This time I am trying my hands at a review for the Temporal Probability Agency (TPA) supplement from Apathy Games. What once was a Savage Worlds Blog is now a Game Studio and Savage Worlds Licensee.
Their first release is actually two items in one package : the "Agent' s Handbook", which has all the basic rules for the setting, and "To Predict and Serve Act 1: A Function of Probability" the first act of their campaign. This review is only about the "Agent' s Handbook". Lets find out what the Temporal Propability Agency is and have a look at the books content.
The "Agent's Handbook" comes as a 29 Page PDF File. It is fully bookmarked for easy on-screen navigation. There are several layer options to turn off for ink-friendly Printing. The interior design and layout is great and can easily match the best out there. They use a very subtle blue for headers, sidebars and Information of note which breaks up a page and is pleasing on the eyes. This makes reading the book a breeze and a joy to look at. It clearly shows that there is a lot of work in the visual design and layout, everything is professional. The interior BW Artwork is good. The style is consistent throughout the book without any big variations in terms of quality either. The whole document has a paper file feeling, with the background as a file folder and some Pictures, Notes and other material seemingly "taped in". Very fitting to the setting, evocative and still very easy to read.
The inner Values:
What is the Temporal Probability Agency? The first thing you will see on the inside of the cover is the "New Agent Primer" In one Page you pretty much get the idea what this might be about.
Becoming an Agent
The section opens with a short story of how the life normal persons is thrown upside down because she is suddenly part of a TPA Mission. This is a good piece of fluff at the right place as it sets the mood and gets you right into the world. It then goes straight to Character Creation. There are no surprises as they use the Savage Worlds Engine without any changes. This Section also has New Hindrances, Edges and Gear.
The number of Hindrances (3) and Edges (8) is not inflationary. I find that positive as "Edgecreep" is sometimes an issue in other products. You will be disappointed if you are looking for a supplement with lots of new edges or hindrances . What is there is good however. All Edges fit the setting presented and simply by reading you will be able to imagine scenarios where they will be useful. They are all valuable to have and do not feel redundant. They also took care to offer something new to a variety of character concepts.
The Gear section is all of 3 Pages. Normal Weapons like Pistols and Rifles are simply listed in a single sidebar with all the necessary Information. The rest of the items are new and specific to the setting. They use the space to describe each in detail with illustrations. Substantial room is given to the descriptions of different Uniforms for TPA agents. Yes, you are not simply a secret James Bond kind of Agent. You are wearing a uniform and you are wearing it proud! Focus is also put on the nonlethal weapons instead of the guns. This subtly reinforces that the agents do not have a license to kill.
After this section the pregenerated Characters are listed. Each is presented in two different formats. One is the familiar Statblock I described in an earlier post, fully filled out like in most other publications. Additionally each has a partial Build that lists what kind of adjustments can still be made to a template to complete it. This could be helpful for a quick start when you have players that are a bit familiar with SW but don´t want to create their own character from scratch. I would use the partial Statblocks during a convention or for a one shot. It makes it easy for players to take a pregen and make him his own without any fuss. I was a bit disappointed that only four of the eight total pregenerated characters are illustrated. Mostly because I like the Illustrations and would appreciate to see more. The four illustrated are the same Characters as the ones on the cover. From Left to right: The Gadgeteer, the Patriot, the Wireman and the Cowboy. Additionally you have the Boxer, the Dropout, the Scalpel and the Stuntman. There is one pregen for most of the basic Charactertypes out there but all with a certain own charme and indeed character!
About the TPA
A brief introduction for the new agent
Again the section begins with a short story that gives us a glimpse into the life of another operative of the TPA. I would have expected the GM section here, but it does not contain any GM exclusive information. It first describes how an agent gets promoted, how you receive missions and the necessary gear to complete them. It explains what a "Laundry List" is: the To Do list of the field agents that clearly states what has to be done.
This list is integral to the game. Basically the players get a list of arbitrary and unrelated goals to complete. This could be anything from simply buying a newspaper in a specific place at a specific time to picking a fight with a specific person to breaking into a place and stealing something on a specific date or... you get the idea. The possibilities are endless and the goals can be as mundane or as exciting as you want them to be.
It gives very specific goals but how the players reach them is absolutely open. It is encouraged to be as creative as possible with absolutely no restrictions on approaches. The fun part is that the players need to reach these goals exactly as described on the list, no matter what happens. This is an interesting twist on the usual adventure Formula that should lead to some exciting scenarios. Buying a newspaper could suddenly become a heart pounding race through the city to get to the place in time while stuck in traffic.
Afterwards it shortly explains how Agents interact with the Law and how time works in this setting. The latter is not unimportant to understand how the tasks at hand and actions today affect the future. The last pages of the book are about the title giving Organization itself. A short history and description of the TPA and its structure complete this chapter. The back of the book has an Index that is very thorough for such a small book.
The Setting is an interesting one. You do not need much to imagine the world this plays in, as it is basically alternative now. On the spot recruited agents are a prefect set up to basically drop your players into the following Campaign without them knowing what is really going on. You can really simply pick up the book and play it straight away. The writing is clear and to the point but still remains evocative enough to give you a feeling of the setting. It actually has a lot of quirky humor (Uniforms? Really?) but is never silly.
In a few places the writing seemed a bit odd. You begin reading a paragraph in a very cold, almost analytical sounding tone and ends in some humorous remark. This might have been done on purpose though and is a minor nit-pick in an overall great product.
The TPA Agent´s Handbook is a quick and interesting read, thanks to the great layout and writing. After a quick look at the Campaign part it seems to hold up equally well. I did not have the chance to fully read it so I cannot offer more that this for now. All in all I am really impressed with their first PDF and look forward to their future releases. At 5 Dollars this is great value-for-money, I am glad I bought it!
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[4 of 5 Stars!]