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Agents of Oblivion» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Spythulhu! - IR #57 rss

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Jaime Lawrence
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Previous Savage Worlds reviews:

I have come to worship at the temple of (slightly too) Light Entertainment! – IR #27

Agents of Oblivion is 30 pages of gold wrapped in 200 pages of meh. A brilliant concept, it combines espionage with the supernatural, creating a Men in Black-esque agency that polices the supernatural on Earth, keeping the world safe from evil, but sadly, it fails to fully deliver on the premise.

The book is slightly larger than a standard paperback and suffers a little from curving cover syndrome. It has infrequent black and white art, which is sad considering the potency of some of the imagery within. It uses the Savage Worlds engine, which I have yet to find impressive, but also have no particular dislike for. It offers little that is mechanically interesting, its strength being largely in the writing.

Perhaps if I had never read Spycraft before, I'd be more impressed by this product, but the sad truth is that as nicely written as the idea here is, there's nothing new about it - Spycraft 2.0 already had numerous campaign options that could be used to do anything here and Spycraft 1.0 had Shadowforce Archer, which had most of the supernatural and fringe elements presented in AoO. Spycraft also innovated, radically altering the system which it used in order to better fit mechanics to theme, but there's little of that here. It's a lot like someone said to you 'how would you stat out a spy campaign in Savage Worlds' and you wrote it down.

I don't really mean to sound negative here, the book isn't bad, it's just laced with missed opportunities and has fallen into a trap that I hate in role playing books - it offers you nothing you wouldn't have thought of yourself. I feel that if I'm going to pay for a book, it should add dimensions to my game, but AoO just doesn't do that. I kept finding myself reading a page and thinking about the things I would have added in (and left out) that would have improved it.

A quick run through of the book: it starts with an excellent introduction by John Rogers of Leverage fame and some great fiction set in the game universe. Character generation follows, including some archetypal characters and new edges, hindrances and the like. This section drags a little, largely due to things like the large section on 'different ways to use skills', which offer few new insights, to be honest.

A lengthy gear section seems obligatory in this sort of book, but this one does seem to go on a bit. After that, the GM section starts. It goes into the story behind the setting (another high point) and the ways to combine these two somewhat disparate genres. There's also a good discussion of the different elements that can be included in the game (aliens, conspiracies, horror, occult and technology). Unfortunately, it then launches into a prolonged yet uninformative look at various intelligence agencies around the world and what ratios of the game elements are used in each.

The book then gives random adventure generation rules and advises you to use them, rather than planning your own. What the heck? My imagination isn't good enough for you? There is a vague attempt at redemption through the provision of several good size, pregenerated adventures, but my pride is still wounded.

Perhaps there's more here for fans of Savage Worlds. As I said, the setting is compelling, but the choices about what to include and spend time on in the book are poor.

In the end, this would make a better novel or TV series pitch than it does RPG. Agents of Oblivion upsets me through the potential int abuses, but still manages to scrape up 7 mixed genres out of 10.
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Savage Josh
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If you look at the book as a "toolkit" rather than a setting, does your opinion change at all?
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Bazin wrote:
If you look at the book as a "toolkit" rather than a setting, does your opinion change at all?


Josh and I have had this conversation about AoO.

I was disappointed when I was finished reading it, and that all revolved around the setting. I expected much deeper dives into the two main agencies: Oblivion and Pandora.

On the other hand, as a spy toolkit - especially one with paranormal options - I thought it was highly successful.

In the end, I wanted AoO to stop me from buying Hollowpoint and Night's Black Agents; it didn't...
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Jaime Lawrence
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I think that, as I said, if I'd never seen Spycraft, I'd think it was good, but in the same genre and with options to do the same thing, Spycraft puts AoO to shame. As Bruce said, the depth just wasn't there.

As a toolkit? I suppose it isn't bad, but I'm not the type of GM who needs a toolkit. Personally, which is a word I use with the complete understanding that others may see things differently, I just found the book to be incredibly flat, considering its potent source material.
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