Apocalypse Campaign Guide
By Lee F. Szczepanik, Jr.
There’s a new book on the horizon, and it’s currently doing well at Kickstarter. It’s called the Apocalypse Campaign Guide, for Savage Worlds. And it’s going to allow you to create your own apocalypse and destroy the world.
Roughly two years ago, I had some Savage Worlds fans asking me to continue my popular War of the Dead, zombie apocalypse line. I’d already done a 52-part adventure series for it, several one-sheets, and a sequel Plot Point Campaign Setting book set five years later. While I’ve always had a lot more story to tell, and a lot more setting to reveal, War of the Dead was also something I’d spent several years on exclusively. As an author (because I’ve always considered myself more author than game designer, role-playing games are just one of the mediums I use in my career) there were plenty of other things I wanted to write. War of the Dead was in a good place to let go of for a while.
When I explained that in social media, the next request was that I keep doing apocalyptic stuff for Savage Worlds. Our fans truly enjoyed my apocalyptic work, and would love to have more of it.
Now that, I could do. I love the post-apocalyptic genre, and have since I was a kid who first discovered Romero when Dawn of the Dead came out.
So I asked what types. I suggested everything from a vampire apocalypse, to a rise of the machines, to an alien invasion, an EMP strike or severe weather, a fantasy setting apocalypse, or an apocalypse that took place in the future and amongst the various worlds Earth had colonized— a truly massive scale apocalypse.
The answers were all a resounding, “Yes.”
“!!!” thought I. There was no way I had the time to write and produce all of them.
So I came up with an idea. How about a toolkit book that would allow you to create all those settings right there at the table using Savage Worlds? Something that had mechanics for all the post-apocalyptic needs, and maybe a companion book that gave brief “Setting Frameworks” to help you along by providing the very basics of a setting; which you could expand on and make your own as you play?
They liked that. I was in business. Both the Apocalypse Campaign Guide and Apocalypse Unleashed books were born.
The next thing was to consider what I wanted in the Apocalypse Campaign Guide. Like I said, I’m a sucker for the post-apocalyptic. I love the stuff. So I pulled out a ton of my genre novels, got more from the library, and assembled my massive DVD collection. I then spent a lot of spare time getting back into the right mindset and taking notes of things I wanted to include. Then making notes on how I might want to handle them mechanically. I needed things to remain firmly Savage Worlds, and had no interest in reinventing the Savage Wheel, as it were. Naturally, I looked to my previous Savage Worlds post-apocalyptic work to see what I wanted to redesign, update and upgrade, and use.
Yeah, I will use my older works as a foundation or inspiration in newer stuff, if the fans liked the mechanics in the first place.
I’ll give an example. The community building rules in World of the Dead were a decent first attempt, and provided a basic foundation that works very well. As the years have progressed from that publication, though, I’d found better ways to handle some of it. Different design choices I would have made if I were releasing them today.
Oh wait, I am!
So I took those community rules, kept the basic foundation, and redesigned the rest from the first floor to the roof. I also found out something along the way: the method I now use for building a community could easily have features tweaked to also build different types of dinosaurs for the Dinopocalypse. Or different size and styles of starships for the sci-fi apocalypse. All it needed was what I call an “overlay,” which means I take the basic rules for a community, change the features and add-ons to fit a dinosaur or a starship or an alien armada, and we have additional rules ready to play.
In a few easy steps, GMs or the players can create all sorts of things at the table.
Genetic mutations worked the same way. With simple overlays, those genetic mutation rules now worked for creating cyborgs, genetically engineered dinosaurs, alien races, and all sorts of post-apocalyptic stuff.
So I offered a ton of options with a simple base ruleset. It opened up the possibilities, and kept it all fast, furious, and fun.
You can even mix them up. Say you want a living starship? Create the starship like normal, then use whatever overlay you want from genetic mutations (maybe the cyborg one, or the genetic mutations one, itself), and by the time you’re done you’ll have a unique, living space vessel.
Once you get use to all the features and option choices on the charts, the actual mechanics take about 10 to 20 minutes. About the time to create a Savage Worlds character (and of course GMs don’t have to go that route, since they can stick with the “whatever you need,” rule for building NPCs and threats in Savage Worlds).
For the curious and to allay suspense, the book also has a ton of other stuff. There are new Edges and Hindrances. Sample beginning skill packages for different player archetypes to allow players to start playing quickly if they’re new to Savage Worlds, stuck for a character idea, or you’re just playing a one-shot session. There’s rules for post-apocalyptic item creation, scavenging, trading, and even vehicle fuel consumption.
All the things you’d expect in an apocalyptic toolkit book.
When I designed the Apocalypse Unleashed book, I took eight to ten sub-genres of apocalyptic fiction and created a setting framework for you to build on. Each setting framework gives you some NPCs, important locations, storyline notes and suggestions, and then allows you to start playing and expanding it into a full-blown setting with your own ideas. We did this book for the busy gamers out there, those folks who don’t always have time to create a setting from scratch, or want a place to mine for ideas. Plus, this way, you get multiple ready-to-use apocalyptic options without needing to buy additional, full-blown books for each one.
And in the end, I killed multiple birds with one stone. Wait. I just mentally heard Mickey Mouse say: “Seven with one blow!” Yeah, I definitely need more sleep or caffeine. Anyway, you’re now able to create your own apocalypse at the table. Field your own human-hunting machines and cyborgs. Unleash genetically engineered dinosaurs to bring about chaos and societal collapse. Bring an alien invasion from the stars. Or even unleash the Ancient Ones in true horror apocalyptic fashion. Whatever end-of-the-world story you want to tell.
It’s your world. It’s your apocalypse. And it’s going to be Savage.
Check out the Kickstarter at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2092114443/apocalypse-campaign-guide-savage-worlds