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Reviews - Exosuit AOK
by Cedric Chin

Exosuit AOK coverExosuit AOK
Published by Deep7
Written by James Stubbs and Todd Downing, with Jeff Boman and Eddy Webb
13-page PDF

Deep7's 1PG line of games has a simple premise: take a cool movie cliché, generate characters in a few minutes, and put the rules for play on the character sheet. In the case of Exosuit AOK, the cliché is the serious action/hardsuit adventure of anime shows such as Bubblegum Crisis, Appleseed, and Robotech. The rules should work for any sort of action adventure, from an episode of Chips to The Fifth Element.

AOK is a thirteen-page PDF. Each section of the game fits onto one page:

  • Cover
  • Rules of Play (including character generation)
  • Character Sheet (including rules reference)
  • For the Ref (GM advice)
  • Exosuit Construction and Operation (exosuit generation)
  • Six scenarios (one page each)
  • Double-character sheet (for NPCs)
The PDF only has two illustrations, economizing text with clear layout. Good use of bold lettering allows players and GMs to easily reference a rule or act in a scenario.

Rules of Play and Character Sheet
Character Generation uses the conventional "stats + skills" method. Each PC has four stats - Sturdiness, Looks, Craftiness, and Brains - as well as secondary stats - Cool, Guts, Blood, and Reputation. Each primary stat has a set of skills. Craftiness, for example, has the skills Bargain, Con, Gambling, Mechanics, Perform, and Pilot. Each player has 1d3 points for each primary stat and 1d3+3 points to put into skills. Players begin with 2d6+5 Blood, the equivalent of hit points, and roll on the Background, Status, and Starting Gear tables. These tables provide PCs with skill bonuses and unique equipment.

The check is the basic success roll in the game: The player rolls 1d6 against the appropriate stat or skill + stat. A 1 is always a failure, and 6 always a success. Damage is taken from Blood, and Armor uses damage reduction. In case of a conflict (eg. fighting), whoever has a greater margin of success wins.

With secondary stats Guts, Cool, and Reputation, AOK goes beyond traditional physical abilities. Each player has 1d3+2 Guts and 1d6 Cool. In case of panic and stress, a PC will make a Guts check. Failure results in loss of one Cool.

For Reputation, each player makes a check against each primary attribute during character generation. The total number of successful checks is his Reputation. A player makes a check against his Reputation whenever he wishes to pull a few favors from his fans or local authorities.

The entire Rules of Play, including Character Generation, fit on one sheet. Despite all the new terminology, the one-page character and reference sheet make these terms - and game mechanics - quite clear. (And since this is a PDF, the GM can print out a copy of the rules sheet and character sheet for each player.) PCs are meant to only be used for one gaming session, although rules are included for character development. The 1PG Companion can be used for additional rules, such as vehicles combat, NPCs, and additional character development rules.

Note that, although this is an anime action roleplaying game, it lacks mechanics for the traditional anime scene where the hero, battered and bruised, summons his last inner strength and defeats all odds. It's also entirely possible for the random generation tables to create characters with odd background and equipment ("Hey, I'm an Entertainer and Street Fighter with a Helicopter!).

Exosuit Construction & Operation
Depending on the result of rolling on the Starting Gear table, a player may have an exosuit, light, medium, or heavy. A suit has an Armor Value and Blood, as well as Options. Suits have 1d3 to 1d6 option points, and Options cost one to four points. Options range from the one-point Shield, to the four-point BFG (the "Big F**king Gun" of Doom fame). Additional rules are included for Bailing Out of a damaged suit, Repair, and Salvage.

Despite the word "Exosuit" in the game's title, exosuit combat uses the same skill checks as regular conflict. No rules reflect the complexity often seen in anime mecha combat (eg. tactics, broken weapons, weaknesses, critical hits). Roleplayers who would rather be out of their suits won't notice, but action otaku looking forward to mecha combat may be disappointed.

For the Ref
The GM receives his own page, primarily of GM advice, plus a damage chart. Advice includes keeping the adventure short and exciting, focusing on the players, and running bad guys. Given the possible wide variations in characters, I would have liked to see some suggestions for premade characters, or designing adventures for heterogenous parties (such as Full Metal Panic's high school girl and military soldier) and homogenous parties (such as Bubblegum Crisis' women in hardsuits).

Each scenario is a page long, longer than an adventure seed, shorter than a module. Three-fourths of the scenario is text and the other fourth are NPC stats. Each scenario consists of three or four scenes, and lasts for two to three hours.

Like the mechanics, the scenarios are tailored towards policework and missions, not humor and character development. Sailor Moon this is not. The scenarios are also unrelated, meaning that characters from one scenario cannot (without some rewriting) be played in another. (Remember that characters are meant to be played for only one game session.)

Despite the marketing of Exosuit AOK as a hardsuit and police action anime RPG, it's a versatile rules-light system suitable for any modern-day roleplaying (just as Call of Cthulhu works for any 1920's adventures). Conversely, being rules-light, its lacks the complex crunchy bits some gamers would expect in a mecha game. Likewise, AOK does not have mechanics for dramatic personal moments seen in some anime. Still, as a system for hardsuits and soldiers, this roleplaying system really is AOK.


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