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Hellboy-inspired tabletop RPG Apocalypse Keys asks who will hold you as the world ends

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“Hell is other people,” reads Jean-Paul Sartre’s oft-quoted line No Exit, a minimalist stage play about three souls trapped within the walls of a one-room purgatory. Characters confess, quarrel, seek salvation, seduce each other, and talk about the existential horror of enduring another’s judgment. In 2013, cartoonist and writer Tim Kreider typed a line that would define a generation of online interactions: “If we want the prize of being loved we must submit to the dreadful process of becoming known.”

new tabletop role-playing game keys of doom shares a lot with these two very different pieces of media, even though producer Rae Nedjadi and publisher Evil Hat Productions are not mentioned in the credits. Steeping heavily in Hellboy vibes and amassing an impressive mechanical pedigree, keys of doom Relationships with the literal end of the world—even love—put vital need front and center. It asks whether relationships can protect us from our worst impulses, while the whole lot of heels turn toward oblivion.

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The cover art for Apocalypse Keys depicts a headless, angelic creature climbing a pillar of light.  There is only one tent wrapped around that pole.  Rushing to the action, the two player characters stand in the foreground.  Takes a book by leaping from its pages.

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Image: Evil Hat Productions

Players assume the form of demons working for DIVISION, a secretive government wetworks agency with a stupidly brief but serious mission: seek the door to power and stop the Harbingers who will kick them wide open. Sessions involve secrets that the group, with the guidance of a Keeper (the game’s moniker for Game Master), cooperatively uncovers as they collect the eponymous Key of the Apocalypse—evidence that comes in the form of a waterlogged Walkman. Can be mundane or as obvious as a bleeding crown of black roses.

Like Hellboy and its BPRD spin-off, player-characters’ demons have exercised their apocalyptic birthright in favor of protecting humanity from unseen threats. The destructive power these monsters wield earns fear and loathing rather than respect from humanity at large, and many would argue that reaction is well founded. Each division property is a few bad days away from becoming a harbinger in its own right, and only relational relations with its fellows at the absolute fringes of society can stave off cursed destiny. You need darkness to prevent the apocalypse, but you need friends to prevent darkness.

“I like to joke that keys of doom Between the Players and Harbingers is built on the concept of ‘we’re not so different, you and me’, Nedjadi explained in an interview. “But it is also a very emotional game – apart from bets about the end of the world, which is a huge possibility. It is not about whether you will get physically hurt, but whether your emotions You’re going to get over you, if you’re going to wreak havoc and cause problems for the people you care about.

Veteran tabletop players will immediately notice the chassis lifted from the tried and true by the Apocalypse school of design: classes in the form of worksheet-like preconstructed playbooks, fiction-forward feats known as moves, and players with their own take on the game. The emphasis is on injecting Only the knowledge of the world. Nedjadi affectionately referred to his game engine as “Frankenstein’s monster”, borrowing Bond-like interpersonal gameplay mechanics from sentimental wuxia RPGs. heart of wulin, anxiety-inducing in-game timers known as clocks blade in the dark, and pick up delightful mystery-solving mechanics titled Grandma-meets-Cthulhu brindlewood bay,

A series in the playbook of Apocalypse Keys includes The Hungry, The Surge, The Last, The Fallen, The Found, The Summons, and The Shade.

Photo: Evil Hat Productions

Newcomers won’t feel lost between the chapters reading the 300-page core rulebook, which manages to analyze and present keys of doom‘ agenda like a step-by-step guide to heart surgery – staggering to imagine as a whole but surprisingly simple once you get started. The playbook, which slots into an increasing spectrum of emotional and narrative complexity, comes with a primer and best-practices notes, and the Keepers section offers helpful tips for sticking each type of character in the most interesting (read: tragic) situations. Creates an outline.

one of the smartest little tricks in keys of doom‘ Bag is a devastating success. Like other such RPGs, the success of every playbook move is determined by rolling two six-sided dice and adding relevant modifiers. Traditionally, anything below a six is ​​a miss, anything over 10 counts as a disjointed success, and everything else ends in a mixed – that is, the keeper’s decision to allow a success. Leaving room for, but adding a complication or cost. When playing as fallen gods, eldritch scions, manifestations of endless hunger, or undead soul shards, these characters seek to curb their dark impulses by rolling to that sweet middle place. To go above the nine means to slip into a terrible fate promised (or threatened) by whatever lurked in the hidden shadows of their hearts.

The progress of this corruption is tracked as waste, and accumulating too much can force characters into early retirement, leaving the game as the latest precursor to the apocalypse. Fortunately, players can modify their results both upward and downward by drawing on the demanding darkness at the heart of their relationships with each other, key non-player characters, and their abilities. As the rulebook reads: “You have so much power, but really you have this: magic and fear. Healing and hope. It will have to be enough. Staged as flashbacks or small interpersonal moments, leaning on these connections is a Failing to herald could prove the difference between seeing the world reap the horrifying image of what lies just outside the door.

Nedjadi said while designing keys of doom saved them during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and their own growing health crisis, because it was a project they could always move forward inch by inch when nothing else seemed to make sense. As the pandemic continued, their despair turned to a cautious hope reflected in the final version of the game. The significance of the bonds deepened, as did the optimist’s penchant for the mysteries and playbook details of the RPG. The two currencies – Dark Token and Bond – represent this tug-of-war between our worst impulses and our better nature.

perhaps most importantly, keys of doom Doesn’t judge those who struggle to maintain balance, but instead provides moments of connection, vulnerability, and intimacy as valves to the pressures of the harsh world pressing down on your characters’ shoulders. are in the form of

keys of doom The expression of the champion player wherever possible, providing a constant on-ramp for conversation between the group, revealing a horrifying secret or complication, or melting into the arms and lips of your fellow monster – heck, the title “I Almost Called” There’s a whole section in the book about the game Apocalypse Kisses.

Hell there aren’t other people in this RPG, but they might be the only thing standing between you and the rapidly opening door to cosmic destruction.

keys of doom Available now through the Evil Hat Productions online store, Amazon, and from your favorite local game store.

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