At the risk of giving away my opinion in the very first line of a review: 'Rapture' is a game that deserves far more attention than it gets. I first played Rapture shortly after it was released and the very idea was enough to get me interested. Theological horror in space with a decidedly Ridley Scott's 'Alien' feel? Yes please.
'Rapture' is, at the time of writing, only available in PDF form and that's what I'm working with for this review. The 'Rapture' core package includes the rulebook, designed to be read on an iPad or similar tablet and also an editable PDF version of the character sheet, a poster with a map of the Rapture galaxy and details on humanity's population across the stars, some example schematics of space ships and a flyer directing us to the Story Weaver Facebook page. The Human Occupied Space poster is a great addition. That's a very useful tool for introducing the game to players and for coming up with story hooks. The example spaceships is cool, too and I just know that there are players out there who like to have everything mapped for them. I'm not one of them but that's beside the point. The character sheet is exactly what it should be and don't get me wrong, I love an editable PDF for character sheets. But I do wonder if it's necessary in a game where characters are expected to die often. For pre-made characters in a convention style game, it's awesome. But for regular games or campaigns, I can't recommend making all your characters this way. And then there's the flyer – it's a flyer. What can I say?
Okay! Now onto the meat. How is the actual 'Rapture' book? Well, it's concise and heavy and clear. The first part of the book explains the rules. The explanation is broken up to changes, beginning with the basics of character sheets and the core mechanic, then adding the additional systems such as fear, damage and madness in following chapters. While it should be an obvious choice to do it this way, it seems this is the first place a lot of RPG books miss the mark. To be fair, Rapture has the advantage of being a very simple and rules light system. But I'd hate to make it sound like the writer hasn't done an excellent job of laying out the book. Everything is also very concise and clear. It doesn't spend a lot of time clarifying and re clarifying rules endlessly. This is a book that makes itself so clear the first time, that it doesn't need to keep explaining itself.
The rest of the book, and probably the majority of the 'Rapture' core book is the setting. 'Rapture' is set in our world, in our galaxy, several hundred years in the future. Everything from technology to society and religion has changed and that's a lot of time to catch up on before you start playing. Fortunately the theme of 'clear and concise' continues right through the setting information. With all this history of the setting to explain, 'Rapture' makes a point of giving you all the details you'll need and then moving on to what's next. It's tight and without room for question. And that's a point I'd like to linger on for a moment. 'Rapture' does not leave room for question in any aspect of its setting, history or cosmology. Nothing is obscure, nothing is open to interpretation. The setting for 'Rapture' is the setting for 'Rapture'. I can't tell you if this is good or bad, it just is and it's something that stands out for the game.
'Rapture's setting details include include descriptions and mechanics of monsters, equipment, space ships and population counts for star systems colonised by humanity. There's also a lot of details about the history, about the political and philosophical factions that have grown in this world's history. All of this culminates in what's happening within these factions in the present of the 'Rapture' universe. After the setting and the monsters and some GM advice has all been dished out, the book finishes with some short story ideas. They're quick and usable, but I always find these kinds of features in an RPG book are more useful for giving you an idea of the kinds of games you can run, as opposed to being actual adventures you can run. 'Rapture' keeps to the status-quo. Their story seeds do the job without being mind blowing – but saying something is successful if not astounding is hardly a criticism.
So all this means that in just 133 pages, the 'Rapture' core book is a rulebook for players, a rule book for GMs and a setting book. That's a lot to cover in a small space and that makes the 'Rapture' book quite a meaty piece of RPG literature. Between you and me, I call this a win. 'Rapture' is honest and treats the reader like they're an intelligent and experienced gamer. This book knows what it wants to do and how it wants to accomplish those goals and, from where I'm sitting, it succeeds on all counts. The writing is tight and clear, the art is excellent and if you can excuse the occasional typo, the 'Rapture' core book could be the beginning of a great RPG experience.
The 'Rapture' book confesses that this is not the place to begin playing RPGs, but perhaps it is. 'Rapture' is a great example of how varied, how creative and how thoughtful an RPG can be. 'Rapture' isn't for kids and it's not a light hearted adventure game but if you're looking for something new, something entirely – almost obsessively – focused on creating thrilling narratives, then you'll be struggling to find something better.
[5 of 5 Stars!]