Designer Jamila Nedjadi has teamed up with Blades in the Dark publisher Evil Hat Studios to create an upcoming tabletop RPG called Apocalypse Keys that’s equal parts Hellboy, sleuthing and exploring a world full of weirdness.
Apocalypse Keys wears that Hellboy inspiration proudly: players take on roles as agents of Division, a secret organisation “dedicated to understanding the occult, taming the supernatural, and protecting the world”, according to the game’s Itch.io page. Everyone else either believes or pretends that monsters and the threat they pose aren’t real, but that safety is maintained through the constant vigilance of Division members.
Despite the dire stakes and dangerous foes, Apocalypse Keys plays much more like a detective game - it trades a reliance on direct confrontation for a system of gathering information and intuiting the true nature of whatever weird circumstances players find themselves enmeshed in that session. These clues, portents and hints are called Keys of the Apocalypse and will eventually be used to shift the session into learning the truth, whether or not the group is truly prepared.
Every member of Divisions shares more than a common purpose - they are all monstrous individuals who can’t or choose not to fit into “normal society”. As such, the camaraderie, friendship and perhaps love between them is as important as any stat block or weapon. Vulnerability in Apocalypse Keys can be a pivotal tool in a character’s belt. That monstrous past also comes with baggage, which may choose a particularly inopportune time to throw a wrench into a mission or budding relationship. It will eventually make itself known to the rest of the crew, whether it's a past sin, spurned destiny or a thread of fate none of you can possibly ignore.
As a Powered by the Apocalypse game, Apocalypse Keys currently features six playbooks - The Summoned, The Pure, The Found, The Shade, The Last and The Fallen - explaining the basic and advanced moves player characters can deploy in both combat and social encounters. The Summoned is classic Hellboy, describing a creature pulled from one realm into ours and boasting a power beyond mortal reckoning. In comparison, The Last plays as the final member of a dead world whose powers reflect their mournful fate.
Emotion will play a key role through Apocalypse Keys, colouring interactions, abilities and the foes the Division crew will face. The world may be constantly on the brink of total collapse, but that doesn’t stop players from considering their emotional needs.
Nedjadi, known for creating the Filipino cyberpunk RPG Balikbayan and ‘90s urban fantasy Oathbreakers, had playtested this new title for a year before Evil Hat productions picked up publishing duties. The outfit is best known for John Harper’s Blades in the Dark, teen sleuthing RPG Bubblegumshoe and the malleable Fate Core system.
Apocalypse Keys is currently accepting applications for playtesting through March 23rd as development on a physical sourcebook continues. Pricing and release dates have not been announced at this time.