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Last time, we walked out of our bunkers and viewed the wastelands of the world “after the end”. We now return to our review, looking into the three pre-made post-apocalyptic campaigns presented for d20 Apocalypse.
The gates of Heaven and Hell, Elysium and Tartarus, etc. etc. have loosed their legions, the faithful and the damned of all the world’s religions have been reclaimed, and…well, everyone else is kinda just left to sort things out. The legions of celestials and fiends are now warring over rightful ownership of the Earth while humans cower in the theologically-confusing campaign setting known as Earth Inherited. In spite of the inclusive “everyone that isn’t an atheist or too lukewarm to be classed as good or evil gets to go one way or another!” opening screed, strangely enough, Earth Inherited is written in strongly modernist Judeo-Christian terms. You have referrals to the event that sealed the outer planes as the “Rapture”, you have angels and demons rather than all sorts of Outsiders from various theologies, and divine spellcasters that are left in the world have no powers because they made Baby Jesus cry (although arcane magic still works…yay smart magicks!). The power play in this post-apocalyptic world is split, not only between fiends and celestials, but between various human factions as well. The Avengers of Humanity have a “nuke ’em all” policy and plan on taking back the world, one Outsider corpse at a time; these warriors for the human species don’t differentiate between angels and demons, only seeking to restore order and peace to humanity rather than negotiate with either side. The Damned, on the other hand, are a group that have embraced the destruction and engage in rampant hedonism. These two are both opposed by the Heavenfire Coalition, a group of angels and demons that realized “hey, your Dukes of Hell abandoned you, and our gods abandoned us…so…why are we fighting again?” and have banded together to try and convince the rest of their Outsider brethren to embrace the love. There’s also a group of transhumanists called the Order of the Machine, but they aren’t really that interesting.
The bestiary of this section is divided evenly between the forces of Heaven and Hell, with 3 angels and 3 fiends. The cherub, the first of our angels, is presented in the “mini-me angel” mold, and a mere Challenge Rating of 2; this is offset a bit by the awesome factor when you realize that the cherub’s ranged weapon is a submachine gun (!). The Dominions are CR 6 and provide the middle ground between the cherubim footsoldiers and the seraphim uber-leaders; they also happen to have rainbow wings, as the page-scrawl image on the first page of the campaign setting (seen above) shows. Finally, as I just stated, you have the CR 14 seraphim, whose powers consist around setting stuff on fire. The three fiends are similarly divided in strength between the CR 1 cacophonous fiend (a three-headed vulturine fiend with a deafening yell), the CR 8 bull fiend (a venomous serpent-tailed brute, seen fighting a Dominion in the above image), and the CR 12 ravenous fiend (the charming gluttonous fellow seen to the right, with his pet cacophonous fiends). Oddly enough, these three have proper names that come from unique fiends of Medieval lore; Naberus, Marcochius, and Belphegor respectively. Now, those of you that have known me for a while know I used to be a somewhat defensively religious woman, and I had a slight spasm when I wrote the original review for d20 Apocalypse way back when and saw these entries. Well…it’s been a while since then, and things have changed with my religiosity. And it’s not like it’s a strange phenomenon with Wizards of the Coast; the sphinx, chimera, and hydra would definitely beg to differ. Anyway…these are decent fiends and celestials, but they don’t exactly conjure up the image of a terrifying threat the same way, say, a solar or balor from Dungeons and Dragons does. They certainly don’t fit the sentence on page 65 about how you might be “battling hordes of vile fiends from the cockpit of a 10-ton mecha or grappling a mighty angel on the roof of a shattered skyscraper”.
This chapter ends with the stats for a 2nd-level and 6th-level human member of the Damned (both splitting their levels evenly between the Strong Ordinary and Tough Ordinary classes) and a moored barge that has been converted into a fortress for whatever organization you decide to give it to. All in all, while it’s an okay setting, Earth Inherited won’t be winning any awards from me. This campaign setting gets a 5/10 on its own, which will be taken into consideration for the final score of this book.
Here we have another classic; in this case, a scenario where a single nuked city made the United States to engage in a scorched earth policy that resulted in World War III. Humanity didn’t go extinct, but it sure didn’t fare well either, and the world is now divided between various warlords and militaristic city-states that zealously guard the shattered pieces of the former empire. Of course, you won’t see most of that, since (unsurprisingly) Atomic Sunrise completely focuses on the USA after the fall. This is a no-magic, low-psionics, high mutation world, fitting in with the likes of Gamma World (which consequently has its own d20 Modern incarnation…I don’t currently own it, however, so sorry, no review on that for now). Before any new organizations are introduced for this world, old ones from the Menace Manual are revised for their role in this post-apocalyptic world. The CIA is now an anarchic organization in the Rocky Mountains called “the Establishment” that keeps the warlords fighting against each other while they plan for the return of the “grand US government”, FEMA is holed up in secret underground bunkers in Texas and Louisiana to hoard all of the petroleum left in the states (Wha?), the adventurous Nautilus Club keep to themselves and develop new technology in their posh Vernean underwater cities, and the Six-Fingered hand, out of their job as an end of the world cult since…you know, the world actuall ended…have reorganized as a mutant supremacy order. It’s an interesting idea, although I’m still trying to figure out the FEMA part…
We then get new organizations; like with Earth Inherited, Atomic Sunrise introduces several new organizations. First off are the Enforcers, a group of self-proclaimed “sheriffs” and “cowboys” that act as a group of vigilante bikers that uphold the law in the southwest; as you can imagine, they aren’t very popular with the locals, however good their intentions may be. They are allied with the Epoch Legion, a military organization whose goals are similar enough for the two to work together. The Legion is also the only organization that has actually managed to get the isolationists of FEMA to come out of their shells a bit, and are one of the two major powers in the post-WWIII United States due to their energy weapons and advanced technology (insinuated to have been taken from Area 51). Opposing both…and pretty much everyone else…is the government of New Texas. Unsurprisingly, New Texas is made up of the survivors of the (understandably) unnamed members of the government of old Texas, who have decided to take over the continent and slaughter any of those that dare oppose their iron-fisted rule. They double-crossed the Epoch Legion in the past and managed to secure some of that juicy Roswell tech, cementing them as the second major power in the continental United States.
First up to bad for the “wild cards” are the Wasteland Marauders. These thugs and outlaws are a scattered band of highwaymen that have managed to earn the ire of the Epoch Legion and New Texas alike; the Enforcers hate them so much, in fact, that they have a shoot on sight policy when it comes to members of the Marauders. Finally, there’s the Mutant Arm of Radillos. Lead by the 17-level Charismatic Hero/Soldier/Road Warrior mutant Radillos (yes, you heard that right, 17th level), this Washington state-based criminal group creates and captures mutants for the purpose of gladiatorial entertainment and commerce paid for in blood. Also provided are stats for a 9th-level Fast Hero/Road Warrior leader of Radillos’s militia and a 15-level Smart Hero/Field Medic geneticist, as well as a map of Radillos’s compound and its various features. The final piece of the chapter is a handy new 5-level advanced class (more properly a prestige class, but apparently the creators of d20 Apocalypse forgot when the “10 level advanced class vs. 5 level prestige class” note was made back in Urban Arcana) known as the Lawbringer. This authority figure is popular with the people, a masterful tracker, and proficient in both dealing and avoiding firearms damage; it’s a nice class, and could easily be used in non-apocalyptic settings at that. So, all in all, this is a fairly decent campaign setting, but suffers from the fact that there are 100-200 page campaign setting books out there such as Damnation Decade and Darwin’s World that cover the same general idea that Atomic Sunrise attempts to squeeze into only 9 pages. So, once again, 5/10.
We are told that “in the not too distant future” (Next Sunday, A.D., perhaps?) an alien species known as the Spanthi subjugate Earth by destroying human technology and infecting the world with human-targeting diseases and mass mutagen clouds. Of course, in spite of this rather clever plan, the Spanthi apparently forgot to not use mutagens that worked on themselves as well… The heroes are of a group of cryogenically-preserved humans kept beneath the destroyed world, known as “Rip Vans”, that have recently awoken and headed out of the vaults (why does that sound familiar?) to face a world that is now filled with iron age societies vying for power, mutated animals and spanthi alike, and a few lone “true spanthi” that survived the several hundred year-long war that devastated their kind and humanity alike. While human achievements were mostly eaten up by the invasion force, the Spanthi took care to keep the atmosphere and environment mostly intact, so the main dangers are the aliens themselves and the various mutant fauna that has arisen after the war.
The three main organizations provided here are…eh. The first, Adeptus Dei, is very interesting, as a group that is dedicated to restoring and maintaining human knowledge rather than running wildly out to murder anything that vaguely looks threatening like the rest of humanity is. The other two, though… First off, you have the Kin, who are stereotypical murderous mutant rednecks that enslave anyone that looks, and I quote, “un’merican”. Now, I know the South often sucks hard, but…really? That’s the best you have? “Un’merican”? The other organization is the feudal Spanthi-hating empire known as Tyrannis. Take a wild guess at how they’re like. The Spanthi themselves are thankfully interesting. Two species of Spanthi exist; the Reavers and the Truebloods. Spanthi Reavers, as their name implies, are CR 8 beasts that sacrificed their intelligence during genetic engineering for brute strength and unrelenting endurance. These monsters swarm across the land like locusts and attack with their venom-drooling mouths and meaty claws; they are also heavily armored and resistant to massive damage, meaning that they’re pretty damn hard to put down. The Spanthi Truebloods, on the other hand, are average in Strength but phenomenal in Intelligence (and not too shabby in their other ability scores, either), resist radiation, and are immune to disease. These rare beings live in the lands of the Reavers (since they are one of the few things the brutes won’t eat) and are mostly concerned with trying to reclaim their lost technology, but they aren’t above dealing some damage with firearms and other weaponry if threatened. The final piece of this chapter is a new advanced class called the Evolutionary; it’s…okay, I guess, but there have been better mutation-focused AdCs I’ve seen. The Spanthi make this setting a bit better than the average for this book, so it gets a 7/10.
The base features of d20 Apocalypse are pretty solid. It tries to cover a fairly large range of topics and succeeds in it, unlike some of the other paperback splats that appeared at the end of d20 Modern’s run. The settings bog it down a bit, though, since they aren’t particularly fleshed-out or evocative and seem to almost waste space at times. So, calculating all that together, the final verdict for d20 Apocalypse is… 7/10, a slightly above-average title.