In the interest of full disclosure, I was involved in the Kickstarter for AMP since the very beginning, and have been greatly looking forward to AMP’s release since day one. There are six chapters to AMP.
The first chapter includes the background story of the Project Black that ultimately results in the AMP (Or accelerated mutant potential) individuals. Project Black occurred in the 1920's when a group of governmental agencies pooled their resources to create the perfect soldier through genetic manipulation. Ultimately the project was shut down due to some slight rampaging mutants as a result of the project. Fast forward to 2015, when the descendants of the survivors of the experiments start displaying their AMP potential. The story line then continues with a series of key events through the beginning of 2016. At the beginning of 2015, very few people are aware of the AMPs and the story will be an origin story where the players explore what it is to be superhuman. As the year continues, the public starts becoming aware of the AMPs and the story starts to explore how the public reacts and individual AMPs ability to shape that perception.
The second chapter explores character creation. In addition to concept, character creation includes selection of skills, power selection (Which I’ll discuss with the third chapter), spending bonus points which includes gifts and drawbacks selection, and loyalty selection. The system in AMP is a skill based system, where two skills are combined together (in most cases) with the random dice element to generate an event outcome. At first I saw this as a bit of an odd choice for the superhero genre, but the more I considered the system, the more it fit what the story was attempting to accomplish. The two skill system allows for the development of characters in a little more accelerated manner that fits in with the superhero origin story. In addition to skills, you have gifts and drawbacks that range from physical, mental, social, as well as AMP based special gifts and drawbacks. The gifts and drawbacks really make the chapter shine, because they allow you to shape and create very specific hero concepts. Finally, there is the selection of loyalties. Loyalties allow you to set and shape the priorities of your character by assigning points to eight different values that shape your character, allowing me to be a selfish jerk that is only focused on accumulating wealth and fame, or I might focus on community and a desire to protect those around me. Loyalties are more than background fluff, because each loyalty carries a mechanical benefit and later on can allow you to gain more experience when you sacrifice for your loyalties.
I have to admit, I read the third chapter first, as it covered the powers which in my mind are a large part of the meat of the superhero tradition. There are nine different strains of AMPs including blasters, bulks, elementals, ferals, mindbenders, psychs, shapers, shifters, and travelers. A blaster can for example shoot fire from his hands, while a bulk might display super speed or super strength. An AMP may have up to three powers. The primary power must be within their strain, but the others can be any power selection, although it becomes more expensive to develop powers outside of your strain. Within each power, the AMP gains a core ability, but can also develop augments that change and enhance how the power is used. I should also discuss juice which is the energy which fuels the various powers. Juice is associated with the adrenalin response. Each AMP has a certain baseline of juice when they’re calm and at rest, but things which kick in adrenalin (such as getting into combat) increase available juice to fuel powers.
The fourth chapter covers the baseline mechanics of AMP and basis of combat. The system is fairly streamlined and once you get used to the system, it looks like it will run very smoothly, though at this point I haven’t been able to try it out. One neat element of this chapter is called the law of attraction. When an AMP meets another AMP, there is a powerful instinct towards immediate conflict. This might be a spirited philosophical debate or out and out combat. This drives individuals with AMP powers to conflict. It creates a dynamic of conflict that helps drive the story forward without being heavy handed.
Chapter five provides a list of generic antagonists as well as a list of different sample AMPs that the players might have a run in with. I particularly enjoyed the background stories of the AMPs and a chance to look at how different characters fit together mechanically.
Chapter six includes storytelling advice as well as a discussion of theme and mood for the setting. An interesting element of AMP is that it is not a traditional four color comic book world where everyone that develop powers decides to immediately put on a cape and either start fighting crime or robbing banks. Instead the theme fits more into a how would you react if you if you suddenly developed super powers? Some people might seek fame (and reality television) while others might try to pretend the powers don’t exist. At the same time, there is also a larger dynamic where the individual’s reaction is shaped by the reaction of society as a whole to the revelation of people with super powers.
All in all, AMP is one of the best takes on the superhero genre that I’ve ever seen. It pushes the border between the realistic and the fantastic while fitting the two together in a neat package. I would also add that AMP, year one is the first book in the series with additional releases planned that will develop and expand the story and the abilities of both AMPs and saps. (or those humans without powers) I can not recommend AMP year one highly enough.
[5 of 5 Stars!]