned free blanks so you can roll your own.) FAE excels as a pickup game, or a way to introduce new players to roleplaying, and making characters via cards is a uniquely awesome application I can get behind.