"Rapture Essentials: The Player's Handbook" makes a pretty daring statements with its title. The core book for "Rapture" seems to give you just about everything you need to run a "Rapture" game from start to finish. "What's left to say?" You might ask. "What could possibly be in this book that is so essential?" I'll let you decide just how essential this book is, but I will walk you through what's involved.
The "Player's Handbook" Is a brief, 36 page suppliment to the "Rapture" roleplaying game. You can bring yourself up to date on that with my previous two reviews of the core book and "Rapture" in play. This suppliment comes direct from Story Weaver games and, as of this writing, is available only in a digital PDF format, like all of the "Rapture" material.
You might consider the "Player's Handbook" to be "Rapture" Lite. This suppliment has gone over the core book with a fine-toothed comb and scraped out all the key things that you need to know for playing "Rapture". The book begins with character creation and gives you the simple, step-by-step run down of how to make your "Rapture" hero. Following this is a summary of the core mechanic and how to build dice pools, how fear and damage works and possibly the most important rule for "Rapture" – what happens when your character dies. The "Player's Handbook" finishes with a recap of what the "Rapture" setting looks like with a focus on politics and technology, rather than the theological realities of the "Rapture" universe.
The whole thing is in black and white, with the exception of the cover. Graphics on the whole are kept to a minimum and that's a very deliberate design choice. Fortunately, none of the artwork in the book suffers from being black and white. This doesn't look like a book made in colour then printed in black and white, this book has been designed to be graphics light and published in grey scale.
Now all of this is, of course, very important to know as a player playing or about to play "Rapture" but chances are you're asking the same questions I am: "Isn't this just as important for the GM? Why is this a "Player's Hanbook" and not just a "Rapture Handbook"? Also, isn't all this in the core book? Shouldn't I just buy that?" And those are both excellent questions and answering them will be key to deciding whether or not this is an Essential book.
Remember how I said earlier that, at the time of writing, the entire "Rapture" catalogue of books are digital only? That means if you want hard copy, you have to print. The core book for "Rapture" is graphics heavy and all the text is on a black backing. I personally wouldn't want to print any of it. The "Player's Handbook" perfectly fills the niche left by the core book. This is suppliment is designed to be printer friendly, concise and easy to flick through. This is the book you take to the table and hand around to the players. I suspect that it was a deliberate choice to skip on a lot of the theological details in this suppliment so the GM can keep the players guessing.
As always, Story Weaver have expertly put together this PDF with all the book marks and indexing features you want to have in a digital product. It's printer friendly and a good accessory. However there's nothing here that isn't in the core book. This is strictly a new presentation of the information for quick and easy access at the table. You can decide for yourself if you think this is an essential part of the "Rapture" experience. Personally, I don't have any of those fancy tablet machines kids are raving about these days, so "Rapture Essentials: The Player's Handbook" is perfect for me.