This 'universe book' for Amazing Engine opens with the complete core ruleset as described in the Amazing Engine System Guide (so you don't need to buy that) and so can be regarded as a complete game. You do, however, have to create a Player Core if you don't already have one before making your Player Character - the Player Core is a high-level overview of the type of character you prefer to play (the assumption being that you go for the same type all the time and irrespective of setting) which allows you, for example, to transfer experience between your characters in different universes (as defined by the various universe books)... even though you cannot actually transfer an entire character from one universe to another.
The actual setting is then introduced in a section entitled Everything You Read Is True! The concept is that all the wild tales you read in supermarket tabloids and the Fortean Times or see on some of the more dubious TV documentaries is actual fact. Bigfoot. Aliens. The Loch Ness Monster. Assorted celebrities not being dead but hiding out somewhere - JFK, Elvis, whoever you care to name. And of course the conspiracy theorists have the right of it. Nobody's landed on the Moon yet, and UFOs really exist. Now I've often found this sort of material of use when planning games that walk along the edge of reality, but this time these tall tales are the core of the game itself, and the party are all employed as reporters for one of these supermarket tabloids, researching and telling these tall tales... and, yes, they are all true!
At several points, the comment is made that this game is supposed to be silly. Personally, I find it more entertaining when played straight. Certainly, as far as the player-characters are concerned, it's all deadly serious. As for your gaming group, they hopefully have at least some grip on reality, but there's no reason not to play this game like any other. After all, we play wizards and dwarves and spacemen and superheroes without labelling the game 'silly' even though we know they are not real. It's just that this alternate reality is a little more zany than many, and being set in the present day highlights the differences.
The rest of the book consists of several chapters. The first four pick up where the core rules at the beginning of the book leave off, and by the end of them you should have a fully-fledged group of player-characters all rareing to get out and find their Pulitzer-prize winning stories. The next four chapters set the scene for the game and may also be read by players, then at the end there are adventure ideas and other material best left to the Editor, as the Game Master is called here.
There's a rather neat idea behind the character creation system here. All characters are going to be reporters, but the tabloids are not the sort of place a trained journalist wants to end up, so it is assumed that the entire party did something else before they hired on - and it is this carefully-crafted background that gives them their skills. Carefully-crafted? Well, it's more a case of rolling stacks of dice on some tables until you have filled all the skill slots available. As well as a regular character sheet, a worksheet is provided at the back of the book to facilitate this process. This is a 'lifepath' system that builds your character's résumé as it builds the character himself. It can get a little silly, and ought to prove entertaining with both the randomicity and the actual skills and other stuff available giving rise to some hilarious backgrounds. There's lots of detail explaining what the skills are and how to use them in the game.
There's a really quite entertaining chapter called The Tabloid Reporter's Beat which lays out what the party ought to be doing now they are honest-to-goodness tabloid reporters, and the equipment they get to do it with. And another neat thing, in this game as the party are, after all, reporters they not only have adventures, they get to write them up as well! There's a system for that, quite slick, so they won't spend half the session chewing pencils and wondering what to say. There's also a system for calculating remuneration, very important for tabloid reporters scrabbling to survive on the mean streets! Should your party ever get into a brawl, there are a few rules for that as well. In true tabloid style, character death does not necessarily mean that it's time to roll up a new character, though...
Next comes a chapter called Anything For A Laugh. This is for those who take the game's label of "silly" seriously, a collection of ideas for making a comedic game actually work at your tabletop. Finally there are some adventures for the party to cut their journalistic teeth on. Also, sample stories tabloid style are scattered throughout the entire book, any of them might inspire you to create a story of your own.
Whether played as silly as the author intends or in a more serious vein - at least as far as the player-characters are concerned - there's plenty of scope to have some fun with this one.
Return to Tabloid! page.
Reviewed: 15 March 2018