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Author Topic: The Last Exodus Review  (Read 186 times)

Spike

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The Last Exodus Review
« on: December 23, 2020, 05:08:25 pm »
This is a review of the Last Exodus: The Interactive Story Arc of the Third and Last Dance  by Synister Systems, a Jaffe Brother's Production, Circa 2001

I have had this book for a very long time, but weirdly I've never actually bothered to actually figure it out until recently, when I found it floating around in my garage (it has never even had a place on my bookshelves in almost twenty years until the other day...).  Its a rather confusing little product in many ways, being of odd size, being the only game I have (other than CPv3, less said the better) that I know used actual photographs and a model (I suspect stripper, but...) for the cover art, and then there is trying to understand what the fuck it is all about (you play Jesus. Everyone in teh party plays Jesus. Some are Good Jesus, some are Bad Jesus, but, yeah: Jesus... You'll have to wait to get more from me on that...)

Now that I've finally parsed it out, I figured I'd share.   First there are a couple of notes on this forgotten gem of a game: First is that it was edited by none other than Gareth-Michael Skarka.

The Second...
             Ok. So there is a credit page inside the cover that lists the creator and author as a Nicholas VanZandt, and good old Nicky (and a few others listed) are also in this credits (Ursala Tango, Jaz Michele, etc), while the "Jaffe Brothers" are barely even mentioned.  All of these people are also in setting 'characters' throughout the opening chapter of the book, along with a fellow named Gideon, and the book ends with a moving tribute to Nicky from Gideon, who is his brother, with a date of death in 2001, which would coincide with the publishing of the book.

I happen to be a fan of Starchilde Publications, which are some old crappy game designers from the late eighties and nineties, and the writer/owner is a man going by Gideon, whose Real Name is... somethign VanZandt.

As near as I can tell, that is nothing more than an entirely random coincidence. That closing memorial bit, on closer inspection, reads just a little bit false, and mirrors an opening bit at the beginning of the book.  The Jaffe Brothers do appear at the end of the book to talk a bit about the process of writing and creating the book, with nothing from or about either VanZandt to go with it.  But man, did that cause me a LOT of confusion until I worked it out... and I'm still not entirely certain.

So, on with the review. I'm going to do this slightly out of order, as I'm going to talk about the physical book last, as its probably the least interesting subject.

The book is very much a product of its era, in that it starts with all of the setting information up front, though thankfully lacking in deep, meandering fiction. There are fake hyperlinks and pop up text boxes all through this section, expanding on ideas, concepts and so forth. Frankly, once you've gone a half dozen pages in, its pretty safe to stop reading, as the closer it gets to 'now' the less important the setting information is, unless you care deeply about their pet NPCs. You'll sort out the important bits in character creation much, much faster.

So the Setting:  God exists. He (it) is probably several universes old and probably exists in multiple universes simultaniously to ours. There is a surprisingly clever metaphor for Man's relationship to God that I'll paraphrase here: Mitochondria exists within our cells. There is one in a neuron in your brain. You, understanding and interacting with that mitochondria in your own brain is as difficult as God interacting with you, and that Mitochondria's ability to grasp You is about as likely as your ability to grasp God.  I mean, they could have simply said 'ineffable' but whatever. It works.  For whatever reason they like to use Ahura Mazda for God, at least some of the time, but its not super important (though on the subject of evil... well, we'll get there).

Anyway: Long Ago (millions of years, though I think the grasp of time on this scale by the Jaffe Brothers is lacking....), the Fairies existed as pure souls somewhere in the Universe (which has multiple realities), and they were being attacked by Serpents (the Sib'Haioth) who worshiped Leviathan, Behemoth and Dagon (maybe). They ran from these serpents across the Realities of the Universe until they stumbled into God and He deigned to notice them, and he set them up the bomb with a wicked cool city in the Garden of Eden, which we'll call Atlantis, though I think the book actually calls it Midan or somethign (Atlantis and Midan actually do exist within the setting).  He granted them license to pursue all knowledge except for the Tree of Life, or the Double Helix of DNA (this is not a metaphor, btw). So for a long time they were doing just Grand, learnign everything including the Manipulation of DNA (via the lawyerly loophole in that they only STUDIED DNA, they didn't dink around with it).  Anyway, Lucifer was the current Emperor ruling from the Tower of Babel in The Garden of Eden when the Sib'Haioth showed up again, and wicked pissed that God wasn't doing anything to protect them, he demanded a meeting with God. God, naturally, granted said meeting but also refused to do anythign about the Sib'Haioth, and Lucifer naturally expected this and secretly used the meeting to gather some of God's DNA so they could make their own pet God to do their bidding.

It did not go well. The writing breaks down here a little bit, like many inexperienced writers, they failed to account for their future needs as writers and so do some scrambling. See there are riots in Eden outside the Tower, Lucifer and several other 'IMPORTANT' NPCs leave the science project running in the tower while they fuck off to elsewhere (no where in particular, mind you, they just had to be somewhere else), when the GODHEAD (its all caps in the book too) is born and basically kills everything in the Garden of Eden, billions dead in an Instant. You know, except for Lucifer and the other IMPORTANT NPCs.  The GODHEAD is Ahriman (and here I have to admit that a new concept to me, the heirarchy of evil from Luciferan to Ahrimanic to Sothic Evils) is surprisingly well represented, at least in the Ahrimanic Evil level.  Anyway, the GODHEAD is as potent as GOD, but is inexperienced, and of course you have the Good vs Evil showdown. Ahriman is imprisoned, and that Prison, which he creates around himself, is Earth. He does some fucked up shit like making Humans the default, making Animals 'dumb' to weaken the Beastial Order of Souls when they incarnate, and wipes out dinosaurs or something.  GOD meanwhile starts sending Souls to Earth, where they need to have Coils to survive... see, Souls in the Mortal Plane basically evaporate away (so much for Immortal), while Coils (mortal Bodies) do the same (I think) in the 'higher' realms.

Anyway, along comes Jesus, and he is crucified alongside the "Son of Man", who is his Ahrimanic twin, yadda yadda some shit and in 2001 GOD declares he is going to shut down the whole shebang, and its up to the new Messiahs of the modern age to round up the faithful and get the fuck outta dodge before God closes the gate.   

In short you play a host of divine beings who are incarnated into Mortal Coils, either of the Apostates (Good Guys) or Sanhedrin (bad guys... and name is supposed to be triggering and racist, which... honestly I don't have the room to unpack. The Evil Divine Souls (as opposed to the writers) WANT you to be upset at their chosen appelation, get it?), and you... fight eachother and hell-nazis (I'm not even kidding), while possibly setting up and running cults and doing miracles as you play out the 'last dance'. Also, you can go to higher and lower realities and use divine super-tech, which includes a spiritual internet-thing involving Torii Gates (which... sort of look like rings?), and maybe dog-fight against the other faction in various fightercraft.

I'm gonna pull some details from the Character Section to talk more about the setting. So there are a metric fuckton of Soul Types, including your classic Angels and Demons (not the same type of soul, apparently), as well as more interesting things like Enlightened (humans that just sort of transcend), Karmics (humans who act like Action Heroes, complete with IN SETTING comments that if you don't see the body they aren't dead), exotic alien shit from other worlds/realities, the Fae (one group) beastials (who resent that their forms are dumb animals in Coil terms), Elementals and Robot souls, all sorts of shit. There are about 16 or so 'factions', equally divided between good and bad, formed by the powerful NPC Apostates and Sanhedrin that you can be a part of... I don't recall seeing any 'independent' factions. There is a literal, but currently mostly cold, war between Hell Nazis led by the Son of Man (I think?), and the City of Eden, and the Hell Nazis send out Touton Makouts, which are basically 'living dead' supersoldiers, which I imagine wear trenchcoats and gas masks and jackboots when not on Earth, where they look like normal people.

In case you missed it, its bugnuts. 

How Bugnuts?

Well, I wasn't joking when I said that your Soul could be a robot... or a meercat or something. Lara Croft can be your Soul, complete with the jumping and the improbable ability to survive absurd traps and falls.   The Hell Nazis use decapitated demon pigs as mobile fortresses  to assault Eden, where Angels side with fourth dimensional aliens to shoot at them with Lasers.  I am neither joking or exaggerating for effect.

There is a fair bit of 2edgy4u with 'team evil', however.  The game sets it up so that 'team evil' campaigns (there is nothing explicitly stopping a mixed group from being created... that's entirely on the GM) is meant for 'more advanced players', because the game is NOT joking about Team Evil being, well, Evil. At least one faction is literally a cult of rape and pedophilia, and if you are on Team Evil that is one of the Cults you are expected to join.  And yet: Playable.  The book is liberally branded with 'rated R' and 'so mature' and plenty of disclaimers about how its not real, yet again: the game expects you to play Team Evil, though at least it doesn't demand it.   

So about the rules then?

Well... its a four stat game with a modest number of skills and souls are defined by which groups of miracles they have access too. Miracles appear to be in short supply.  My big issue, and a major reason I would never attempt to play or run this thing, is that it uses playing cards instead of dice for randomizers.   For reasons? 

There is a lot less support for the whole crossing realities than I expected, despite the 'gear portion of the game being nothing but divine/profane 'tech' from the other realities.  I'm guessing when you have the power of being a Messiah you don't care much for uzis or something.  I'm guessing they weren't terribly interested in complex rules for something that is a structural issue for the adventures or something.  In fact the entire exercise is surprsingly light yet reasonably complex. Aside from 'Brood' (Team Good, Team Evil), Soul Type and Cult-faction, you also have your personal 'power over' and your choice of miracles.  All in all, I'm rather impressed and I have to wonder what exactly kept me from actually reading it for damn near two decades. I think I was getting it confused with another 'higher powers' game from around the same era that was nigh on incomprehensible, which book I no longer own and whose name I cannot recall.

Beyond Character Creation, however I should note that the entire rule set appears to be approximately four pages long. Maybe five. Its not a deep system, nor does it pretend to be.

As to the book: its not really a game book sized book, more like a coffee table art book in dimensions. There are three photos (front cover, back cover inner leaf spread) of a modestly attractive model (Enigma by name, according to teh credits) who is scarcely clad and treated with modest special effects. Its glossy pages, not terribly thick, and the artwork (aside from the model) is utter shite.  Credit to GMS, the book is well organized and easy to follow however. There are a lot of different artists credited, and all of them appear to have never graduated from High School Desk Graffiti levels of skill.   It is soft cover, which I rather regret as its long years of neglect means my copy is somewhat warped and wobbly, but the bindings seem strong, so there is that.

I don't really do number grades. I think the setting is interesting, if somewhat... immature theologically, but I've got no use for a card based randomizer system. If that don't bother you, then maybe give this a shot.


EDIT: I keep thinking this is an odd sized book, but really its like.. half an inch taller and a quarter inch wider than the books next to it on the shelf, so its not really that oddly sized. It just SEEMS that way for reasons I cannot adequetly explain.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2020, 05:13:50 pm by Spike »
For you the day you found a minor error in a Post by Spike and forced him to admit it, it was the greatest day of your internet life.  For me it was... Tuesday.

For the curious: Apparently, in person, I sound exactly like the Youtube Character The Nostalgia Critic.   I have no words.

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