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Agents of Oblivion» Forums » Reviews

Subject: An excellent toolkit for any flavor of Espionage rss

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Savage Josh
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Agents of Oblivion is an horror-espionage setting by Reality Blurs for use with Savage Worlds, and is optimized for Savage Worlds Deluxe.

The Setting

In AoO , players (most often) take on the role of Agents in an agency known as Oblivion. The goal of this agency is to keep the world safe from any danger at all costs. This agency has a long history and several different iterations. The history of the agency is also inexorably tied to a group currently called the Pandora Institute. These two organizations are the opposite sides of the coin - Oblivion is trying to push back the darkness, whereas the Pandora Institute is trying to unleash the darkness upon the world.

While Agents of Oblivion does provide a fair amount of background and provides a default campaign style, it’s best to look at this book as a toolkit that gives you a range of play styles by changing the five thematic factors. The factors are:

The Alien Factor - Do aliens exist and how do they interact with the people of earth?
The Conspiracy Factor - Are there worldwide conspiracies like the Illuminati?
The Horror Factor - Are there supernatural creatures lurking in the dark?
The Occult Factor - Does magic exist and how accessible is it?
The Technology Factor - How much technology exists in the game world?

For the default campaign style, the above factors all exist at a moderate level. There are several common campaign archetypes described in the book, but the possibilities are vast. For instance, if you want to play in the style of The X-Files, you’ll want to crank the Alien Factor to High, have a Moderate Conspiracy Factor, then None or Low of the remainder. You want to play a 24 style game - Low Conspiracy and Technology, None for the rest.

In keeping with the toolkit feel, there are several organizations that are detailed as other players in the world stage. Some of these organizations are based on actual organizations (CIA, al’Qaeda) and others are fictional. These organizations are rated on the above thematic factors as well as influence (in world affairs and power) and are ideal for finding groups to insert into your campaign style.

Rule Additions

AoO, like most Savage Settings provides some setting specific rules and new skills, edges and hindrances. New skills include Tradecraft (the art of being a spy), Demolitions, and Forgery. The hindrances and edges add a variety of abilities that fit nicely within an espionage setting (for example, Typewriter adds +2 to unarmed damage; Cleaner adds +1 to finding/obfuscating information). New edges also include a group of technological edges. These include Data Chips (provide additional and changeable defining interests) and VR Immersion Training (an additional and changeable edge).

There's a few additions to character creation. Defining interests represent hobbies or other interests that are outside the Agent's professional pursuits (but my complement them). Any Common Knowledge roll on the Agent's Defining Interest nets them a +1 Bonus. Oblivion has several branches in which Agents can belong to. These branches provide different benefits for as long as they are with the branch (an Agent may change branches at each Advance). Oblivion also offers comprehensive training, so each Agent begins play with d4 in Fighting, Notice, Shooting, and Tradecraft; they also gain the Obligation (Major: Oblivion) hindrance (it does not provide any points for buying Edges/Skill/Traits).

One of the big additions in AoO is Extended Trait Checks. ETCs are meant for tasks that might require more than one skill roll to accomplish a task and time is a factor. ETCs are great for situations like trying to defuse a ticking bomb, repairing vehicles to escape, or obtaining a file from a hostile computer. ETCs are very effective at building tension.

Powers in AoO do not require power points and are handled through the use of the Channeling skill. Powers are also a little more dangerous for the caster in AoO. Modified results of 1 or less on the Channeling die results in a level of Fatigue and a Shaken result. Modified results of 1 or less on both the Channeling and Wild die is a critical failure and causes a wound. This is a great addition to the rules and can force players to make tough decisions about the use (and maintaining) powers. Blast and Bolt are slightly modified, creating three levels of each, which have varying strength/effect. There are also a group of new Edges known as Power Mods. These are Edge that allows Agents to modify a power in a variety of ways, such as increasing range, adding an area effect, or making the power selective.

Equipment is handled in an innovative way in AoO. Players are granted a number of resource points for each mission, which can be used to select a variety of different requisitions. Agents can select from Equipment, Perks, Single Use Devices, or Spytech/Special Training. Perks are special benefits for that mission, be it having an emergency evac chopper ready, an air strike, or even a false identity. Single Use Devices are throwaway devices that emulate different powers (eg, Anti-Grav Pack behaves like the Fly power). Items in the Spycraft/Special Training area cost more requisition to obtain, but are very powerful - they emulate Edges (eg, Makeover gives the benefits of Attractive).

Now, maybe these resource picks are taking too much time at your game table. AoO has that covered too. There are several templates for Agents to use that only require a handful of selections (usually of SUD or Spytech, to allow for mission specific enhancements). This gets Agents in the field quickly and with a pack of equipment that will be suitable for most missions.

The Rest

AoO comes with a very robust mission generator, which is a common feature in Savage Settings. A GM can develop a mission quickly by rolling on several tables, which will provide an objective, locaton, plot, secondary actors, and complications which can be fleshed out into a coherent story for your players. There is also a creature generator, which much like the mission generator, can create a horror for the GM to use against the players quickly.

There are also 7 Spy Samplers, which are roughly the size of a One Sheet, which can probably be run in 1-3 game sessions. Each of these samplers focus on a different campaign style to give the GM inspiration for how these different styles might look. There is also a fairly comprehensive list of supporting cast, complete with statistics, in addition to any Wild Cards that are introduced in the course of the Samplers. There are also several tips and tricks pages to help GMs with storytelling in the espionage and horror genres, which are very well done.

Cheyenne Wright’s art is very good. There are a few pieces that I don’t think fit with how I vision the game, but, that’s my vision of the game rather than the art itself. Throughout the book there are tag clouds that fill up empty parts of pages. These are pretty neat, but I feel there’s a few that are just too large and take away from the little text on the page.

Verdict

I think Agents of Oblivion is a great product. I really like the default setting, but the fact that the book outlines how to use what’s presented in the book to tell different stories makes it worthwhile for anyone who wants some rules to handle espionage. There are some great rule tweaks (Power Blowback, Extended Trait Checks) that are easily portable to other settings where they are appropriate. The idea of resource points for requisition is one I really like, and helps to keep things fast, since accounting for each dollar spent is not required.
If you ever wanted to run a game based on: X-Files, James Bond, The Bourne Identity, Men in Black, Splinter Cell, Mission: Impossible, Fringe, 24, The Shield, Blade, or combinations of therein, Agents of Oblivion can do that for you.

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Lowell Francis
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OK. Next purchase. That's for the review and knocking me off the fence. If I don't play and don't like Savage Worlds, is there enough material/resources for me to use elsewhere?
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Savage Josh
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I think you can transplant some of the mechanical ideas into other systems if you're comfortable doing that, but the cool pieces of additional rules definitely are Savage Worlds centric.

For instance, all of the Spycraft and Single Use Devices are based on Edges or Powers within Savage Worlds. So, by not using Savage Worlds, you'd have to either figure out how to model the same behavior in whatever system you prefer, or come up with something new. And to me, the way Spycraft/SUDs are handled really pops.

The book is 218 pages. Of that, there's roughly 130 pages of setting or advice that doesn't tie directly to the ruleset. So, that's about half the book.

So, when it comes down to it, if you have alternative rules for espionage and want a setting, AoO can probably work for you. If you're wanting to convert what's in AoO to your system of choice, it's achievable, but is likely a fair amount of work.
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Keith Sletten
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Great review, I'll certainly be picking this up, as I'm a big fan of Dark*Matter and even if the defualt setting isn't quite my cup of tea, using to create a Savage Dark Matter game makes it priceless.
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Savage Josh
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Agamon wrote:
Great review, I'll certainly be picking this up, as I'm a big fan of Dark*Matter and even if the defualt setting isn't quite my cup of tea, using to create a Savage Dark Matter game makes it priceless.


Unfortunately, I don't know Dark*Matter, so I can't say HOW you'd tweak AoO to make it work, but from the setting blurb, you'd probably crank Alien, Conspiracy, and Horror to High.

But I'm pretty confident that this will help you replicate that setting in Savage Worlds.
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Jeffry Willis
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Bazin wrote:
optimized for Savage Worlds Deluxe.
AoO is specifically for Deluxe? Less compatible with the Explorer's or does it not really matter?
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Savage Josh
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Jeffrywith1e wrote:
Bazin wrote:
optimized for Savage Worlds Deluxe.
AoO is specifically for Deluxe? Less compatible with the Explorer's or does it not really matter?


The changes between Deluxe and the Explorer's Edition are fairly minor (and they are available on the Pinnacle Website for free). This includes dramatic interludes and the new chase rules.

There's some ideas that Deluxe introduced that AoO uses (Archetypes, for instance), which are just pick up and play characters.

So, if you don't want to pick up Deluxe, AoO is still usable, and you'll still get a ton of enjoyment out of it!
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