ADGNEPSEF555: GenCon 2013
ADGNEPSEF555: Advanced Dimensional Green Ninja Educational Preparatory Super Elementary Fortress 555, A Windmill Games Creation
The first time I played ADGNEPSEF555 at Origins Game Fair just a few short years ago, I have to admit that I felt overwhelmed. Most tabletop games I had played up to that point were a bit more structured in terms of rules, and I was also used to having more GM guidance and… well, a plot.
ADGNEPSEF555 is not your normal RPG.
Take everything you think you know about tabletop games (and your sanity) and promptly chuck it out of the window. This game requires player imagination and very out-of-the-box thinking. There are just a few, simple rules to play ADGNEPSEF555 and the rest is largely player-determined.
All you really need is your imagination, two d6, and a truckton of candy to play the game. Players take on the personas of “stars” from “the most wildly popular TV show called ADGNEPSEF555.” Each character is a student in the school in the center of the anime multi-verse and has a special power (unless you’re the normal kid, in which case no one cares about you—only your cool robot friend Henry). Characters possess a wide range of powers/abilities, but they also have their own flaws; their strengths and weaknesses are detailed on their “report card” character sheets. They are also all TOTALLY UNIQUE IN EVERY WAY—in a special parody kind of way. Some examples include: Charity, the cute force of destruction with a bunny and a parking meter; Aurora, an air-headed moon princess likely to use her powers for silly reasons; Victor Von Bismark, the Kindergarten Boy Genius who can put a button on anything; Hubcap, a physics-defying sugar-fueled fairy; Pat Somers, a gender-bending time traveler; Dusty, the geek who becomes the dreamiest dream of dreamland when his glasses fall off; Christopher and Willow, one laid-back friend-of-monsters versus the hyper-competitive monster trainer; all of the Teslatron team members; Martin the Mercurian, evil alien; Ted Suo, the kid with a headache the size of Neo-Tokyo; Ann Gwish (witch) and her little brother Abel (zombie kid with a heart); Prince Vandersnooten, the snooty rich kid with an endless supply of expendable Jeeves… and oh so many more. ADGNEPSEF555 does a great job of taking well-known characters and character archetypes and turning them into something fresh and wacky for our own entertainment.
And each adventure is different from the last.
Windmill Games tends to run two hour blocks of ADGNEPSEF555 at a time multiple times per day at cons so that the game is available to new players as well as their loyal fanbase. It is incredible how this game has developed such a rabid con-following, but it is not surprising. This game can do anything the GMs or the players think of doing, and the two hours spent playing turn into a blur of sugar, speed lines, lightning (REAL LIGHTNING), explosions, players running around the room whilst in-character (and out-of-character), crossing over into other games played in the same room (our game on Saturday briefly became a Tokyo Masks crossover), and a heck of a lot of breaking the fourth wall.
ADGNEPSEF555 is not a game to play seriously. It is not a calm game. This is a game to let loose and be as silly as you can, crack jokes and puns, allow your characters to do all of the nonsense things conventional tabletop RPG characters normally can’t do… just let logic and reason fly out the window and revel in it. This is a fast-paced, light-hearted game that will help you pass the time quickly and bring you one step closer to a diabetic coma.
In my opinion, these were my ADGNEPSEF555 highlights from my play-time during GenCon 2013:
The “traditional” intro— At the start of each game, Akira and Jason of Windmill Games do the ADGNEPSEF555 intro (during LARPs, Brian from Windmill also helps). I have come to expect their intro at the start of each game; it is a fast-talking, whirlwind of an introduction which introduces the concept of ADGNEPSEF555 (a children’s cartoon show in which we are all starring in during game) and also gives a detail of the ADGNEPSEF555 school universe, rules (adults are always more powerful but stupid, the rules of TV-Y7, how to win contests based on report card skills, etc), and typical characters one may find there (Truant Officer, Principal, Bus Driver with No Name, Janitor, teachers). It makes me laugh, and it personally gets me into a mindset of insanity. The intro phase of the game also makes sure that each player knows a bit about their character and the other characters so that we can just jump right into gameplay once the introductions are over.
It is also a great excuse to eat twenty Pixie Stix (if you’re Hubcap or Farley) and earn some easy candy making the GMs laugh during your character introductions. The character introductions also give each character their initial fifteen seconds of spotlight– you can reclaim the spotlight in the game by doing something cool, interacting with other characters in a really funny way, or just by doing incredibly silly things that amuse people.
During GenCon 2013, here are some examples of my “favorite moments” during the game:
Commercials/Interview with the “Voice Actors”—Commercials provide interesting breaks in-game to allow players to catch their breath. “Voice Actor Interviews” give the player an opportunity to act as another character within their character. During the LARPening on Sunday, I played the ditzy, clumsy, boy-crazy Aurora… voiced by an old lady named Maude who was a very heavy smoker and said “This show is where good actors go to die.” Farley (a hyperactive 4 foot ferret with overalls) was played by my friend Jared who decided that Farley’s voice actor was a tourist who was kidnapped by American television producers and learned his lines phonetically; GMs provided the “subtitles” translating Jared’s appropriation of frantic German (or at least, it started out sounding like German and then quickly degraded into gibberish sounds). Hubcap’s “voice actor” was determined to have been the eighth Hubcap voice actor as the previous ones “all died mysterious deaths,” she also claimed that unlike her character, she did not like sugar. Timmy’s “voice actor” was a huge egomaniac and claimed to be the star of the show even though the character of Timmy is a generic, average child everyone forgets about (who’s Timmy?) Some players decided to play their “voice actors” similarly to the character—for example, Prince Vandersnooten’s “voice actor” loved money as much as the character and was one of the “highest paid” voice actors ever. Our LARP group, near the end of the “Meet the Voice Actors” segment of the game, declared that ADGNEPSEF555 was best described as a highly loveable, highly dysfunctional family.
ZOMBIE!Characters—when all of the characters acted like zombies. Always a hoot.
Dinosaur!Characters—all characters become dinosaurs. If Dustysaurus loses his glasses, his tiny dino arms cannot reach them again… and all girl dinosaurs maul him to death.
And as we all know… any extreme injury or death in game has no lasting consequences; player will go to the “nurse’s office” and emerge with a cookie in hand, a band-aid on the head, and everything will be fiiine.
Opposite!Characters—when all of the characters become opposite versions of themselves. The NPC characters also become opposites. The Janitor becomes the nicest guy in the world rather than the most evil. The unspeakable horror that drives the bus (as you know, only creatures such as these can navigate the multi-verse with any success) invites the students on a field trip and gets a name; ordinarily, students are advised to never be last on the bus, never look at the bus driver in the place where it is supposed to have a face, and never say its name three times (not even to yourself).
“Dodgeball” for Nerds—usually in the form of throwing soft foam d20s or balled up pieces of paper for the ADGNEPSEF555 dodgeball game or snowball fight. Players can use their powers to cheat and stay in the game if hit.
Other parts of the adventure often include but are definitely not limited to… lasers. Bears with lasers. Bears shooting bees with lasers. Time traveling to ancient Rome. Time traveling to the future. Huge shiny disco death stars that explode into glitter and rock candy. Chariot death races. Steampunk dinosaur robots. Giant lion lizards that breathe fire.
Anything you let yourself imagine, basically. It is the ultimate comedy sandbox.
You have the power, folks. You are free, and encouraged, to be the weirdest person you can possibly be.
I can only think of, perhaps, a few pitfalls for this game.
One: This may or may not be problematic, but this is definitely a two-GM kind of game. It helps to have a second GM to help judge contests between characters (the second GM helps keep track of what’s happening in the game– one side of the room could be doing something completely different from the other side of the room, and you definitely don’t want any characters feeling left behind or they’ll lose interest in what’s happening) and a second GM is great for bouncing off ideas (“Hmm, what do you think happens now?” “I say, it looks like they are heading for the off-limits room full of sharknados.”)
It’s only really a problem, in my opinion, if you can’t find another person to GM with you. When I ran this game at Running GAGG, I asked Brian (from Windmill Games– a friend I actually met at a previous Running GAGG) to co-GM it with me. Really glad I did, actually, because it ran more smoothly because of him (I was also still in a state of shock because, well, I’d crashed my car on the highway during a snowstorm the night before). I think that game ran especially well because he is very familiar with the game… being part of Windmill and all… and because I have played the game so many times before.
Two: Characters are pre-generated. There are dozens of characters to play, but it doesn’t leave much room for character generation. Personally, I am well okay with all of the characters created by Windmill Games, but some people have pointed out that they would have wanted some rules for character creation. Honestly though, it probably wouldn’t be too hard to use the other characters’ report cards as a guide and come up with the idea of a couple one-shot “transfer” students for a game or two if you want them.
Three: This game is NOT built for an ongoing campaign. This game is great for one-shots, and you might even be able to build some semblance of a plot if you do a one-shot focusing on specific characters (a Magnanimous Seven game, a game for Evil characters, etc). ADGNEPSEF555 is ideally designed for the two hour game slots and the four hour LARP slot at conventions. It is not designed for a months-long game.
Four: Do not play this game if you are sick/have a headache. It will only make it worse.
Not a lot of things to complain about really… when the game has so much to offer. The pros outweigh the cons.
But I suppose it is not a game for everyone. A lot of players will adapt and buy-in easily, but it is not always so simple to integrate everyone into the game. The problem for some players isn’t about the lack of choice… but perhaps because there is no goal, no “winning,” or maybe it is because there are so many choices it can be difficult to decide.
And here is where you can get it. I bought the PDF version of the game because it is great to have on the go, but I am also planning on getting the color print version as well…
Because it’s shiny!!
Stay tuned– more GenCon articles including an interview with Windmill Games are coming up soon!
**Footnote: The kindly folks at Windmill Games are friends of mine; positive bias is likely present in this article. However, they did not ask me to review/pimp out their game online. I’ve wanted to write this article about them for a while, and I tried to be as objective as I could about it. However, if it wasn’t already evident… I really like this game, so it is difficult to maintain much critical distance.